perfectly normal vol. 1 july 2018
Editor’s Note In 2013,when I was in high school, I created the idea for this zine. I wanted desperately to put something out into the world, but was too afraid to carry it out: afraid of what people would think, afraid that nobody would submit, afraid that, essentially, I would fail at something that I wanted so much. I created the cover of the magazine by hand from cut-up Teen Vogue advertisements and started soliciting submissions via Tumblr under the pseudonym “Willow Adams,” hoping that nobody would realize who was behind it. I did, shockingly, get submissions, but without deadlines (or confidence) nothing ever came of it. Coming back to this project has been one of the best decisions I have made. By keeping myself accountable and responsible for the completion of the zine by coming out and telling people (so many people!) about it, I was able to brave through all the anxiety still beating around inside my head to finish the publication you are reading now. The designs on the cover and throughout the zine are derived from the original cover that I made when I was 16, but the whole concept has evolved to something much more meaningful. The name “Perfectly Normal” comes from Douglas Adams’ Perfectly Normal Beasts: a species that is, indeed, totally normal, other than the fact that they only appear twice a year, materializing in the middle of a valley, stampeding across, and disappearing again. This project materialized and faded away once. It won’t happen again. Thank you for your support. Tréa Lavery Editor
Table of Contents xl twin - Ali Russo: 4 (SA) Making Mergirls - Abbie Stoner: 6 (V) As I Walk Down the Hall - Mel: 9 How to Get a Lover - Sarah Walker: 10 Mean Olâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Moon - Sarah Walker: 12 Army of Me - Fee Johnstone: 14 Tasting Spite At The Back Of Your Throat (May Seventeenth) Elliott Dunstan: 17 Fires - Mackenzie Bush: 20 Civilization Theatre Alykhan Popat: 22 (V) Being You - Meeni Levi: 25 Home Isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a Place - Meeni Levi: 26 Disappearing Pills - Mackenzie Bush: 27 Contributor Bios: 28
Content Warnings SA = sexual assault V = violence
xl twin Ali Russo it’s 3:30 in the morning and i take care of everybody but myself. i have a friend who always ends our phone calls with “make sure you eat something today” not because of any history it’s just because i don’t have much to eat when i’m home and, besides, i’m not all too hungry. i tell her she needs to drink more water because she doesn’t have a problem she just forgets and i always remind her that we are 70% water and without drinking it we may vanish entirely and i am in love with her. i don’t tell her that last part though. truth is i have been in love with her since the moment she pressed her dry lips to mine and i felt my arms wrap around her waist and clasp at the small of her back, in love with her since she gasped the words, “i really like you” into the nape of my neck as i bit down into her chest, covering her breasts with bite marks and saliva and trailing my tongue from her sternum to her mouth. we fell into this routine when my dorm was empty and the only thing that could fill it was the quiet murmurs of our hands tracing each other’s bodies like contoured maps; we wanted to get lost so long as we returned home when the streetlights flickered on. her teeth would leave imprints on my neck and breasts until we were exhausted and decided to become misshapen pipe-cleaners, intertwining our fuzzy legs and knotting our fingers together under a handmade quilt draping over my xl twin. our voices barely broke above a whisper as we held each other closer, talking of the universe and how little we mattered. we used to wake up to the city’s blue sirens and i always woke jumping, i never liked loud noises since he locked his car when he wanted to fuck me, but she would line my back with kisses that could make tar melt and shushed me, telling me to give ourselves another hour of safety and happy hands and warm feet under Carol’s quilt. “make sure you eat something today” she tells me now, and i remind her to drink water, because we are 70% water and without drinking it we may vanish entirely and i am in love with her. Indira Jainanan
Making Mergirls Abbie Stoner The first thing I taught my daughter was not to fear the dark. Women like us ruled the darkness, were the darkness. So, tonight was not the first time she had followed me out to the lake when it was well past midnight; however, she had never done so on a new moon when the mermaids were cackling like storm clouds without the moonlight to soothe them, when I could barely lift my feet from the mud to bring them what they needed. The hunger—their hunger—was insatiable and I had become frail these past years, not quite the mergirl I used to be. Not quite as patient with the men when they needed to be convinced to go for a swim before we went inside, not quite fast enough to catch up to them easily when they saw claws and scales breaking water. I couldn’t bear to let the mermaids down. The wind ravaged my hair so that it floated around my head like I was already submerged, muffled my ears and blocked my eyes, but I knew the moment my daughter crept up behind me and out of the shadows. “Darling,” I called to her, my voice catching on the wind. I lifted my hand, palm coated in mud, and held it out to her. She hesitated for only a moment before taking it and stepping next to where I was crouched beside the lake. She wore her cotton nightgown still, but I wore nothing but my underwear. “Momma,” her voice hushed the mermaids, caught their attention enough to calm the frantic circles
