Shattering Taboos: Let’s Talk about Sexual Assault

By Joanna Poppyfield, student

Trigger Warning: Contains details of sexual assault

I am a firm believer in the power of open, honest dialogue as a prerequisite to healing. Not just personal healing, but collective healing. At Stanford, we need to improve dialogue around sexual assault and rape if we want to truly beginning to address the fact that we have a real problem with sexual assault and rape on our campus and to heal the wounds that afflict far too many of us.

Just a few facts to put this all in perspective (all obtained from the Stanford Daily):

  • 4% of Stanford students reported having been raped, while 7% reported in a Health Promotion Services survey that they had been penetrated against their will
  • 15% of people reported having sex under pressure, according to the same survey
  • 9% of the general student body, 13% of straight women, 28% of gay/bi/lesbian identified students, 11% of gay men and 15% of students who did not select a gender option have experienced attempted, non-consensual penetration, again according to the HPS survey.
  • Furthermore, over 50% of students surveyed reported being forcibly fondling, unwantedly touched or kissed, again according to the survey through HPS.
  • According to Angela Exson, Assistant Dean of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse, “the average offender will commit [sexual] crimes seven times before any action is taken against them.”
  • The worst statistic though, in my opinion, is that 28% of victims had no one to talk to about their experiences.

tape over faceThese statistics paint a really telling picture of the state of sexual assault and rape at Stanford. Too many people (too many women, both cis and trans) have to experience sexual assault and rape in their time at Stanford. The system is broken if an offender can hurt seven different people before action is taken against him (or her). And there is far too much of a taboo surrounding opening up and have an honest, safe discussion about sexual assault and rape if almost 30% of victims can’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about their experiences and their suffering.

