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Empowered Narratives Submission # 5: Pride Month Edition

June 30, 2024

Every 4 years / How you’ve grown / Pride poem

By Mabe Kyle
Age 0: You are born into this world not knowing what to expect in life. You're beginning to learn how to survive. You were assigned a sex and gendered accordingly without even the ability to speak. People told you who you are and who you'll become. Making assumptions and choices based on your genitalia. Pride is defying expectations.
Age 4: You are climbing trees and playing in the mud spending your childhood as a non-binary free spirit with nature and the creations of God. You are not playing with dolls or Barbies. You are not playing with action figures or army men. You are a genderqueer child who does not even know what queerness is yet but you still feel like you are different and that you'll never belong inside the box that others have made for you. Pride is playing.
Age 8: You are dressing up as Harry Potter for Halloween and playing Santa Claus in the Christmas play at school. You are allowing yourself to be the protagonist on stage and in your own life. Pride is expressing yourself through the everyday art of drag.
Age 12: You are bullied for looking like a boy and a lesbian so you grow your hair long to hide your true self-expression. You're feeling shame and you learn to mask to try to fit in, altering your appearance to appease others. It wasn't the fear of being queer but how queerness was portrayed as a sin. You write your first poem after your grandfather passes away about how he lived a good life and led a great life. Pride is persisting, resisting, existing, and exhausting.
Age 16: You are out to your parents. You start to feel being queer is okay but wish you weren’t queer yourself. You find ways to experience queer culture discreetly, clearing your YouTube and Google search history. You see the way queer kids at school are treated and know that that is not something you wish to experience, so you stay closeted. You discover the musical RENT this year and fall instantly in love watching it on repeat every day of March break. You discover Andrea Gibson’s spoken word poetry. Their poetry keeps you alive on your darkest days. You come to be known as a poet yourself after sharing a poem you scribbled in the margins of your worksheet in math class. Pride is discovering what and who you love.
Age 20: you have finished your first year of University. You are studying gender studies. You have a trans professor and although he was an asshole he was able to encourage you to question gender in ways you previously hadn't been encouraged to do so. You march in the Toronto pride parade this year for the very first time alongside your college queer group. You find out J.K. Rowling is a TERF and using her money and fame to cause violence to the trans community. You become best friends with a trans person and start to make friends with other queer and trans folks as well. You continue to work through your shame and internalized queerphobia to heal from trauma. You are starting to rediscover yourself. You are encouraged to publish your poetry by your favourite university professor and to never stop sharing your gift of writing so you decide to share your poetry at an open mic for the very first time. Pride is experiencing life candidly.
Age 24: There's currently a global pandemic going on and you've returned to live at your parents' house. Depression kicks but you've come to accept the fact you're neurodivergent. You come to realize the ways you are non-binary and transgender. You decide you want to change your name and pronouns and start injecting hormones. You drop out of Teachers College 2 weeks in but stay involved with the school’s queer collective for the remainder of the year. By now pretty much all of your friends have come out as queer and are in the process of realizing they're neurodivergent. You start to become more involved with the poetry scene attending groups regularly, performing on Zoom for Brantford Pride, and self-publishing your poetry in zines. Pride is naming yourself and choosing your own adventure.
Age 28: You are here now. You have grown a mullet and a mustache and if I do say so myself you look pretty badass. Your wardrobe has never been so full of outfits that bring Joy and colour into your life. You are surrounded by a supportive Community who embraces who you are at the core. You're finally dating someone cute and experiencing this coming-of-age milestone over a decade late as you go through puberty for the second time. The anti-trans movement is growing and becoming more violent, especially targeting trans youth and trans-feminine folks. You find your own ways to fight back and create safer spaces for trans folks. You are planning the 1st official Pride events in your home community. You are figuring out the type of leader you are and want to become. You are doing peer support sharing care and knowledge from your lived experiences with others. You recite your poetry in the community frequently, sometimes strangers will give you a hug and tell you they’ve seen you perform months after the fact when they meet you on the street. You facilitate a poetry group at the library biweekly. You are editing an anthology of rural queer stories with a publishing company. Pride is using your gifts of poetry, empathy, and rage to build the community, build the future of which you dream.
This is all but a tiny glimpse of how you’ve grown and where you were at by four-year intervals of your life. Despite the shame and strife, you faced to get where you are today. It is through the love of community, your trancestors and trans siblings you became. It is through community you will continue to become. Pride isn't a coming out story, it's realizing how brave it is to live authentically in a world that wants to constrict your self-expression and construct oppressive ideas of worth and choosing every day to be yourself and share your art despite what anyone else may think or say. For me, pride isn't about sex or gender. It's about building a culture where everyone has liberation and feels true love for themselves and their community and works to make it better.