BOSSIER ISSUE 2 SPRING 2017
“Once I saw the magazine in its entirety, I realized that it was more than just a platform to get my work outside of my journals. It stood for something bigger than myself—the celebration of life as a woman.” “Bossier means being unapologetic and proud of who you are and what you represent. It means going after what you want regardless of the obstacles that may stand in your way and not taking no for an answer when it comes to what you believe in.” “I think a huge part of being a boss also means using the position that you are in to uplift other females that maybe haven’t grown into the full boss potential that they have.” “Bossier is a project that is bigger than the magazine itself…Bossier is the print equivalent of late night talks with your best friend.”
“Reading the first issue of the ‘zine’ made me want to hug every person who contributed because I felt a sisterhood leaping out to me through the pages. I wanted to print 1,000 copies and throw them out of a plane so that anyone who has ever felt alone in their thoughts could feel at home in these pages.” “During my time here at Georgetown, I have been subjected to some incredibly difficult and painful situations, things that are deeply personal and usually linked to the experience of being a woman in whatever sense that may entail; to see so many others surrounding me, to see our voices solidified together in print, it gave me an incredible feeling of stability and belonging.”
“Although Bossier will be mainly comprised of Georgetown women, I’m convinced that it offers a space that seems less of an appendage of Georgetown and more like a haven in it.”
“Bossier is power. It is creativity, intersectionality, and love. At Georgetown, where the atmosphere is sometimes so overwhelming that even the air becomes thick, finding a space where girls can come together and build something beautiful is rare and necessary. Women are truly the most incredible creatures in the universe, and Bossier gives physical form to this radical feminine beauty.”
BOSSIER BRANCHES US TOGETHER 3
Art by Narisa Buranasiri
Editor-in-Chief: Michele Dale Creative Director: Tiffany Tao Layout Director: Dan Rojas Managing Editor: Elizabeth Cregan Art Director: Jessica Li Business Director: Alexia Fieger Editorial: Ceci White-Baer, Taylor Riddick, Lana Nauphal, Ciara Hockey, Jocelyn Ortiz, Sienna Brancato, Olivia Jenkins Layout: Julia Medellin, Joosje Lupa, Bianca Corgan, Grace Perret, Olivia Jimenez, Sidney Wertimer Resident Creator: MacKenzie Foy, Sonja Erchak, Sarah Martin, D’Asia Lipsey Photo: Lana Nauphal Video: Maya Fleming Social Media: Ankushi Mitra, Caitlin Peng Web: McLean Corry Newsletter: Bethania Michael, Narisa Buranasiri, Brittney Sweetser Outreach: Tan Nazar Marketing: Alex Dekkers, Nyana Morgan Cover: Isabelle Groenewegen Font: Garamond (body), Fat Frank (title) Contributing Writers: Alexandra Brunjes, Alicia Tacoronte, Angela Wong, Bianca Corgan, Brittney Sweetser, Caroline Sarda, Ceci White-Baer, Eileen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Cregan, Emily Quatroche, Esthela Gonzalez, Hannah Urtz, Ida Adibi, Iman Hariri-Kia, Iman Hussein, Janine Karo, John LaBossiere, Juliette Leader, K Me, Kelsey Amadeo-Luyt, Lana Nauphal, Mae Grewal, Maria Gaytan, Mariam Alsoudi, Melissa Morgan, Michael Orso, Michele Dale, Nicole ‘Nicki’ Gray, Olivia Jimenez, Quinn Do, Rachel Zeide, Sarah Baron, Sienna Brancato, Sonja Erchak, Sydney Te Wildt, Victoria Thomaides Contributing artists: Alexandra Dekkers, Allysa Lisbon, Bianca Corgan, Caitlin Peng, Caleigh Lawrence, Grace Laria, Jocelyn Hernandez, Joosje Lupa, K Me, Lindsay Martin, Maria Strunjas, Marta Franco, Melissa Morgan, Narisa Buranasiri, Olivia Jenkins, Soraya Eid The opinions expressed in Bossier Magazine do not necessarily represent the views of Georgetown University unless specifically stated. All content is submitted freely by individuals and may not express the views of the Editorial Board of Bossier Magazine. The university subscribes to the principle of responsible freedom of expression of its student editors.
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Yearbook notes | 2 Intro | 3
Masthead | 4 Letters from the editor | 6 Playlist | 7 Photo diary | 8-9
Personal | 10-13 Love | 14-19
Rooftops | 20-21 Love lost | 22-23 Self | 24-25
Betrayal* | 26-27 Saffron, sweat, a star | 28-29 Change | 30-31 Identity | 32 Femme: A Constellation | 33-35 Family | 36-37 Hope | 38-39 Self love | 40-43 Jungles | 44-45 Journeys | 46-47 Religion & sexuality | 48-49
To experience homelessness | 50-51 Gender & media | 52-53 Read My Lips | 54-55 Horoscopes | 56-57 Signing off | 58-59
See all content from the contibutors on our online edition at bossiermag.com
*This content contains themes related to abuse and relationship violence.
I’ve always liked the spring time. It’s hard not to smile when the world is warm and pretty and students stand on the precipice of summer. This spring feels different though and it is entirely because Bossier Issue Two finally exists outside of my computer screen. There is something sacred about holding this ‘zine in your hands. Cherish it. Take care of it. It holds feelings, good and bad, but all true. Big things have happened this past semester and these pages have absorbed all of it. Reading Bossier should feel a little bit like reading a diary, maybe even a diary that’s not your own. Respect the pages and the people that created them because every word, photo, and design has been painstakingly crafted with love and care. To those who submitted to this ‘zine—our first print ‘zine—thank you for trusting us with your work. To those who thought about submitting but talked yourself out of it, be brave! Bossier is better when more voices are included. When the idea to start a magazine popped into my head last spring I don’t think I ever could have imagined what I was getting myself into. There have been countless late nights organizing spreadsheets, sending out emails, and editing content but every minute has been worth it. The people on this staff inspire me every day. We doubled our team since last semester and every member has made this ‘zine better. I could not be prouder of the issue we’ve put together or the people that helped us do it. There have been a lot of times recently when I was unsure about the future. I didn’t know what I was doing or where this country was going and Bossier has brought me back every single time. No matter how much hate there is, it is comforting to know that love exists within these pages and in this community. At the end of the day we are all people experiencing life. Sharing these experiences is more than just cathartic, it is necessary. Stories are ways to listen to others and learn from them and the stories we’ve collected here speak volumes. Anyone that reads this issue is a part of the B Team. We really cannot do it without you. We hope that you save this ‘zine for when you’re feeling curious or pensive. Take it outside of the front gates this summer. Flip through when you’re back home in your twin bed. Read it while you doze on the beach. Skim the pages on the commute to your internship. Let Bossier inspire you and stay with you for as long as you can take it. Happy spring, happy summer, and happy reading.
You know how I used this space last time to explain that I wanted Bossier to be a publication that was also an “experience”? A publication that tracked the important events of the semester, from the personal to the political, the small and the significant? This issue picked up the day after inauguration, after we launched our first on the day of the Women’s March. It was exactly what I needed, 70 beautiful pages of prose and poetry and artwork centered on the power of women and what we’re able to create together. Because of this start, I feel this issue was inherently political, even more so than before. It’s political in the pieces that make it up, the content that discusses our identities, families, homes. It’s also political because of the people who make the ‘zine come to life. Rarely am I so surrounded by creative women (although not exclusively), who embody a wide range of backgrounds and goals and never let up. Most vitally, this spring has felt political because it has led me to have conversations that are uncomfortable but necessary—conversations about womanhood, representation, intersectionality, inclusion. Someone once told me, “Adopting an intersectional framework is not an easy or transactional process. It involves seeking to understand things that are difficult for you to understand, empathizing with people who are not like you, stepping back instead of speaking over others, and opening yourself up to a high level of accountability. But it’s better to do all of that and fail than it is to avoid making an effort entirely.” I think about that a lot and I’d like to think this issue is a decent first shot. To bring it all back, among the cool things that happened at the Women’s March, one of the best was when I ran into Elaine Welteroth, the kickass editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. I got to tell her about what we’ve done so far with Bossier and she was so excited. She told me, “Nothing is better than when your publication goes from being a one-way stream of ideas into an actual community. That’s a support system and that camaraderie is a force.” That force? That’s you. That’s us!