My goal in writing this piece is simple: I want to open up and share my story, to talk about why I felt like I shouldn’t — or couldn’t — report what had happened to me and hopefully create more open dialogue around this intensely heated topic so that we as a campus can start collectively healing and dealing with these problems that plague us and our campus.

~~~

It was the first time that I “went out” as a freshman to a frat party. I had been to a few co-op parties, but had done nothing too crazy. By that time, I’d had two drinks in my life. I was dealing with a terrible eating disorder, and knowing that I had an addictive personality, I wanted to stay away from alcohol as much as possible.

Furthermore, being transgender, I was always scared to go to “straight” parties — frat parties. I was just barely starting to feel truly comfortable as a transgender woman (I’d been living as Joanna for about a year and a half at that point) I was scared to face romantic and sexual rejection — the same rejection I’d faced my entire life — that people won’t be able to handle me being transgender and being attracted to me and acting on that attraction. But nonetheless, I wanted to explore my sexuality. I’d never been kissed except at Full Moon, and I wanted to feel sexy, desired.

So, on the first or second weekend of winter quarter, freshman year, I went down the hall to the party room, dressed casually in a plain green button up and some of my classic flare jeans and walked over with them to a frat party in  a nearby residence. There was lots of beer, lots of sloppy people, and if it weren’t for the fact that I was being guided by two hallmates who knew it was my first time going out, I would have been totally lost.

After grabbing a red Solo cup full of beer, we walked into the party and it was absolutely packed. There was great music playing, and we started to dance together near one of the walls; one of my friends had her back to the wall, facing the dance floor, the other had her side to the wall, and I had my back to the dance floor, my face towards the wall.

A few minutes into dancing, I felt someone leaned against me. Not in the involuntary way that happens on crowded dance floors often; I could tell without even looking that he had his front to my back. He leaned his face onto my shoulder; I could feel his stubble rubbing against the soft skin of my face as his hands began to clasp my waist.

Both my friends were giggling a little, in the encouraging way girls do on the dance floor sometimes. He chose ME? I thought to myself. He chose the tall girl with big shoulders wearing a plain shirt and jeans over the two skinny girls next to me wearing strapless dresses? I couldn’t help but smile a little. No one had ever shown interest in me like that, and it made me feel special.

Both of us still facing the wall, we started to kiss a little. He’d definitely been drinking a bit too much, but I could care less. Even though I knew I couldn’t hook up or have sex with him (I didn’t want to risk him finding out he’d made out with a trans*woman, in case he’d react badly), it was fun to just for a moment, to let down my guard, to feel sexy, even just for a little while.

just cuz drunkBut he kept on trying the get his hands towards my crotch. At first they just gently rubbed my waist, but they made their way down towards my hips, and started to push inwards a little. I quickly grabbed his hands and tried to do something sexy with them, to distract him (a rather hard task if you’re drunk and have a red Solo cup in one hand).

He eventually turned me around, and I got a quick glance of his pale face, his brown eyes and dark, short hair, before we took a few steps away from my friends and resumed making out, this time, face to face.

I tried to ignore it, to focus on how much I was enjoying his attention, but he was getting more persistent with his hands. He kept on trying to reach my crotch, and as he got more forceful, it became harder for me to fend him off. Girl, you need to leave. This could get bad the little cricket conscious in the back of my head kept on repeating. Just one more minute! Just enjoy this for a little bit longer. How much more often is this going to happen? the little devil in my brain shouted. I kept kissing him.

Suddenly, some drunk person ran through the crowded room, knocking into a bunch of people, including the person next to me, who hit me. As I began to fall backwards, I freed my hands from his to keep balance, and in that moment, he drove his right hand into my crotch, groping my penis and testicles underneath my jeans.

Instantly, he retracted his hand, and I saw a look of confusion spread across his face. I bolted towards my friends, now a good twenty plus feet away from us, still dancing together against the wall. I crouched down, told them what had just happened, and had them cover me for a few minutes. After those few minutes passed and he didn’t come. I stood up, and we walked outside. I was feeling a little panicked and scared. What if he’s coming with others? What if he’s outside and he sees me? Luckily, a tall, muscular boy who lived two rooms down from me was outside, and we walked over to him, explaining what just happened. He said he’d stay with us as long as we were here.

I calmed down a little bit. I felt safe now. And as I felt less scared, I still couldn’t help but smile. Despite what had happened, he had still chosen me. I was still the girl he’d wanted to make out with on the dance floor, the girl he wanted to get off on the dance floor.

As I sobered up, I began to realize just how dangerous of a situation I had put myself in. I hadn’t wanted to go to frat parties for precisely that reason — to avoid guys finding out the hard way, to avoid the potential repercussions of them finding out. I began to blame myself for what had happened. I should have stopped as soon as I realized he was fucking drunk and trying to touch my crotch I thought to myself.

Walking back to my dorm, I tried to express to my friends how violated I had felt, but all they wanted to talk about was hope much fun they had dancing and he much fun I must have had making out with him. I felt like they could care less that someone had just grabbed my genitals. I thought to myself that maybe this wasn’t as big a deal was it was after all. Part of me felt scared about what had just happened, and it’s potential to happen again, but part of me felt like I needed to erase those emotions.

After that night, going to the few frat parties I went to was a terrible experience. I was constantly afraid that someone else might try and stick their hands around my genitals, and react worse than the other guy had. I generally left the parties early by myself because I spent more of the time worrying than actually having, or trying to have, fun.

But at the same time, besides the people who had been there that night and maybe one or two close friends, I never told that part of the story when I recounted my first actual make out session to my friends. It wasn’t for a few months afterwards that I felt comfortable taking about what had happened to most people. It wasn’t so much that I was traumatized by what had happened — I’ve been through a lot worse — but that I felt like what had happened was no big deal, that it wasn’t something I should complain about and that I was the one who had caused it to happen, not him.

It’s been a long time since that night, and often I find myself reflecting on the events and my reaction afterwards. And instead of changing my behavior that night, what I wish I could change now was how I reacted to it afterwards.

~~~

I never told an RA or my RFs what had happened that night. My RAs and RFs were awesome, in that they were proactive, took care of us and didn’t stand for any bullshit. I feared they would have tried to make it a bigger deal than I would have liked it to be. At the time, I was still shied away from big activist scenes, preferring not to announce to the entire world my transgenderness or to stand out in any meaningful way. My, how things have changed.

This is probably as good of time as any to put a quick little note in. I realize I’m writing this anonymously, and I’m generally not a fan of anonymity. So, let me state my reasons very clearly, so y’all can know why I’m doing it. I could care less if anything I’ve written was tied to me personally. I try to be an open book, or at least a selectively open book. But I’m talking about things of a sensitive nature, and especially for my first piece and this piece, I didn’t want other people who were involved in these events to have their private lives blasted across STATIC (without their consent, I might add). Some of you were able to figure out who I am, and generally, y’all are people who I’m ok knowing that it was me who did these things and had these experiences. But please do not reveal my identity to anyone else. Furthermore, if you do not know my identity, do not try and figure out who I am, please. Again, I’m not asking this for me; I’m asking this for the other people involved.

