I’m not especially good at keeping myself from shitting in the punch bowl. Here I go again, squatting over the Tropical Mango Berry Burst: #metoo. Except, not. Don’t get me wrong, there are a significant number of women I respect who are participating in the Me Too hashtag. It was necessary and it’s startling to see how many of my friends are survivors in one way or another. I’m hesitant to say anything. But, this meme doesn’t include me. It was designed that way. Like virtually every other scrap of paper or internet post concerning domestic violence, stalking, rape, sexual assault, and gender based harassment.
I wasn’t always perceived as a woman and that’s why it doesn’t include me. Things happened to me that many women would consider traumatic and they happened before my so-called transition. Those who made me a survivor were, from their perspective, dealing with a man – or a boy. I can never forget this. As much as I want to forget it’s a necessary fragment of my worldview. Even in my present life a good deal of the harassment and potential assault I might deal with is lobbed at me by people who perceive me as a man. I’m a woman but I fully understand the plight of men having played that role and continuing, against my will, to be typecast in that role.
It wasn’t very long ago I was poolside with a group of fellow domestic violence Victim’s Advocates. We were on a work trip, training with the Attorney General’s office, for a DV organization. A sociopath, one I’d had unfortunate dealings with, decided that seeing a Facebook photo of me, smiling away with my new friends, was cause enough to reach out to a coworker. My stalker dead named me, misgendered me, and mocked my grim history with sexual violence. Also I’m a Nazi, apparently, which was the “excuse” for stalking me — again. But naturally, that was just a pretense for ugly behavior. I’m no Nazi and she’s no freedom fighter. It wouldn’t be the first time a woman has harassed or stalked or even assaulted me in one way or another. Nazism is rarely the excuse but it’s always one bogus excuse or another. I suspect it won’t be the last time. I bluffed, I didn’t get over it on the spot. I drank until I could barely attend training the next day.
More context is required about this case of harassment, one of many. It’s emblematic. Back before my love-hate-relationship with medical transition she was someone a local sex offender, someone I didn’t know was a sex offender, said I should get to know. Birds – with feathers – getting together in a flock. First, there was her outrage that I didn’t desire sex with her. Not my type to begin with. Her aggression wasn’t full blast but the weirdness set in. Nothing remarkable but a kind of passive aggression. Then there was the enormous red flag that unfurled for me one afternoon, finding out she had been imprisoned for attacking her ex-boyfriend with a deadly weapon and stabbing his pet to death. It was documented fact and not rumor. Unlike a man, the courts didn’t consider her a case of domestic violence but mental illness. She had been locked up but locked up in a hospital. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the company of her current boyfriend at the time. I stuck around the periphery of her life because while I had no romantic feelings for him I did enjoy his company enough to risk it. Which was, as it turned out, no bueno. Duh. But this guy was a good guy. Funny, svelte, into the right kinds of punk music and noise art, and seemed to appreciate my sense of humor. It would take an oddball like him to date an ex-con with a rather unattractive face. Something had happened to him that decimated his self-esteem, somewhere in his past. I don’t know what. He could’ve done better.
I wasn’t interested in him but he was, unknown to him, arrested. Arrested by her paranoid need for control. The same paranoid need that threatened one man’s life, slaughtered a house pet, and landed her in the crazy bucket. Kept away from friends, money absorbed and controlled, emotionally blackmailed, and likely behind closed doors threatened with her suicide and maybe his death. These are things that would sound familiar to many victims of domestic violence. Except in this case, it’s a man. A manly man. The kind of dude I’d want to know, not out of romance, but because he was so very complimentary and opposite to the real me – a complete femme.
We couldn’t be pals. I was, according to paranoia, trying to fuck him. I liked him, not her, and whether it was platonic or not didn’t matter; which was true but I never made that especially obvious. It wasn’t long until friends, girlfriends of mine, and anyone attached to my life, were being called. There was vandalism. There were remarks about my body and sexuality. I cut ties. I changed numbers. I have never stopped being concerned for him. Or the other men I’ve known who have been in similar situations. The men who are, presently, having their money and social life controlled by women with a history of battery. The kinds of men at the bottom of Florida Man news feeds who get stabbed to death for the treachery of enjoying a beer with friends.