photos by Allysa Lisbon
Sometimes I look back at pictures of myself and think “wow, me in that picture didn’t know that X would happen.” That I would date him, that she and I would drift apart, that that college would reject me. I see myself dressed up and smiling at some event and think “boy, you don’t know what’s coming.” A warm winter, a cold spring, an incredible relationship with an unlikely guy. Even knowing that I am still young and naïve, I look back knowing that the me in photographs — no matter how recently they were taken — is even more young and even more naïve. There won’t be any snow at the winter dance, you’ll need your parka in April, sometimes love has an expiration date. Looking back at old pictures gives you this inexplicable feeling of omnipotence; you know that although you don’t have the power to change what happens to your past self, you can look into your own inked and glossy eyes, captured in a moment, and think “I know your future.” I have an array photos taped to my dorm room wall, bringing life and light to the asylum-inspired white-painted bricks. Polaroids in their tiny frames contrasted with Kodiak-print sized photos. Since they hang in chronological order, the farther left my eyes wander, the less my photographed self knows about my present life. I look at myself at Commencement my junior fall and think “you haven’t even met your boyfriend yet!” I look at my friends making a gingerbread house during winter of 2015 and think, “the college process hasn’t broken your hearts yet!” I look at my dog on our balcony with my mom during the first weeks after we got her and think “you don’t know yet how much you’re going to be part of our family, how we won’t be able to imagine life without you.” I know so much looking at these photos. My prefectees stand with me before Convocation this year, fall 2016, and I see arms loosely draped around their shoulders and think “you don’t know all of their names yet, let alone how much you’re going to love them.” I see my brother smiling with my sister on the plane ride to Iceland last Thanksgiving and think of him, “you’re still shorter than me,” and, more so, “…you’re still happy.” Vacations, magazine walls, dinners. Bunk beds, Central Park, birthday cakes. So much history, so much color, all blurring together to form a life. I feel the power of knowledge when I look at my pictures. And sometimes it hurts, because I know that I could tell the me in these pictures so much about her life that she doesn’t yet know. My brother and me after his matriculation in the fall: This is likely one of the only moments at your high school where he will feel happy. The beginning of your only year of being at the same school. The last month that you will be taller than him. Smiling outside of a restaurant after an old friend’s birthday dinner: not eight months after this photo, she will lose your trust and you will stop being friends. A fellow editor in the newsroom: he will fall in love with his best friend and you will become his confidant. My boyfriend lying on my bed two months into our relationship: you will fall in love with him. And you’re scared it will break your heart because you think that when college comes you won’t be able to stay together. The most recent photos of me: in a few days, weeks, months you will look back at this picture and know so much about your life, but for now you just have to see where it takes you. by Alexandra Brunjes
Sisters and Words that Cannot be Expressed in English Retrouvaille is defined by Larousse as “l’action de fait de retrouver des personnes dont on était séparé.” The closest word in English is reunion, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an instance of two or more people coming together again after a period of separation.” The two definitions seem interchangeable, yet the word retrouver (to re-find) in the French definition makes a profound difference. “Retrouvaille” operates on an entirely different level from “reunion”: the French use la réunion to describe a meeting, while retrouvaille is wholly unique in the sensation it describes. A retrouvaille is the difference between getting to know someone all over again and simply meeting up. The sensation captured by the single word retrouvaille is one that cannot be expressed in less than a sentence of my native language. It speaks to the fluidity of human relationships and the inevitability of change. My sister lives in California and I in Washington, D.C. — the five steps that separated us for fifteen years are now three thousand miles. So when we come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s not a reunion, but rather a retrouvaille. I am not the same person that I was six months ago, nor is she the same sister I had six months ago. Our retrouvaille is not just about how much we have changed, it’s about the excitement of discovery and getting to know a new sister that I already know I’ll love. by Victoria Thomaides
Mi Palabra Favorita/ My Favorite Word Fe. It’s such a small word. Two letters to sum up one’s total and complete trust in something that they cannot know for sure. It means “faith,” but I find the term fe to be much more fitting for my life. Two letters, one word. Two cultures, two languages, one girl. When I speak and cannot find a word in English, I have fe that I will find it in Spanish and that my other idioma will follow through for me. When searching for synonyms, nothing negative comes to mind, even though adopting a fe often means admitting confusion and uncertainty. In the case of something as abstract and all-encompassing as one’s fe, it’s slightly frightening, sure, but it’s also uniquely beautiful. Even for something that can mean so much to a single person: religion, relationships, ideology, and even the fe they have that their scientific experiment will prove successful, fe remains far from daunting. Fe is loaded with hope, confidence, and optimism. Its sound reminds us of how to live both on our own and in communion with others. Fe. It’s short, but not terse. It is round enough to not feel as though anything is missing when you say it, and it powerfully stands alone to mean something specific. But fe also serves as a holistic modifier for any word or phrase with which it is combined. Fe represents the best of both individualism and collectivism. Fe is how I want to live. by Nicki Gray
Like a Virgin by Janine Karo
Scratch that. There’s no simile there. A virgin, plain and simple — let’s not taint it with some false comparison. Well, now that we’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room, allow me to introduce myself further. Hi, I’m [name] and I’m from [hometown], and I study [major] in the [school]. But you don’t really care about that, do you? Let me restart. I’m a sophomore, a female, and a laundry list of “nevers” in terms of love experience: never held hands, never been kissed, never been on a date, never been told by a guy that I’m attractive... This list makes me cringe. I am woman, hear me roar! A strong, independent woman who don’t need no man, that is. I have successfully passed 18 years of my life without romance, so what’s holding me back this time? Why do I need male validation? Shouldn’t I be confident and carefree in my singleness, laughing at stupid young love with blindingly white teeth as the wind blows my perfectly tousled, I-woke-up-like-this hair? Maybe that’s me in a parallel universe, but the 2017 Georgetown University student me is self-conscious and insecure (but let’s be real, who isn’t?). As much as I try to accept myself, flaws and all, a low voice constantly murmurs in the back of my mind that I have no prospects, that no one is chasing after me, that I’m not playing hard to get. I am simply being me, which appears to be unenticing. How depressing is that? And so I feel pulled in two different directions. Not stretched in a good way, like I’m growing tougher and more resilient, but like I don’t know how to reconcile these two parts of me: the part that is an empowered, successful woman emotionally satisfied by her friends and family and the part
that might be missing validation or attraction by an unspecified male figure. As a millennial with an untreated case of FOMO, my lacking romantic life is anxiety-inducing. Because try as people might to reassure me that my future is bright, that I will one day find someone who wants to make me laugh and take me somewhere nice, these are the very same people who leave our conversation for a Tinder date or a dorm room rendezvous. I am left in the dust wondering if I should take their words with a grain of salt and radically change myself: stop being so “uptight,” go to a party, have a conversation, and end up somewhere — physically or emotionally — I certainly didn’t predict. “No, no, no! Don’t change yourself! You’re a unique flower just waiting to blossom” or something else is bound to come out of someone’s mouth. Really? I wonder. Because I feel like a late bloomer. I am scared that my lack of experience will catch up with me. I don’t know how to be coy or flirt or what to say or how to act or what guys like or even what I like. I’ll just be winging it, probably all the way to marriage. So I can’t plan for this. I need to be comfortable when facing the unknown; confident in my one-woman show. Because when I give myself to something, I give it my all. And I don’t know if I’m quite ready to bare my whole body and soul just yet. However, my time will eventually come. It might not be today, or tomorrow, or even this year, but I am young and life is long. I have plenty of time to shed my cocoon of oblivion and experience the pleasure and pain of love. For everyone in my boat, with no bites on our lines, here’s to hoping that there truly are plenty of fish in the sea.
Co-ed by Emily Quatroche When I was in 6th grade, I played in a co-ed basketball league outside of school. Funny thing was, I was the only girl on my team. And in the entire league. It was as if the title “co-ed” was just a formality, stamped on the posters and forms to sound “nice” and “inclusive.” I asked my coach why no other girls signed up. He responded, “This league is very competitive. I’m sure they are just scared they can’t keep up.” As I figured this was probably true for some girls who did not play as much basketball, I knew there WERE girls who could “handle” the competition and yet still did not sign up. My friend Caroline was a skilled forward on my school team. Her height helped her score layups over almost anyone. When I asked her why she was not joining a team in the league, she responded, “You’re the only girl in the league. If I’m going to join, I need to have more girls on the court with me to feel comfortable.” I never thought about how many or how few girls there were in the league when I signed up. I wanted to play competitive basketball, so that was what I was going to do. The fact that I am a girl was not even faintly on my mind. Unfortunately, the issue of gender, and moreover, gender difference and inequality, had to seep into the conversation. I soon realized I was a female entering a maledominated arena. When I stepped onto the court for my first game, I heard laughing from the other team. Comments were flying from all directions: “Look, there’s a girl!” “I won’t have to play defense today!” “What is she doing here?” “Are girls even allowed in this league?” Their words stung. I thought to myself, “Why is my female-ness a problem? All I want to do is play basketball.” As Marilyn Frye writes in her book, The Politics of Reality, “whatever features an individual female person has which tend to her social and economic advantage, one feature which always tends to her disadvantage is her femaleness” (Frye 31). Despite my basketball skills granting me a form of “social capital,” my gender was simultaneously denying my full enjoyment of it. Garrett, my best friend on the team, sensed my angst and asked me what was wrong. “They’re making fun of me because I’m a girl.” He let out a laugh and said, “Em. You’re better than almost every guy on our team. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy. You know how to play ball. Don’t doubt yourself.” He was right; I
had already gained the respect of my teammates at practice, I could do it again. I took notice of how the respect was not inherent, though. I had to earn it. All the boys in the league had some respect for each other, regardless of their basketball skill level. The better the basketball player, the more respect others had for him, too. This was a privilege their “male-ness” afforded them. Because of my gender, however, my basketball skills became a bargaining tool for these boys’ basic decency and respect toward me. In proving myself, I would also be negotiating my own femininity. To be regarded as a good basketball player, I would have to “mask” my femaleness through good play. In playing well, I would mitigate any disadvantage caused by my gender. Once the game started, I was able to earn the respect of the other team, even after the other coach said, “Go easy on her, she’s a girl!” No one played defense on me until I hit a clean jump shot and our bench went wild. By the end of the game, I was being guarded by two people, I had stolen the ball from multiple opposing players, and I had scored 20 points. After we won the game, we shook hands with the opposing team. Several boys did not shake my hand or say, “good game.” Although it could have been seen as disrespectful, I took it as a sign of respect. If any boy had played a great game, the opposing team would have done the same thing. We were equals. I proved I was good enough to “hang with” the boys. The other coach even came up to me and said, “My team underestimated you. You are a great player. Keep up the good work.” Of course he used the word “underestimated.” The boys were expected to play well. Their play was not affected by their gender as, “whatever features an individual male person has which tend to his social and economic disadvantage, one feature which never tends to his disadvantage in the society at large is his maleness” (Frye 31). As a girl, I was not expected to keep up, so my performance was seen as surprising. Still, in this moment I was very proud to be a girl holding her own in a “boys’ world,” even though this “world” should not have been dominated by either gender in the first place. Unfortunately, there are not just “good basketball players.” There are “good basketball players” and “good female basketball players.”