they swam in the water and their hunger that swam inside me. I could see my own blazing eyes reflected in hers. “Is this where my daddy is?” I smiled with the wind. She was meant for this, already a mergirl in her blood. “Yes.” I stood up so that I towered over her. The top of her curly hair, so much wilder than mine, did not yet reach my shoulders. “Don’t be afraid.” “I’m not afraid.” No, she was defiant. She dropped my hand and stared right into the darkness of the lake where their tails flicked the surface. She was the darkness. “They protect us, Mari,” I reminded her. I looked up at the ghost of the moon, the pocket of sky where it hid itself away when their hunger became too much for even it to stomach. “They’ll protect you so nothing can hurt you.” She nodded once, still staring at the lake, trying to catch a glimpse of them. But they knew how to hide. Mermaids had been hunted since the beginning of time by foolish men; they had grown defenses as well as offenses. Goosebumps textured her skin, but she did not flinch against the wind. I filled my lungs with the sweet summer air and exhaled, “Do you know what the best thing you can do in life is?” She turned to me, her eyes holding not a hint of fear. She knew not to fear the dark and she knew how to be fearsome, I had made sure of both. She said, “Don’t be afraid of the dark.” I shook my head. “That is the best thing you don’t do.”
Their cackles grew into an orchestra beneath the water and I knew she heard them too, like only mergirls could; she tilted her head ever so slightly and her eyes darted back to the lake. She knew where all the boys lived on the street, the mermaids knew she could run faster than me now, I knew what they wanted. There was only one thing left to do for us all. “Find what you love, Mari.” I held my arms out wide so the wind could wrap itself around me one last time. They were so close to the shore that water splashed onto my skin as they thrashed. I could smell the algae trapped inside a drop where it landed just above my lip as Mari waited for me to finish. “And let it kill you.” Their cold, clammy hands shackled my ankles and their claws sank into my skin like anchors. I looked at my daughter one last time and, behind the alarm she would quickly learn to drown, her eyes began to blaze. She felt the hunger. There was still a wind goddess smile on my mouth when my head hit the water. Giggles started to form between their cackles as blood was ripped free of my skin and found their tongues. This was how I was meant to end, with a new mergirl made. Mari didn’t scream once.
Art by Ailisi Suli
As I Walk Down The Hall Mel As I walk down the hall with her Her hand entwined in mine I look over at her beautiful face Her smile, her soulful eyes I’ve known her for almost ten years now Each one better than the last We haven’t grown apart at all Our friendship remained steadfast But what I see through rosy lens She sees in plain lighting My adoration of this girl Is restricted to private writing We’re only friends, she knows not The torch I hold for her But keeping it inside for years Is starting to painfully burn I could tell her how I feel Release my very soul But if she were to reject me completely I would lose it all The bantering over favorite books The smiles exchanged in the halls The hugs that warm me to the core The hour-long phone calls The one who makes me laugh a lot The one who calms me when I’m sad The one who brings out the best in me The best friend I’ve ever had
Comics by Sarah Walker
Army of Me Fee Johnstone Dressed in purple camouflage trousers, second-hand army boots and a Skunk Anansie T-shirt, I sat cross-legged in my usual spot, the carpet worn through by my many previous visits. Towering shelves crammed with books, their squashed spines seeking liberation, surrounded me and save for the thud of my own heart, all was still. I was fifteen and had just realised that I was more into the soft skin of girls than the plukey pelt of boys but as it was the mid-nineties and the only female I had access to on a computer was Amy, Sonic the Hedgehog’s pal, I had no idea how to meet other gay people. Fearing my friends who were into Just Seventeen and East 17 would treat me like a leper if I told them I was gay, I’d reverted to what I knew best – books and stalking. The library had always been my sanctuary. When I was younger, I sequestered myself away in the children’s