15 of 16Anyways, going back to the aftermath, there were a lot of reasons besides wanting a quiet life why I didn’t tell anybody about what happened. First off, I didn’t think it was a big deal. On our walk back to our frosh dorm from the party, somewhat sobered up, I was distressed at what had happened, but all my friends did was laugh and talk about how much fun I must have had kissing him. They almost ignored what had happened to me, and how much it had freaked me out. Even the next morning when I went to thank the guy for staying with us, he trivialized the entire event, telling me I had nothing to worry about, as if nothing bad had even happened. Maybe it really was nothing I began to think. If they, the people who were there when it happened, could care less, why would anyone else care?

Secondly, I thought that since I wasn’t raped, there was nothing that could be done about it. I also thought that since I wasn’t raped, or that since he didn’t attempt to rape me, I had nothing to complain about, let alone to bring to any authority’s attention. Why else would none of my hallmates who were there care about what had happened? I thought.

Thirdly, I had no clue who this person was. Yes, I’d seen his face, and I’ve seen him around campus before. But at the time, I had no concrete way of identifying him. Furthermore, there was nobody I could call as a witness to support my allegations. We were in the middle of a crowded dance floor, so naturally, I knew no one directly around me, and I doubt anyone noticed what was happening with the two of us. Yes, there were my two friends, but they hadn’t actually seen anything, and given their casual reactions to his groping, I doubted either would actually want to support my story publicly.

Fourthly, I still felt nostalgic about the fact that he chose me, how good he made me feel when he chose me, and it blinded me to the fact that he probably didn’t choose me because we were soul mates or something, but because he was trying to get together with any girl he could.

Finally, and most horribly, I felt like this was my fault. As I said earlier, I got mad at myself, because I believed that I had caused this by putting myself in an unsafe situation. I knew he was drunk. I knew he was grabby. I knew that he kept on getting grabbier. I even thought to myself to get the fuck away from him. And yet I still stayed. And by staying, I felt like I had almost given him permission, even though I was actively trying to get his hands as far away from my crotch as possible, to touch me there.

As I’ve reflected on these events, I come to realize a lot of things. There is a huge culture of silence surrounding sexual assault and rape at Stanford, and those girls helped to perpetuate the taboo of silence that night. Just because I was drunk and not raped does not mean what happened to me was not insignificant or appalling and I should have at least been attempted to have it dealt with through the appropriate channels. Even if I had no clue who this person was, if for no other reason than to have closure and to be counted as a statistic, I should have let my staff know.

But most importantly, I shouldn’t have blamed myself. I wanted to make out with him, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t have. We were both having fun, and it made me feel awesome, something I rarely feel, especially in a room full of that many conventionally attractive people. Nothing that I did gave him the permission nor right to assault me, to violate my body, the way he did. Nothing I did was wrong. Nothing I did excuses him. He was in the wrong. There is no other way to look at it.

I would have changed one thing about the events prior to him grouping me, and that is that I would have stopped making out for a second to tell him I just wanted to make out, nothing more, and that I’d want him to stop trying to touch my body. Open, honest dialogue is key to random encounters, and I wished we’d actually uttered a word to each other. If nothing else, that would have allowed us to continue making out for a little while longer. But just because I would (or should) have handled things different does not excuse him from his actions.

As I’ve come to realize his culpability, I’ve been a lot easier on myself. Superficially, parties are a lot more enjoyable (although I don’t go to frat parties at all now — for a lot of other reasons). I feel like I’m a much stronger person as a result of realizing how I should have handled the aftermath differently. I feel more confident now that if something similar or worse were to happen, I’d be able to speak up, to stand up for myself, and to make sure that others — not me — were accountable for their actions.

