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Before I Step Outside

cdabbott's picture

I've spent the past couple months planning for the visit of Travis Alabanza, a performance artist from the UK. Their work, which comes in the form of poetry, photography, and performance, engages with what it means to exist and survive as a black, trans person in the UK. Their most recent book of poems is called Before I Step Outside (You Love Me), and during their performance on Tuesday, Travis read aloud some of their poems. The one that struck me most was about their experience of looking in the mirror and loving the way they look, feeling what they describe as euphoria, before they step outside (hence the name of the collection) and endure violence and harrassment from the public. 

This idea of the home as a possible haven, or the space of before one steps outside made me think of the video, "In My Home" in which a disabled couple speaks about living at home, especially as it relates to the experience of living in an institution. Eli Clare points out the parallels and overlaps between experiences as queer and disabled. Putting these two works (Travis's poem and "In My Home") in conversation reveals one of these overlaps to be, if one feels safe and affirmed at home, this experience of sanctuary before one must go out in public, or in contrast to having less agency in a space of institutionalization. The feelings of safety, playfulness, and freedom expressed in "In My Home" for me definitely resonated with Travis's description of being able to wear whatever they please and be who they want in their own home without fear of violence. My question coming away from both is how can we as individuals make public spaces or shared spaces into ones more like sanctuaries, if this is possible? How can individuals make shared spaces safer and less violent or oppressive? 


sjesup's picture

Thanks for sharing! (And for putting in the work to make it possible.) I was able to go to the start of the performance before class started, and it was absolutely incredible/overwhelming. I have trouble imagining shared spaces feeling like sanctuaries, but safety is definitely a place to start.