(cross posted from Pam’s House Blend)
Earlier this week I posted about two areas where transgender people remain invisible to non-trans people. I shared some of Shannon’s homily where she told accounts concerning employment and health care.
Today I share the third and last section of Shannon’s homily–a section about sexual assault. When I first heard these words at the United Methodist Church that hosted the day long event designed to look at transgender issues and concerns, I was struck by the violence of the assault, but more so by how the people around the trans woman telling the story invalidated and belittled her experience.
I was raped.
I can’t really make that flowery. I can’t pretty it up or find some more eloquent way of saying it. I’ve tried so hard to turn it into the piles of words I paint everything with that I’ve failed to just say it.
I know I’m not alone in it. It’s something more than a third of women in general, and more than half of trans women specifically, can say. It took me a long time to admit that I, too, can say it.
I was repeatedly sexually assaulted a few years ago. There’s not any way to put that that I can really come up with that doesn’t amount to protecting you and me from the simple fact that a while ago, I was repeatedly fucked without my consent.
But my getting fucked didn’t stop there, and that’s why I’m finally fighting down the nausea and saying something about it in public and exposing myself to even more of the kind of nastiness that I find the Internet is happy to deliver. So I won’t make this pretty either:
After I was raped, I was re-victimized by transphobia and transmisogyny.
It was in all the people who said I was “really” a man, and therefore couldn’t have been sexually assaulted, and therefore didn’t offer support and resources I needed to recover.
It was also in the people who saw that the person who did it, female-assigned and genderqueer, as “really” a woman and therefore unable to perpetrate sexual assault in the first place.
It was in the administrators and healthcare professionals who were told that I was dosed with hard liquor I didn’t know I was drinking and then thrown down behind a locked door after I got back from the ER for alcohol poisoning, and decided the important thing to address about that situation is that I clearly must have had a drinking problem.
It was in the people who saw I was trans and therefore decided that I must have invited what happened to me. After all, you know how they are. They’re into that kind of kinky stuff. Hell, I hear trans women get raped on purpose, and that’s one of the reasons they’re so especially suited to prostitution, which they do in order to get off on victimizing female bodies they can control. Hell, I hear they’re dangerous and mostly rapists themselves, and that’s why they can’t be allowed into public bathrooms or rape crisis centers.
It was in all the messages I absorbed about how nobody would ever love me or consider me desirable again, about my freakish and unacceptable body that was good only as a revolting punchline, and how someone pinning me down and not taking “no” for an answer was the best I could ever hope for, so why not lie back and pretend that hey, it’s at least someone willing to look at me without clothes on and call me “she,” and that makes it okay.
It was in knowing that I certainly couldn’t ask for help, because everyone around me was still having a hard enough time with my coming out in the first place.
It was in all the people who wouldn’t believe me anyway, because being trans meant I was obviously unstable and an unreliable narrator of my own experiences.
It was in the missing support from birth family, who rejected me when I came out a few months before by telling me I would never find anyone to understand or love me, that I was making up a sick lie to hurt them, that children shouldn’t be exposed to people like me and I could never have a family of my own. It was in all the threats to disown me if I didn’t knock it the hell off, which certainly didn’t help make me vulnerable to the sort of person who looks for lonely, isolated, desperate people who have a hard time fighting back or standing up for themselves.
It was in the missing support from many of my friends, many of whom quietly vanished from my life as soon as I came out, many more of whom trickled away in the months following, often without even bothering to make excuses.
It was in the vulnerability caused by my sharp and steep downward economic mobility as my family’s support dried up to a coercive trickle and I found myself suddenly and mysteriously unable to get so much as a job interview to wash dishes, which left me unable to afford healthcare or therapy or, for that matter, basic nutrition. It was in the constant indignity of eating out of the garbage and the messages that reinforced about what I deserved from other people. It was in being too busy surviving to look after my recovery or even stop for a few minutes to deal with what happened to me.
It was in all the voices telling me I was demanding so much of society by asking it to accept me as a woman that I didn’t dare ask for anything else, like help.
It was in all the voices telling me that someone showing up in my bedroom at all was the best I could ever hope for, and if beggars can’t be choosers then monsters can’t either, and what’s regular sexual abuse as a price to pay for someone, anyone, willing to be seen with you in public or touch you at all?
It was in all the people who let me know my place and that I should be grateful for being allowed to live at all, and shouldn’t be complaining, and why couldn’t I just be a man anyway and move on?
You know what else it was in? It was in my not talking about it until now.
It was in all the fears I had about saying anything because of the ways that would reflect on my whole community. It was in all the ways I could be afraid that my talking about my rape would reinforce stereotypes about trans women of color as tragic, agency-stripped victims, as sex fiends, as people who invite rape on themselves. It was in all the conversations I swallowed about the subject because I didn’t want to make the community look bad by saying I’d been assaulted by another trans person. It was in every stereotype of deceptive trans people that told me that I wouldn’t be believed if I spoke up. It was in the ways I knew that victim-blaming that would be unacceptable to my supposed political comrades about a cissexual woman would rear its head and ask why I didn’t fight back harder–why let this person come back again and again and let it happen more than once–why I covered it up by making jokes about it for five years as a buffer against letting it take me apart–because it wouldn’t be asking, it’d be telling, and the answer would be because you’re trans. It was in my dread that even this, even this could be interrupted by someone asking me to justify my transition instead of letting me be a human being with a story.
It was in an awful, hollow truth: that I even had some fond memories of the person who did it, that there was ambivalence, because they were the first person I’d ever been involved with who would at least call me their girlfriend and didn’t recoil from the reality of my transition. Even though they used it and its accompanying vulnerability to do unacceptable things to me. And that that ambivalence, not uncommon for survivors of sexual assault especially by intimate partners, would damn me as a trans woman and make a thousand vicious stereotypes more convincing. How much hate are you supposed to have for the person who raped you? What’s the acceptable cutoff before people start believing you asked for it? What about when you’re trans?
It was in knowing something even worse: that if the rape had turned into murder, still, I’d have been “asking for it” as soon as it hit the courts and newspapers.
You can read the rest of the post here.