It seems you can’t get away from it in the news these days. Yet, as a femme it’s whats lurking around the corner, in the elevator, down the street, in your house, at work, at your church… it’s everywhere. It’s the dark secrets passed on. It’s a horrific rite of passage. It’s the weapons gifted to our daughters. It’s dress codes. It’s rumors. It’s never walking home alone. It’s getting your ass grabbed at a concert. It’s knowing how to make a fist with your keys protruding out. It’s the uncle no one will leave you alone with, if you’re lucky. It’s the darkness in your mother’s eyes. It’s the lightness in your auntie’s skin. It’s the fear you get when you find out your unborn child will be assigned female at birth. It is sexual assault. It is harassment. It is molestation. It is rape. It is the reality of being female in this world.
I write this and live as a survivor. A survivor of molestation at the age of 6. A survivor of a photographer with ill intentions at the age of 15. A survivor of rape in my late 20s. A survivor of navigating the world as a femme. I know what it feels like to keep a secret. I know what it feels like to be ashamed because I’ve been drunk and thought a friend would make sure I was protected but instead watched and called me a slut a decade later. I know what it’s like to be seen as an object. I know what it’s like to be scared to take out my trash at night. The fear that you won’t be able to fend of the inevitable stranger making your body their war ground. The hardest part is knowing that my story isn’t isolated. My own family has untold stories of rape and molestation. Experiences told with little detail because it hurts too much. Moments lost in the barrage of shame and sadness. Glimpses into the darkness. Brushed aside because it is just reality.
I am grateful that I was able to find relief in the folds of a composition notebook, at a young age. My healing came from not holding it in any longer. Yet, I learned that writing it down wasn’t enough. So I began performing to release the grasp of my darkness. It was in those days, that I learned that my stories weren’t isolated. I learned that I wasn’t alone. These stories just don’t come out in my moments on stage. They also rear their head in moments when a group of femmes get together and feel safe enough to share. You’ll hear tales of what weapons they were gifted when they began to navigate the world outside of their family. Mace. Pocket knives. Machetes in bedrooms. Hammers on book shelves. Baseball bats by doors. We all have them. Protection for when they come into your house. Protection for when you’re walking down the street. This is the reality of the world.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to be vocal about what has happened to me in my life. My journey to healing hasn’t been perfect, hasn’t always been healthy and I am honestly, just in the beginning stages. Yet, it is all those things that have brought me to this place. A space where I can be honest, in a time when others are coming out publicly with their stories. Sexual assault is engrained in our society and we are in the midst of a shift. With that shift comes push back. The comments of “well, she was drunk.” IT DOESN’T MATTER! The whispers of “well, they are prostitutes.” IT DOESN’T MATTER! The tired adage of “boys will be boys” needs to be retired. These reaction to countless femmes coming out is proof that we have so much work to do.
Let me say this simply. If at any point a person says they do not want to have sex, then you must stop. PERIOD. Even if they’re naked. Even if they are drunk. Even if they are a sex worker. Even if 5 seconds earlier, they said yes. No means no. I wish that no one on this Earth will know the horror of having someone enter their body without permission. I wish that I could write this and sexual assault would end, but I know it won’t. Not until we teach our sons about consent. Not until we stop policing our daughter’s bodies. Not until patriarchy dies. I know that not only femmes get assaulted and I feel for every person that has to go through this. Yet, this is about the systemic grasp of sexual assault that is engrained in our culture, our psyche and that we have normalized for far too long.
I am sharing this for all those that have to listen as news reporters spew ignorance steeped in dangerous masculinity. To you, please know you are not alone. No matter where you are on your journey of healing, be kind to yourself. To those that have been fortunate to not have to know the horror of sexual assault, believe those that share their stories with you, outside of judgement. We for too long have placed blame on the victim for not being able to protect themselves. That must end. The time has come for us to prevent these heinous acts from happening. Teach people about consent. Teach femmes that they have agency over their own bodies. We must break free from the thinking that these acts are okay. We must stop normalizing sexual assault of femmes or anyone for that matter. Let us work for the next generation to live a life outside of these horrors. Let us hope for a day when stories like mine will be isolated. Or even better, a world where gender does not come with a pretext of how your treated.