Little Stranger by John LaBossiere Little stranger – coming soon! A knitted zebra and his pals await your down-the-road arrival. Have you heard their tiny bells jingling while we hedge your very existence in whispered flirtations? Though these ringless fingers mean you’re never “ours,” but rather “mine” or “hers” or “maybe,” may be frightening, rest easy ‘neath the stars, be still. Between us two, this Sagittarian-Aquarian union won’t heed the clouds so brash as to eclipse the stars in which I see your face tonight. But please, my love, as you peruse the orchards of our DNA, keep close the groves of mommy’s family trees. For these will mirror you as she to those you see (and me). Remember me recessively, and just enough that I can see you’re mine when you, at last, I meet.
morning on the red line by Melissa Morgan
I step onto the train and pick my way toward a seat finding one next to a man in the very last row. he’s sixty, maybe, but his glasses are just like mine, clear and round with a rim of color just around the lens. mine have a tortoise shell pattern, and his are the pale blue that the clouds were just before I descended underground. he combs through The Post, holding it at eye level, scanning for the scandal of the day. I wonder where he’s going and how many years he’s commuted this way and what he thinks of that story in the top right corner and whether, if I knew him, we would be friends. a minute later we’ve arrived at his stop and I get up for him to slide past me. he looks at me and pauses and it is a moment before he speaks. “I like your glasses,” he says, and he disappears onto the platform.
Collide Hearts harboring loud silences that linger, Sling on our edges And the fringe of the dipping sun. I dangle on the shoe strings of our bygone days, Our heels strike harder with every step. But now, with our backs angled against What we knew, feet planted on the riverside mound, Carry my wind-worn hands As magenta melts into the shadows And the clouds stretch out of reach. by Angela Wong
sy(no)nym I’m trying to relearn poetry, to pick up two years ago where happiness made me leave off. but her rhymes cling to my fingers and her rhythms cover my heart by Juliette Leader
The Fantastical Fixation Warming your cheeks: Like a lovers lips gently grazing Every last peachy blade— Dreaming rawhide. Breeze slowly escaping her sweet mouth Stuns the breath out of me. The depth of her lustless love turns This cold-blooded creature into a stuffed animal, White soft bear calling me teddy. The same felt holding holy fantasy. No matter. Unequivocal compassion Shadowed by a blind man’s fantastical fixation: Love sought ‘cross nebuli, so far No telescope can manage to spot The faintest whisper. Hope streams with the awe Of a waterfall and its power, For maybe one day these cheeks Will warm again, Like they never have.
by Michael Orso
Leonard Cohen died today (a villanelle) Of all the words, I have none to say, standing in the kitchen, slicing the bread. “Leonard Cohen died today,” you declare, appearing in the doorway, your eyes and voice unmoved, almost dead. Of all the words, I have none to say. Outside the window, the sky is grey in mourning. I was too, this morning, in bed. Maybe somehow I knew he would die today. But mostly I knew that what had died today was us. You and me—that construct had fled. Of all the words, to you, I have none to say. So here in the kitchen, you’re now in my way. And as you speak, I just shake my head. How fitting he would die today: we fell in love that night as “Suzanne” played. Now out of love we stand; his passing marks our end. Of all the words, I have none to say. Leonard Cohen died today. by Lana Nauphal
The beginning. i felt the waves. i have felt them for a while now. grabbing me and pulling me in the way you used to. but that’s over now. i can feel the silence closing in around me. the way your arms enclosed my body. drifting me away into a comfort that only you knew I could not afford and as I concentrate on the faint whispers of the wind, and the salt on my lips i can’t help but to hear your words above the silence words infinitely far. words that you perfectly etched inside of me but forgot to erase. but the waves are rolling back, and i can no longer remember the taste of your lips the way i can taste this summer air. it’s over now. by Maria Gaytan
you were an artist i always knew you were an artist, you painted delicate outlines of me into the cracks lining the palms of your hands choreographed the shy corners of your gentle lips onto my fraying skin directed the movement of our crumpled bed sheets under a tumultuous sky wrote the flowing honey of your fickle mind into the crevices of my bitter soul played, over and over again, your favorite melody on a violin that only knew my name but then, you calmly watched as your hands flooded with watercolors of my bleeding figure danced into a glass wall that crafted gaping wounds until they shattered my ribs replaced the ending of my dearest scene with an image that erased me forgot to remedy the lack of a pen in the place of your fleeting lead composed new melodies that sounded better to you, instead i always knew you were an artist after all, the best artists refuse to glance back and remember their original muse by Brittney Sweetser 19
casualties of the view. by Hannah Urtz hoist up, you wiggly knuckleheads and beloved somebodies! carry your flesh all the way to the top of our most full and forbidden places. warm terracotta crumbles through your fingertips a grunt a grasp teeter till you find your balance stillness welcomes silence now show me your skinned knees your peely feet your raw palms your wet eyes your empty lungs your poundy pulse casualties of the view.
love and love and love and love by Olivia Jimenez I can’t say I’ve fallen out of love with you because I never truly had the chance to fall in. Yet, I’ve been having dreams of coral reefs fourteen thousand feet in the sky and of twinkling energy dangling in the black, black outer space (occasionally lifting off quicker than a matchstick flickers on) and of a child named Eta dancing with a rainbow fish and of blues, blues, oh! so many blues!
Yet, I’ve been having nightmares of liars screaming their sins into oblivion and of souls as black as outer space ripping themselves apart (occasionally trying, in vain, to tape their centers back together) and of me and a boy and a girl frozen solid, with tears clogging my throat and of my bleak, bleak, bleak future playing in front of my eyes. And once upon a time, a bird flew miles away from home. She found San Francisco and made friends in Fiji. She kept flying for miles. But when she came home, she felt something strange— her beak began to lock! She mumbled breathlessly for decades. She left to San Francisco and Fiji with a lie stuck in her throat that she was never able to release.
Not thinking about love and love and love and love how you and she and he would means I’ve thought about love how waterfalls and redwoods and manta rays and seas would. and once upon a time, a bird flew miles away from home. she found san francisco and made friends in fiji. she kept flying for miles and felt something strange— her heart began to swell! she kissed the surface of the ocean and cuddled bark next to tree huggers; she fell in love with everyone’s mother and painted her story with her wings. I can’t say I’ve fallen out of love with you because I never truly had the chance to fall in.
I can’t say I’ve fallen out of love with you because I never truly had the chance to fall in. But, I realize love is more conscious a thing than I was making it. And I realize love demands honesty and of breaths which travel in tandem. And while I loved you, our tides have never been in sync and our moons were completely out of orbit and the balance which I observed from everyone’s mother does not seem to exist between us. and once upon a time, up on top of a two-hundred meter waterfall a bird breathed steadily and drew globes with her wings.
