The Growth of Wings – A Poem

I was raised to hate myself.

“Did you see that guy wearing earrings?”

My father would ask this

with a note of ridicule in his voice.

“Probably a homo.”

He would say,

holding his hand out with a limp wrist

and proceeding to talk

in a high pitched falsetto.

“Your wife will love these!”

He looked at me, a tinkle in his eyes

as he waited for me to laugh.  

One time my friends and I

were going to the Olive Garden.

“You know who works there?”

He asked us. We all shook our heads.

“That restaurant is full of homos.”

He told us, as if sharing some dark secret,

whispering the words the words in a hiss.

“Be careful he doesn’t touch your food. You never know where they’ve been.”

Later, at dinner, we were served by a man

who was so completely himself.

He sashayed towards our table

and after he took our order,

my friends laughed at his antics.

It was like they were laughing at me.

Each peel of laughter was like a nail in my skin,

trying to keep my secret inside.

I knew that I wasn’t like other boys,

that there was something different about me.

I was what my family laughed at,

what my friends gossiped about in school.

There was this one boy that was in a few of my classes.

I watched him transform himself,

first cutting his hair and dying it red,

then experimenting with makeup.

The more he became himself,

the fewer friends he had.

I looked at him,

blooming like a flower,

shedding the layers that were no longer him

to become what he always was underneath.

I watched him walk bravely through the school hallways,

letting the wings he had grown flow out behind him.

I wondered if anyone else could see them

and I wished that I was brave enough to be him.

Things got worse at home.

I couldn’t stop myself from being who I was,

no matter how hard I tried.

I was in this constant cycle with myself:

hate, disgust, fear, hate, loathing, fear.  

I knew what I was but could never say the word out loud.

I tried desperately to keep it inside,

to stop the light shining through the pores of my skin.

I hated myself so much

but could never bring myself

to voice who I was,

what I was.

My father knew and he hated me for it.

He tried everything in his power to keep me straight,

to clip my wings so that I did not shine.

Eventually he succeeded and I felt them torn from me.

My wings lay glittering on the ground.

I mourned that part of me,

those wings that had never gotten a chance to fly.

I finally left home at sixteen,

and though I walked on legs that were

made of cracked and crumbling glass,

the hate began to fade.

The want to hurt myself for what I was

slowly went away.

In my head,

where my fathers voice had been,

it had begun to grow quieter

and my own voice began to grow stronger.

As I began to use my own voice,

I would stand in front of the mirror

and look at myself.

I would press a finger to the glass

and tell myself:

“I know what you are, and I love you.”

My wings grew a little

each time I said those words.

Now, my wings spread into the sky

and they flutter behind me as I walk.

Now, my wings are strong enough

to fly.

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