Emanuel Xavier

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Emanuel Xavier
Xavier in 2016
Born (1970-05-03) May 3, 1970 (age 48)[citation needed]

Emanuel Xavier (born May 3, 1970),[1] is an American poet, spoken word artist, novelist, editor, and activist born and raised in New York City, in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian ancestry,[2] he emerged from the neo-Nuyorican spoken word movement to become a successful writer and advocate for gay youth programs and Latino gay literature.[3] Once a street hustler and drug dealer, he has conducted spoken word poetry workshops and produced benefits and events for youth organizations around the United States. Emanuel Xavier married Brian Berger on September 2, 2018.

Early years[edit]

Xavier's father abandoned his mother after learning she was pregnant.[4] At the age of three, Xavier was the victim of child sexual abuse by a relative.[5] At age 16, he came out to his mother and was thrown out of his house. Soon after, he became a hustler.[5] He then attended St. John's University (New York City) for several years, dropping out after receiving his associate's degree in communications. He worked for a local drug dealer and made a living by selling drugs at popular New York City gay nightclubs, including The Sound Factory and Roxy NYC.[6] Later, after leaving the club scene, he became employed at a bookstore where he discovered his passion for writing and turned his life around. He has said that he viewed poetry as an "outlet to unleash pain and anger." [7]

Regarding his past, he stated, "I became all those things society expected me to become. I thought that was the only thing I could be." [8]

Professional career[edit]

Xavier self-published his debut poetry chapbook, Pier Queen, in the fall of 1997 through his own independent publishing house, Pier Queen Productions.[9] Fifteen years later, in 2012, it was officially published by Rebel Satori Press with photographs taken at the NYC West Side Highway piers by Richard Renaldi.


In 1998 he created the Glam Slam,[10] an annual poetry slam competition featuring four open categories such as Best Erotic Poem in Sexy Underwear or Lingerie and Best Love Poem in Fire Engine Red (alternately Best Bitter Break Up Poem in Blue). Winners of each category received a trophy and went on to compete for the Grand Prize title of Glam Slam Champion. The annual competition was first held in New York City and then London until 2010.

Painted Leaf Press, a small, independent publishing company which went out of business, published Xavier's novel, Christ Like, in 1999. Despite a limited press run, the novel was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award[11] in the Small Press category. It was later reprinted in 2009 by Rebel Satori Press as a revised ten-year-anniversary edition.

In 2000, Xavier hosted the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony in New York.[12]

Soon after 9/11, Xavier was one of the leading forces behind Words to Comfort, a poetry benefit held at the New School.[13]

Xavier edited the 2005 anthology Bullets & Butterflies: Queer Spoken Word Poetry, earning him a second Lambda Literary Award nomination [14] in the Anthologies category.

He was featured on television on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO (Seasons 3 & 5) and In The Life on PBS. He also appeared in the Wolfgang Busch documentary How Do I Look. He also co-starred in the feature film The Ski Trip which aired on LOGO.

In 2009, Xavier headlined an event at El Museo del Barrio entitled, Spic Up! Speak Out! Due to public outcry, the event organizers changed the name to Speak Up! and issued a formal apology. Regarding his personal use of the word spic, Xavier told The New York Times, "For me, it's about empowerment. Look at everything we have done and accomplished. And it is a play on the word. We are speaking out our truths and identities in very perfect English. . . . spic is a word that we can re-appropriate, that was used to oppress us and box us in a negative way."[15]

Regarding his career, he has been quoted to say, "I think at the beginning it was about me, about sharing my story. But as it evolved, it became more about the larger picture, hoping to inspire others not to follow that path, that it wasn't the only way to go if you were gay, a person of color, and thrown out because you were gay. That it wasn't the only option." [16]

He works for Penguin Random House and helped create the Penguin Random House LGBT Network where he served as Chair of the group.[17]

In 2014, he was invited to speak at The United Nations as part of The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in the USA.

In 2015, he was selected as a featured speaker for TEDx Bushwick on March 21, 2015.[18] He also filmed for a documentary from Spain which will include poets from around the world (Iceland, Jordan, Palestine) and helped organize the first ever After Sunset: Poetry Walk at The High Line with The Academy of American Poets.

In 2017, he read his signature poem "Americano" at the PEN America Writer's Resist rally on the steps of The New York Public Library in protest of the Trump administration. That same year, a week long exhibit was staged in NYC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his poetry collection, "Pier Queen." [19]

In 2018, he was invited again to speak at The United Nations as part of The Conference on Cultural Diplomacy. He read a new poem, "Thoughts and Prayers", and shared a speech about gun control in America. [20]

Assault and aftermath[edit]

In October 2005, Xavier was brutally attacked by a group of about twenty young men in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Despite various rumors about the attack—some suggested it stemmed from his granting the Latin Kings gang permission to publish one of his poems, "Waiting For God", which dealt with police brutality[21] while others suggested it was simply another gay bashing—Xavier believed the crime was a random act of violence.[22] He later captured his experience in the poem "Writer's Block".

After the attack, Xavier was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a type of brain tumor, and had surgery; the tumor was benign, but resulted in a period of partial facial paralysis. He recovered from the paralysis; however, he became deaf in his right ear[4] In Fall 2015, he announced on his personal website that the acoustic neuroma had returned. By year's end, he underwent successful radiosurgery.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2010, The Equality Forum named him an LGBT History Month Icon.[23]

The American Library Association selected Xavier's poetry collections If Jesus Were Gay & other poems and Nefarious for their Over The Rainbow Books lists for 2011[24] and 2015[25] respectively.


