By Damien Knight
Hello, My name is Damien Knight, I have self claimed many titles, Artist, Poet, Scientist. I have wrapped myself into these layers to define me. But I am caged into other titles, “Daughter, Mother, Sister.” SHUT UP! I want to scream, but I’m afraid.
I started writing when I was young, perhaps 9 years old I wrote my first poem. I would write about dinosaurs and silly things and make drawings to accompany my writings. I loved art I could fling paint onto anything and forget my sorrow. Poetry and Art made me forget. I joined the writers club in fourth grade. I wrote brilliant stories. Mostly stories that came from dreams just as I still do today.
My sister joined the art club, and I gained a new cage. I couldn’t be an “Artist” because she was. I had been painting long before she had but because she’d accuse me of copy catting I was denied my passion. I’d paint in secret crushing rocks and mixing dirts with egg-yolks to create my own paints. I’d glaze my paintings with clear nail-polish. My favourite painting had been made with a red dirt and black charcoal paints I called “Brick wall” or “Brick Road” depending on my mood. It was painted on discarded cardboard.
Don’t think my parents forced me to paint this way. Some cages are self built. My parents encouraged art for me and actually discouraged it for my poor sister. They bought me art books and when they learned I was making my own paints bought me a kit to teach me proper paint making techniques. My sister meanwhile was yelled at for using her talents on the “devil’s work” Anime. This may have been part of what fueled her to insult my art and call me a copy cat.
I am not sure what I was going to say in this originally when I started writing but I guess the same could be said for the painting I have as my background for this piece. Caged, I spent growing up locked in my room or in psych-wards but that’s not the same as being caged inside. I was locked in my mind. I wrote poetry and painted trying to express myself. When I painted ‘myself’ I was always some gangster looking guy. No one noticed.
“Daughter.” That label made it impossible to realize the male in the sketch spray painting a wall was supposed to be me. You can medicate depression, give talk therapy for anger issues but if you ignore that your child is not the girl you want her to be the result might just be a dead child. I attempted suicide at the tender age of 13. I popped all my Depekote given for mood disorder… and I woke up the next morning like I hadn’t did a thing.
Ten plus suicide attempts, 12 times in facilities, plus one last time as an adult. I haven’t written any new poems in ages and I paint occasionally but after my last hospitalization I found the keys to my mental cage. Hints had been there all along, the child crying because he was told to wear a shirt because he’s a girl, the 14 year old sitting in the waiting area of Ten Broeck Hospital and seeing a news clip about a female swimmer so affected by steroids she “transitioned” to male. The 20 year old engaged ‘girl’ watching Maury episode about trans-males and commenting how “she” had wanted to be a boy once. The reason I tried to kill myself wasn’t post partum. It was because I failed to fit the cage of the labels I was expected of me.
You realize you can’t raise children living a lie, or look yourself in the mirror. Today I am free. I hope to paint again soon, and who knows maybe write new happier poetry. Because today I can do anything. Today I am no longer caged.
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