library writing teddy-bear adventure stories or articles for imaginary magazines. Then as a teenager, when I was mostly housebound with glandular fever, my mum would drop me at the library so I could read somewhere other than the oppressive four-walls of my bedroom. Therefore, it had made sense to come here looking for answers. I hunted the fiction section looking for titles that sounded a bit gay and eventually determined that books with colourful striped spines belonged to The Women’s Press or Serpent’s Tail, both of whom published many lesbian titles: Patience and Sarah, The Colour Purple, Jay Loves Lucy to name a few. I began to spend all my Saturday afternoons in the library, desperate to find a bit of myself within the pages of a well-thumbed lesbian love story but once I’d exhausted them, and was no further forward in my
plight for non-fictitious people like me, I decided to venture into territories unknown: the nonfiction section. To me, this was an intimidating section full of real grown-up stuff like politics, philosophy, military and gender studies. I’d never heard the phrase ‘gender studies’ before and I didn’t quite understand all this talk of rights and vindication but I had heard the word ‘feminist’ before – feminists were man hating lesbians so I must be in the right place. Nestled amongst The Second Sex and The Female Eunuch I discovered The Pink Pages, a directory of gay-friendly businesses in the UK. The entries for my small city were limited to a gay man’s pub and intriguingly, a guest house. But, none of that mattered because the book, large and neon pink, gave me an idea. I would stake out the gender studies section using it as a lure – surely sitting here reading a giant gay book would attract a legion of lesbians who, finding me utterly adorable, would want to take me off the shelf? I’d park up on the floor amidst the greasy stink of whichever vagrant napped in the nearby chair. Poised and ready, like a new book waiting for its spine to be cracked, I’d open The Pink Pages. I’d give it a sniff to see if anyone had left a trace of themselves behind – a scent I could track perhaps – but there was only ever dead skin and crumbs, all of which were probably my own. Footsteps would ignite my insides and I’d ready myself, breath held, for the feet to round the corner. If the tootsies were housed in sandals or Dr Martens, I’d rummage in my combat pocket and arm myself with my awkward conversation prompts (Do you read much? Do you come here often? Did you know the Female Eunuch is not a story about a lady unicorn? Will you marry me? It’s not me who stinks etc) but it was only ever a librarian, or a buzzcut looking for the military section.
I held my position for months, and although the cavalry never materialised, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t register it as a defeat. As always, I had books as my armour, and with books came hope â&#x20AC;&#x201C; my time for gay friends would come. And besides, it might have been a bit embarrassing if the first feminist I commandeered had to explain that not all feminists are lesbians so no, she would not marry me. I had so much to learn!
Tasting Spite At The Back Of Your Throat (May Seventeenth) Elliott Dunstan May - self-fulfilling prophecies spiral nascent hallways unfolding and viral through tympanic - cochlear entranceway into the limbic system and the saturated membrane Your phone on speed dial, cortisol flood you’re sinking, faster than you could or should ten hours ago you were flying high (and high and high) and now the clouds won’t catch you and your eyes spark like dynamite everybody needs a villain, it’s your time to play the role so break a leg for the curtain call but pain won’t stop the show you didn’t write the script yourself but you’ve got your dreadful flair wicked words that sting and cut and bite and suck away the air. And god, it feels good to say it! god, it feels good to have some spite hands keep shaking – why won’t they stop it’s a borderline kind of night. May - self-fulfilling prophecies ring true the wolf who cried boy, transmuted anew you know you’re in the wrong this time, it’s never been in question - dance alone in your sepulcher victim of your own aggression.
7.5 Billion Flowers
Fires Mackenzie Bush Three guys on the bus are taking up seven seats, with backpacks and knees and so much entitlement I can smell it on them like cologne. The Oscar nominees were announced, and a horde of white men came onstage. I’ll admit, I couldn’t tell them apart. My roommate’s boyfriend calls her, more hot vodka than hot blood, asking her to pick him up from a party she wasn’t invited to. It’s 4 am. She works at 8. She goes anyway. A boy I dated in high school sends a Facebook message, hoping to rekindle something that was never a bonfire, but a runaway fireworks truck, a nuke that came this close to wiping out New York City. I don’t send anything back. I wish I could have shown him all of the places on my hippocampus that my therapist circled in Sharpie, the ones she said could kill me.
