Scraps of brown and black fabric, a pallet and small brush, a brown marker, and purple clay all resting on a beige desk blotter

How Cosplaying a Barbie as Reva Sevander is Helping Me Through Childhood Trauma

CN: mentions of mental health, violence against children, trauma

I’m 53 years old. Recently, I’ve experienced a triggering that brought me back right into the scene of events that were supremely not okay when I was a teenager. So, in case anyone tries to gaslight you with “Oh, that happened so long ago, why are you holding onto the past?” I’m here to say, “Sometimes the past holds onto you, and you don’t even know it.”

When childhood trauma comes to the forefront, it’s like I forget what age I am. I forget I am safe, loved, supported. Instead, I am hurled against my will right back into the tastes, smells (all the senses, really) of the horrible memory or event.

I am in therapy and have been for years, but this past week, I needed to pull the emergency break on the train of my life and schedule another session. (I had had a session the week before and I usually am okay with attending once a month.)

One of the things we concluded is that I should just focus on whatever I’d like to right now. A fun show, crafts, whatever draws me. Well, I had sort of a frenzied craft day the next day after therapy, but then I slowed down and focused on one thing in particular.

I am am a Massive Star Wars Nerd™. And I absolutely loved the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. There was so much mental health representation in it. My mentally-ill self and geeky self merged together to enjoy the heck out of the writing and acting.

Spoilery things!

A featured “villain” I never expected was Reva Sevander, played brilliantly by Moses Ingram as an adult and Ayaamii Sledge as a child. This Third Sister of the Jedi-hunters (Inquisitorius) was ruthless, skilled beyond belief, and even way more intense than the other Inquisitors. They were constantly reprimanding her for going too far. She was one fiercely angry woman.

But then we find out that Reva had been one of the youngling Jedi a decade earlier who had survived the slaughtering of all the other younglings by Anakin Skywalker, when he turned to the Dark Side. If I understand correctly, she might have been the only survivor.

And as an adult, Reva behaved like she had zero allies. She trusted herself only in her single-minded mission to hunt Jedi (who she probably all blamed for letting her and the younglings down) and Darth Vader, who was the murderer.

That’s a lot to carry.

Well, long story short, by the end, she decides not to kill ten-year-old Luke Skywalker, and you can see she’s just exhausted. You can tell the burden of carrying that trauma nearly killed her. And she wonders aloud what to do next.

So, I decided to do a visual fanfic of Reva, after Obi-Wan tells her she’s free. And this is what I imagined.

My cosplayed Barbie. Reva has medium brown skin, thin braids pulled into gathered hair behind her back. She’s dressed in brown and black and has a purple lightsaber. Beside her is a little brown puppy with cream face and chest.

With this outfit, she’s embracing the Jedi she wanted to be as a child but also owning the person she had to become to survive as Third Sister. She wears brown for the Jedi part and black for the Third Sister part. I thought perhaps she would reconfigure the crystal in her lightsaber so it’s purple. A combination of the blue and red. Also, in my head, this woman is just as skilled or more so than Mace Windu, who used to wield a purple saber too. I also figure she doesn’t align herself with anyone except the force-sensitive kids she henceforth chooses to protect. This is the path I picture for her.

Fun fact: I created this Reva from one of the Barbie Extra Fashionista dolls and kept the little judgmental puppy. Reva deserves a puppy. I mean, look at that side-eye!

Closeup of the brown and cream puppy. His glance is to the side, looking quite suspicious of something,

I know I never experienced the extreme event Reva went through, but just pondering about embracing the child and the survivor in her while I made this doll over helped me own myself a little more. And it’s important that no matter what age I become, I remember to nurture the younger side of myself and accept that trauma never really goes away. But I have more power to get to a safer space now, so I will be cared for as I process it. I have power to be open and hopefully influence others to be open too. I am an advocate for mental health, disability, and neurodiversity in literary circles. I am surrounded by loving friends.

I will be okay. Maybe not right at this second, but I will be.

But yeah, as I always say, never ever ever underestimate the power of fiction to reach people.

Greyscale closeup of Cait Gordon, a white woman with short silver hair, glasses, and a dark v-neck t-shirt

Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’CosmThe Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.