‘Tulpa’ and Healing Through Writing
You want to know something crazy?
I didn’t always write about queer Black women. As a matter of fact, I didn’t write LGBT people or people of color at all. There were women, sure, but in my imagination they were all waifish white teenagers or twentysomethings (nothing like big, Black me) with flowing locks (not like my kinky hair).
Yes, me–the queer Black womanist whose politics are just shy of radical–could not imagine fantasy and horror with people like me as the protagonist.
Looking back on it, I think I internalized a lot of trauma about race, gender and sexuality. I didn’t want to write about people who were gay, Black, and female because of it. I had conceptualized these things as limiting, painful and ugly. And, yes, I had seen myself that way too. It made me mourn being Black, female, and gay.
On the surface, I had an intellectual grasp of the systemic nature of racism, sexism and heterosexism. But that did not translate into confidence or a sense of my own worth and the value of the history of my people. Even an awareness of the structural nature of the problem did not help me get to a place where I could heal.
Then Tulpa, or Anne&Me happened.
I can’t recall what made me want to start writing conversations to a fictional Anne Hathaway about racism sexism, and how the two combine. I think I was sitting on a lot for a very long time and had only started getting to a place where I could verbalize it. And at the time there was no one I felt I could really talk to about it, not even other women of color.
I didn’t set out to write Black Womanhood In America: The Play. Black women are far too complex for that. But I had this urge to write about it, to make plain not the intellectual, but the emotional and psychological aspects of my lived reality. Talking about my feelings is only slightly less uncomfortable than having a dentist prod at my teeth at the best of times. Yet something told me that, for this play to be real and genuine, I had to speak my truth in the way I experienced it.
So I did, and the process was a lot like lancing a wound. It was not always comfortable–oh my God, the things that came out! Anne’s mouth and the things [Name] believed about herself. But by giving voice to my frustration, my heartache, my resentment and my yearning to be understood and loved because of my gay Black self and not despite it, I began to get rid of the pus and poison that had built up in my system.
Over the years, I have been told, in so many words, that I was crazy (incapable of correctly perceiving reality), stupid (incapable of accurately interpreting reality), or evil (acting out of malice) for paying attention to race and gender and daring to talk about it, especially if it meant talking back to white and male persons who would rather I not speak at all.
Tulpa changed things because now I realize that is their problem. Their reactions to my mentioning sexism or racism in daily discourse is a reflection of their own internalized misogynoir, not an intellectual or moral failing on my part.
I hadn’t known it at the time, but writing Tulpa saved my life — not my physical self, but the part of me that is alive and awake. Through writing it and sharing it with the world, I was able to help myself and others. And I made my way into a friendship and community with other alive and awake women of color (some of whom no longer inhabit a body, but whose presence and wisdom are with us still.)
If I had kept the things I wrote there to myself, if I kept secret those things that made me fragile and vulnerable as a Black woman, I never would have been able to do this. I never would have been able to grow into a place where I could write Encanta, the play that celebrates the parts of myself that I used to lament.
What about you? Is there a specific thing you’ve created that has caused a seizmic shift in your consciousness? Tell me about it.