Emanuel Xavier

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Emanuel Xavier
Emanuel Xavier outside Nuyorican Poets Cafe (2008)
Born (1970-05-03) May 3, 1970 (age 50)[citation needed]
Spouse(s)Brian Berger (9/2/18)

Emanuel Xavier (born May 3, 1970),[1] is an American Latinx poet, spoken word artist, author, editor, and LGBTQ activist born and raised in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Associated with the East Village, Manhattan arts scene in New York City, of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian ancestry,[2] he emerged from the ball culture scene and the Nuyorican movement to become a successful poet, writer and advocate for gay youth programs and Latinx gay literature.[3] Once an underage hustler and club kid drug dealer, and later a hate crime survivor, he has performed, conducted spoken word poetry workshops and produced benefits and events for LGBTQ youth organizations around the United States.

Early years[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York to an Ecuadorian mother, Xavier's father abandoned them after finding out she was pregnant.[4] As a child, Xavier was the victim of child sexual abuse by a relative.[5] At age 16, he came out to his mother and stepfather and was kicked out for being gay. He survived the streets as an underage hustler[5] at the Christopher Street West Side Highway piers and became involved with the House of Xtravaganza and the 80's ball scene. After returning home under strict new rules, he graduated Grover Cleveland High School (Queens) and then attended St. John's University (New York City) for several years, dropping out after receiving his associate's degree in communications. He moved to the West Village and became a club kid making a living by selling designer drugs at popular New York City gay nightclubs, including The Sound Factory and Roxy NYC.[6] Emanuel Xavier later worked at the now defunct LGBTQ bookstore A Different Light where he discovered his passion for writing and managed to turn 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]

Emanuel Xavier at the Christopher Street West Side Highway piers, NYC (1997)

Professional career[edit]

After surviving the streets of New York City as an underage hustler and later the gay club scene as a club kid drug dealer, Xavier discovered a love for spoken word poetry after attending an event at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. As one of the first openly gay Nuyorican poets to become a poetry slam winner in a style of hip hop poetry still dominated by homophobia at the time, he self-published a poetry chapbook, Pier Queen, in the fall of 1997.[9]

Emanuel Xavier (circa 2004)

With the help of his friend, Willi Ninja, in 1998 he created the House of Xavier and the Glam Slam,[10] an annual downtown arts event staged at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (and later at the Bowery Poetry Club). The fusion of ball culture and poetry slam competitions featured four open categories such as Best Erotic Poem in Sexy Underwear or Lingerie, Best Verbal Vogue 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. The House of Xavier and House of Xtravaganza would collaborate to stage other more traditional ball events.

Painted Leaf Press, a small, independent publishing company which went out of business, published Xavier's semi-autobiographical cult 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 and in 2019 for the twentieth anniversary.

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] Written days after 9/11 at Ground Zero, his poem, "September Song", was originally included as part of the initial National September 11 Memorial & Museum website and later appeared in his follow-up 2002 poetry collection, Americano.

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 and co-starred in the feature film The Ski Trip which aired on LOGO.

Xavier edited the anthology Bullets & Butterflies: Queer Spoken Word Poetry in 2005 with a foreword by Bob Holman, earning him a second Lambda Literary Award nomination [14] in the Anthologies category. A few years later, in 2008, he edited the anthology Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry, at the time, considered a ground-breaking collection of gay Latinx spoken word poetry.

In 2010, El Museo del Barrio and choreographer Fredi Xtravaganza staged a dance retrospective of Emanuel Xavier's spoken word poetry set to music featuring LGBTQ contemporary dancers. That same year, he published his third poetry collection, If Jesus Were Gay and released a spoken word poetry album, Legendary. The title spoken word poem, a tribute to the ball scene, was remixed into a House track and a video featuring the author and some of the dancers from the choreographed retrospective was shared on social media. A year later, El Museo del Barrio published Me No Habla Con Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry, an anthology edited by Emanuel Xavier based on a successful monthly series he hosted at the museum featuring contemporary Latinx spoken word poets.

Still of Emanuel Xavier from the video for "Legendary"

He published his poetry collection, Nefarious in 2013 and was selected as a featured speaker for TEDx Bushwick on March 21, 2015.[15] He also filmed for a documentary from Spain which included poets from around the world (Iceland, Jordan, Palestine). An excerpt of the documentary was released as a short film, Americano, by award-winning film director Fon Cortizo. Emanuel also helped organize the first ever After Sunset: Poetry Walk at The High Line with The Academy of American Poets. A year later, he published his fifth poetry collection, Radiance.

For the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, Emanuel Xavier was part of the Saks Fifth Avenue Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative in 2019 who partnered to give back to the LGBTQ community. Other celebrities included Amanda Lepore, Dionne Warwick, Kate Bornstein, Lea DeLaria, Michael Musto, Michael Urie and Nico Tortorella.

