When I was 13 years old, an adult, cisgender man touched me inappropriately, without my obvious consent. This man was associated with my family, and I immediately removed myself from the situation as quickly as I could.
I did not come out as transgender until I was 21 years old, so I spent those first 21 years being perceived and treated like I was female. I will never forget the way I was treated, and how differently that is than how I am treated when people assume I am a cisgender male. My experiences with and without privilege due to my perceived gender identity, have shaped me, as a feminist and make it hard for me to relate to many cisgender men.
It was my birthday…a day in late December of 1993, and I had just returned home from a birthday party next door, in the basement of my church. I was standing in the hallway, saying goodbye to family members, when I suddenly was alone, or so I thought. Within a few seconds of the door shutting, I felt hands on me, from behind. The touch was inappropriate, chillingly sensual, and I remember feeling my skin crawl in horror and fear, as he continued to run his hands over my shoulders and down my back. I was just a child, and here was someone who cornered me with other people in the room next to us, who was now touching me without permission.
I don’t know how I got the strength to move, because for the first few seconds I was so afraid, I just kept hoping he would stop. I told him no when he didn’t, and pushed away from him as he continued, strolling as quickly as I could back into the other room, to safety. People were saying goodbye, family members, and I remember being unable to speak. My mood changed drastically, and I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye. Luckily, everyone who remained was the midst of leaving within in the next few minutes, including the man, and my parents knew something was wrong.
Once everyone was gone, it took them a little bit of time to coax it out on me. Lord knows I was doubting myself. Did it really happen? Was I making a big deal out of nothing? We are expected to blame ourselves, doubt ourselves in such moments, even when our skin is still crawling in remembrance.
Eventually, I told them what had happened, and I remember how angry my father was. He said he wanted to kill him, and I believed him, though I know my dad never would have really murdered anyone except in self defense or to protect his kids. My mother cried when she heard. My dad told me I’d never have to see him again. That was a lie, though it was not my father’s fault. My father never liked the man much to begin with, because I was told he had gone through the private contents of my parents’ dressers, and my dad had discovered him doing it years before. He only tolerated him because of my family’s connections to him. He never would have made me see him on his own.
What happened created a rift in my family. My grandmother did not believe me. She asked the man, and he didn’t deny it. He said I was upset, and he was trying to comfort me. He said I misinterpreted his violation of my body and space. He did not deny it, and I knew in that moment that I never should doubt myself again. What he did was true to my memory. It was my birthday, and a few friends had made it really special, so I would have no reason to be upset. I would not have needed comfort. I would not have needed his hands, running down my body towards my genitals. It was clearly a lie, but my grandmother believed him over me. She told my mother if I wanted to remain in the family, I had to admit I lied. At first, my family protected me, and said I never had to apologize, but after a year of being cast out by her mother, my mother demanded I apologize.
The following year, at Christmas, I was sat down across from my grandmother. She told me she didn’t even remember what I lied about, but she knew that it was my fault the family was split up. I remember crying, and telling her what had happened again, and she told me she knew it was a lie. I told her it was the truth. She said if I did not admit I lied the family would continue to suffer by not being included with the rest of our family, and it would be all my fault. My mother turned on me, and begged me to apologize, so she would not have to suffer. The only one of my side was my dad, who told me he believed me, no matter what. He was the only one who never tried to make me apologize about being violated. Inappropriately touching a child is a kind of assault. It is a violation of a person.
I never did apologize, although my grandmother decided to look past that, as long as she could blame me, and occasionally remind me I was responsible for ruining my family. When it really mattered, my dad was the only one who ever stuck up for me, no matter what, and never punished me for my own assault. My father never would have supported a man like Donald Trump. Though he died in 2001, he was a lifelong Democrat. He protected me, and my right as a person not to be touched without my permission, and without him I would’ve been all alone during one of the darkest moments of my life.
This happened 23 years ago. I’m about to turn 36 years old. I had not thought about this in a really long time. I thought I had moved on. The thing about trauma is that you never know when something is going to remind you of the horror you endured.
Hearing Donald Trump talk about women… about people with pussies, people that could include people like myself, who grew up being perceived as female… brought back a lot of memories of what it was like during the first 30 years of my life. Seeing him on stage, trying to intimidate Hillary Clinton, standing behind her, was one of the most triggering experiences I’ve ever had. I was right back in that hallway near our foyer, in my old house in NW Ohio all over again. I was reminded of the man who touched me, a man I had long been uncomfortable with, because I didn’t like people who were too touchy feely, and growing up, he always found a way to somehow touch me. A tickle on the arm. A grab of the wrist. A man who does not respect the space of someone he sees as female.
Donald Trump uses his body to try and intimidate women. He touches them without permission, and even brags about it. Everything he says about vaginas and female bodies, is a reminder to trans men like me of the bodies we used to have…still sometimes do have, and how men think they can touch us without provocation or permission. They think these bodies belong to them. Corrective rape and/or assault are things that many transgender men have to deal with, where cisgender men try to remind us we aren’t real men. Disabled people, especially women and trans folks, are far more likely to be the victims of sexual assault, rape, and abuse, and in both cases neither trans or disabled people are likely to report such assaults because their stories will not be believed.
We are stronger together when we fight against misogyny and assault. Donald Trump is bringing this into our country, and he is telling every young cisgender boy that putting his hands on the bodies that have vaginas or otherwise identify as female is okay. It’s not, and our sons deserve better. Our daughters deserve better. Our gender non-conforming trans children deserve better.
On November 8, I implore you to help us stop Donald Trump. If we don’t shut down misogyny on the most basic of levels what does our country have? I voted for Hillary Clinton proudly knowing my father, a man who was respecting the bodies of trans people and women/girls my whole life, would have done the same. Join us and vote for Hillary. Our world depends on it.