Monday February 06, 2017

How Gwen Benaway's personal transition is reflected in her poetry

Gwen Benaway worked with Canada Reads-shortlisted author Katherena Vermette during the editorial process for Passage.

Gwen Benaway worked with Canada Reads-shortlisted author Katherena Vermette during the editorial process for Passage. (Ashley Emma)

Listen 2:58

Gwen Benaway is the author of the poetry collection Passage. In her own words, she describes the life experiences that are reflected in the book.

I'm a trans girl poet, and I started writing Passage while I was just coming through the process of deciding I was going to transition. I'd always talked about transitioning my whole life, but it was something I thought I would do a lot later in my life. But through the writing of Passage, I realized that the moment for me to start my transition was now. I really had to transition in order not only become the person I've always been, but also to have an honest connection with the people around me and the world I inhabited.

The development of Passage was really interesting for me, because I started before I had really conceptualized transitioning. So I was writing, I think, from still seeing myself through the lens of being a gay man. So there's a tension in Passage, where in some of the pieces, particularly early on in the collection, you think I'm still writing from a male perspective, a male voice. And as I was writing, you see a she-voice start to emerge. That intensifies throughout the collection. While I was writing it, I had these moments of realization where I was going, Oh! That's what's been wrong in my life! 

Gwen Benaway's comments have been edited and condensed.