With PRIDE events in full swing and the U.S. Supreme Court turning the page on same-sex marriage, San Francisco high school students and slam poets Melanie Harra and Cameron Sandal are hoping to shine a light on the difficulties queer teenagers face, even in the city known as the gay capital of the world.
The two performed their poem “Whack-A-Mole” for KQED Arts’ cameras. Their creation is inspired by the rapid-fire arcade game of the same name, where players use a mallet to hit toy moles as they pop up from their holes.
Harra penned the poem with the first line, "Being a gay teenager is like playing a game of whack-a-mole, only we’re the moles."
“It’s one of those ideas that just popped into my head and I just had to run with it,” explains the 16-year-old junior from San Francisco’s John O’Connell High School. She teamed up with Sandal, a fellow member of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance and Slam Poetry Club, to finish the piece.
Together they performed “Whack-A-Mole” at the Unified District Poetry Slam this Spring, and then at the Queeriosity Performance Showcase at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. Queeriosity, a program of the arts education and youth development organization Youth Speaks provides a safe space for young emerging LGBTQ artists.
“It isn't everyday that we get to witness poetry that is necessary for a poet's survival,” said Indira Allegra, an Oakland poet and artist, when introducing the young queer poets who performed at the Queeriosity event.
Allegra led a six-week workshop with the youth, mentoring them in their writing and explorations of identity. “For many of the kids,” she says, "Queeriosity is a second coming out.”
“It’s been so freeing,” says 16-year-old Cameron. “It's helped me focus my feelings on myself, rather than worrying about what other people think of me. I’m so much more confident.”