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“I wrote this book to save myself. It was my way of expressing what I was going through.” – Keath Silva, author of Lady DeathAuthor Keath Silva, wearing a shirt designed by trans activist and artist Mars Wright…
“I wrote this book to save myself.
It was my way of expressing what I was going through.”
– Keath Silva, author of Lady Death
Author Keath Silva, wearing a shirt designed by trans activist and artist Mars Wright that reads strong men cry, holds up an autographed copy of his “book baby” at Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River, OR. Photo Credit: Jenny Cohen
Keath Silva, transgender herbalist, bodyworker, medium, and writer from Hood River, OR has published his first ever book of poetry titled Lady Death, and other poems venerating change.
Keath’s moving and down-to-earth collection of poems is a window into the transgender experience, and can be a companion to anyone who may be on a journey of coping with loss, letting go of falsity and embracing authenticity.
It’s the perfect read for Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st.
Keath Silva. Photo Credit: Eden Luna @edenxluna on IG
Keath was assigned female at birth and lived much of his life being perceived as a girl/woman. As is too common, I have experienced abuse and disempowering programming while being perceived as female.
This led Keath down a path to find the deeper truth within—he felt more male than female.
His book Lady Death, invites the reader to journey with him on the path to uncovering that deep truth.
But Keath’s book almost didn’t happen.
When Keath was growing up he wrote poetry constantly.
And every year he would compile what he’d written and go down to the local print shop and make Xerox copies of his work, which he would distribute far and wide as zines.
Keath has self-produced a number of poetry zines. Photo Credit: Keath Silva
But as he grew up, he had much less time for self expression.
“It was just the intensity of life, hardship, relationships, parenting, and stress that caused me to put my poetry aside,” said Keath.
But he still kept copies of all his zines.
Then the pandemic hit—right when Keath was deep in the beginning stages of his gender transition.
That’s when he knew it was time to pick up the mantle again.
“I wrote this book to save myself. It was my way of expressing what I was going through,” said Keath. “But I didn’t start out with the goal of writing a book at all. I started to have some health issues and something just felt like it was missing.”
“So I did this big inner journey, and I asked what’s wrong? What’s wrong here? And I just heard this voice inside me say “you stopped writing poetry.”
“For years even the poems that would come to me, I would just throw aside. I ignored that call for years, and my body told me, you can’t live like that, you need to express yourself. If you have a gift, then it needs to be given. You have to give it to feel better.”
So Keath started writing poetry again…And Lady Death was born.
“The concept of Lady Death was inspired by the process of embracing change, embracing death, letting go of what’s ready to die, and letting go of what’s not serving you.” said Keath.
“Death is such a powerful force. But I feel like the society we live in is always running away from death. Mainstream culture is all about being youthful and pretty, but to me, where the juice is, where the healing is, is in accepting that every single thing is going to die. There’s so much energy in embracing that.”
Keath was pretty clear on the fact that using the phrase Lady Death didn’t mean a part of him had died in the process of his gender transition.
“I have always been this person since the day I was born. What I allowed to die when I accepted the process of a gender transition was a false person that I had to adopt, so that I would be accepted and to protect myself from harm.” said Keath.
“I would try to line myself up with what society was telling me. I would try to line myself up with my gender assigned at birth. Even though that wasn’t who I was,” said Keath
“What I let die is all that falsity. And all those things that aren’t me.”
Misgendered a poem by Keath Silva. Photo Credit: Cole Goodwin
The book has been well received by trans and cisgendered folks alike.
“The responses I’ve received so far have really touched my heart.” said Keath, laying his hand to his heart.
“A couple of trans youth told me that reading my poetry has helped them stay strong while they’re trying to advocate for trans rights at their schools. And that they would put my poem up and look at it between school board meetings.”
A Message for Trans Kids, a poem by Keath Silva. Photo Credit: Cole Goodwin
“And a few trans kids have told me that reading my book has given them euphoria and made them feel supported.” said Keath with a smile.
“Just hearing other trans folx’s experience of my work has been great. People have told me they raised and were moved. And some cisgender folx have said it helped them understand the trans experience more. Other cis people told me it supported them in processes of death and rebirth in their lives, unrelated to gender.”
“So, I’m like, okay, the reason for writing the book has been realized! I’m good, if nothing else comes out of it, that’s fine; I’ve done what I needed to do.”
“So, I’m really pleased with the responses that have come back. I feel like I’ve accomplished the mission.”
Keath’s daughter has also been a huge supporter.
Keath collaborated with her on the publishing process.
“My daughter Theresa created the art that’s on the front and back covers. The one on the front I see as being me before my gender transition, and the one on the back I see as being me now.”