My father asks me why Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m never happy anymore in a teary car ride into the city. He remembers a little girl who ate watercolor paints for breakfast and m&mâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s for lunch and never thought about hurt, about the things that can go wrong when you let the wrong person touch you. I tell him I am happy, but in private, when it wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be seen as an exposed white underbelly, as a weakness.
Civilisation Theatre Alykhan Popat Stage One pens descend on paper like the drone strikes they authorise; The author eyes their handiwork death warrants in the guise of foreign policy - an autograph written in blood that stains the signerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hands shake as cameras flash Stage Two Praise comes through the airwaves by the Private Ministry of Information and Culture devouring lies like counterfeit vultures Hanging on every word of the empire they serve. Families listen, spoon-fed mistruths from the dinner table, as hands remain unclean Stage Three One wedding becomes seventy funerals become a thousand more Bodies strewn across the floor Parents hold dead children cradled in their arms. On bended knee they pray for help under their breath lest something else hear unflapping wings patrol the sky every second might be the last.
Stage Four Carnage lives above the fold and on website front pages as demands for aid swiftly follow Death and suffering executed for the sake of exploitation. calls for resignation echo Chamber fills with politicians calling for an end to what they so willingly began. Stage Five Earmarked funds go to private enterprises bidding for contracts, through their high level contacts Money allotted with special interests in mind Hospitals erected in regions thought to be far behind the industrialised world But what hope is there, when all can be undone by a flick of a wrist, with pen in hand?
Being You Meeni Levi Another cis person asks me â&#x20AC;&#x153;But what does it feel like, Being you?â&#x20AC;? and I say: It feels like stars peppered across my eyelids, Like my legs are made of satin And my chest is a bonfire. It feels like planets crawling under my skin And trying to escape Through my hair and tongue. It feels like singing in a foreign language, The syllables tastier Because meaningless to me. It feels like jumping into a pool, Like dancing in the rain, Like looking up at the moon. On good days, It feels like being embraced In the deepest part of me. Unsurprisingly perhaps, This response Was deemed unhelpful.
Home Isn’t a Place Meeni Levi A year and a half ago I made friends for the first time With people Who have never seen my natural hair color. They have also never known Me under my birthname. These facts, In my mind, Are somehow woven together. The picture they create Is one of belonging. Perhaps “I feel home” Has only ever meant “I feel like you know me.”
Disappearing Pills Mackenzie Bush I have disappearing pills, the color of avocado flesh. Sometimes, at the pharmacy, they come with a four-pack of Red Bull, a warm towel. But other times, the technician looks at me, sleepy eyes, tells me the price, more than the silence in my brainâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; a cavern a nightlight powdered sugar morningsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; is worth. I head home alone. I try to cover up my episodes with avocado face masks instead, fresh-baked bread and one million afghans, but my brain will stay a wind tunnel, the net at the back of a batting cage, a stone dipped in molasses at the bottom of a lake. I am grateful for the days with the little green pills. I know I deserve more of them.
