By: Amber Leventry
Tyler Curry’s new children’s book is about not fitting in, being teased for it, and finding the strength to be who you are because of it. Without directly saying it, or needing to, the it is something that falls in the beautiful spectrum of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identity, it is the who you see yourself as. A Peacock Among Pigeons is an LGBTQ themed book, but Curry wants the bigger message to be that no matter what our differences, the feathers we are born with are worth embracing and even flaunting.
Tyler Curry is no stranger to writing or standing out. He is an award-winning columnist and the senior editor of HIV Equal Online. He was also the target of bullying and violence as a young gay boy growing up in Texas. In an article Curry wrote for The Advocate, he recalls the tipping point: “I can’t remember one day of school after that day when my own “sissiness” wasn’t shoved in my face by someone who didn’t like me for things I couldn’t change. I know, because I tried to change them almost every day.”
Even as the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals grows and the number of laws that protect us increase, trans and homophobia still exist. And they are not always shy. Children often repeat what they hear at home, and kids can be ruthless. Girls with short hair, boys who wear pink, girls who like girls, and boys who want to make the transition to become girls are still a deviation from the majority. When the old adage of “majority rules” is in place, those kids receive the majority of the hatred.
In collaboration with illustrator Clarione Gutierrez, Tyler Curry wants us to meet Peter, a peacock born into a family of pigeons. From the very beginning of the book, Curry sets the tone for a journey of self-acceptance. “Don’t ask me how it happened, but somehow, someway, I grew up in a flock of pigeons. And being a peacock in a family of pigeons isn’t easy at all.”
With beautiful, yet sassy illustrations Clarione highlights the contrast between the beauty and uniqueness of being different against the darkness of those who can’t see the peacock for the tail feathers. Peter is just as guilty as his pigeon family, and for a long time he agrees with them. He tries to hide and change himself, but identity is a powerful thing. Peter learns that no amount of disguise can hide who he was born to be—or make him happy. Peter chooses to find happiness through self-acceptance; finding friends who love him for all of his flamboyance helps too.
The difference between seeing ourselves as beautiful and loving ourselves just the way we are comes from an inner change, not an outward shift to fit the expectations of others. Peter tells us this: “So embrace who you are, from beak to bird feet, and never let anyone break your stride. And always remember to love the feathers you were born with.”
Even though Peter the Peacock is a fictional character, I imagine a young Tyler Curry looking into a mirror year after year frustrated and sad by what he sees and what he is. And while Curry created Peter to give young kids a hero to admire, he created one years ago when he eventually looked into the same mirror and saw a handsome reflection smiling back at him.
Placing A Peacock Among Pigeons into the hands of kids will give them hope, pride, and a protagonist to emulate. It will hopefully show them they are not alone and give them the strength to be their own hero. But more importantly, it gives them an example of one man who has successfully spread his wings with gorgeous results.