And I’m realizing that I shouldn’t keep quiet about what happened, but should instead share my story of how a culture of silence impacted me. I do not think that I should be the poster child for sexual assault and rape at Stanford — let me make that clear. But I do think that I can be a part of our collective healing and shattering of the taboo that surrounds sexual assault and rape on this campus by opening up and sharing my story.

rape protestWe need to encourage safe, open and honest dialogue around these issues, whether that be people sharing their stories if people feel comfortable, or simply dialoguing about ways to address these issues.We need to get more comfortable talking about the history of rape and sexual assault at Stanford, how those topics were treated in the past and present and how the problematic nature of the social and institutional responses to rape and sexual assault has real impacts on all our health and happiness. From that dialogue, we need to learn how to create a near future that not only supports victims, but prevents people from feeling like they have license to rape and sexually assault others, both socially and institutionally, that does not blame women or victims.

Hopefully, my story will make you think about these topics, to examine your life to see if you are, even in the smallest ways possible, breaking the taboos around safe, honest and open conversation, or supporting a system of silence and denial of accountability. My reflection has allowed me to live a healthier life, to support others who are hurting better. If we can all reflect, if we can all listen to people’s stories, than I know we can all come together to heal and, more importantly, change.

 

Joanna Poppyfield is a feminine of center organism who likes to write instead of doing homework (but then again, who doesn’t?). Her favorite books are The Reader and A Raisin in the Sun.

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10 thoughts on “Shattering Taboos: Let’s Talk about Sexual Assault

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, way to delete my reply to esqg. One would think that a blog run by so-called progressives wouldn’t engage in censorship just because someone happens to express a different viewpoint. You’ll probably delete this as well but I want you to know that I just lost a great deal of respect for this site.

    • esqg says:

      I left you another comment below. So, this thing about double standards and gender bias.

      “people like you are guilty of the same insensitivity and gender-bias…”

      I agree. I will even tell you why–with apologies to the author and the blog for going so off-topic. I’m not comfortable with this discussion after the way it started out. You seem to want to talk to me personally about this now, so if you would email me (this id at stanford), it would I think be a much better way to do it. You can also leave feedback for STATIC as there is a form for that, and an email address to use. That is a way to talk about your problems with an article, or a pattern, without negatively targeting its author. Please understand that the effects of what you’ve said before are serious. So, until you contact me, I will say this much:

      We were all raised in a sexist culture. Also, because of violence against women by men, people may be more suspicous of men than they are of women. That suspicion may be exacerbated by other cultural biases such as classism. People are not fair when they judge others, whether it’s because of our culture or in reaction to it. That doesn’t make your first comment appropriate.

      In discussions of sexual assault a lot of people assume the target of assault is a woman and the perpetrator is a man, even though this is not always the case. That should change. I think it happens because people find it hard to conceive of men being the victims of sexual assault, but that’s our culture’s fault, not activists’ alone. So men who have been assaulted therefore don’t speak up. But, it does not make any individual story about assault unfair simply because the survivor is a woman.

      In your hypothetical scenario, the man is still the one approaching the woman. An actual analogue would be when the woman approaches the man. There is a legitimate question of when the person initiating is truly at full capacity to consent, if they are more drunk than the other person. But.

      Again, this conversation has started off really badly, I feel I may be disrespectful to the point of the article even by responding here. But the biggest objection, the reason I’m still replying and why I wrote so much before, is that here you are not making it about “consent to sexual activity”, you’re making it about “consent to the other person being trans”. I hope my previous long reply and the most recent other reply have explained adequately why no matter how many times you repeat it, that continues to be inappropriate and deeply offensive.

  2. Anonymous says:

    After reading this story, didn’t *you* technically take advantage of the guy at the party? He was drunk, you weren’t and yet you willingly had a sexual encounter with him on the dance floor knowing full well that if he were sober he might have been able to recognize you as transgender more easily and not want to make out with you. I’d argue he may have been too impaired to give you his proper consent. The proper thing to have done would have been to not make out with him in the first place. You were being selfish so that you could feel pretty for a night.

    This really shows the bias against men amongst activists, especially on this blog. Women can do anything and everything and still walk away from the situation as a “victim.”

    • esqg says:

      This comment expresses an idea that is unfortunately common, and bears addressing. That is the idea that it is in any way fair for someone, usually a guy, to assume that a woman he makes out with is cisgender (meaning, not transgender), without so much as asking. This idea says that if she is transgender and he doesn’t know it, this is a violation of his rights. This is not new. It is a belief voiced by many straight cis men and cis lesbians: that their “consent” is needed for a transgender woman to interact with them, sexually or otherwise, in the same way a cisgender woman would. Sometimes they even so-graciously give this consent to trans women who have had SRS, that is to say, who have vaginas.

