Bil Browning

Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh: Hir

Filed By Bil Browning | April 20, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Alysia Harris, Aysha El Shamayleh, transgender activists

I have no idea what TV show this is from, but I'd love to know. Watch as Alysia Harris and Aysha El Shamayleh perform the poem, "Hir." I'll admit that I'm not a big poetry lover (okay, poetry usually bores me to tears!), but this is damn good and well worth your two and a half minutes.

I love it how the audience loudly erupts in applause at the end. Somewhere a religious fundie's head exploded.

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According to this site, the clip is from HBO's "Brave New Voices"

Amazing performance. Thanks for posting!

Elly Pemberton | April 20, 2011 11:36 AM

Yeah, this was part of the Brave New Voices series on HBO.

That video makes me cry every time. So touching.

Spoken word art on TV? That sounds like a great idea.

Two cents:
My problem with this poem is the emphasis on the neutral pronoun "hir" whilst describing in vivid detail the inner turmoil of a teenage trans man. If James is really going to come out one day and take over Melissa's shell, he's most likely going to use the pronoun "he". Perhaps, if the poem was about a genderqueer or bigender person, the pronoun "hir" would make sense, but it's not. It just seems like they chose this pronoun cause it makes their poem sound better, not make more sense. It's either lazy writing, a deliberate attempt to obfuscate trans male identity, or a complete misunderstanding of transsexuality. Considering that the poets appear to be cis women, I'm going to assume that they have no idea how using the pronoun "hir" could be considered offensive to many trans men.

Overall, nice try, but it misses the mark.

Kian, I kind of agree with you that, as a piece by two non-trans people, it's third gendering... something a lot of queer non-trans women try to impose on trans men.

It's also over a year old, if I recall.

How do you know that the performers are not trans?

I have to wonder what the reception would've been if the poem had not been recited by two fairly photogenic girls and instead by a deeply masculine biological female going into transition.

Or if the story instead would've been the more reviled Male to Female.

Regan DuCasse | April 20, 2011 5:17 PM

HBO featured a series "Def Poetry Jam", produced by Russell Simmons (LGBT advocate) and hosted by Mos Def. It was a one of the best spoken word poetry venues EVER.
Available on DVD, and I have the entire of that series. I hadn't heard of Brave New Voices, which looks like an extension of DPJ, but I'll look it up.
It's similar in production values and audiences.

I'm sure that transgendered poets are not unwelcome. Certainly DPJ featured all kinds of people of all kinds of backgrounds, including gay celebrated poets like Nikki Giovanni. It would be fair to ask where they all are, and how important their contribution is to a broadcast like this.

Jake Goodman | April 20, 2011 5:58 PM

Brilliant! Just brilliant. So powerful.

Regan DuCasse | April 21, 2011 11:44 AM

To the critics: I think you're over thinking this. These girls were getting into the heads of very young people. Kids, really. Who haven't gone over all the psycho analysis that accompanies application of medical transition.

They are the voices of young people who are realizing an epiphany and giving voice simply to their very existence.
And I'm him, and her.
It was artistic license with a searing delivery and expression of something that's very real and as some of you understand, how a young trans person will feel.
They just may not even articulate it the way you think they should or would, unless they'd been exposed to some kind of therapy.
This artistic license is forgivable so conflate being here.
It was a beautiful piece of spoken word, even so.