Scatterbrain thoughts on gender

I am angry

I am angry about gender

I am angry about the way I have been led to relate to myself

All my life, my gender has never lined up much with femininity, but people would always put me in that box and expect that performance of me

All my life, every single day, I have been subject to “positive reinforcement” whenever I portray conventional femininity

And I have been met with utter silence about any of my other gender expressions.

When I do my makeup

When I style my hair

When I wear dresses

People tell me I look great, I look beautiful, I look stunning, I look amazing, wow that is a fantastic outfit

Wow, I really clean up well

I was taught to cater to this

The only time I ever receive praise is when I’m performing femininity the way society wants me to

So of course I seek praise

I really clean up well

ie. I look “good” when I am furthest towards feminine in my glass elevator of gender

As compared to my other incarnations.

But now I am angry

I look great, I look beautiful, I look stunning amazing fantastic, in any variation of myself

Why do I only ever get acknowledged when I’m performing femininity

I feel like a monkey dressed in a costume

I don’t dance for you

I dance for myself.

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Trauma is a Complicated Thing

My last post didn’t cover everything I wanted to say about this topic, and it was a bit all over the place. The thoughts were all very fresh and I was still working through them, and I was also kind of dissociating at the time. Which brings me to the points I wanted to make in this follow-up.

Trauma is messy. It is messy and ugly and it doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. It has been brought up a lot recently, because of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, that there is no such thing as a perfect survivor. This is because rape is a complicated thing, and so is trauma. My personal experience is an excellent example of this. My story is just one story; it does not at all describe the experiences of every survivor of sexual abuse and assault, it may not even describe a lot of them. But it describes mine, and it is an important example of the myriad ways that trauma is messy.

I spoke in my last piece about the fact that I finally came to the conclusion that I have experienced rape. But the fact is, this wasn’t an earth shattering moment for me. I did not feel like I had been severely traumatized by my rapes; during them, I did not feel particularly violated. None of my trauma responses had come from those instances, or had been created by that relationship. That’s why it took me so long to identify it as rape. I didn’t quite feel like, just from those moments, I had been raped. BUT. That doesn’t actually mean that it wasn’t rape. Where the trauma did come from was the entire rest of the relationship. The rapes in particular didn’t really seem to affect me because they were simply one symptom of an already broken, toxic relationship. The decay had seeped so deeply into my bones that doing something I was not interested in doing was just a minor annoyance that was part of the norm. Those moments were part of an entire context of feeling disrespected, dismissed, and less than. So they did not stick out to me as particularly traumatizing; they were simply reinforcing trauma responses I had already learned.

There were other instances in that relationship that left more of a traumatic memory for me; one moment when I had felt triggered and told my partner not to touch me and instead he lay there poking me over and over again as I cried silently, telling him to stop, stop, stop. In a relationship dynamic like that, continuing to do something sexual — that I had stopped wanting to do ten minutes previously — just to stop my partner from giving me the silent treatment seemed pretty mundane in comparison. Hence never really realising or feeling like I had been raped. When coercion and a lack of respect have become the norm, rape is almost an inevitable because one cannot truly give consent in an environment of coercion.

Where I did experience a LOT of trauma, and developed a lot of my coping methods and trauma responses, was from the relationship before. A relationship in which I never even got touched. I never even met him in person. This is where my major trauma lies, and all of my typical responses to trauma happened. My shame. My flashbacks and triggers. My self-destructive coping mechanisms. My dissociation. My shame is still so overwhelming I never even talk about this experience as a relationship. How could I have been so easily manipulated, let my entire life be controlled, by someone I didn’t even know face-to-face.

But the fact is undeniable; I was emotionally abused and sexually exploited to an extreme in this relationship, and I suffered severe trauma. I felt incredibly violated and degraded during that online relationship, and I was emotionally blackmailed into doing things I was intensely uncomfortable with or even disgusted by. I became disgusted with myself. For a long time afterwards, certain phrases or situations would trigger an extreme response; I would burst into tears, or almost throw up, and I would not want to be touched. I was told a lot of horrible things about myself, and I started to internalize them. When I ended the relationship, I resorted to self-sabotaging coping mechanisms as a way to attempt to work through my feelings and take back the control I had felt I lost.

