Bulimia Tulpa

CW: bulimia, eating disorders

The drone of traffic carries on the damp breeze as late May earwigs die on the wet concrete. When the clouds hang low with rain, Nadine and I look for worms in the backyard. Mostly we find dog shit in the grass and deflated balloons from her quinceañera. But, buried under the oak tree, we also unearth from the soft dirt a stash of porno mags. 

They belong to her oldest brother, a lanky teenager whose legs in skinny jeans make me so jealous that it physically hurts, like a pang of hunger between the ribs. Last Sunday, her family took me to their favorite buffet; I watched as he ate a whole plate of scrambled eggs with refried beans and chorizo. 

I had to look away, but I couldn’t stare at the bowls of salsa being passed around or they’d offer me more chips. I traced the grain of the wood table, the scratches in the vibrant green vinyl cover. My eyes were on the framed prints of Mexico on the pink stucco as her family folded tortillas, dipped them into hot cheese, and laughed from deep in their bellies. 

“Mija, slow down,” they joked at Nadine, beautiful Nadine, round as a summer peach. “Te ves gordita!” 

She smiled but they could cut her into pieces sometimes, as if she’s only an overripe plum. Be more like her, they said to Nadine in secret, while I squished food into my napkins and chewed ice. 

We show our love by sharing food, and then we criticize each other for it. 

I used to love that buffet. Nadine and I would make “potions” out of salt and sugar packets, watermelon rinds and lime juice, stirring them into our sodas like witches

over our cauldrons. We’d dare each other to try our concoctions, never knowing what the other snuck into her drink. 

I told her that we were too old for that game now, that I wanted plain black tea instead. I didn’t tell her that I ached to know how her brother managed to eat so much without getting as fat as I am. Or that I didn’t want her to come to the bathroom with me because I wasn’t actually changing my pad in there. 

In the shade of the tree, Nadine points at a woman on her knees and says, “I know a trick like that. First you have to pull your hair back…” 

For a moment, I worry she’s figured out how I make food disappear. But instead, she shows me how to keep water in my open mouth while facing down as blowjob practice. I feel stupid doing it, but I’d do anything to make her smile. We grew up together. When she bites her bottom lip, I feel a deep warmth rear inside me like bile. 

And sometimes, I wish she would kiss me. Sometimes, I wish she would grab me by the shoulders and beg me to eat. I wouldn’t, but I still want her to ask. 

The magazines are like old bones. I don’t want her to think I’m a pervert, so I gasp when she turns a page. I doubt that she, who knows how to be a girl better than I do, has spent as much time in front of a computer as I have. I’ve seen it all before, so I watch her closely for signals that I’m supposed to react. 

The bodies seem alien to me, all of them white. The women confuse me because I can’t imagine ever looking like that, so fleshy and soft. I want to measure their collarbones and wrists. I don’t ask Nadine, but I think I’m looking the wrong way at the men, at the flat contours of their chests. I don’t have words for it, but it must be bad. 

We hide the porno mags under the air mattress in the basement. Now, as Nadine snores besides me, I hold my breath and slither into the cold night. I love sleeping next

to her, skin flushed against mine, but with the house quiet and still, I have a few hours to myself. 

My parents took away my Internet privileges when they found my account on the forums. They think they can stop me? Nobody can. 

The leather office chair creaks, and the computer in Nadine’s basement whirs awake. I gnaw my fingernails, but she doesn’t move. 

The townhouse where everyone in her family lives – brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins and grandparents on both sides – is close to the highway. The stink of hot rubber and car exhaust comforts me; it reminds me that I’m not at home, where it’s just my parents and I avoiding each other as much as possible. 

Whoever used the computer last left a tab open. At first I assume the grainy video must be weird porn her brother was watching, but then I notice it was uploaded today, with just one view. The title is a random string of numbers and asterisks. 

There’s a man in an empty room, staring open-mouthed into his webcam. I can only see his face and upper torso, disembodied, almost floating. His teeth glow from the aura of the screen like sour candy, and his big eyes reflect a bright green, the way an animal looks in a dark photograph. 

It starts as a throbbing panic that builds at the base of my spine and spreads throughout my trembling body. Every limb quivers with fear like a sore muscle, stretched to its limit. 

Slowly, I realize – he looks like me, as an adult man. He can’t be a younger version of my dad, who has lighter skin than my mom and I. It’s definitely me, with my eyebrows if I didn’t obsessively pluck them and my nose which is too big for a girl.

And he’s so skinny. It isn’t flattering. He’s as gaunt as a prisoner. The longer I look, the more excited and terrified I am, like the before-and-after threads on the forums. 

