Still, I Stand

Six years ago, I reached my breaking point, grew a backbone, and left the strict, completely unhealthy religious sect I’d grown up in. It was the most terrifying, liberating thing I’ve ever and will ever do. Today, it feels like a lifetime ago, a distant memory I can look back on with pride. Six years ago, I stood up. And I’m still standing. 

Stand up

Shut up

Give up

Your individuality

Deny yourself and follow me

Deny yourself

Take up your cross

Leave the world

Yourself

Behind.

Submit

Give in

Erase your sins

Your soul.

Singing, less of me, more of you

Oh what a worm am I

My life is not my own

Break me, melt me, mold me

None of me, and all of you.

Wrap yourself in the navy blue

the flat black shoes

the red on your shoulders like lead weights

pressing down

CONFORM

Anything less is selfishness

Attention seeking

SIN.

Suffocating in the navy blue

Entombed in the box

Of acceptability

Screamed at

Berated

Accused

You’re a joke

An embarrassment

An abomination

A stain

A poor witness

Just like your father

Never mind the accolades

The awards

The children rescued from abuse

The teens safe to explore themselves and the world

The writing publications

The public reputation

Never mind all that

JUST CONFORM

But I just COULDN’T

WOULDN’T

Unwrap the navy blue

Peel away the off-black

SHED  THE GUILT

SHED THE SHAME

I AM NO LONGER AFRAID

Embrace color

Light

Joy

Freedom

Free to use my voice

My talents

Free to be myself

Free from fear

From guilt

From self- doubt

From self –flagellation

From self-denial

From the shield and the crest and the flag and the polyester and the minutes and the regulations and the position statements and the doctrines and the constructs and the innumerable unspoken disdainful tenets of the oppressor

Speak up

Stand up

Step up

In my bright red shoes

In my loud patterned pants

In my electric purple lipstick appropriately named ‘freedom fighter’

Today, I look in that mirror

I trace the lines on my face

Lines deepened by laughter

Not worry

Gleeful joy

Not self-hatred

Ferocity

Not fear

Stand at the mirror

Stand on the stage

Stand on the street

Stand at city hall

Stand tall

Stand proud

Stand ready

Stand when my knees are weak

Stand when my hands shake

Stand in defiance

Stand in VICTORY

I Stand

I stand

Today, I stand.

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