“It isn’t that you don’t like boys,” Andrea Gibson starts. “It’s just that you only like boys you want to be.” In the very first sentence of their poem ‘Your Life’, Andrea neatly distils the awkward tangle of queer sexuality and gender identity – do I like them, or do I want to be like them? – into their own definitive response. It’s a simple answer to a not-so-simple question. While we are forced, over and over again, to explain that gender identity and sexuality don’t necessarily inform one another, the two are sometimes caught in the same orbit. Polarised by the same magnetic force. Andrea captures this in ‘Your Life’, snapshots of which appear in their latest collection Take Me With You, which they will be touring throughout the UK from the end of May. The book is divided into three distinct chapters; ‘On Love’, ‘On the World’, and ‘On Becoming’. Stanzas of ‘Your Life’ appear in ‘On the World’ and ‘On Becoming’ but, really, could just as easily be slipped into ‘On Love’ as Andrea gleefully declares “I am the only boy I ever wanted to tear my dress off for.”
Take Me With You explores the limits of language and the boundlessness of identity, with memories like “In gym class a girl called me a dyke and I didn’t have the language to tell her she was wrong and right.” Andrea also presents identity as a shelter or comfort, building a fortress inside themselves with fragments of poetry like “when I’m having a panic attack and can’t breathe I tell myself ‘that isn’t the devil clutching my windpipe with a pitchfork. That’s god remembering I’ve always wanted an Adam’s apple and there go the angels planting the orchard in my throat’.” This is just one of the traits that has made Andrea’s work so popular – particularly among the LGBT community. Their work presents queer love and identity as a radical act. On National Coming Out Day in 2015, Andrea made a Facebook post about this particular Venn Diagram, noting the crossover of love, politics, and LGBT lives.
“Last spring, on tour, a friend told me that Nina Simone spent several years during the Civil Rights Movement refusing to sing love songs, refusing to sing anything but songs for justice and change. When I heard that I felt so charged and inspired. How fierce. How powerful. How [relentlessly] committed. That night, before I got on stage, I had the thought that I wasn’t going to read a single soft or sweet poem. I decided I was going to read only social justice poetry through my entire set. But when I was making my set list it hit me that the simple existence of the word “she” in my love poem, made it a political poem. Isn’t that insane? (And I’m not using the word “insane” flippantly) Isn’t it insane that love is a political thing? That the heart is a political thing?”
The post was shared over a thousand times. This is the core of Take Me With You, and of Andrea’s work in general. “The heart is a political thing.” In that sense, Take Me With You is that most precious of things – a battered, beating queer heart.
Andrea Gibson will be touring Take Me With You throughout the UK and in Berlin in May and June. Details are as follows:
30 EDINBURGH Mash House
01 LONDON The Garage
02 MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
04 BRIGHTON Komedia
07 BERLIN Lido