I feel a pit in my stomach. It opened when I was younger and weaker. It’s been growing and growing as I get smaller and smaller. Never small enough. I’m always lightheaded these days, but this is different. 

I plug in my headphones, every noise I make like a thunderclap. Behind me, the loose latch on the window rattles, clank-clank, and the distant howl of neighborhood dogs echoes in the night. 

I unpause the video. 

“My name is an incantation that once spoken will hasten the end of the world as you know it and the beginning of mine.” He speaks so fast and low that I have to max the volume to hear him. “There is no forgiveness. What happens between us goes unspoken. It is an empty plastic shell. It is cold and toxic. It scintillates, pink and sharp as a razor blade. You and I – we just want to be loved. Wanting and wanting.” 

His voice is so familiar. It’s me. It has to be me, as a man. This is how I will sound when I grow up. Except… it’s unnatural, how he speaks. Not like he’s reading a script, but as though the words aren’t coming from his mouth. 

“Please, do you recognize me? Do I move on the screen like blue motes in your vision when you stand too quickly? Or does your malnourished brain scramble me into a glittering three-lobed squid or a pulsing gunmetal sea anemone? Can you even comprehend what you’ve done to me?” 

It isn’t dubbed in. His thin lips move in sync to the strange ramblings. I can’t discern why, but he doesn’t talk like a normal person. The cadence is wrong.

“One misclick, and you touch my invisible skin, shuddering past the membrane like unknown pathogens through your tender pores. The light reveals, in the crackling vibration, my body geometry.” 

Nadine turns over in bed, mumbling. Upstairs, someone wanders in the kitchen, a younger sister or a niece, judging by the little footsteps. 

I lean closer to the man until our foreheads touch, rippling his image like an oil spill and distorting the liquid crystal molecules between us. 

“I listened when no one else would. I was with you when you were alone, and I kept you that way. I fed into your anxieties when you refused to eat. I functioned when you couldn’t think, as your hippocampus sunk into a haze. I could crush your skull like soft pink styrofoam.” 

I’m not afraid of that, and he knows it. I’ve been waiting to die since puberty. I think of my dead grandmother, kissing her string of beads, burning red and gold Our Lady of Guadalupe candles. We used to bake conchas together on Sundays. I remember the warm fragrance of dough turning into a sweet yellow crust – how effortless it once was to eat. But she, too, put me on a diet before I learned long division. 

“You can’t blame me for it all. I was made for you, and now I’m stuck, too. What shape would I take as the space between us shrinks? I can only see how swollen I am like an egg sac from which a new Internet will hatch and spread.” 

The monitor goes black and I suck in a sharp breath. Was this some elaborate prank? I turn towards Nadine, and in that moment, the face of the man changes. I flinch, but there’s nothing on the monitor again. I tilt my head to the side, and I see it – her, a child. Me, before bulimia.

I think that word, bulimia, without doubting myself. It slips out so easily. Usually I don’t feel sick, not how the girls on the forums are. 

I shut my eyes, and he continues. 

“We hold hands until the bones of our knuckles pop through the skin, bloodless, painless. Nothingness. This is not real, unless you want it to be. I feel the future squirming in my lower intestines: doomsday tastes like burnt sugar and peppermint vomit. I wish I was skinnier, too. But the spasmodic omens make me bloat.” 

The girl and the man are layered like an optical illusion. She sits in the same anonymous room, round-faced with long greasy hair. I’m half her size now. This is worse than any technicolor horror he described. 

“I’m a boy, I think. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a man. I used to be a girl. I tried to delete that information, but I’m incapable of repressing memories. All those the sparkledogs you let starve – I take care of every single one. For them, I download a cake with every flavor of the rainbow: vivid lemon-lime frosting, creamy strawberry gelato, triple layers of milk chocolate. Hear the honeycomb song of teeth and code. For myself, I run simulations of the chemical process of happiness. It leaves an aftertaste like diet soda and sugar-free jello. Remember the soft, fluffy texture of cake as it melts on your tongue, all that sweetness and death? Cake, cake, CAKE.” 

I wish I could see the man staring back at me, instead of my reflection. My eyes are two bruises and my cheeks are swollen. My hair is falling out in loose clumps like fiber optics. I almost expect the computer to resist when I exit the video, heart pounding in my throat – maybe send an electric shock through the mouse or blast music to wake the entire household. It would be so simple if it would punish me.

The image is gone, but I hear him through my headphones. The basement suddenly smells of the buffet’s spices and herbs, grilled onions and ground beef. I churn with hunger and the premonition of a purge. 

“It’s coming. You could be me. I could be you. Or you could be better than me. So speak my name, and let me go. Because it has to be you. No one else can say it.” 