i liked that you loved me in high school. that was a nice thing to hold on to, not as a lifeline or a tether or a last resort but more like the strap of my backpack or the edge of my glasses where i came back to it constantly and was just glad that it was there. and i loved you too: strange drawings scratched in margins and a small smile that stayed until after you left the room. in 6th grade i always liked looking over your shoulder in french class to see what worlds you would etch out: always far away — myself, a stranger — but i was happy knowing there was life on other dimensions as we conjugated verbs in that classroom on the second floor. in 7th grade you got the synonyms and antonyms section of a vocabulary quiz mixed up and failed it. you got so frustrated, pacing near the fountain outside the auditorium, and everyone watched you as you almost screamed and it scared me a little but i knew that i felt like that too sometimes. it seems like this was the one time you failed and i feel sad but special that i got to bear witness. you turned a deep pink from the sheer frustration of it all and then you sat on the splintered bench and i broke a little for the both of us. i hate myself here. and we haven’t talked in months, not since the new year’s eve party where i too loudly made plans that i knew we wouldn’t keep. and then i left without saying goodbye to anyone because it felt sort of pointless and tired and then i drank too much at the house down the street surrounded by strangers and didn’t think of you again that night, i guess for the rest of the year. college seems to be treating you well. you’re the person you always were but this time the dean of students isn’t making you wear khaki shorts and so you dye your hair blonde and i dye my hair blonde and i get nervous that we can’t talk anymore. i think i took shelter in the shy way you loved me. because it was quiet and warm and it was hot outside when you just looked at me across the table on the coffee date that wasn’t a coffee date because the text message where you asked for it to be a date hadn’t gone through and so it was just coffee. my memory of you here is one of a quiet listener, probably because i talked too much and so often felt too loud for my own head. i still talk too much and feel too loud but i also feel broken and i wish that part was different. i talked too much that night on the edge of the party where i told you calmly and drunkenly that i wasn’t afraid to die. sometimes i get scared that you’ll think i’m boring, but then i remember the way the ground dug its way into my knees and my words dug into the roof of my mouth and how i spread myself out because it hurt to sit — and felt you Still Listening. still, listening. we were sitting on a basketball court. i don’t know why that matters but it does. because it’s important to remember and i like remembering you, even if you aren’t that far or that far gone or that different and even if we aren’t that old, we’re still older now. and so i feel entitled to miss things like that one trip to the museum or my three years of taking choir less seriously than you. i miss when we realized we were neighbors. (or really when we said it out loud to each other: announcement of proximity, like a squeezed shoulder or a knock on the doorframe of an open room). when i was seventeen i sat in an empty parking lot somewhere between our two houses reading a book about hollywood and the cold war and i had so many pages left but i didn’t mind. it was sunny and lonely in the pretty way that makes you inhale deeply and i liked knowing that i was close to you.
close to you. maybe i still am, i don’t know. i just know that i don’t really like myself right now. but i liked that you loved me in high school. by Elizabeth Cregan
You stunk of fake, pink leather and spit Legs tangled on the chapel steps, flossing your teeth Neck Cross swinging from left to right, bulging veins, bold red, worse than your first period Yearning for Jesus, jiving on bluegrass and bourbon Two twigs poked out from the hem of your skirt hitched above your thighs, breasts, drumsticks Your youth puddled beneath those Mary Janes And so, I bore my balls like a police badge Resisting arrest, you fled towards the skylight Your cigarette felt smooth, until it burned my tonsils, inhaling in your fraudulent fur, black coffee, ice that i mistook for concrete until I slid like a gutter ball, past the priests, the Jesuits And into your limp, hands of the clock, cried noon I want to thank you for leaving the night lamp on Caution tape tampered, neon yellow narcolepsy brought me to your window, one last time, stood still, but i still go berry-picking, the first Sunday of April, good God, the girlâ€™s juice is jarred by thorns by Iman Hariri-Kia
Party Pooper It happens all at once Sitting on the floor of someoneâ€™s apartment gripping a plastic cup Filled with cheap vodka or maybe Natty Light Everything is calm But my fingernails start to dig into my palms Iâ€™m staring ahead at the walls That seem whiter, the room looks brighter I am acutely aware of my chest rising and falling I refuse to be that girl who starts bawling So I pick up my cup, holding it a little too tight Take a few forced sips Try to stop biting my lip There is no reason, no answers to why It just all happens at once. by Ida Adibi
A Stranger Takes All We are taught, the way we present ourselves is important. The way we “wear” our bodies, whether it be with confidence, Stylish clothes, or a smile. We learn we are supposed to like the attention. The intoxicating power we have over men Because we love to make them crave us. Forcing them to lose control of their self control. Even so, they hold our incarnation captive, Strong arms curl around warm bodies. They hiss at our figures with purrs. Cause shivers to roll Down Our Spines. We want to take our bodies off. Rip apart the fleshy excess that makes us desirable in the worst way. The parts that make us sexual dolls, almost life-like but not real, Not enough to treat us like humans. A heart beat slows it catches The Terrifying Realization halts breath. The heart throbs, trying to escape the body before it is thrust apart, The effort booms in our eardrums at an unimaginable haste. Cold hands, unwanted, touch our bodies. The grunts haunt our dreams. We learn they were never ours because when someone takes… Our souls turn into scars, A dazed remembrance of loss. We scrub our skin until it burns, Feverishly scratching at the surface, We want to purge the dirtiness someone else expelled. “It’s no longer there” they say, But I see it everytime I look in the mirror. We learn that we provoke them to feast—On us. We enable them to seize our confidence, Stylish clothes, Our smiles. We don’t want to wear our bodies anymore, because we have learned They belong to someone else. A stranger. by Alicia Tacoronte
the peril of “i love you” you make the deadliest chemicals seem comforting 4 years ago… “I promise I’d never hurt her” 1 year ago… “I would never put my hands on her” 6 months ago…. You broke your promise. Maybe she provoked you. Tal vez ella es muy brava (Perhaps she’s too feisty) Or Maybe Just maybe Her words were too much for you. So unbearable That you couldn’t counter argue them So intolerable That you had to suppress them. Let me clear something up though Because your vision seems a bit too foggy You did not have to do anything. If you were that angry If she were to make you THAT angry You should’ve walked away. And don’t you DARE Tell me that it’s only because you love her. Because I wouldn’t say bruises are synonymous with passion marks. This isn’t the first time you fucked up. But this time was different. I’d be lying if I said you weren’t the first man to break my heart. You were supposed to rescue us. Firemen aren’t supposed to add to the flames. But you poured gasoline as if you didn’t care As if you wanted to see the place go down in flames. You were supposed to prove to her that you shouldn’t settle for someone toxic. FYI...You’re toxic. You make the deadliest chemicals seem comforting Because unlike them, Your biggest threats come in “I love yous” Do me a favor. Don’t ruin my interpretation of that phrase Simply because you can’t Come to comprehend it yourself. by Esthela Gonzalez
art by Caitlin Peng
SAFFRON AND SWEAT ‘If you’re not here to dance, why did you come?’ The days of spinning, the days of color Deliver me back to such endless wonder Hearts full of urgency and Days without a trace, where Hand-rolled cigarettes were extinguished on disillusioned boarding passes And time meant nothing but dark and not dark Walk alone and stay put for now The surgeon general, state department, my mother be damned When a sweet film of melancholy coated our every giddy moment, indulgently The shadow of our failures always slinking at the periphery A good contrast I say, makes it all the more beautiful But there were moments! These were the color days, remember With the ethereal golden glow of saffron and sweat Asking only to be welcomed into my lungs And the wayward pulse of the city Asking only to be felt in my bones I didn’t come to dance, but it couldn’t be helped Of course I spun Of course there were moments When I did not know that I was not aflame by Hannah Urtz
MEMORIES FROM OPEN MIC NIGHT MAKE ME A STAR
Past the back alleys of ABC city Reeking of cheap liquor from the corner deli And the untainted dreams of a middle school girl Dressed to the nines in a bright red Lip stain, most men called Midnight’s Siren I was young enough to know, my shoes scuffed Along the poorly paved roads, chipping paint, Avoiding matching eyes with pedestrians Butchers presenting new meat, blood lust and pacts I followed the busted neon sign down stairs, six feet under with the greyhound wolves I was greeted by a hells angel, his webbed beard Filled with secrets of the 80’s, cigar smoke He hovered my hand over a pot, in chalk: Rock n roll is dead, muttering ‘pick a number’ It was a chewed up cave, brimming with sweaty hope Where old women with bad boob jobs, But silky pipes and a knack for sexing the crowd And juvenile scruff, whose fingers knew no callouses Our year’s Elvis, bottomed out on booze and the blues And then there was I, naively ravenous But starving for attention, high off the crowd’s stink The barkeep howled out my name, I stood with a slump Inching up the scaffold, they heckled sweet Hester The night I took the stage, but never gave it back Now that I’m a relic of what I once was A ticket stub, soft at the slit, print fading, Tucked away in a box in your bottom drawer When you hum my tribute beneath your teeth Think me pretty, a black cherry who kept her seed by Iman Hariri-Kia
bRoken Frame Do you remember the day the glass broke? The day someone took a rook and skipped it across the smooth surface of your life. But the picture was so pretty and now you canâ€™t see it anymore because the ripples are too big. And instead of the flowers and the sunset all you see is fire. You used to go down to the water, all of you, Together. He actually taught you to skip rocks. Instead of taking the smoothest, roundest rock like youâ€™re supposed to he took the biggest one with the sharpest edges and flung it into the water. And now the picture is ruined. And the frame is on the floor. And all of the glass has broken. by Michele Dale
The Birds Every winter, Two big belly birds Sit on the fence undisturbed by their surroundings. Plopped, together, In their own stink, Side by side, motionless, Uncommunicative, But there. They’re there. This winter they’re missing. The peeping porch man Wishing to observe— Curtains closed. Open. Nowhere to be found. Where have you gone you beautiful Filthy partners, friends, lovers Who didn’t once visit me, But surfed my fence. Uninvited but welcome. With open wings you were greeted. But not this year. Not a call. Did you forget my warmth? My hospitality? My existence For some other seemingly fair standard? Must be. All I can do is fly in those memories. by Michael Orso
composition by K Me (they/them)
Illuminating the gendered night, Christian Morris, Taylor Davis, Pam Escalante, K Me, Randall-Grace Johnson, Bria Wade, Vance Vaughan, Allysa Lisbon, and Jonay Battle have generously shared their reflections on gender and presentation, in turn guiding me in my own. Only four are included here but all have a home on bossier’s online publication, accompanied by a transcription of the full interviews. Femme, as an identity and as a shared space, gives me room to honor my own beauty, and I feel grateful for the opportunity to do this project honoring the beauty of eight others with vibrant feminine energies. These stars, when connected, form a femme constellation, and by tracing their shape in the night sky, I hope to build a community that celebrates the diverse ways people experience their gender. Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to this project, and especially to Allysa, my friend and photographer, without whom this would’ve been harder and probably worse overall. it’s always a pleasure to share space with each of you -- no matter how cold and dark (in the production studio literally, but also life more metaphorically). Y’alls radiance, like that of the stars, is persistent, and shines on with or without acknowledgement; for that, too, I am grateful.
peace and love, MacKenzie River Foy
femme: a constellation by Mackenzie River Foy with help from my friends
“I’ve never felt like i had a feminine identity because I’ve always been told I’m too aggressive. I’ve found that I resonate with boyhood sometimes, but not manhood, you know? And I think that a lot of young girls resonate with boyhood because its close to freedom.”