So clearly, I experienced a great deal of abuse and developed trauma responses from the situation that seems, out of context, far less terrible than a rape. And my rapes simply reinforced my trauma of the relationship as a whole, rather than being particular instances of intense trauma in and of themselves. Trauma presents itself in unexpected ways, and events that may seem more traumatic to an outsider can sometimes feel less so than other moments in our lives. Survivors of sexual abuse and assault each experience their trauma in a different way, and each of us cope in our own ways.

Expecting every survivor to fit into your expectations is not only unfair and unrealistic, but dangerous too. In our legal system, the knowledge that trauma is a complicated thing is not given space for consideration. The expectation is that abuse survivors will all share very similar experiences and thus will act in a particular way. But this is not the truth of our realities. When the reality of survivors’ experiences are not accepted or acknowledged, justice cannot be served, and verdicts like that of the Jian Ghomeshi trial become commonplace. Even when a survivor’s experience contradicts everything you think you know about trauma and people’s responses to it, you must acknowledge that you cannot possibly know their truth. Only they do. Please, believe survivors.

Rape is a Complicated Thing

Tonight I realised that I’ve been raped. I had already recognised and identified a previous sexual assault, and sexual abuse, throughout my life. But this took me a lot longer to see. My rapist would never, in a million years, believe that he is a rapist. If he found out that I was saying this, he would probably roll his eyes, and be genuinely amazed and astonished by my ability to make a mountain out of a molehill.

 

There are a lot of people who, upon hearing the details without the context, would also be quick to tell me that it really isn’t a big deal and really isn’t rape. But the thing is, rape is a complicated thing. Rape needs context.

 

My rapist would absolutely have stopped if I had told him to. So then, how could that possibly be rape? My rapist created an environment in which I felt like I couldn’t say no. But it’s tricky, because I didn’t feel like I was in physical danger if I said no. I didn’t think he would hit me, or “rape-rape” me. Rape doesn’t only happen when the survivor feels like there will be dire, life-threatening consequences when they say no. It doesn’t only happen when they fight back. It doesn’t only happen when it’s a stranger in an alley.

 

The only real consent is enthusiastic, freely given consent. There’s a reason this has grown to be the understanding of consent in activist circles, instead of simply the “yes means yes” phrase. Because consent becomes coerced easily and, sometimes, gently.

 

I never told my rapist to stop. I never told my rapist “maybe.” I never told my rapist “not right now.” I never told my rapist “I’ve changed my mind.” I never told my rapist anything. I never felt, at the time, like I was being raped. But I’ve finally realised that none of that matters.

 

Rape happens as soon as consent becomes tainted with coercion.

 

Times when I stopped doing sexual things when I felt like stopping, my rapist would get sulky. He would give me the silent treatment. He would snap at me. He would spend the whole night subtly punishing me for my decision. It didn’t take long for me to feel like just carrying on even when I didn’t want to anymore was better than stopping. He created an environment where “no” had consequences, consequences that may simply be a minor annoyance – but enough of a consequence for me to feel like it wasn’t worth the trouble to say no.

 

Rape is what happens when someone feels like it’s not worth the trouble to say no.

In Significance.

I did something significant yesterday. Well the thing is, it really seems very INsignificant. And I suppose in the grand scheme of things, it of course IS insignificant. But shush, I’m being all deep.

So throughout my life, I have events — even just tiny little random memories — that are tied to objects for me. Obviously this isn’t just the case for me, I’m assuming you all can relate here. So you know that as life goes on, more and more objects have memories tied to them. That toy cat that my friend gave to me as a thank-you gift after I attempted to teach them guitar. That CD that I listened to while playing with that toy, with my childhood friend who moved away years ago. More emotionally significant memories, like that love letter my first love wrote to me, or that art set I received from my grandfather who has now passed away. It’s not just objects, either — that bay where my best friend and I kayaked and lay in the sun-warmed water for hours. That forest where my friends and I would hike every weekend.

As life goes on, more and more things have a person tied to them by memory. Less and less things are meaningless, less things exist in my life that don’t remind me of someone, sometime. This is, of course, not a bad thing. I cherish memories of my friends and family and past loves, even if they’re painful at certain points in life. But I also cherish the things I have that are not tied to anyone. The things that exist in a sort of vacuum, that don’t make me think of anyone at all. Things that will never be painful for me to find tucked in the bottom of the drawer, because they will never be tied to anyone who I loved or lost. They’re things in my life that are completely and utterly my own.