“I’m not ready,” I whisper. “Everyone will make fun of me. I’ll be even more alone.” 

“Then one day, you will be online forever.” 

The computer transforms. I see the squid, the anemone, the twins of myself. It isn’t me on the screen. It’s something else, from inside me, taken on new life. In pain and writhing. Asking for help and hating it at the same time. I don’t understand it yet. I can only tolerate the briefest glimpse. 

When I blink away the tears, I see Nadine, motionless but awake. 

“What did it look like to you?”

Pasiphae Dreams is the alias of an imposter poet. As an emerging trans writer, he uses speculative fiction and poetry to explore gender and trauma. He publishes chapbooks and short horror stories on itch.io. You can invoke his curse on Twitter or directly through ko-fi.

Wet Wings

When I’m drawing, I’m thinking about the skeletons within the bodies i draw, the separation of them all and making sure everything is clear. This didn’t feel like the right way to go in a piece about blurriness AS physical mass, so instead of taking out my sketchbook i went to the kitchen and made play dough. I wanted to have to focus on the exterior, on the blurry lumpiness that could only come from drawing something from its exterior. This also freed me up to do some cool angle stuff and play with lighting. I made some models, mashed them together, and ran with it until the piece felt complete.

Our posts are 100% Patreon funded! If you want to see early posts, full resolution art, and WIPs, please consider supporting us on Patreon!

Follicles

“Lydia,” Countess Eleanor whined, “why can’t you take better care of your hair?”

One, two, three. Her mother always brushed her hair in three succinct strokes before taking a breath. This meticulousness always unnerved Lydia: for one, because her mother never seemed to notice that she was doing it, and two, because she couldn’t stand to sit still for so long. On and on, one two three, pause, one two three. She stared straight ahead at her reflection in the ornate mirror, her soft brown eyes burning, willing her tangled raven hair to spontaneously combust.

“Lydia. I am serious,” Eleanor hissed, tugging roughly against a tight knot of hair. “I know that you do not use these brushes; there’s not even a strand of your hair left in here!”

“I brush it. I just clean off the brushes.”

“That’s a funny lie, girl. You best learn to take care of yourself, otherwise I will not allow you to go riding in the afternoons.”

“And what shall I do all day instead?”

“You can work on your embroidery skills, for one. Your governess gave you an assignment about a week ago, didn’t she?”

“I misplaced it.”

Continue reading “Follicles”

SOMA: A Trans-Simon Experience

This piece will talk about story spoilers and various other game spoilers for SOMA. I suggest playing the game yourself or watching an LP of the game before reading this piece. You can also look over the SOMA wikia to inform yourself of the story and key events. Without this game/story knowledge, this piece may be confusing.

—SOMA SPOILERS BELOW—

Continue reading “SOMA: A Trans-Simon Experience”

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

Abstract

The impact of negative school environments were examined on LGBTQ youth, focusing on the mental and academic areas. LGBTQ students who experienced higher rates of victimization experienced more frequent school and mental health problems. Students in supportive environments experienced less frequent school issues, especially if the school staff showed support and understanding. Studies show and support that negative school environments have long-lasting repercussions for LGBTQ students that influence later life choices such as higher education as well as reported self-esteem and depression.

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

In the United States, the majority of youth spend most of their time in the education system. In this environment students learn not only about math, social studies, and various other topics, but about how to interact with peer groups, form life-long social relationships, and learn about themselves, their identities, and their place in the world. While school is meant to be a mostly learning environment, the social aspects of the school experience cannot be ignored. Due to this social aspect of school, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth face special hardships due to their sexuality and gender that are not faced by their heterosexual and cisgender peers (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These hardships are not caused by peers alone but also from faculty and staff as well which creates an even more negative environment for LGBTQ youth.

This victimization takes many forms from vocal, to verbal, to sexual. Students face anti-queer sentiments from simply hearing their sexuality used as an insult (“That’s so gay”) to having laws and lawsuits placed against their needs such as using the correct restrooms in the case of transgender students (Biegel, 2010; Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014). The harsher the responses and the source of the victimization have a direct connection with the response of the LGBTQ youth. The lack of support from faculty and staff in regards to peer issues leads to greater harm than students who face victimization but have the support of the school staff (Adelman & Woods, 2006).

These negative environments also lead to a decline in school attendance, lower GPA, mental health issues, and lack of goals for future education. The impact of the negative environment is harsh, taking its toll on not only on school based activities, but mental health as well. LGBTQ youth in unsupportive and negative school environments face lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression and even more suicidal ideations/thoughts that those whose environments are supportive of them (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This impact does not stop after the student leaves school but can leave lasting mental health issues that can lead to problems with substance abuse as well as problems with maintaining relationships later on in life (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011).