“Actually what I go by now is tender gender bender. It kinda speaks to no matter how I look, cause its kind of fluid, but theres still like a softness. And I think femme is soft.”
“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.” - A. Dillard
“I’ve always felt most comfortable, along every spectrum, in spaces that were dominated by Black women. That’s just where it comes from, because if thats where I feel the most loved, and then the people who I love the most, who show me the most love, present that way, I think I internalize, ‘well
this is how i can show love for myself ’. I’m also a Black
man, so for me the journey right now is seeing how those two things go together...I’m not trying to emulate black women necessarily. I think theres this authentic space where I allow myself to...figure out how my masculinity goes with femme identity”
“The fact that womanhood is something that is assigned, and femme is more of an active decision to adopt…I feel like there’s power in that. It has less restraints almost”
“I feel the most beautiful -- its not stuff like prom or stuff like that -but spending time with a significant other or something. Like, the context of love makes me feel the most beautiful”
I see myself I see myself in my father Picking up on slivers of dialogue, on miniscule shifts in the way She speaks and getting Angry. Yelling. Leaving. I see myself in my mother In her gentle warmth Her arms: a beckoning envelope; her hands: worn and cracked with daily use. Strong like a tree, but a willow. I see myself in my father As he breaks his back lifting my spirit And sits with me as I fall asleep because the Boys that break you are scarier than whatever’s hiding in the closet these days. I see myself in my mother Oversensitive and Weak in the face of the world’s anguish. The pale veins of bigotry—generations old—delicately tracing her wrist. Often, I wonder if I see too much of them when I look at me. I worry that the Shouting and the Love and the Loyalty and the Fragility Take up so much space that there’s No blank part left for me to fill with me. Every now and then, Though, I come to consciousness for a moment as I Pin back my hair or Dot my fingers along the constellation that freckles the Vast expanse of a bare chest and I pause. I breathe. I sigh. It’s then that Finally I just See myself. by Ceci White-Baer
A reality For my little sister Who has taught me to speak up, to stand unafraid, to walk with grace, and laugh without fear of the future I say I want to give you the world But my love, you deserve so much more A Reality Nervous? No. Tired? Slightly. Frustrated? Maybe a little. I didn’t want to return to my hometown of Sedona, Arizona. Everything here was followed by a cloud of dust. Behind our car, dust rolled along, racing after our tires and piling on the roof of our Jeep until the cloth sagged gently over our heads. Annie and Mark were asleep. Soon, the sun began to rise and there was a slight glimpse of light shining from the East. All I could hear was the gentle hum of the engine. The stillness was not eerie; it was perfect. There is a certain beauty to a small desert town at the break of dawn. The usual, monotonously brown sand was mysteriously blue. It was like the ocean, soothing yet foreboding. Even without direct interference (to stir it), it slithered around and danced in tiny waltzes around the ankles of the unwise pedestrian. It had the cunning of a fine criminal, slipping effortlessly through doors and windows and under bed sheets to disturb the light sleeper. It was a devilish thing, that sand. Not quite as devilish as the town itself though. Annie woke just as I pulled into the gas station. Gas, these days, was the sole reason for my desperate destitution. It was sweet of Annie and Mark to accompany me on the four-day drive across the country at a moment’s notice. It was my little sister Maria’s fourteenth birthday and I could never forgive myself if I missed it. I had missed the last three and when she called last Wednesday and begged me to come, I just could not resist. As we pulled into my driveway, there was light shining from the kitchen window. Ma was probably brewing her coffee and making Maria’s favorite blueberry pancakes. I knocked on the door and waited for my mother’s brief welcome that was always followed by a look of disdain and a battering of criticism. As the door opened, I caught a glimpse of Maria’s (familiar) blue eyes. However, her eyelashes were adorned with mascara, her lips, cherry red, and her hair was perfectly straightened. She was no longer the little girl with the ripped jean shorts and hair pulled back in a ponytail. This was not the girl I had built all my childhood memories with. I missed her whole life in just three short years. by Bianca Corgan
church I looked over at my mother yesterday when we were in church The one who helped me pick an appropriate outfit and knows the words to all songs in the hymnal She was doodling on the program My ears were taking in the word of God (maybe a little late, but nonetheless) My eyes observing the pastor and the dressed up churchgoers But I used my peripheral vision Watching as she used the tip of her pen to trace out a row of hearts A sprinkling of stars Layers of petals on a flower Her paper the picture of innocence Though the product of a troubled mind by Alexandra Brunjes
a letter to my unborn child My child, it’s the first day of February in 2017 it’s one o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep I’m thinking of you, and the world you live in I’m sure it’s so different from the world I’m living in. I’m studying at a world-renowned university in America safe in the confines of my library cubicle sheltered by the empathy of friends I’ve made at Georgetown inspired by the wisdom and talents of my classmates empowered by the support of my professors protected by the fierce love from my parents and yet it hasn’t been easy there are nights like this when I’m wide awake nights I spend alone with my thoughts thoughts much more vicious than these some nights I feel alone I wish I hadn't left everything I’d known back home in Vietnam where the scent of fresh-dripped coffee spreads slowly through the streets as the sun starts to rise where the people go about their lives peacefully, with no urgency means "There's no rush when you're in Hanoi1" there are some nights I wish I hadn't traded that for the life I’m living here. the coffee at Georgetown rushes through your veins it makes your heart beat faster your mind move quicker it makes you live a little more loudly and forces you to speak up in class to complete that assignment or that test in a faster time than you were used to back home it makes you organize your life with a tight schedule filled with papers and meetings and responsibilities it’s exhilarating and exhausting and sometimes crushing to live with fast-paced ambitions and then fall short of those expectations for yourself: to make your parents proud to get straight As to achieve everything you’ve set out to do when you first set foot on Healy Lawn to not waste your F-1 Visa and the chance you have to pursue a higher quality education and experience than you’ll ever have back home sometimes in the rush of things you mess up sometimes you can’t move quick enough or
you feel like you're running so quickly, in fear of missing out whatever rush your American friends are experiencing that you run out of breath but my child – it is so rewarding I’ve learned so much here already I’ve learned to set goals, to better organize my life I’ve learned to love fearlessly, to have empathy I’ve learned I don't have to move at the same speed as my American friends to find success most importantly, I’ve learned to have Hope it's a strange time right now in America the nation has just elected a new President, sending through it a new wave of nationalism one that is unfortunately corrupted by hate and fear this is not the America I came to know where people let their differences divide them instead of unite them where people let the hate and fear instilled in them forbid their progress where people forget America is a nation built on reinvention, diversity and dreams. but my child, I have Hope this will not be the America you come to know I hope this letter finds you in a more peaceful time I hope by then, you’ll know a country and a president who believes in unity in a world where you can be a ballerina, or an engineer, or a writer, or a president and garner the same acclamation regardless of your gender, ethnicity or nationality in a world where there are no walls and borders where you get to love who you love where you get to practice what you believe without fear of judgment or prejudice where your dreams are valid my wish for you is that: you live your life to the fullest you have days where your schedule is flooded with a million tasks and the caffeine and adrenaline flows quickly through your veins, but also that you have days where you can slowly finish your and enjoy the aroma of your home country as the sun rises. you learn to love fearlessly, to have empathy you carve your own path in life and learn that it is okay to move down that path at the speed you’re moving. most importantly, my wish for you is to have Hope. once you have it, you can build a future for your children and teach them how to do the same for theirs.
All my love, Mom 1 2
by Quinn Do
The capital city of Vietnam English translation: Iced coffee with condensed milk, a Vietnamese specialty
Self Love by Sydney te Wildt
I don’t know why, but we are somehow programmed to hate (or at least dislike) ourselves. It’s as if someone thought that the playground bullies and online trolls weren’t enough, and decided to add in a vicious combination of self-loathing and doubt. This negative self-talk has become a necessity in society, for who wants to stand in front of a mirror next to a girl who loves her thighs or interview a job candidate that sees no internal weakness in herself. I get it -- we can’t love ourselves too much. We can’t be self-indulgent or self-obsessed. I recognize that there is a line between loving and cocky, but I think we’ve taken this whole self-hate thing too far. We rely on the validation of others rather than accepting ourselves for who we are, refreshing our Instagram feeds waiting for likes and going out to try to find a suitable hookup. We weigh ourselves daily and hope to fit into that Size 2 dress, believing that our worthwhileness can be found in a number on the scale. We apply, apply, and apply again to that dream club, job, or internship, waiting for the validation that we are enough. All this because we believe that we, in our natural states, are not worthy of love. I myself am not immune to such self-hate. I’ve deleted social media posts that haven’t been getting enough traction, cried over boys, deprived myself until I fit into that dress, and gotten rejected from a litany of activities and viewed myself as the problem. But I’m growing to see that my self-worth cannot and should not be defined by anyone other than myself. It’s so easy to pinpoint and critique any flaw, but I’m done joining the chorus. For the rest of my life, I am stuck with my body, my brain, and my personality, and I’m done trying to change that. I want to start a revolution and learn to love myself, and I hope you join the fight.
by Jocelyn Ortiz
THE BODY POSITIVITY PROJECT by Joosje Lupa
all parts of our bodies are art, even the parts we hate the most.
The Jungle Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night Wish I may Wish I might Have the Wish I Wish tonight Deep in the jungle, where the brute roots grow Tripping up intentions of years long ago; Where the canopy shields against winds of time; At the darkest hour of the longest winter night, The boy was born to three sets of watching eyes: Two ignorant mortals and one creature shy, Brownblack, and liquid amber gold Like fireflies, like owls wise, Like fears creeping, weeping, seeing and unbelieving, Like hearts beating, weaving fleeting Threads. Ephemeral KnottedTangled Stuck. Heartstrings to pluck, Threads. And the boy opened eyes of gelatinous black And scars laced across his smooth back, Unnoticeable to the unwatching fool But tangible like the spider web spool. His unready mother dropped a single tear Then grew ashamed of her unspeakable fear And cradled him close: This tiny miracle; This light of her life; This fragile heartbeat; This steady breath; This her sweat and blood and undammable river of love Molded by some crazy mischance of fate, By some lucky alignment of stars Into her breakable baby boy. Boy? Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night Wish I may Wish I might Have the Wish I Wish tonight Curious was the case of the winter solstice cub. He grew up watching and waiting and lying in the sun. He would lounge up in trees and bat down baby birds And wrestle with other boys until they weren’t quite sure
Of his patronage, Of his flagrance, Of his self-denied anchorage in this world of men Who’ve beaten back the bushes and the burly undergrowth, And the teasing root of Mother and her ever-patient show She’ll wait them out, She’s kind, She’ll buoy their belie Of self-proclaimed, civilized, high and mighty Dignity. The boy grows up to know this and grows up to know No one in the wake of irreconcilable truth. And so, He tests the poison berries on his tongue And grows well acquainted with the mud Into which he is shoved By the other boys By the puppet strings and victory’s toys. And he runs home to ask his mother to stop the noise She can’t; in the end, the truth is his choice. She can’t see past the streaks that spoil The tender skin, The human skin That stretches across his cheeks and marks him not of their kin. Darker than blood and hotter than sin; Temperature rising and rage setting in; Why is he different? Outcast age ten? It’s coming, It’s boiling, It’s here, It’s in. Combustion And sparks and the wrong way spin Of grating gears and leering grins Of whispers of truth he flees again and again He’s different, strange creature, An alien. Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night Wish I may Wish I might Have the Wish I Wish tonight Then one day, stars cross and dark matter takes reign, Electric and swirling and magma untamed And unsoundable terror surges his veins And he snaps and he cries and he roars his own name
Sake, forsaken by the nurture he claimed Would there, could there maybe be…? And he breaks down. No. Not a single intervening plea; And he tears down, Not a single cry for mercy; And he rents the red curtains of dawn down; Not a single shred of humanity. And he slashes and crashes and scratches and gnashes and Not even from the mother who once held him close snatches the paint from the wind down. And whispered fantastical worlds as he reposedHe fells down the boy from the village who laughed at the way Who earlier wished for the easier way, He chased the dragonfly’s tail and puffed his own flame. For her son, for herself. And he wrings stripes from the canvas of the bare boy’s back And now, who turns her head away. And he chokes on his prayers and his bargaining act That is the iron fist of fear. And God there’s nowhere and he hacks and he whacks Sentence - swinging axe - exile. Miserable, abhorable, he just wants to match! And without a backwards glance at that lawless desert of love, Oh for eyes to meet his as he skirts down the path; He puts his foot to the earth, For a smile on lips that don’t taste like a snack; He puts his legs to the chase, For an arm to enclose him, He puts his lungs to the test, For a hand to hold his, He puts his heart to the race, For a brush of the merest fingertips Under starry skies he runs. Oh for the merest brush of fingertips. Into jungle where the wild ferns grow, Now he’s caught, now he’s captured. And the banana boat leaves in the twilight glow, Now he’s surrounded by faces who map their And the vines tango round and tickle the mud, Revenge. No, justice. And the trunks elbow out and reach far and up, And he quakes in his shame and he’s held there enraptured, And the orchid’s alluring breath hangs heavy in the air, The point to the vein at his neck that desperately snaps there. And the insects buzz and the blind spiders stare, Not gun, not knife, but hate And the green lizards dart and the yellow frogs dare, Hate. Rusted iron crowbar hate. And the monkeys screech and the parrots blare, Cold unflinching hate And the snake flicks a taste and its coils ensnare, Hate born from fear, the vampiric shadow; And the toucan squawks all, court jester, beware: Fear born from difference, the miraged abyss. Rogue prince reigns all. So the men bind his limbs, gag his voice, strip his pride, Padded paws stalk and muscles glide over high shoulder Solemnly process to where the jury presides haunches as he smooths in. Those who unbelieve him, it’s they who decide Those with shelled glittering beetles for eyes Tyger Tyger burning bright That scuttle the crevices of blunder to pry In the forests of the Night The truth. Their truth. The truth will set them free He wishes he may and He wishes he might Free from the guilt that they refused to see Blend with the beast whose blood he can’t fight A boy. Curl his stripes up for sweet dreams that night A boy with skeleton’s stripes where a monster should’ve stood, Tyger Tyger, gentle and bright. A boy starved and malnourished and lonely. Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night Wish I may Wish I might Have the Wish I Wish tonight
by Mae Grewal photograph by Christine Yan
Sonja Erchak Resident Creator India Travel Journal. From notebooks to illustrations. From Varanasi to the Himalayas to the beaches of Goa.
Where Does the Black Muslim Woman Fit in Discussions of Sexuality? Carrie Bradshaw and Marilyn Monroe are two cultural icons infamous for their sexual exploration, freedom, and depiction of what mainstream media believes it means to be a modern woman, and when I say a “modern woman,” I mean the constantly evolving modern white woman -- the balance of purity and sin. As an American, I was unconsciously raised with this standard, and consciously told how incapable I was of achieving that standard because of my Blackness and Arabness. My identity and looks are subject to a harmful history that has not only orientalized, but has also fetishized the Black, Muslim Female. When you’re faced with the “ideal, modern” woman, whiteness is key to their entire being, success, and culmination. In 2007 -- which seems like a world aways now -- Dr. Edward Rhymes brought to light the difference treatment Black women and white women receive in society when expressing similar forms of sexual expression. Rhymes provides an assortment of examples from populars porn stars to Pretty Woman, to showcase a clear point -- “...even when the ‘textbook’ requirements of what constitutes being promiscuous is met, her whiteness saves the day” (3). The “innocent, wholesome” white woman is then the opposite of the “ crude, immodest, and sexually deviant” Black woman (3). The source of the depiction of Black women can be found even in the earliest form of media -- art. White women have traditionally been depicted as ‘”harmonious with nature” -- “peaceful and comfortable within [their] environment -- as they serve as “metaphors for the land” while white men represented the “masculinized culture” in control of the “feminine realm”’ (1). White women were just the extension of the natural world, and consequently, “passive” in their own sexuality because -- like nature -- they are inescapable of their “natural beauty.” Themes like “sleep/death...environmental distraction and...allegory” were used to reinforce white women as being inherently “sexually innocent” (1). These ideas establish the “[preservation of ‘innocence’ of the [white] female by externalizing the orgin of the sexaul gaze” (1). Whereas Black women, as seen in art pieces like the Colored Nude, are depicted as “[sellable] flesh,” their bodies equating to something “other” and needing to be possessed by the right hands (1). Unlike white women and their sexuality, Black women are not passive in their sexuality; they are aggressively sexual and overt. Hence, Black women are just sexual beings that deserve to be put on display, and punished for their overt sexuality (i.e. kinky hair and curvier bodily features). When you look back at the history of how female bodies are perceived, you can better understand the treatment of white bodies in comparison to bodies of color. White women are then free to do as they please because their bodies are considered good and moral. White women in most societies can do no wrong, so they can take on sexually explicit professions and lifestyles, and still be deemed as being part of a “sexual revolution.” Yet Black women, even from childhood, are deemed as inherently dirty and overtly sexual unless they look or have stake in some sort of whiteness i.e. biracial or lack of curves. The ruthless sexualization of Black women and their bodies have led to the demonization and exploitation for the same actions that their white counterparts are praised for regularly. The depictions of women in the past -- all controlled and determined by a white, “masculinized culture” -- serve to represent all women of their race, and erase the individual and their experiences (1). These visual representations served as ways for people in the past to understand how treat and label women. While white women were also sexualized, they still had the power to be seen as positive and the “ideal” in not only their own cultures but around the world (1). The idealization of not only the white female form, but also white people and culture in general, can be defined by the concept of Occidentalism -- the taught, idealized perception of what it means to be a Westerner. Occidentalism is in direct opposition to the Orientalism, the western depiction of the East and its inhabitants. Europe and its colonialists were viewed as “essentially rational, developed, humane, superior, authentic, active, creative, and masculine, while the Orient...[the East was considered] irrational, aberrant, backwards, crude, despotic, inferior, inauthentic, passive, [and more significantly] sexually corrupt” (4). The Oriental, specifically the Oriental woman, were defined by these “western travel writers” as “lusty” and in dire need of “western/Christian heroes to satisfy their libidinous desire” (4). Muslim/Arab women were viewed as needing to be saved from “Muslim men and Islamic patriarchy,” establishing some sort of white savior complex. Eastern women (including Black Arabs and Africans) were seen as “passive” figures in need of a guiding force to provide them with a voice. Consequently, Eastern women, like their “inferior nations,” were considered to lack all of the qualities found in white women (4). Mahmudul Hasan summed it up perfectly by stating “western women are conscious of their rights, while eastern women are passive, submissive recipients of patriarchal domination” (4). Because of their ‘inherent nature,’ Oriental women were denied their autonomy and individuality, and were ‘[homogenized]’” by not only white men, but also white women (4). White feminists were known to “depreciate the struggles of local feminist protagonists” by stripping away or ignoring “...[Eastern women’s]...rich intellectual [and cultural] heritage” to continue subjecting them to the same constraints placed upon them by white men (4). On top of being subjected to an intense amount of “othering” by colonialists, women of color were treated and depicted just as harshly by those in the East. Feminist scholars often refer to this as “double colonization” as Eastern women experienced both “patriarchal oppression...[and] Orientalist manipulation” (4). And Muslim women often received the brunt of the oppressive and manipulative treatment found in the East due to a deep hatred of Islam. The demonization of Muslims led to the literal soul-removal and dehumanization of Muslim women by Western colonialists. Western men having sex or participating in any sexual acts with Muslim women, was then seen as more than justifiable because “Asiatic beauties [were] the most convenient women alive,” by Westerners like Richard Burton, due to their lack of humanity. Rape and other horrible sex acts were equally as permissible because Muslim women “were so nymphomaniac and [...] so uncontrollable that, in the absence of men,
they used to dally with each other (4).” The pillaging of Muslim women’s souls and humanity then allowed for colonialists to feel justified in treating them like “living rewards...they [could] reap” whenever they pleased” (4). Muslim/Eastern women were not seen as people. They were seen in the order of “’Oriental,’ woman, and Muslim,” as put so well by Mahmudul Hasan. While Muslim women were treated like sex maniacs by Westerners, they were also ironically stripped of their sexual identity by the prevalent Muslim culture. Western treatment of the female body partially even solidified several ideas reiterating that “if [their bodies were] not controlled, [everything basically] could result in social chaos and social disorder” (2). This belief can be traced back to a time and culture prior to Islam’s arrival in which women were punished for just existing. Despite the Qu’ran never discussing female sexuality, female sexuality and roles have been exploited by their own people. Muslim women are forced to adhere to harmful male notions regarding their womanhood, their sexuality, and their agency without their consent, individuality, and opinions being factored into the equation. This isn’t the case for all Muslims, but there are many Muslim women that face the reality of not having their autonomy over their bodies and actions. Laws and cultural practices have determined that female sexuality and identity is representative of their family’s “purity,” and if they “[violate these] codes,” they’re punished and “subjected to violence, forced marriage, and even killed” (2). Consequently, women that veer from the path established by “male control” are made to feel evil or dirty for expressing their own desires and actions. Now how does the Black Arab woman fit in the provided narratives of the Black woman and the Arab/Muslim woman? Black Arab women, like that of Somalis and Berbers, are excluded from the conversation all together regarding the Black female form and Arab/ Muslim female representation. Black Arab women’s bodies, features, and culture reflect and embody that of the Arab World, but their location and skin color paints a different story for Westerners. The idea of Blackness and Arab-ness and womanhood existing together has been impossible to acknowledge by the status quo’s -- let alone on an individual basis. The Black Arab woman is restrained by her appearance, her religion, and misogynistic, prejudiced culture working against her. And the worst part about the dichotomy is when your not being seen as Black, you’re being seen as Muslim or “Other.” Black Arab women are then under the pressure of various outlets -- from specific Muslim cultures to television -- to either conform or face an immense amount of cruelty and shame in being “other.” And I say these things because my experiences in life have been dictated by these historical dynamics of gender, religion, and race. When I get catcalled or ogled by men, I can’t help but be reminded of the culture that used religion to shame me for the gaze of others. When I step outside in shorts, I can’t help but feel guilty for being immodest and feeling like I’m giving people permission to make comments and judgements. For the longest time, I was even ashamed for being darker skinned because it seems like the blacker you are in the Arab world, the less deserving you are of being respected and treated as an Arab, despite growing up and existing in an Arab culture all my life. Muslim women’s treatment has gone from being nymphomaniacs to being prudes incapable of sexual autonomy. The day I decided to stop wearing my headscarf, it felt like I could no longer be considered respectable. I no longer was deemed “Muslim” enough or “Arab” enough by my community and others to deserve respect. It was like my headscarf was the source of my dignity. My body, no longer protected by a symbolic piece of cloth, was open to the world to be discussed and fetishized. It felt like the world took ownership over my body once my family stopped caring about what I did. My features combined with my blackness were fetishized and sexualized along with my background, especially while dating. I wasn’t a person; I was an experience to enjoy because I was considered “exotic” and a “naughty Muslim.” My sexuality, and my expression of it, was then never left for me to determine. If it weren’t my family warning me of my “dangerous sexuality,” other people felt like they could claim my sexuality based on my skin color, features, and/or religion. While white women in the media found love, had guiltless sex, and exposed themselves without shame. My body and sexuality were considered dangerous and toxic in a western context that still manages to orientalize the Arab world. Most importantly, this troubling history has caused millions of other Black Arab women to feel the same way i have throughout my life regarding sex and sexuality. Our intersectional identities makes it tough to claim our sexual autonomy because we live in a world where being Black is already determined. Because we live in a world where being Muslim and/or Arab is already determined. Because we live in a world where everyone feels like anyone can explain our identity, our culture, our history, and our sexaulity, because a deeply troubling history has made that okay. In the future, we need to begin shedding these toxic ideas and realities so Muslim women of color, Black Arab or not, can be comfortable in their bodies and sexualities. More importantly, we need to think of Blackness and Arabness as being more than just individual identities. It’s the need to create a distinction that has led to my experiences and as well as millions of other women. Footnotes: 1: Nelson, Charmaine. Representing the Black Female Subject in Western Art. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. Print. 2: “Sexuality, Gender and Islam.” Safra Project. Safra Project, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. 3: Rhymes, Edward. “A ‘Ho’ By Any Other Color: The History and Economics of Black Female Sexual Exploitation.” Alternet. Independent Media Institute, 19 May 2007. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. 4: Abukhalil, As’Ad. “Gender Boundaries and Sexual Categories in the Arab World.” Feminist Issues15.1-2 (1997): 91-104. Print. February 01, 2016 by Iman Hussein
Cycle: Out of Sight, Out of Mind Artistâ€™s Statement The period taboo is common, but it is also dangerous. The repercussions that follow this taboo are at best dehumanizing. Having a period is not a pleasant experience, but for trans men or women experiencing homelessness, some say there is not a worse time. My work using Copic markers on maxi pads and coal on drawing paper is a call for a reversal of the taboo. Programs and shelters need sanitary napkins and tampons. We cannot let a taboo prevent us from providing for basic needs. We need to stop dismissing people, who may simply have smaller safety nets than us. We need to acknowledge all humans as humans, as we walk past them on the street and when we break through taboos to finally serve all human needs. by Sarah Martin
How Trans Men and Women Experience the Taboo Everyday
sense8 and the oa:
trans representation in netflix sci-fis A Brief Look at Recent Trans TV History
Before Sense8 and The OA, a handful of widely streamed web series have and continue to feature trans characters—Transparent and Orange Is The New Black, most notably. These shows present extraordinary events within “normal circumstances”— in Transparent, Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura Pfefferman, a transgender mother who undergoes gender reassignment surgery; in Orange is the New Black, viewers get an inside look at a women’s prison in America, discovering the complex lives of incarcerated LGBT women— including a transgender woman Sophia—played by Laverne Cox. Laverne Cox is a transgender woman, while Jeffrey Tambor is, alas, a cisgender white dude. Both actors have been accoladed for their performances in these series, respectively, with Cox being the first trans woman of color to be nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (2014). Jeffrey Tambor received an Emmy in 2016 for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. It is worth noting that even in a space carved out specifically for trans folks, a straight white male took home an Emmy—Laverne, did not. Happily, Laverne Cox has landed some incredible opportunities despite this loss, including being on the cover of Time in 2014, and later producing and starring in her own show, TRANSform Me on VH1. Laverne also received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2016.] Tambor, to his credit, has been quoted saying: “I just hope there are more opportunities for transgender talent. I would very much like to be the last cisgender male playing a transgender female. I think we are there now.”
Yes, We Are There Now
A promising moment has arrived for transgender actors this year. Not only did Netflix cast openly transgender talent for their productions, but the characters portrayed are authentic, real, and not at all tokenized. Within fantasy and science fiction frameworks specifically, transgender folks are not made Other. In television that gives us imagined creatures of other dimensions and instances of people transcending space and time, human relationships are examined in a different, more acutely observational light. LGBT
relationships and trans characterizations are among the fixtures of normality that root audiences in reality; LGBT [in this instance, trans folks especially] are presented as the norm, and as such, they retain this status through the show. Their struggles are validated and normalized, against the improbable and impossible circumstances of their fantastical realms. In this way, science fiction offers us better frameworks of consideration and sharper lenses through which we can examine ourselves and our behaviors. Both Sense8 and The OA have been cast diversely and more obscurely than currently established trans television, thus heralding in new and emerging actors into the limelight. Jamie Clayton of Sense8 and Ian Alexander of The OA are representing the new frontiers of trans storytellers: Jamie, like Laverne, is openly transgender, and Ian, who is also transgender, is AsianAmerican—the first Asian and trans representation of mainstream TV.
Sense8: A Queer Masterpiece
Sense8 was created by the transgender filmmaker duo The Wachowskis, who brought us The Matrix franchise. Dubbed a “queer masterpiece” by Slate, Sense8 does a lot of things really well. Its international cast with diverse representation tells both the story of a high-profile gay male relationship and a translesbian relationship, again unprecedented in mainstream shows. Nomi [right] and her lover Amanita [left]In Sense8, Nomi is a transwoman and lesbian hacktivist. Nomi learns that a sudden change in her brain chemistry will potentially kill her unless she has major brain surgery—essentially a lobotomy. This brain surgery will not only eradicate her independence from her destructive family [she would become a ward to her transphobic mother] but also her sense of selfhood and identity would be erased. The surgery plot is a razor-sharp commentary on the medical, surgical, and psychological conversion therapy that trans folks are sometimes forced to undergo in order to become cisgender. The metaphor of Nomi’s terrifying journey is emotionally haunting for the audience as we witness her navigating a corrupt medical system with her partner, Amanita. We watch how trans folks are frequently deadnamed and their loved ones denied access to their bedside in the hospital.
Netflix original series have been carving out much-needed spaces for transgender representation this year. While the year 2016 has been an unrelenting shitshow for women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and humanity at large, a glimmer of solace and social progress can be found in the strong casting and authentic characters of Netflix’s original science fiction series Sense8 and The OA.
Nomi’s character arc demonstrates the story of a transwoman who has had to stake it out on her own, without the support of her parents or family but has instead forged a community for herself. Nomi brings out of viewers a heightened degree of empathy and pathos that unites audiences in their support for her and her partner’s struggle to subvert the inherently transphobic systems they encounter.
The OA: An Experiment in Indie-Auteur Filmmaking
Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, a collaborative pair firmly rooted in their auteur filmmaking, The OA aired December 16 on Netflix. It has been met with very mixed critical reception, with common denominators being a high appraisal of the acting and direction, and the negative criticism being of the narrative’s blatantly ambiguous quality. The OA never fully commits to a genre, meandering through explorations of controversial research on Near Death Experiences and in the trauma of human captivity, ticking off boxes in science fiction, mystery, and supernatural fiction. While ambiguous and noncommittal in many aspects, The OA does succeed in is its strong characterization of misfit teens, particularly with Buck Vu. Discovered in a casting call for Asian-American trans teens on Tumblr, and remembered for going viral for his response to this transphobic tweet, upcoming actor Ian Alexander depicts a VietnameseAmerican teenage trans boy in high school. Buck is not tokenized in his ensemble cast on The OA. He is only an “outcast” in that his motley crew of newfound friends come from different factions of high school social groups. The OA works to reshape high school anthropology by flinging unlikely types together, and Buck is by no means the Other here. Despite the usual depictions of bullied trans teens in media, we witness no bullying or questions of assimilation for Buck in The OA. Buck’s screen time is spent united in the company of a burgeoning friend group, with a growing sense of a tribe being created of misfits. There are even scenes that spur thoughts of potential future relationships for Season 2: Buck and his friend Alfonso (“French”) are seen together or are seen watching each other from across the room in ways that could be described as romantic. Buck is confident, although quiet, and
seems isolated only in the brief glimpses we witness of his family life. Coming from a modern Vietnamese family, with a single father who sometimes still calls him Michelle, we can speculate that Buck’s family is not totally supportive nor fully unsupportive of Buck’s identity; Buck’s father is adjusting to Buck with a certain degree of respect. Although, we can imagine that Buck’s father does not know that Buck is forced to buy his hormones on the street, rather than from a family doctor. In this way, we can infer that Buck is transitioning on his own; this is his isolation. Many practical details surrounding Buck’s trans identity are purposefully left out, calling attention instead to Buck’s normalization and fierce independence within his world.
Comparison to Other Netflix tv
Stranger Things, another Netflix original science fiction from 2016, presented to us queerness in a different way: as subtext, as ambiguity, as tokenism and Otherness.* The lead girl, Eleven / “El,” played by Millie Bobby Brown, is a mysterious young girl with psychokinetic powers. Eleven is gender nonconforming and is called out for not seeming “like a girl” throughout the series. In the company of young boys, her genderfluidity is made as much a spectacle as her supernatural powers. Stranger Things treats queerness in accordance to the timeframe it is fictionally set: with a characteristically 1980’s ignorance.
Representation is Key To Normalization of Transgender People
Representation in mainstream television is essential for the normalization of LGBT people. While Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton, and Ian Alexander have become fixtures of or are emerging as powerful, positive models of transgender representation, a handful of characters on TV is not enough. Current science fiction series must continue to create spaces for LGBT folks, by challenging what is “normal” and providing us with necessary frameworks to evaluate our own reality.
by Eileen Elizabeth
Read My Lips
Remember that one thing you wanted to say but held your tongue? Whether it was to your parents, a stranger, a friend, a loved one, or even to yourself, many of us hold on to the regret of not saying something when we have wanted to. But saying that one thing out-loud, or even writing it down somewhere, can often be extremely therapeutic and uplifting. Lets create a space where thoughts and feelings can be expressed freely and comfortably- this introduction to the project is intended to share a few brave voices that will inspire others to take part in the conversation. Read their lips and share what yours would say.
55 To get involved in the next big step for the Read My Lips Project, contact Brittney Sweetser at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply subscribe to Bossier!
holding a warm drink. knowing the word but not the definition. cracking open a fortune cookie. scissors & wrapping paper. sneaking out for the first time. watching the sunrise with your best friends.
when the season changes. a candlelit bath. laying under the stars far away from a city. a canoe on the lake at dawn. hundred year old trees. jazz music & feather boas. dream journals. art museums.
standing on a mountain. overlooking a cliff. first day of summer. sticky hands. ripping off the band-aid. being center stage. police sirens. fresh laundry. complex questions unanswered. checking something off the bucket list. when the plane takes off.
a saturday night in. when youâ€™re comfortably full. ice water after a hot day out in the sun. chocolate melting. the ticking sound of a clock. blanket forts. sliding across a wooden floor in your socks. sunsets from the hood of a car.
looking out an airplane window. the rush from the smell of old books. people-watching in a city. the scent that follows after you blow out a candle. how handwriting is like a voice. your first visit to a haunted house. the sound of crunching leaves.
waking up when itâ€™s raining. flipping through photo albums/old journals. taking a shower. lemonade on the hottest day of the year. sage & lavender & vanilla. hot air balloon ride over the city.
singing in the car with the windows rolled down. looking in the mirror and smiling. wanting something and not knowing what. city life at night. paint splattered at the wall. bubblegum. a one-way ticket.
not knowing where to eat. holding hands. a long sigh. when the couple says “i do”. lucky charms. bonfires, finger painting. blowing kisses. sugar on the tip of your tongue. late nights in lau. black coffee. cheesy romantic shows.
drunk on a friday night with your favorite song playing. driving early in the morning. cold feet. jet lag. a wolf howling. bad puns. five star restaurants. burning your tongue. chipped nail polish. walking barefoot through the mud.
bare feet on soft grass. after putting on lotion. when you cross off an item on your to-do list. fireflies in the summer. back of the class. the click clack of high heels. waves crashing. sun kissed skin.
3 am and you can’t sleep. sitting near a bonfire. being stuck at the top of a ferris wheel. wind in your hair during a midnight car ride at 100 mph. skin on skin. magnets on the refrigerator. a ceiling fan in the dead of night. sticky notes.
the heat in your throat when someone is lying and you know it. wanting to break something just to break it. wearing a big sweater. the first snowfall of the year when everything is still and silent. the dreamy state when you’re running on no sleep.
“It is not given to us to know what difference we can make in the world and perhaps in the end we can make no difference at all. But, that is no reason not to make the attempt, and I’m glad you are all giving it your best shot.”