  • Christ Like, Rebel Satori Press, 2009 (original 1999 out-of-print edition was a Lambda Literary Award finalist)
  • If Jesus Were Gay & other poems, Rebel Satori Press, 2010
  • Pier Queen, Rebel Satori Press, 2012 (official publication of a self-published chapbook from 1997)
  • Americano- Growing Up Gay and Latino in the USA, Rebel Satori Press, 2012
  • Nefarious, Rebel Satori Press, 2013 (International Latino Book Award- Second Place- Best Poetry Book – One Author – Bilingual)
  • Radiance, Rebel Satori Press, 2016
Edited collections
  • Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry, Floricanto Press, 2008, edited by Emanuel Xavier
  • Bullets & Butterflies: queer spoken word poetry, suspect thoughts press, 2005, edited by Emanuel Xavier (Lambda Literary Award finalist)
  • Me No Habla With Acento, El Museo del Barrio & Rebel Satori Press, 2011, edited by Emanuel Xavier (International Latino Book Award- Second Place- Best Poetry Book – English)
  • Queer & Catholic, edited by Trebor Healey & Amie M. Evans, Haworth Press, 2008 (features the poems "Just Like Jesus" and "Bastard" from If Jesus Were Gay & other poems)[26]
  • Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing, edited by Lázaro Lima and Felice Picano, University of Wisconsin Press, 2011 (features "Dear Rodney" from If Jesus Were Gay & other poems)
  • collective BRIGHTNESS: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, edited by Kevin Simmonds, Sibling Rivalry Press, 2011 (features the poem "The Omega Has Been Postponed" from If Jesus Were Gay & other poems)[26]
  • Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay, edited by Paul Vitagliano, Quirk Books, 2012 (features an essay)
  • For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough, edited by Keith Boykin, Magnus Books, 2012 (features the essay "Mariconcito")
  • Studs, edited by Richard Labonte, Cleis Press, 2014 (selected finalists and wrote introduction)
  • Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity, edited by Carter Sickels, Ooligan Press, 2015 (essay)
  • If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration, edited by Bryan Borland, Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017 (features a reprint of the poem "Americano")
  • Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, edited by Christopher Soto, Nightboat Press, 2018 (features a reprint of the poem "Step Father")
  • A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, Bizarre Publishing, 2014, Meryl Meisler (features the poems "El Hair Espray" and "Legendary")
  • Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy '70s- Suburbia & The City, Bizarre Publishing, 2015, Meryl Meisler (features the poem "Paradise")


  1. ^ http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com/emanuel-xavier?tab=biography
  2. ^ Biography Archived April 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. from www.emanuelxavier.com
  3. ^ Morales-Díaz, Enrique. "Identity of the 'Diasporican' Homosexual in the Literary Periphery." In José L. Torres-Padilla and Carmen Haydée Rivera, eds. Writing Off the Hyphen: New Perspectives on the Literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. 295-312. ISBN 978-0-295-98824-5
  4. ^ a b Wrzeszcz. Dean (13 May 2010). "Owning His Artistry: Emanuel Xavier keeps pushing the boundaries of the story he tells". Gay City News. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Emanuel Xavier biography at LGBT History Month". Equality Forum. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  6. ^ "Owning His Artistry: Emanuel Xavier keeps pushing the boundaries of the story he tells". Gay City News. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  7. ^ Hyman, Alex (2009-10-13). "Award-winning Poet Xavier Speaks in Honor of National Coming Out Day". The Bates Student. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  8. ^ Blake, John (2009-09-09). "Gay Latino Americans are 'coming of age'". CNN. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
  9. ^ "Emanuel Xavier at The World of Poetry". The World of Poetry/Washington Square Films. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "Glam Slam 2011". Time Out London. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  11. ^ "Past Winners & Finalists (older entries)". Lambda Literary Awards. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  12. ^ "Glamour on Desbrosses St". Gay City News. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  13. ^ "Artist Registry". National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "Past Winners & Finalists". Lambda Literary Awards. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  15. ^ Gonzalez, David (November 21, 2009). "In a Poetry Event's Title, Fuel for Debate on a Slur". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Wrzeszcz, Dean (May 13, 2010). "Owning His Artistry". Gay City News.
  17. ^ Silag, Lucy (June 30, 2014). "LGBT Writing and Publishing with Emanuel Xavier". Book Country.
  18. ^ "Bushwick bohemia / Emanuel Xavier / TEDxBushwick". 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  19. ^ "Reflecting on 20 years of Gay Pride, Progress–and the Work Ahead". NYU Spectrum. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  20. ^ "Thoughts and Prayers: My Speech to the UN's Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy". Latino Rebels. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  21. ^ "Interview with Emanuel Xavier". La Bloga.
  22. ^ Duque, Andres (2005-11-10). "Victim of Violence Speaks Out". Gay City News.
  23. ^ "GLBT History Month Icons for October 22 to 31, 2010". Equality Forum. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  24. ^ "Over the Rainbow Project book list". American Library Association. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  25. ^ "Over the Rainbow Project book list". American Library Association. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  26. ^ a b Xavier, Emanuel (2010), If Jesus were gay & other poems, Queer Mojo, ISBN 978-1-60864-032-4

External links[edit]