Texas-Bred Dragon Lady Tiamat Medusa Takes Body Modification to the Extreme

(Courtesy photos)

Originally published in the San Antonio Current.

On a late-night YouTube binge, I unexpectedly met Tiamat Medusa, a trans woman from Bruni, Texas, who’s shed her human skin to become a dragon. But it wasn’t the tattooed scales that cover her face and body or the reptilian horns implanted in her head that inspired me to look deeper — it was her words on identity, the evils humanity is capable of and her optimistic outlook that resonated. A few months ago, Tiamat spread her wings to journey from her native Texas to Los Angeles. Although she’s facing significant hardships — such as homelessness, mental illness and being HIV-positive — there’s still hope in her words that can touch anyone who’s ever felt alienated, alone or bullied. Featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Shatter Your Senses!, Tosh.0 and numerous blogs, Tiamat is a known presence in the body-modification community for her reptilian transformation, but her story reveals a ravaged heart that’s weathered the storm.

To this day, Tiamat is subject to cruelty for her striking, altered state. But there’s a metaphorical aspect to the traumatic childhood event that led to her origin story. “I was abandoned by my mom and my stepdad in the woods in the middle of Texas, the land of the western diamondback rattlesnake,” Tiamat told the Current. “When I was left out there, it was nighttime and my parents just drove off. All I could see into the night was the fading red lights of the car and then suddenly it was all pitch darkness. That’s the moment when my human parents ceased to be my parents and I adopted the rattlesnakes as my own parents … By throwing me out, [my parents] rejected me … I was not worth being loved and I was repulsive to them. The way they treated me made me feel the way humans mistreat rattlesnakes.” This began Tiamat’s transformation out of the human body she was born with to become another misunderstood creature. “[People are] scared of rattlesnakes and kill them for no reason at all … and they have done nothing to anyone. That’s my story: I’m the story of the rattlesnake. That’s why I’m becoming that rattlesnake myself and my full-body tattoo is a tribute to my reptilian rattlesnakes, the western diamondback rattlesnakes in particular.”

But Tiamat is now in the process of evolving into something more fantastical — a dragon. “My transformation has a multitude of meanings; it’s a complex process with various meanings, some of them relating to my son. I am morphing from just being a rattlesnake to becoming a dragon, which is what I evolved into. Like a Pokémon evolves … my son and I, when he was just a child, used to watch Pokémon every day … it’s still one of my favorite cartoons.” But another tragedy sparked Tiamat’s next phase of evolution. She said, “My son has been estranged from my life going on seven years now. When my son stopped seeing me, when he rejected me, it was at that point that I became a dragon.”

Despite that darkness, there’s a silver lining in the form of another child’s adoration. “It’s not only about my son, the reason I am a dragon right now is also a two-fold meaning. I have a friend in Germany who has a three-year-old son. Once, when she was looking through her friends list on her laptop, her son asked, ‘Who is that? I want to see her.’ And it was my picture. She took her son to my profile to show him my pictures, and he said, ‘She’s beautiful. She’s a dragon and I love dragons.’ He then grabbed the laptop away from his mom and kissed me on the computer screen. He used to go to bed at night and say, ‘Mommy, I am not afraid to be in the dark by myself because my dragon is protecting me.’”

Bullying is also a theme in Tiamat’s South Texas upbringing. But rather than eroding her will, it’s made her stronger. “I first experienced bullying when I went into the fourth grade and it continued all the way until my sophomore year … You don’t have to give up because you’re bullied. Reach out. When I was a kid, there was no one for me to reach out to. I had no support system. I was the only gay person in town … I just decided to tell everyone at school because I didn’t care that I was gay and I was not going to hide from anyone so I would never have to be in the closet. To me, closets are for clothes and shoes.”

On a deeper level, Tiamat described moments of feeling overpowered with negativity. “I have been suicidal since I was a teenager … and I’ve had five failed suicide attempts … I finally realized I have a purpose in life and I’m here to stay until the universe decides my purpose has been completed. That is being what I am right now and who I am, speaking out and sharing my story, hoping to give others out there inspiration … There is someone to talk to and, if nothing else, talk to me. I’m always open to people [who want] to talk to me about how to handle their bullying situations.”

Unfortunately bullying extends beyond the schoolyard, but Tiamat has words for those who judge her based on the surface. “What I’m doing to myself is to myself, it affects my body and my life … It’s not affecting anyone else … Those people who get on the Internet and say all kinds of ugly stuff are the sad part of the population who are running around with a closed mind and being judgmental. Sadly, many of them are clutching the bible and their rosary. Because of these people, I choose to not be called human anymore.”

Tiamat has hit some road bumps in the process of becoming a California resident but isn’t looking back. “I am homeless but I am not homesick,” she told us. “I had an official, set-in-stone plan five months in advance before I even got here … to become roommates with someone who I was friends with for four and a half years, but … that so-called roommate vanished. So suddenly I’m homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.”