“Her art to me is like totems; there is a spiritual teaching in each of them, so I use her de ella art on my altars to help myself get through different parts of my life.
“Her favorite poem from the book is At the Center of Things,” Keath said.
At the Center of Things, a poem from Keath Silva’s new book Lady Death. Photo Credit: Cole Goodwin
“She’s been an amazing ally from the beginning,” said Keath “It’s definitely a process to have your parent who you’ve always seen as your mom turn into your dad.”
“But it’s been amazing and opened up so much conversation and healing. She’s one of my favorite peeps in the world to hang out with. She lives in Los Angeles, California now. I plan to move down there to be closer to her in 2023.”
Keath and Theresa enjoying the California weather together. On top of supporting her Dad’s poetry, Theresa has also been a supporter of his gender transition. Photo Credit: Keath Silva.
In fact, Keath’s entire family has been pretty accepting.
“It’s been a learning curve. But even my 80-year-old parents use my pronouns and my name.” said Keath with a look of joy on his face. “Sometimes they forget but they correct themselves, and I’m like…ya’ll are doing awesome.”
Keath shared a few tips on navigating gender transition with family.
“My advice for family members that may be having difficulty with accepting a trans loved one is to do your own work away from your trans family member,” said Keath.
“Really try to get a feel for how to support a trans person before interacting with them about it. Use their pronouns and trust them to know themselves.” Keath paused then started again. “Don’t lay your trip on them about how this is hard for you. That’s real too… but it’s not your trans family member’s job to make you feel okay about their identity. They’re already going through a lot on a daily basis just by being a trans person in a binary society.”
“A poll by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland found that 80% of polled trans people had considered suicide and 40% of the trans people polled had attempted suicide. It sucks to live in a society that is systemically against you,” said Keath.
“You also deserve support but go get that support somewhere else.”
Keath shared some resources for people who are interested in learning more about the trans experience and how to support their trans loved ones.
“My friend Dylan Wilder Quinn has an amazing organization called TransIntimate where you can talk with him one-on-one, take classes, and educate yourself more about the transgender experience,” said Keath.
Resources for transgender people and their families are growing but getting good representation in the media is still a struggle for trans folx.
“Trans people are so underrepresented and misrepresented in the media,” said Keath. “Just watch Disclosure, the 2020 documentary about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community.”
“It is also important to acknowledge that for Black, Indigenous, and people of color who are trans and gender expansive community members these challenges are compounded by racism. Also the majority of trans murders are Black and Latinx trans women.”
Keath also shared why being visible as a trans person is important to him.
“For me when I was growing up, there was no trans visibility. I didn’t even know that there was anyone that felt like me. We didn’t have instagram and YouTube. But if I had seen or met another visible trans person during that time, it could have changed my whole life,” said Keath.
“So the main thing for me is let’s be visible and trans. Let’s see trans people out and about thriving, sharing our art and enjoying life. Let’s show the youth that being trans doesn’t have to be all about oppression and suffering and hiding.”
Being Trans is Beautiful, a poem by Keath Silva. Photo Credit: Cole Goodwin
While Keath’s poems deeply explore the idea of death, now that he’s let all the falsity fall away, he’s looking forward to life again.
“I’m looking forward to living my life, hanging out with my daughter. Hanging out with my friends, doing art and being in nature,” said Keath.
“Being trans is the least interesting thing about me. But I had to get my transition handled so that I could get on with my fabulous life!”
Lady Death and other poems venerating change can be purchased online at Bookbaby.com.
Keath had one final message for readers.
“Please share widely and write reviews about the book Lady Death to promote trans awareness!” said Keath.
Tune into a LIVE poetry reading by transgender poets at 6pm on March 31st for Trans Day of Visibility. The Instagram LIVE event will feature poets Cole Goodwin and Keath Silva. Tune in at @transmanpoet
Gender Liberation, a Mini Guide to Honoring People of All Genders by Keath Silva. Photo Credit: Keath Silva
How to Be an Ally of the Trans Community
To become a trans ally sign up for counseling or classes here, support organizations that support trans people, support trans owned businesses and artists, and vote against transphobic legislation.
spread the word.
You can also download, print and hand out these free zines about gender liberation from Keath Silva.
Listen and Learn.
You can also listen to local podcasts about the book and about transgender experiences and gender trauma healing here and here. Please listen, like and share!
This article was written by a transgender journalist.
Cole Goodwin, is a genderfluid and gender expansive nonbinary journalist working to bring honest inclusive LGBTQ+ representation to rural media in the Mid-Columbia region of Oregon and Washington.
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