Emanuel Xavier (born 1970) is a Latinx poet, spoken word artist, author, editor and LBGT activist.
Born in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Xavier was sexually abused by a relative while still a child and was kicked out of the house at 16 when he came out to his mother and her live-in boyfriend.
Like a character in Pose, young Xavier survived as a teenage hustler at the Christopher Street West Side Highway piers and became involved in the House of Xtravaganza and the ‘80s ball scene. He was also introduced to the world of designer drugs, which he sold and consumed.
“Twenty-five years ago, in 1996, I was in my mid-20’s and working at an LGBTQ bookstore in New York City [A Different Light]. I had already experienced a lifetime of pain,” he recalls. Even so, “I proudly embraced being a ‘pier queen’ hanging out at the edge of the city with trans women and men, voguers, ball children, prostitutes and dealers. We existed in our own underground bubble oblivious to the rest of the world.”
While all this was going on, Emanuel Xavier discovered he had a talent for poetry. He read his poems at the Nuyorican Poets Café, winning the Grand Slam. In 1997, now clean and sober, Xavier self-published his first poetry collection, “Pier Queen.” He went on to create a spoken word poetry House — the House of Xavier — and to publish four more poetry books and a novel, “Christ Like” (1999).
Xavier survived a vicious hate crime attack in 2005, which made him permanently deaf in one ear and almost wrecked his literary career. Recognized as one of our leading LGBT Latinx poets, Xavier was named an LGBT icon by The Equality Forum and was honored with a New York City Council Citation Award and an International Latino Book Award.
“Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier” ($12.95) is a good introduction to the inspirational life and creative talents of Xavier. This 72-page collection was published by Queer Mojo, an imprint of Rebel Satori, “independent publishers on the frontiers of liminal space.” It features selections from Xavier’s five poetry collections — “Pier Queen,” “Americano,” “If Jesus Were Gay,” “Nefarious” and “Radiance” — as well as a newly published poem, “Pulse,” about the 2016 Orlando club massacre.
It is a testimonial to the life and art of a man who survived and thrived despite poverty, racism, and homophobia.
“This collection serves as my own personal journey within the long history of spoken word poetry, Nuyorican poetics and LGBTQ culture. I have been blessed to enjoy such a unique and varied life. Through so many challenges, this art is what has kept me going. May it inspire others to continue sharing their stories and pushing to make this world a better place.”
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.