About the Contributors Ali Russo Ali is a 23 year-old lesbian living with her girlfriend and rabbit (named Holly, but better known as Bun) in Allston, MA. when she’s not writing about how gay she is, she works as an editorial assistant in Medford. she also wants you to take some time to be kind to yourself today. Twitter: @heyokali Indira Jainanan Indira Jainanan (also known as Indira J or MetalSorcery) is a self-taught artist and writer born and raised in Bronx, NY. Lacking the resources to attend art school, she persisted, spending every waking moment trying to answer the lifelong question of “How Do I Draw Good?” Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr: @metalsorcery Abbie Stoner Abbie Stoner writes about queer girls, magic, and magical queer girls. She is the creator of The Green Mountain Witches Tarot and her work has been published by Crack the Spine, Slink Chunk Press, Dirty Words, Bad Apple, and Stonehenge II. When not writing or talking about intersectional feminism, she can be found doing tarot readings and avoiding cilantro at all costs. abbiestonerwrites.wordpress.com Ailisi Suli I go by Ailisi Suli online, and I have been drawing for most of my life. I am currently working on a couple of comics, though the progress is a bit slow since I am preparing to move to the Midwest to start my life with my three amazing partners. I am a pansexual polyamorous AFAB, and a lot of my newer art focuses on marginalized gender and sexual orientations. Tumblr: ailisisuli | DeviantArt: ailisi-suli
Mel Hello, my name is Mel. I’m 16 years old, pansexual, and live in the US. I’ve been writing for quite a few years now, but only just started on poetry. I’m hoping to use my writing to help normalize same-sex relationships and romances. Tumblr: mel-writes-and-rambles Sarah Walker Sarah Walker created Pun, 2, 3 comics in 2014. She is queer identified, and mostly self-taught, drawing comics on and off for most of her life. Her comics are often autobiographical and overloaded with puns, and frequently injected with social commentary. In addition to Canzine Festival, her comics have been featured in student newspapers, zines, and online magazines. Outside of the drawing room, Sarah performs stand-up comedy. pun23.com | Tumblr: pun23 | Facebook: @pun2three Fee Johnstone I live in Scotland and love writing. I’ve had work published in various zines including Paper and Ink, Razur Cuts, Glove Magazine and Ellipsis. I came third in the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize in 2016 and have work featured in Nothing Is As It Was, a charity anthology on climate change published by Retreat West; and F, M, or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary published by Knight Errant Press. I’m happiest when writing to the soundtrack of my two snoring cats. Twitter: @missfeeee Elliott Dunstan Elliott Dunstan is a queer Ottawa-based writer and poet currently working on a major in Greek and Roman Studies. Elliott has been previously published in the bird, philomela by battleaxe press and two separate issues of In/Words Magazine & Press, as well as releasing three collections of poetry. elliottdunstan.com | Twitter: @elliottdunstan
7.5 Billion Flowers There are flowers in all shapes and colors and sizes. They all need different conditions to grow and evolve. Some prefer the sun, some rather grow in shadows.They all attract different beings, they all have their very own times to bloom. But they all have one thing in common: They are all considered as full-value flowers. They are beautiful, even though they differ so much in so many ways. There are 7.5 Billion humans on this planet. We want that for them, too. With their non-profit project “7.5 Billion Flowers,” the two artists Raphaelle Roux & Sarah Nieves want to help people embrace themselves and internalize that our “normal,” in terms of body, mind and gender, is an illusion, formed by the media, filtered self-display, fairy tales & co. Just like flowers, there are so many different people - and although flowers differ so greatly in color, form and size, in the end they all are valid and beautiful; Just as we people are. 7-5-billion-flowers.jimdo.com Mackenzie Bush Mackenzie Bush lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She likes haunted locations and blue nail polish. Her work has appeared in Freeze Ray, Heavy Feather Review, and Gingerbread House. mackenziebush.wordpress.com | Twitter: @mackenzierbush. Ria Ermac Ria is a Filipino teenager who recently migrated to Australia and is very surprised about the new surroundings. Trying to hang on to Filipino culture while assimilating into Australian society is tough, but exchanging stories with people from different backgrounds helped in embracing that being different is perfectly normal. Tumblr: skellyjingles | Instagram: @skelton.draws
Alykhan Popat Alykhan is very interested in the legacy of the past several centuries of western colonialism, and uses their work to interrogate its effects, and how they might be undone and unlearned, through a de/anti- and even post-colonial framework. Frank Candiloro Frank Candiloro is a comic illustrator from Melbourne, Australia, having self-published over 20 comics under my publishing label of FrankenComics. Although these comics take influence from classic genres such as horror, sci-fi, westerns among others, they have an autobiographical emphasis in that they incorporate elements of their own life as an Agender person; these themes include body dysphoria, identity, gender and relating these themes through the more fantastical aspects of genre fiction. These comics have also been nominated for several awards, and one of them, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Monster Zeroâ&#x20AC;?, won the Bronze Ledger Award in 2015. Frank currently resides in Melbourne. Patreon, Gumroad, Facebook: frankencomics | Instagram: @frankencomix Meeni Levi Meeni Levi is an agender poet from Belgium. Ze has self-published two collections of poetry and a number of zines and wants to tell you everything about weird-looking jellyfish species. Tumblr: astrangershandwriting
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