So when I willingly and knowingly give up one of those things, allow them to be taken out of that emotional vacuum, it is a significant act because of what it symbolizes. And despite it being such a tiny, trivial thing in the long run, it makes me feel strangely vulnerable. Willingly allowing my vacuum-sealed, memory-free, untouched-by-time item to become linked to someone. To give it the potential to bring back painful memories in the future, or to make me feel nostalgic and oh-so-different, my-how-things-have-changed. To share with something else even a tiny little thing that was for so long completely, entirely my own. I guess it displays my trust in that person, my faith that whatever memories become linked to that item will be worth it. That they are such a significant person to me that even a memory that might be painful someday is still a memory I will cherish.

No, there wasn’t really any specific point to this post. I was just making use of my blog to spew my random thoughts :D I just find things in life like this to be very interesting. Do you have any objects or places that you cherish specifically because they are not linked to anyone at all? Do you cherish them because they represent a part of yourself and your life that will always be entirely yours?

I’m Studying Sticking Pencils Up My Nose.

“Music is EASY”. Music is a SOFT course, you don’t have to WORK, you just sit around doing what you already enjoy and already spend time doing. You don’t know hard work until you try engineering or chemistry. This is what I hear all the time.

Go read about “The Picasso Principle”.

Do you want to attempt to do what I do? No I mean like, really — here, take my saxophone. Look, I’ve even supplied the ideal mouthpiece and reed to get the perfect jazz tone out of it. That’s already work done for you. That alone took years of trying out different reed types and thicknesses, different mouthpiece materials, different opening sizes, different barrel types. Not that you know what any of that means. But I digress. Now put it in your face and play. Oh, wait, you can’t? You don’t know how? You’ve never played the saxophone except maybe in elementary school music class? Maybe even high school, okay, well then you’re already a pro right there aren’t you. Oh wait, except you’re not.

Because it takes time. Oh lord, how much time it takes. My point is not “haha, you can’t play an instrument”. My point is that I had to start where you are and then take so, so much time and so, so much hard work to get where I am right now — able to play my saxophone competently. It is a professional who makes their art look easy, like it comes so naturally. Well, it DOES come naturally. After years. Decades. And we’re forever working. FOREVER working to improve, because we’re never as good as we could be. We can always get better.

You want to pay me shit all to play at your crappy little business venue? You want to tell me that music is easy, I don’t work hard doing a degree in music? Well obviously I don’t, I mean look at how good my marks are! It couldn’t possibly be that it’s taken years of hard work to become good enough for something to be easy.

If you spent as many hours a day, for as many years of your life, focusing on practising lots of exercises with mathematical equations and formulas as musicians spend practising their instruments, you would find university calculus just as easy and natural as musicians find playing music. If you spent as many hours a day, for as many years of your life, reading that biology textbook and memorizing those terms and how those proteins relate to that one, you would ace your bio exam as easily as musicians ace performances.

Don’t even tell me about how many bajillion hours you spent studying for that bio exam this year. I have played my saxophone for EIGHT YEARS. I practised for AT LEAST two hours every single day for four years. And that’s not as much as most people, the actually-dedicated musicians. You just feel like you do so much more studying because you’ve crammed it all into these past however-many-years of university, the first time you’ve really focused on the subject to the same extent that musicians focus on music throughout their lives.

I don’t practise as much as I used to, admittedly. So my number of hours spent practising my sax this year is probably around the same level of the hours you spent studying for those tests and exams or working on your calculus homework all year. But hey, guess what? I didn’t ace my music classes, and I didn’t find them easy as pie. We’re in the same boat when we spend the same amount of time on things. Why is that?

Music is HARD. That’s why.

And you are exactly the reason feminism exists…

apparently this fairly famous satirical list of “sexual assault prevention tips” is “by far the most sexist thing I’ve read tonight” according to someone on a facebook friend’s link to the aforementioned article.

Why?

” I’m just tired of feminist bullshit that assumes that because i’m a man, i’m going to rape peoples. It’s just annoying”

Which is fucking rich, considering it’s coming out of the mouth (well… fingers…?) of someone who sexually assaulted me and several of my friends.

Dear sir. You are the very reason the people you hate exist. I like to think that with every ignorant, bigoted, privilege-dripping sentence people like you spew, another feminist is born. Keep up the good work.