      If you had the right to expect that anyone who is trans must say so or stay away from you, that would be the right to oppress them: prioritizing your comfortable belief in a cis-only society, over their life, happiness and safety. Even though it’s about sex, and even though everyone’s consent in sex matters a whole lot, you do not have the right to assume that a partner has certain genitals, or that they developed those genitals before birth rather than later. If you don’t want to make out with a trans woman, then ask your partner if she’s trans, and ask it in a context where she would feel safe, not afraid of retaliation for telling the truth. (The question of whether she should tell the truth in that case is totally irrelevant to this article.)

      This is a very serious issue that affects all trans folks, but particularly causes violence against trans women by cis men. Many people who are not queer, in our society, have a mental metaphor of “queerness as a disease“. In particular, many straight cis men believe that sexual contact with another’s penis, or sexual attraction to or attention from a person they conceive of as “male”, is a threat to their sexuality or their masculinity, and perhaps their social status. (Women’s reactions may be similar but usually much less extreme.) Look on any forum with an argument about a trans woman’s “obligation to disclose”, and notice how persistently some will make analogies to people who have STDs and must disclose that to a partner. It’s an analogy that is irrelevant unless you think your partner’s trans-ness affects you. Thus, if a cis man finds out that the woman he is being sexual with is trans, whether she’s had SRS or not, he may be disturbed, and may attack her. The “panic defense” used to be acceptable in court for when a cis man murders a trans woman, and cis men still use that “panic” as an excuse for injuring trans female partners, even if they knew their partners’ trans status for a long time. They can claim not to, and the public’s expectation that “being trans is disturbing and wrong” is so strong that it will often at least win them sympathy. That is, again, how cisnormativity–the common assumption that everyone is cis unless they obviously look trans, or that everyone ought to be cis–supports oppression.

      Set all that context aside for a moment. Words and emphasis could never express the icy depths of my anger towards you for responding to someone’s account of sexual assault with an accusation that she was violating someone else’s rights just by allowing him to kiss her. That is not just “my” anger, it is rage that any decent person must feel if they truly consider the implications. For fuck’s sake! She was actively trying to prevent him from the assault he made, and you have the audacity to call her “selfish” just because of who she is. It does not matter what exactly you think she should have done. What matters is that you are completely failing to take her feelings into account, as well as the possible effects of PTSD after going through this. That is a level of insensitivity that is so obviously appalling–unless one thinks of transgender people, or women in your case, as somehow not human in the same way as the rest of us. That mindset is cissexism, trans misogyny, transphobia, oppressive thinking. That mindset comes from our culture, and anyone might have it; in a sense, to anyone who does, it is not simply your fault. You may not have realized how bad it is, but now that you have an idea, you can assume responsibility for learning more and for changing your own belief.

      Speaking of beliefs and how they harm transgender women, I encourage everyone to watch the powerful speech in this video. The speaker begins 3 minutes in. Trigger warning for mentions of violence against trans people, but it is inspirational.

      If there happen to be any cis people still reading this comment, and you are motivated by the discussions Joanna has started to learn more about trans folks and being an ally, I encourage you to check out this guide to allies.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’ve set up so many straw man arguments in this post I don’t even know where to begin. First, I never stated nor even insinuated that trans people are inferior or that cis people have a right to “stay away” from trans people. However I do think that everyone has a right to know the gender of someone they are being physically intimate with. When 99% of females are cis females, it is not at all an unfair assumption to think that a random female you meet will be cis. You make it sound like people should go about their lives thinking that any person they meet could possibly be trans, which is absurd. Speaking as a gay man, I don’t take offense if people assume I’m straight because hey, I’m < 5% of the male population.

        Also it is hypocritical of you to tell me to take into account Joanna's feelings when you so blatantly disregard the feelings of the man at the party. It doesn't matter if his feelings towards trans people is based on cultural ignorance or whatever, they are still his feelings and they are just as valid as anyone else's. Furthermore nowhere in this story does it say that it seemed like he was going to attack her or anything. He merely got a disgusted look on his face which is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

        But all of this doesn't really matter. My main point was to acknowledge the double standard when talking about female-male relations. Imagine if at this party it was a completely sober man making out with an obviously drunk woman. You would say that he was taking advantage of her, correct? Well in this situation Joanna was completely sober (she had a beer in her hand that she hadn't drank) while he was noticeably intoxicated. It is only because she is female that she got this free pass to make out with him, don't even pretend that this isn't the case. The truth is she saw this man at the party who was clearly not in his right mind and thought to herself "hey, maybe he's too drunk to notice I'm trans" which is just very deceitful.