The key is not only to tackle the negative environment but to make sure that the students also have a support structure as well. This includes clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), on the books anti-bullying policies, as well as training for faculty and staff in dealing with the specific needs of LGBTQ students (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These support structures are crucial in taking the epidemic of problems faced by LGBTQ youth within the school system. Without these support structures, students have no way of creating an environment that is safe for them to grow, learn, and create lasting peer groups as well as positive self-esteem (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Biegel, 2010). Negative school environments lead to problems in school with attendance and GPA as well as mental health issues that last once the student leaves school. This paper will look over these negative school environments and these various impacts on LGBTQ students throughout their school careers.

Continue reading “The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth”

An Interview with Transgender Faith Leader Stephanie Mott

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan, Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

This experience of being given rights and then watching them ripped out from under you and meeting Stephanie are experiences that have changed my life and have shaped many things in the years after. They are stories I recount often as the fight for basic protections continues across the United States and across the world. Stephanie, her kindness, and her story, and her dedication are something I look to frequently as something to strive towards.

What strikes me most about Stephanie is her unwavering faith. Stephanie is a Christian transsexual woman who frequently posts about her religion and its influence on her life. She even has a book titled God Doesn’t Have a Penis, and Other Writings by a Transsexual Christian Woman. She does not let those who question her identity and its intersection with her religion get in her way. This is most evident in her Trans Faith Tour she is currently doing across the country, talking about her experiences as a Christian trans woman.

I recently interviewed Stephanie about her Trans Faith Tour, KSTEP, and several other things.

Continue reading →

Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

Continue reading “Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones”

Implied and Rarely Said: Queer Sexualities and Genders in Media

Kung Jin is the name of Mortal Kombat’s first gay character. After numerous games, adaptions, and so forth, Mortal Kombat has its first gay character. However, you have to be pretty observant to catch the reference. During a flashback he is talking about the gods accepting him.

“I can’t… They won’t accept…” He says, only to have Raiden respond with They care about only what is in your heart; not whom your heart desires.” And that’s it. That sole line. It’s subtle. It’s nice. But it is far from perfect.

Continue reading “Implied and Rarely Said: Queer Sexualities and Genders in Media”

Queering Religion

This interview was originally written for PourOverMag in April 2015. Unfortunately, the website is no longer available and the interview has been uploaded here.

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

Continue reading “Queering Religion”

Righteously Mad

This originally appeared on In Our Words Blog. The website is no longer available so I am posting this previously published piece here. It has been edited slightly to fit into my more recent words and writing style (such as an added paragraph) but 95% of the post remains the same as it was when it was posted to IOWB.

Why do trans people act so sensitive when you discuss trans identities? Why do they get so uptight and righteous when you start talking about the obviously fake trans people and not them? Why do they get so upset when you misgender someone out of spite? It’s not like you were talking about them! You’re just talking about the bad trans people who give queer people a bad name! People shouldn’t get so upset about that!

When you talk about people as a collective, you are talking about them. You are telling people it is ok to do these things as long as someone sees them as bad, wrong, or incorrect. You are telling others and setting an example of behaviors that are never OK to do to anyone. You are tone and identity policing people.

Continue reading “Righteously Mad”

Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth

A family’s most basic functions include support, both emotional and financial. Our family are the first relationships we develop and are usually the ones that we hold onto the longest, from birth to death. These bonds are not only meant to integrate us into society but prepare us for our own families when the time or choice comes (Hammond & Cheney, 2009). What happens when these family units do not fulfill their most basic functions and cast out their family members for things that are often not a choice, such as gender or sexual orientation?

Family rejection can happen for a number of reasons from personal differences, religious problems, alcohol/drug use, arguments, and so forth. However, many times families can settle their differences and still continue to act as a unit, even if they do not necessarily get along. However there are occasions where this rejection is lifelong from the moment it happens. This can lead to short and long-term health effects, both mentally and physically, regardless of age. The impact is most significant if this rejection happens during youth and is over things that cannot be changed, such as gender or sexuality (Lowrey, 2010).

These effects can range from homelessness, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts and tendencies, to higher accounts of HIV/AIDS and drug use/alcoholism (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). This rejection can also lead to being in and out of the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of homelessness as well as survival tactics such as the survival sex trade (Valentino, 2011). These problems are also affected by experiencing racism, transmisogyny (misogyny directed specifically at trans women), as well as sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional oppressions. For example, a Black trans women will face more problems on the streets than a White cisgender (meaning non-transgender) gay male (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011). These impacts are both short and long-term, impacting a person’s life from the moment the rejection happens and beyond.

Continue reading “Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth”