Paper Cloud Spring 2018

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Cover illustration: Arden Smith

Thank you for reading and showing support for the first issue of Paper Cloud, a creative journal by the Oregon State University Pride Center student staff and community. This journal would not be possible without the inspiring and talented creatives who shared their works. Paper Cloud is not the first publication by the Pride Center, and we hope it will not be the last. Our team drew inspiration from many places – a past Pride Center zine called Outlines, a “Queerative” social event and other spaces where our community has come together to create art and share vulnerable moments. XOXO Pride Center

the parade is passing joyful, loud its noises stream through your open window its colors dance across your blank walls you are inside in need stiff and alone, with a quiver in your voice you just can’t shake most who pass do not look inside those who do ask why you are there, alone on such a pleasant day it is an affront to them and you are so heavy and you wish someone would come in you wish someone would just ask to come in

O n t he O uts ide Jul ie C ooper


Un ti tle d Arde n Sm ith


Dear cis girl who asked me if I knew this was the women’s bathroom: Yes, I do know. I am PAINFULLY aware of the bathroom I chose. As a nonbinary person, I navigate this world knowing our society wasn’t designed for us. Since coming to college and finding my style, I thought I was one of the pros, That is until you reminded me of the gender I was assigned. I chose the women’s restroom because I’m less likely to be physically assaulted here, even though it is my primary source of verbal and mental harassment; I often walk in with my eyes downcast and headphones resting in my ear. I can understand that my masculine presentation confuses you as to why I would be here Especially when I have a binder on, But don’t understand why you went out of your way to police the occupants with your sneer. I assume by your comment that you think I am a man going into the women’s room by mistake or that I’m up to no good, Even though I’m just here to relieve my body as I should. I know for many in the trans community, public restrooms are a large source of fear, And it can be even more terrifying when you’re identified as visibly queer. So, when I am confronted by you, cis girl, in the bathroom, I understand the encounter can be uncomfortable for both of us However, my discomfort is that this encounter could be my doom. I know the irony of this story is that I’m assuming your gender, But let’s be real here – only cis people are going to stop someone in the bathroom like this.


Now comes the part where the rhyming stops and I demand something from my audience: Do. Better. It’s not enough that you aren’t transphobic. It’s not enough that you protested and spoke out against North Carolina’s bathroom bill. There are still laws like that appearing on state election ballots. Just because it’s not happening in your backyard, your neighborhood, doesn’t mean you can relax and sit down. These bills place many transgender people at risk; however, I’ve noticed a lack of coverage on some of the most vulnerable targets of these bills: nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people. The anecdote I shared above is just an example of low-level danger in our “safe little college town.” I’d like to say I don’t think about the worse cases with high-level danger, but that would be a lie. To prevent those from occurring, we need to do better. I don’t need allies who become passive bystanders when it comes time to perform. I need accomplices who will fight with me anytime, anywhere, against state and federal administrations’ attempts to eliminate our rights to exist in public spaces. I end this with a quote from Kat Blaque: “That’s just some food for thought and I hope you digest it; going to the bathroom shouldn’t get you arrested.”

D e a r Ci s G i rl M a ggie O’Rour ke -Ligget t


Love i s Love Ra e M a


hey, mister sports-man, you don’t quite know me, but i know you take turns slow in your big suv when the ones you love most are riding backseat, and snow tires on her car were a priority, so thank you for that. thanks for sending her out in a softball cap. you like your music with a country drawl – my dad does, too, extraordinarily. you’d like him, straight as an arrow, military, but i’ve seen him cry hard. and i’m saying – changing times don’t change who you are. what I have for her is by no means standard, but the one you taught to romp in the snow and dirt is surely not dirtied by her own heart that’s been humming. try as you did to stop it, i know you always saw it coming. and i promise you this: it won’t be a waste. your force of a little girl with the hair blowing in her face has never been a follower. and the same goes for me, i’m not a rebel or a robber. i just happen to be in love with your daughter. (and i swear the only thing I want to change about her is to make her happy. i hope we meet.) Hey Mi s ter S ports -Man T.S.L. 9

Growing up in the Valley was unique. We had everything we needed, but nothing more, and nothing less. We used what we were given, and accepted what would be given to us Which doesn’t seem so bad until you leave. While you’re there, you question nothing, and wonder why anyone would ever want to escape. The water is clean and delicious, The forests cascade around the valley’s walls for miles and miles, A self-contained paradise, with its own farms and produce, “Everything you’ll ever need is here,” they advertise. It all seems so right, And it is so nice, That you beat yourself up because it still feels So Wrong. There’s one school in the Valley So what they teach is what you learn. Period, and no exceptions. Authoritarian rule is common in school But it seems to be even more so when the student body is composed Of rednecks and racists who run the risk of starting the next violent tragedy at any given second. It’s even more distressing when they’re in charge of the show. There are a few teachers who have your back; The old librarian, years past his own retirement, The English teacher with his pierced ears and gentle smile, The Linguistics teacher with the lesbian daughter. They are your allies, but there’s only so much they can do Only so much they will do. So you do one of two things: Keep your head down Or band together (then keep your heads down together). I chose to be alone, because by the time I realized I wasn’t like the girls I dated (or perhaps that I was too much like them) I knew that I was in too deep in the culture of the Valley. I was popular, I’d made a name for myself, everyone in a 20-mile radius Knew who I was and what I could do. But they didn’t know who I was And if they did Well, who knows what could’ve happened. So I kept on a winning smile And said nothing when people like me came under attack. Because that’s what you do in the Valley. Nothing.


And as much as I wanted to stand arm in arm with the queer kids Who were ridiculed and demonized by the administration I was too busy fighting a battle in my head Against the expectations set before me, by my parents, by my peers, Of the person I was supposed to be And not of the person who wanted out. Out of this body. Out of this Valley. Out of this life. But to get out of the Valley isn’t so simple. You have to be smart, talented, or crafty. Smart like the kid who started his own software company, Talented like the girl known all over for her artwork Crafty like the girl who changed her name and ran off to the city. I was none of these, not exceptional, But I still managed to leave. But I can feel the Valley’s pull, It trapped a part of me within itself that I won’t get back Not until I become Smart, Talented, or Crafty enough to earn it. That’s how it keeps itself so stagnant, the Valley; By trapping part of you there so you eventually find your way back. A friend once called it “A Cultural Black Hole,” Destroying and assimilating everyone and everything that comes within its horizons, And similarly sucking the life out of the queer kids trapped inside its walls. Just over that ridge is the Emerald City, Not a paradise, it’s a land stricken with poverty and homelessness, But so real, and full of our history and culture We can’t help but look to it like a lantern in the fog, A Will-‘O-The-Wisp in the forests, leading us from despair into doom. Even though I managed to escape I have friends trapped there still. Young adults with nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait Until the Valley devours them. And I feel guilty for letting myself escape while they drown there, Surrounded by a bigotry that keeps them in chains. If I could go back in time, I’d band together, and have a voice. Because change only happens with movement And there were plenty of us to start. But I was young and scared, And even now it’s foolishly optimistic To think that anything ever changes in the Valley.

The Valley Luc ielle Wones


“congrats! it’s a _______.” something small and pink with watchful eyes. congrats. it’s a fiction pressed onto my body. they swaddled me in it warm and recognizable mistook it for safety. but I have been unsafe since.

who i s made s afe w hen you w rap m e i n something broken? Jul ie C ooper


Un ti tle d Arde n Sm ith


Invisibility. When you hear the word, what do you think about? Most likely the definition: “unable to be seen; concealed from sight; hidden.” But do you ever think about the other two definitions: “treated as if unable to be seen; ignored or not taken into consideration”? Probably not. Especially if you are considered part of society’s norm. You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones who wish they could be invisible for a moment or a day. The ones who think invisibility is a gift, something to be desired or something that can be controlled. They do not know what invisibility means. Invisibility means every time you come out to someone it requires a vocabulary lesson that leaves you emotionally and mentally exhausted. Invisibility means years of feeling alone and broken. Years of asking yourself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like everyone else?” “Why do people feel the need to fix me?” Invisibility means being told by professionals that your identity is the result of a mental illness. Invisibility means always hearing “you just haven’t met the one yet,” or “you’re just confused.” Invisibility means being excluded and forgotten by your own community, whether that was their intention or not. Invisibility means coming up with a multitude of excuses and justifications for living a life that makes you comfortable in your own skin.


Invisibility means facing a society that constantly beats it into you that you don’t exist. Invisibility means not having an option on forms asking for your orientation or gender. Invisibility means hearing people talk about your identity as if it’s a new trend. Or hearing people making jokes about it because, to them, your identity doesn’t exist. Invisibility means that even when you do come out, you are compared to fictional characters on TV who don’t accurately represent your identity. Invisibility means years of shame, exclusion, erasure, loneliness, and pain. Invisibility is not a blessing. To anyone who resonates with this, know you are not alone. I see you. So many of us see you, Fighting to beat this injustice. I don’t know about you, But I am tired of this. Tired of our voices being smothered into silence, Of our experiences and existence being deemed invalid, Of being shoved back into the dark. For those who still wish to be invisible, I am envious of you. Because all I want is for us to be visible.

Inv i si bi li ty M a ggie O’Rour ke -Ligget t


Un t i t le d E l mira Fa the Aza m


In visions of desert haze and winds whipping cloudy dust. briefly, an image coheres. a memory, (paradoxically) distant and near. inscribed on expanding silken sand. a veil, shimmering in waterfall motion. I hold on to these fragments. I keep them deep inside me. I patiently wait, to hear you again (over the lulling din of) to see you again, (waves meeting) to breathe you again. (in the salty air)

D i stanc e Ke e nu Mausambi 17

H o m e fo r t h e Holi days Kat Br in t


Night after night after night after night I can’t sleep I toss and turn trying not to dream If I do I lose I live in a hell for 6 to 8 hours where I’m no longer myself My past comes back clawing at the cage within my mind where I trapped it I guard it but never look You can’t guard something if you don’t watch it so He breaks out He infiltrates my dreams “Look! Look! Look what you’ve done!” He cries His wretched shrieking tears at the walls behind my eyes He forces me to relive the moments when I was happy and reminds me why I don’t have them anymore I start awake sweat drying on my face Or maybe that’s the salty tears of someone who can’t fight back against the horrors of her own mind I’m up 4 hours early I need to sleep but I lie there Afraid Afraid to sleep Afraid to dream Afraid to be

Thi s Pri son’s O nly Inmate Keeps Breaking O ut ( It’s Li ke He’ s Taunting Us ) Lucie l l e Wone s


I’ve loved you as long as I’ve loved books. Poring over stories that were as intricately laced together as the plaits my mother put in my hair, my ankles crossed behind my back as I splayed on my stomach reading. I learned that authors put secrets into early chapters, ones that would spring forward later to make everything make sense. Life foreshadows, too, in the most unexpected ways. The TV glows bright with two characters kissing and I dip my head away from my mother, like I am harboring something I don’t know yet. I was. I see the elegant manner of the storybook princess before the prince’s, see flowing locks and eyes that look startlingly like yours. that? Familiar. I keep reading stories. I come to the realization in theory, and never in practice. Delicate hands that once turned pages become bumbling and awkward. I stumble over words, devour those written. I am becoming more like myself than I have ever been, but the smaller, lessburdened version of me still somehow belongs in this cavernous heart. Somewhere in the depths lies you. The first girl I kiss in college feels wrong, but like fire. Still the clumsy child-dreamer, I make her origami animals. She makes out with the boy down the hall when I am supposed to be asleep in the same room. My next few kisses are like this. Maybe I just wanted to feel something that could compare to the slow burn from stories. I get burned in the wrong way. (In a separate life, people are breaking your heart, too.) You’d think I’d know for sure when I meet you in the summer. But light is not pleasant to a man who has been sitting in a dark room for his entire life. I don’t like that you’re smarter than me, and kinder. I don’t want you


to tease me gently. I don’t want to be challenged to be me and whole. I say goodbye to you. Eventually, I remember that the princesses were always smarter than me, and kinder. It is almost too late. You’re startled by my intensity when I come to my conclusion. I would be, too. You’re not ready yet for the same kind of sunlight. We converge again in the winter. You make sure the car is blowing hot air when I get in from the frigid cold. We kiss and there is no end – it is a promise for another. It has always been you. Through the pages and the rainy, beaten-down days, through the glimmer of childhood joy in every backwards action that landed me on a path far from you. It was always a shadow of you there, leading me back. A warmth that I have always been looking for. A squint of your eyes, a dimpled smile. Pictures of you holding your little brother in sleep. The essence of you in everything I’ve ever read and wanted. You are the one ending that I didn’t see coming, and yet, wanted my entire life.

Fore sha dowi ng ( n.) a n i ndi ca ti on of w hat is to c ome T.S.L.


Hurtling through time and space; searching for home Atoms on a collision course; we are searching for home Can’t rest in one place as we race through our histories; searching for home You say we’re better apart, but we know that’s some bullshit! Going to erase this distance as we are searching for home Blaze bright and brilliant. Too hot for you to handle! Can’t stop us now, we are searching for home Watch this dazzling display. Ruptures and transformations, new worlds and beginnings as our energies embrace. We keep on searching for home.

Pe ople F usi on Ke e nu M a usa m bi


No i s e Ia n Abbe ne 23

I’m Asexual and Proud, two things you will know immediately after meeting me. Two years ago, the night before Pride, I spent hours crafting Ace pride attire out of pipe cleaners and cheap clothes, ensuring there would be representation that day. I own at least five articles of clothing devoted to Asexual Pride, and I spent 20 hours hand-painting Captain Ace’s uniform for Asexual Awareness Week 2016. If you can’t already tell, I’m incredibly proud of my identity. I wear my flag as a cape at Pride. As Captain Ace, I wear our black, grey, white, and purple stripes with pride and wield my shield as a symbol of visibility and hope for my Asexual community. While all of this is true, I bet there are some of you out there trying to stop yourself from rolling your eyes or thinking to yourself, “Geez, Maggie. Your last 7 social media posts were about Asexuality. Can’t you talk about something else for a change?” I’m sorry if this is how you feel when you see my educational or emotional personal posts on my personal feed. I never intend to shove my identities in your face or bombard you with information about my community. Regardless, there are several reasons why I won’t stop talking about my identities and experiences. I talk about it constantly because, unlike some in the LGBTQIA+ community, we have almost no representation. And if we do, it’s usually presented as a damaging stereotype that perpetuates the misconceptions around our identity. I shout about it at the top of my lungs, because my one voice sounds like a whisper even within my own minority. I carry Captain Ace’s shield and wear my arm-bands proudly for others like me and for those who can’t be the truest version of themselves without fearing for their safety. While I love who I am with all my heart, I don’t spend hours mulling over my identity because I want to – but because society reminds me daily of how very different I am. I’m reminded of my Asexuality when I walk into a store and see a magazine titled “101 Sex Tips to Please Your Man,” or when I flip on the


TV and see shows and movies with plots revolving around hookups with a plethora of graphic sex scenes. You may think my Asexuality is in your face, but I can’t go one day without hearing heteronormative sex talk or remarks about how attractive people are. Don’t know what I’m talking about? I challenge you to find advertisements, shows, or movies that haven’t been sexualized. I was reminded again how casual Asexual and Aromantic erasure is when the CW announced that Jughead Jones – a canon Aromantic Asexual character whose coming out in the comics two years ago meant so much to both communities – will not be portrayed as AroAce in their show Riverdale. I’m forced to face how invisible my identity is when local and national queer resources and campaigns say the ‘A’ is for Ally and don’t mention Asexuality or Aromanticism at all. Or when they have us in the acronym, but don’t mention us at all. I can barely go a week without hearing a story about an Asexual teen being assaulted at school, or about how someone broke down in tears because they heard the definition of Asexual, and, for the first time, no longer felt broken and alone. I put myself out there not only for my fellow Aces, but for those who barely have a voice. For the people who are told our experiences are invalid because they don’t fit the standard ‘homophobia/transphobia discrimination’ story. I will never stop talking about it when there are still people out there who don’t know they are Asexual because we are invalidated and erased constantly, whether it’s unconscious or not. There are people who don’t know what horrors we face because our voices are always silenced and our history always overlooked. Yeah, I’m Asexual. But no, you don’t get it.

We ge t i t, You’re A s ex ual M a ggie O’Rour ke -Ligget t


Ra t Ki ng A rde n Sm ith


There is a mosque sandwiched by sun and sky. On whose cloud-cushioned slender minarets rests a veil decorated with the shimmer of precious jewels Listen, to the beautiful voice of the muezzin. Warm yellow sun rays bounce off cool marble. And nest in smooth ceiling domes Listen, to the beautiful voice. An invitation, the color of warms hugs shared after Eid prayers uncle Ismat preparing rosy Rooh Afzah and perfectly triangle samosas.

Magic Mos que Keenu Mausambi


She tells me she believes in out-of-body experiences. The possibility of exiting one’s body in a moment of immense grief / premonition / pleasure. Seeing it anew. Seeing it from afar. She says maybe it happened once, when she was younger. Shed her body, watched it move and breathe without her. An outsider, void of sensation. It was the scariest and most exciting thing that ever happened to her. The details are fuzzy but she calls it truth, holds it close to her chest. She swears me to secrecy, tells me just the two of us can know. We vow as faithfully as only children can, because we know this is exactly the kind of truth our parents would steal our from under us. They don’t know how to hope like we do, how to weave their own reality and wrap up in it, armor against the broken shards of the world. I’ve kept her secret with me as I’ve grown. I sometimes want to tell her how right she was. I want to tell her about how every day, I am out of my body. One day, thinking about the truth she told me, I floated out in a fit of joy and haven’t figured out how to return. I’m not sure I want to. I think my body knows this and has locked me out until I make up my mind.


I want to tell her that sometimes, I don’t recognize what I see anymore, floating out here. I watch and I love and I hate its inescapable curves and course edges. I’m wounded by the uncertainty in its movements, the apology in its voice. I want to shout at it. Call to it. Reconcile with it. I want her to know that I am brainstorming new names to call it but can’t find one that fits. How I am taking all the letters and symbols and images I know to describe what I see but just can’t make sense of it. Language wasn’t made for this. I want her to know that sometimes, when I’m around the right people, I float right back into it. Call it home, feel the harmony and discord flowing through myself dysphoria and euphoria and wholeness. I want her to know those moments this feeling is the scariest and most exciting thing that ever happened to me. Because when I’m watching from out here, I see how others watch it, too. They fear its possibility Can’t bear to see themselves in the mystery of it. When will they let go free themselves from their bodies see themselves from afar feel themselves whole?

out-of-body re a li ty Jul ie C oope r


Le t’ s G e t M a rr i e d Co n ce p t : Ja m i e A l l ison I llu s t ra t io n : Ka t B r int


Thank you for reading Paper Cloud. Keep an eye out for our call for submissions at the beginning of each term! Marketing Team: Design Diva • Creative Director • Kat Brint Wizardly Wordsmith • Literary Editor • Julie Cooper Editorial Team: Team Mom • Assistant Director • Cindy Konrad Bombass Brainstormer • Strategist • Ty Sokalski Bombass Brainstormer • Strategist • Christine Hoang

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Creativity is a wellspring of ideas crisp, sweet water gushing forth thoughts flowing. Creativity is a guiding breeze brisk, yet soothing words of wisdom whispering which way to go. Creativity is a blazing flame smoke, showers of sparks glowing embers remain burning images. Creativity is

- Zac Baker

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