As with many victims of trauma, a fresh start in a new place can be the best medicine. In Tiamat’s case, that fresh start includes access to medical marijuana. “The primary reason I left Texas to come to Los Angeles was for medical marijuana,” she said. “I have medical conditions that require me to smoke marijuana, otherwise I cannot eat because I have no appetite. I start dry-heaving. I am also suffering and being treated for mental illness, as I have depression, anxiety and psychosis. A lot of my mental health issues stem from the events in my early stages of life throughout my adult life.”

Yet there’s more to why Tiamat traded Texas for the flashing lights of Hollywood. “Another reason I moved to California is for opportunities, and I have about a dozen gigs already lined up from different agencies. I’m going to be setting my first world record for Guinness World Records.” The record she hopes to set is top secret, but may be revealed in the year ahead. Also on her horizon is a scheduled pitch to Comedy Central for a show called Comedy Copter, creating art after a three year break, and her directorial debut of a body-modification documentary and sequel to Modified. Speaking with excitement about Modified 2, she said, “It’s going to be an awakening. The body-modification community is huge and people don’t even know there is such a thing. It’s time for us to wake the sleeping giant and show the world that modified people are pretty much just like everyone else. Some of them, like myself, take things into the extreme, a higher level, but it doesn’t make us the evil monsters that a lot of people portray us to be.”

Tiamat gets emotional explaining one of her most-anticipated surgeries. “My big plan for next year is to get my vagina,” she said. “I’ve been on hormones for six years now and last year, I got a prostatectomy because I don’t use my junk. It’s like tits on a boar hog — totally worthless — so I am a eunuch and I love it. I love the feeling of not having testicles because those dangling parts really bothered me a lot and did a number on my psyche. It made me feel a lot more feminine not having those and now Mr. Bone Jangles has got to go and is set to be on the chopping block next year.”

With her three beloved service dogs, or “reasons for living,” by her side, Tiamat is owning the streets of Skid Row with her punk-rock attitude. And, thankfully, a recent negative experience with a security officer didn’t get under her scaly skin. “The head of security at the other shelter I was at just didn’t like my look. He and another security guard there were very rude to me just because of my appearance … I also got threatened by another guy when I was waiting for the elevator, where he told me I needed to be killed.”

Despite these interactions, Tiamat is still a proud, newly minted California girl. She said “Honestly … the number of people who have gone out of their way to be ugly and verbally attack me has been on the minimum side compared to other places. I have been to many states, and California is the first state that I have received such a tremendous, overwhelmingly positive reaction and acceptance from the general public.”

Expanding on her reptilian nature while embracing her humanity, Tiamat described how her childhood epiphany affects her in social settings: “Years ago, I started stepping away from a lot of human contact because I’m becoming more of my reptilian self. You don’t see reptiles running around all over the streets, they come out at certain times … reptiles are shy creatures … so I’m just conforming to my true nature as a reptilian. But I’m a reptoid as I’m half human and half reptile, so I can be out in the street when I feel like embracing my humanity a little bit and say ‘hi’ to people. And people take pictures of me everywhere I go. It’s been a really interesting experience for me being homeless in Los Angeles to the point of where I am going to be making a video sharing my experience here and talking about what it’s like living on Skid Row.”

Throughout her early struggles in LA, the love from everyone who knows her heart and her story has illuminated even the darkest days she’s faced. “When people on Facebook and Instagram found out I was homeless, a lot of people stepped up to the plate and asked me where they can send me money, so people would send me what they could through Instagram or Western Union. Because of this, they kept me off the street and I wouldn’t have been able to make it without people from here, Texas, around the United States and even some people outside of the country donated to my cause. The number of people who helped out was so overwhelming. I became emotional from the outpour of support from everyone. Thank you to everyone for the love and support because during this last month it’s been really hard.”

Even though money is useful, the emotional support is worth more than its weight in gold. “I was sent financial aid to pay for hotel rooms and food because I used up all my resources. That was really important to me but equally important to me is the love and support that people show in the form of prayers, a lot of people lit a white candle, some were reaching out to me and letting me know they were there and were supportive. I’ve had people aid me and come to my assistance in many different ways, one of the ways that meant so much to me was that they were rooting for me, that they love me, and that they were there for me if I needed them. That meant a lot to me, as much as the financial help.”

Aside from support from friends on social media, the community — including the transgender community — has given back to get Tiamat back on her feet, highlighting why public programs are vital. “This crisis that I found myself in was an all-across-the-board crisis — I was having a financial and emotional crisis. When I left Houston, I inadvertently left my extra medication, so I went for three and a half weeks without my antidepressants, and I was having really bad episodes when I was on the street. Finally, with the help of my new case manager in LA from the Trans Latina Coalition, I was able to get an appointment with a psychiatrist who helps homeless people get [their] medical needs taken care of.”

A brief encounter Tiamat had on the street is a perfect end to this story. “I’m having fun with my transformation and there are a lot of people who hate it, hate me for just how I look. Last night, when I was walking down the street in Skid Row, one guy looked at me and asked when did I want to become the devil. I said, ‘The devil? What do you mean?’ He then asked if I was reptilian, and I said yes. He said that reptiles are the devil. And I said. ‘Humans are the devil. You got it all wrong.’”


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