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Poetry helping to end stigmatization in LGTBQ+ community

Raven Salander's uses poetry about her personal experiences to open dialogue about trans issues

Raven Salander, poet and trans rights activist, performing at Cafe Deux Soleils Photo: Taran Gill
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Reported by Taran Gill

Raven Salander, a trans woman and activist, hopes to destigmatize and create conversation around these issues through her poetry.

“Many trans women have had to deal with extremely harsh conditions and consequently, depression; suicidal ideation, addictions and other mental health issues have been a big part of our life experiences,” said Salander. 

Salander, who has been writing poetry for 20 years, and publicly sharing it for four, preformed at Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive Oct. 9 during a Van Slam event. 

The context of her writing discusses her addiction, mental health issues, and her experience as a street-level survival sex worker in hopes others will one day be able to do the same. 

 “I have received a lot of feedback from members of the audience who felt really moved and I think, to some extent, liberated by my readings,” Salander said. “It is important for those of us who can, to be visible and speak out.”

Courtney Lewis, a trans woman and recovering addict, who attended the event, said she found inspiration from Salander’s poems. 

“Her words were touching and I am more inspired to keep fighting my urges,” said Lewis.

Salander, who spent 45 years of her life knowing that she was not meant to be a man, came out at age 50. She is satisfied by the progress made towards transgender rights but is worried of looming backlash against the LGBTQ+ community due to the rising representation TV and movies. 

Her performance ended with a poem titled “The candle for Shauntau”, an emotional eulogy to her partner, whom was also a transgender sex-worker, whose murder remains unsolved till day.

“We have seen alt-right and white supremacists present at our rallies for transgender and queer rights,” she said. “I don’t think we are totally isolated from the upsurge of right-wing fascists and bigoted attacks.”

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