These days, when someone wants to hurt me they go into Easy Mode and accuse me of masculinity. Or that I’m a “tranny” who’s only this way because of molestation. She did, but that’s beside the point because a stalker is never truly done with their mission until the target is dead. It’s never about what we are but about the abuser’s need for power and control. But people as a whole don’t want me to forget my forced manhood. Fine. Then I won’t forget the simple fact that, in my lived experience, there is nearly parity between “the sexes” when it comes to certain issues. Because of my past, there have been scores of men that have perceived me as male but, underneath it, sensed I was a feminine confidant. Someone they could relate to without falling back on their education: sexual assault and harassment are “women’s issues.” “Between men” we shared war stories. We shared them without another woman butting in and accusing us of attention seeking or being MRAs trying to one-up feminism.
In modern feminism, it is common that the statistics are wrong when it comes to women; some say the sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and rape, are under-reported by at least 50%. But when it comes to men? Those statistics are just fine the way they are. It’s a women’s issue. It’s true that women are cat called more often, that there are differences, but every man has a psycho girlfriend or boyfriend story to tell. Whereas women aren’t yelling from car windows and following people down the street they have their own methods. Every man has salacious lies tacked to his name. Every man has been pressured or forced into things he wanted no part of. Every man has felt extorted into remaining in an abusive relationship far beyond its expiration date.
My nameless friends, currently caught in a wheel of power and control: you too. My nameless friend, who was raped by his mother: you too. My dear ones who were molested: you too. And to the countless men with scars from keys, fingernails, destroyed property, and destroyed reputations, it’s #youtoo . #Mentoo . It’s intersex victims that I know in real life, not hypothetically. And fuck it, #MeToo . Because I am just as much at risk of grievous harm now as I was before. I know this because I live it.
I’m a woman and it’s a women’s issue, but my lived experience tells me it’s so much more. It’s a brokenness in the way most people deal with one another. It’s a general lack of empathy, restraint, and compassion. The confidence I’ve been entrusted informs me. My own experiences inform me. Men are used to suffering sterner consequences for not following the rules. They know that the rule is: men can’t be raped. Likewise: men have no reason to fear a woman. Harassment and assault matter a whole lot less for them. That is the code. Men, following the social code, don’t speak up. They don’t speak up because of shame, like all survivors. They don’t speak up because of mockery, or that society doesn’t take it serious, or because they’ll be accused of being a Nazi trying to one-up feminist dogma. If men do find something worthwhile in Men’s Rights Activism they won’t admit it lest they have no social awareness. Hence, why any shelters have next to no room for men – if any at all.
Virtually every website or scrap of paper designed to address the issues of harassment, assault, stalking, domestic violence, or rape, are all designed with one key feature: women only. Women’s issues. Much like the “me too” meme. And never mind that the gender spectrum isn’t exactly binary. Mainstream feminism doesn’t mind. It only accepts transgender people insofar as it helps erase more men and because, just as awful, the majority perceive transgender men as lesbians who buck the system.
I don’t want to make this an anti-feminist screed because that’s not what this is about. It’s about addressing the secret grievance of men and queer identified people everywhere. I am using my female privilege to say something that men can’t say without derision: it’s a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue, it’s a queer issue. And if the gatekeepers of social justice could get over their misandry for a while we might see men and queers participate enough to turn those contextually accurate statistics on their head.
I’m only saying what I know scores of men are thinking right now. But it’s not their first thought. Their first thought is, hopefully, sympathy. Their second thought is exclusion. Not a “me too, I need attention!” kind of exclusion, but a curiosity as to why their own stories don’t matter. Since I originally posted this in a slightly different form on social media I have had a number of men come out to me as survivors. They thanked me, but I don’t want their thanks. I want them to do what those brave individuals are already starting to do: say something.
Because it’s time that the millions of women like the one in my example, the least hurtful and revealing of my many examples, are finally held accountable. It’s time that the conversation shifts from “women” to “people.” Because let me tell you, not only women bleed and it doesn’t take a natal vagina to get smashed in the eye socket with a set of car keys. And the female privilege of presumed innocence or unaccountably contributes to the victimization. The scraps of paper and websites galore that spell it only as a women’s issue, those contribute the victimization.