        Lastly, I will say that I do feel bad for Joanna that someone grabbed her crotch without her permission and I can understand how that can be a difficult experience. However, this was clearly a case of miscommunication rather than an attempted molestation/rape. I mean when she wrote: " I quickly grabbed his hands and tried to do something sexy with them", imagine that from the guy's perspective. He was probably thinking "hey, she's into me! She's trying to seduce me." No drunk guy at a party would interpret that as "she's tellng me to back off." Again, as a gay man I have no personal stake in this issue of male-female relationship dynamics and am trying to look at this completely objectively. And based on what I've read here I cannot say that Joanna is completely without fault.

        This comment was edited to shrink one part so that it can be read, but it may be triggering.

      • esqg says:

        The intent behind your initial comment was unclear, so I simply attempted to lay out the social context that your discourse is a part of, regardless of what you personally do or how you identify. Until the last paragraph, it was not said for your benefit.

        Anonymous, reading this second comment it seems pretty clear that you could hardly care less about the argument you’re making. It’s not just that you’re deliberately misunderstanding what “right to assume” means–gay identities are not analogous to trans identities. Or that you missed the part where Joanna said she was “drunk and holding a red Solo cup”. Yes, when both people are drunk, there’s a good chance either or both people might feel violated afterwards. No, you are not “objective” about “female-male” relations just because you’re not having them.

        But I don’t think you care in the least about the guy’s feelings. You said it yourself over two comments: your main aim here is to prove that activists have a “bias against men”, regardless of what information you need to distort or what poisonous things you need to say in order to prove it. I don’t quite understand why the focus on “female-male relations”, which you say doesn’t affect you, in order to make a generalization about bias against men, which would affect you. If you’re so concerned about that, why not bring it up on a post where there aren’t traumatic events being discussed?

      • Anonymous says:

        ” your main aim here is to prove that activists have a “bias against men”, regardless of what information you need to distort or what poisonous things you need to say in order to prove it.”

        No, it’s not like I’m holding steadfast to some ideology and then trying to distort facts to match my preconceived conclusion. I hold this point of view because that’s where the evidence leads. And this was a perfect example of said evidence. And to clarify, the reason I kept bringing up “female-male” relations is that is the context in which this bias manifests. In reading many articles and opinions written by Stanford activists on this blog and elsewhere, I have never seen once, anywhere, at all someone criticize any aspect of the way women interact with men in any given scenario. It’s always the women is 100% blameless and can do no wrong no matter what and any criticism of any aspect of a woman’s behavior amounts to victim-blaming misogyny that helps perpetuate male privilege or whatever. It’s absurd.

        “Anonymous, reading this second comment it seems pretty clear that you could hardly care less about the argument you’re making. It’s not just that you’re deliberately misunderstanding what “right to assume” means–gay identities are not analogous to trans identities. ”

        I’m not quite sure what it is you mean here. Are you saying that it’s okay for someone to assume a gay person is straight, but it’s not okay for someone to assume a trans* person is cis*? If so, why? That seems like an odd double-standard.

        “But I don’t think you care in the least about the guy’s feelings. ”

        Why do you presume to know what I do and don’t care about? The truth is straight men can be incredibly insecure in their masculinity and an event like accidentally making out with a trans* woman can be enough to make some men severely depressed and question their own identities. Who’s to say the guy Joanna made out with isn’t emotionally scarred by the incident? Of course, people like you never seem to care about this because they are straight men who are “privileged” so their feelings don’t matter to you.

        “The author said she was drunk too.”
        The story doesn’t really seem to match this statement. She claims to have stayed as far away from alcohol as possible due to her addictive personality and it seemed as though the beer at the party was the only thing she had drank. Regardless, she was still significantly less drunk than the man she was with and yet she didn’t care. Case in point: “He’d definitely been drinking a bit too much, but I could care less.” Imagine overhearing a conversation between two frat bros and one of them says “You know, that chick at the party last night was really drinking too much, but I didn’t care at all and went after her.” You’d be appalled, just admit it. You keep avoiding this point because I suspect you are unable to reconcile the obvious double-standard. This goes back to the “bias against men” thing from earlier.

