The Next Chapter

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

The Métis poet describes how writing her collection Passage helped her decide to transition from male to female.
Gwen Benaway worked with Canada Reads-shortlisted author Katherena Vermette during the editorial process for Passage. (Ashley Emma)

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.