Soon after testing positive and surviving COVID-19, during the pandemic era of 2020, he appeared virtually as guest speaker during the first ever Brooklyn College Lavender Graduation.

Emanuel Xavier (2020)

Regarding his unique 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 founded The Penguin Random House LGBTQ Network where he originally served as Chair of the group.[17]

In a 2020 podcast for the Ali Forney Center, he announced that Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier would be published in June 2021.


As an activist, he has been invited to share his poetry at protests and rallies in support of LGBTQ rights.

At one of several presentations at Towson University as a spoken word poet, his appearance was protested and targeted by a white supremacist hate group known as Youth for Western Civilization.

At a high school presentation in Broward County, Florida, he was threatened with arrest before taking the stage if he did not agree to edit his poetry selections to be less political and explicit. He went on to publicly announce the arrest threat to his audience and shared how to find his full unedited selections online.

He actively fought for marriage equality, appearing as a guest speaker for several protests including the NYC Fight The H8 Rally in 2009. One of his marriage equality protest appearances landed him as part of the opening credits for The Real Housewives of New York City. He would later get married himself in 2018 to his husband.

PEN America invited him to read his signature poem "Americano" at the Writer's Resist rally on the steps of The New York Public Library in protest of the Trump administration in 2017. That same year, a week long exhibit was staged in NYC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his poetry collection, Pier Queen. [18] Having become a cult classic for LGBTQ People of Color, the twentieth anniversary edition of Pier Queen was officially published by Rebel Satori Press with photographs taken at the NYC West Side Highway piers by photographer Richard Renaldi.

In 2018, he was invited back to share his poetry at The United Nations as part of The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in the USA, after first having appeared in 2014. Instead of adhering to his set of selected poems, he used his platform to share a new poem about gun control in America.[19] After criticism from gun rights activists, he was uninvited back as a speaker.

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[20] while others simply brushed it off as another gay bashing[21]—as a survivor, Emanuel Xavier would later write the poem "Sometimes We're Invisible", a tribute to some of his fellow Latinx queer and trans victims of violence.

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 LGBTQ History Month Icon.[22]

The American Library Association selected Xavier's poetry collections If Jesus Were Gay and Nefarious for their Over The Rainbow Books lists for 2011[23] and 2015[24] respectively.


  • Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier, Rebel Satori Press, 2021
  • If Jesus Were Gay, Rebel Satori Press, 2020 (tenth anniversary reissue of the original 2010 edition)
  • Christ Like, Rebel Satori Press, 2019 (original 1999 out-of-print edition was a Lambda Literary Award finalist)
  • Radiance, Rebel Satori Press, 2016
  • Pier Queen, Rebel Satori Press, 2012 (official publication of a self-published chapbook from 1997)
  • Nefarious, Rebel Satori Press, 2013 (International Latino Book Award- Second Place- Best Poetry Book – One Author – Bilingual)
  • Americano- Growing Up Gay and Latino in the USA, Rebel Satori Press, 2012 (republished from the original 2002 out-of-print edition)
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)[25]
  • 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)[25]
  • 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 (May 13, 2010). "Owning His Artistry: Emanuel Xavier keeps pushing the boundaries of the story he tells". Gay City News. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Emanuel Xavier biography at LGBT History Month". Equality Forum. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  6. ^ "Owning His Artistry: Emanuel Xavier keeps pushing the boundaries of the story he tells". Gay City News. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  7. ^ Hyman, Alex (October 13, 2009). "Award-winning Poet Xavier Speaks in Honor of National Coming Out Day". The Bates Student. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  8. ^ Blake, John (September 9, 2009). "Gay Latino Americans are 'coming of age'". CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2009.
  9. ^ "Emanuel Xavier at The World of Poetry". The World of Poetry/Washington Square Films. Archived from the original on February 28, 2012. 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. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. 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. ^ "Bushwick bohemia / Emanuel Xavier / TEDxBushwick". May 26, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  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. ^ "Reflecting on 20 years of Gay Pride, Progress–and the Work Ahead". NYU Spectrum. Archived from the original on November 22, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  19. ^ "Thoughts and Prayers: My Speech to the UN's Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy". Latino Rebels. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "Interview with Emanuel Xavier". La Bloga.
  21. ^ Duque, Andres (November 10, 2005). "Victim of Violence Speaks Out". Gay City News.
  22. ^ "GLBT History Month Icons for October 22 to 31, 2010". Equality Forum. Archived from the original on November 22, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  23. ^ "Over the Rainbow Project book list". American Library Association. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  24. ^ "Over the Rainbow Project book list". American Library Association. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  25. ^ a b Xavier, Emanuel (2010), If Jesus were gay & other poems, Queer Mojo, ISBN 978-1-60864-032-4

External links[edit]