Content warning: Rape; sexual assault; abuse; dysphoria mention; transphobia; queerphobia
We both know there was a “before him.” I spent a long time thinking there would not be an after, and I still don’t know exactly what “after” means. Like, when do I get to switch from “healing” to “healed?” When does trauma go away? Honestly, I think sometimes that people expect me to slough off my rape and continue fucking “nice boys” until suddenly everything is made golden by the ultimate power of cisgender heterosexual monogamy– but I’ve tried that game, and I’m done. I’m also done with the people who see my queerness and non-binary gender as some sort of side effect, like I was raped into being trans and queer. To be frank, body, just between you and me, I think it’s easier for them to rename my gender and sexuality as a result of trauma than to accept that rape could happen to anyone, that fluidity is possible, that their system is –more or less– fucked, and that happiness for me might not be quite so profitable for their rom com.
Body, I admit, I don’t know how to be around you when you’re triggered. You mess up all my shit. How am I supposed to have sex when you won’t let me? No one wants to have sex with someone who cries all the time during it and screams about stuff that happened over four years ago. I know that other bodies sometimes remind you of his body, but you’re wrong; they’re not him. You’re wrong a lot. Sometimes things like breakfast and painting and the colour blue remind you of him, and it’s not like a pancake is going to try to have sex with me. So don’t act like you’ve got this all figured out.
But most of the time, even though I hate it, I think I get what you’re doing. In your own gross way, you’re just trying to protect me. You paid attention to all of the parts of abuse I’d overlooked because I was trying to pass high school AP Calc; it’s like you built up this muscle memory of what unhealthy situations feel like. When I feel uncomfortable or pressured, you make it so that I am mentally (and sometimes physically) incapable of having sex– Remember that time I got triggered with my ex and she refused to have sex with me again? That sucked. Body, that sucked really bad.
But I guess you also remind me that if I can’t give an enthusiastic “yes!” to the question “do you want to have sex right now?”, I shouldn’t push myself. If I don’t want to say yes, I really don’t have to, even if I’m just tired or gassy or would rather talk about different flavours of macaroni than have sex. I don’t have to have a “good” reason. I don’t even have to have a reason. I can just say no, and it doesn’t make me a prude or boring or messed up. All of the times we’ve been triggered in the past remind me that I am not obligated to provide sex for my partners. Any partner who is going to prioritize sex over my mental and emotional health is not the partner for me. And yeah, it’s hard to feel like people don’t want me because I get triggered sometimes. It’s really hard to feel like I’m fucked up or that I don’t have control over myself. But I also learned which of my partners could handle my tricky sex life as a rape survivor. I know, they didn’t sign up to handle my trauma, but then again, they didn’t sign up for anything.
Relationships are not a contract, body, and I do not require a waiver for someone to love me.
People keep on telling me that I should strive to have a normal sex life. And I’m like, “normal”? Are you fucking kidding me? Under rape culture, “normal” is coercion; “normal” is consent as an afterthought or not at all; “normal” is harassment and pushing, so no, I do not want to have a “normal” sex life. You know what I want, body? I want a healthy relationship. I want a healthy sex life. Fuck “normal.”
Body, I want to rewrite the dialogue. There is no “healed.” There is no end point. Trauma just doesn’t really work like that for me. I will always be a rape survivor. I will always be a polyamorous, transgender, queer rape survivor. So what that I don’t make good publicity for the mainstream cisgender feminists and their binary centrism. Like the cis feminist movement gives a shit about trans people anyway. They don’t even spout statistics for transgender survivors at their Take Back the Night shit (even though we suffer incredibly high rates of abuse and assault, especially those of us with intersecting marginalized identities). Body, it looks like it’s just going to be me and you and other trans people fighting for us. Well, at least we’re in good company.
Body, I know this letter’s getting long, but I just have a couple more things to say to you:
#1. Fuck you for all the bullshit you put me through. Like, making me hate my chest and shit. Don’t you know that it’s hard enough for me to get through the world without also hating parts of you? Don’t you know the world wants me to hate myself enough already? Body, other people already want me dead. I shouldn’t want me dead too.
#2. Thank you.
For teaching me to respect my limits, for sticking around, you know, for mostly doing what you’re supposed to do at least half of the time. You’ve got my back (ha! +1 for pun). Even after the top surgery (if I can ever afford it), even if my dysphoria ever goes away (not likely), even if twenty years of healthy sex pass, I know, we will never have a “normal” sex life. And that’s okay; I’ve never been good at “normal.” It’s too boring for me anyway.
Oliver Schminkey is another gem that I found on button poetry, and it was a poem with Neil Hilborn. a performance on surviving sexual assault. I was in awe, I was heartbroken, I was moved, I was speechless. So to put this letter in context, I recommend you watch this poem.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.