        In the end, you seem like a nice guy/girl and I can tell that you are very passionate about these issues, which is great because we need people who are passionate about these issues. But you and other people like you are guilty of the same insensitivity and gender-bias that you proclaim the rest of us are and it’s a shame that you are unable to recognize this.

      • esqg says:

        What I meant about gay identities not being analogous here, is that when you’re making out with a man, you won’t feel surprised to find he’s gay or bi, because otherwise you wouldn’t be making out with him. But since we’re both cis and gay, I hope you’ll bear with me while I draw an imperfect analogy to when people like us do suffer from assumptions.

        When my mother raised me, she never asked me if I was straight, she assumed it–as most parents would. The one time she talked to me about gay people, she said “some people are a little different, and that’s okay” with visible discomfort. When I eventually came out to her, she did not take it well. An hour later she grabbed my shoulders, looked at me and said “give me back my daughter!” …and then pretended it was a joke about something I’d done that was uncharacteristic of me. But I know my mother, and I know that “joke” had a double meaning, because she’d looked at me like my mother had never looked at me before. I could see how upset she was. I can understand how she feels like a failure as a parent, or like I’ve betrayed her expectations, or I don’t know what. Her feelings were real. But that didn’t make them fair, or right, and she knew it–that’s why she was not so direct, either then or for another year of being passive-aggressive.

        We all know some parents are far worse: their love of their child depends on the expectation that that child is not gay, or queer in any way. They see the “coming out” as a betrayal, because they believe they have the right to assume their child is straight and cis; and possibly, they disown their own child. We can all understand how they may feel and why, because at least if we’re talking about the US, our culture teaches us what straight society is like. In fact, I was in denial for years, because despite not being able to find any homophobic feelings in me towards others, I believed that I’d be a failure, or wrong in some way, if I were queer. I know not every queer person would agree, but I find that I am much more mentally healthy now that I simply expect others to accept me for who I am, and feel no need to apologize if they make wrong assumptions about me.

        The relationship of parent-child is very different from that in a casual makeout scenario, but still in essence, that is what I mean when I say that the “right to assume” is oppressive. To assume someone is cis is reasonable; to feel violated when you find out they are not, is quite another matter–at least if you take those feelings out on them. I agree with you, some men are very insecure in their masculinity, and feel a threat when they might be queer–I had already said as much. That feeling is real and scary and I’ve even been the “token queer friend” of a couple straight (mostly?) friends who wanted to talk through their fears and discomforts. But the difference is when someone recognizes that when those fears make them treat others badly, that this is a problem. When they recognize that discomfort is a natural part of challenging a privileged mindset, and a necessary thing if they believe in a more just society.

      • JPoppyfield says:

        I just want to clarify something. When I said I tried to do something sexy with his hands, I didn’t mean that I gave him a finger job or something like that. What I meat by that, and what I should have stated more explicitly, was that I tried to get his hands away from my crotch in as least unsexy a manner as possible. It was very obvious that I was trying to keep his hands away from my crotch. As I said earlier in my piece, I wish I had handled things differently- not by not making out with him, but by clearly stating my intentions for that evening- no sex, no sexy times, no crotch touching.

        Also, just generally, I’m not going to respond to most of what you’ve said anonymous, but I want you to know that a lot of what you’ve said has been incredibly upsetting and very personally hurtful to me and other trans*women.
        Earlier, you said people should know the gender of the people they sleep with or make out with- so then I assume you tell everyone you make out with that you are a cis-male identified person before every single one of your interactions, right? I’m guessing you’d say you don’t have to because you’re in the majority and therefore don’t have to reveal that because people assumed correctly. Why not challenge the fact that everyone mislabels me as cis (contrary to what you seem to think, only a handful of people have ever figured out that I’m trans without me telling them)?

        I need to stop writing now- this is getting too difficult for me. Just now that it wasn’t easy writing some of this piece, and to have you say what you’ve said has really hurt in so many ways that you can never know. I hope you don’t sit there and think what a whiny bitch I am, but actually reflect seriously on what you’ve said, try to empathize with my perspective (Do you know how many times I’ve been called a rapist because of who I am?) and hopefully come to understand how horribly inappropriate your comments were.

    • esqg says:

      The author said she was drunk too.

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