Our Stories: Alex's* story about their experiences of abuse
Publish Date: 30/06/2016
**This page has content warnings for sexual violence and gender dysphoria **
As part of our campaign: 'Lesbian and Bisexual Women & Abuse', Alex* tells us about their experiences of abuse.
I am not a woman, I am also not a man, but biologically I am female. I identify as a non-binary lesbian. Popular belief will have you think that rape only happens to women, and feminine, heterosexual ones at that, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately because of the timing of the incident I cannot distinguish how much of my gender identity is linked with what happened and how much existed before, but I do know that I am now scared of femininity.
I’m scared of looking feminine because I’m scared that that will give a green light to men that I am weaker than they are. It will show that even with my best efforts I can still be overpowered. I’m scared of men. I’ve never had a good relationship with a man, my father was both mentally and physically abusive, I was bullied badly by the lads at school, and finally I was raped by a man that I thought was a ‘pretty decent guy’ having only had an hour or two’s conversation with him before drunkenly falling asleep, believing that I was safe and I would wake up with nothing more than a hangover. I was wrong.
When I read the words victim, it still takes me a minute to remember that I am now in that category. I never thought I’d have my entire sense of self questioned by something I had no control over, by someone that I stupidly put my trust in, in a brand new city, where the only people I knew were the receptionists at the front desk of my university accommodation. Walking back to my accommodation the morning after the attack felt like the loneliest journey I’ve ever made, I hurt everywhere, and no matter how hard I scrubbed myself with shower gel, I couldn’t get the suffocating feeling of disgust, shame and disbelief off of me. This is when I fell into my complicated relationship with femininity, when I started to bind my chest, deepen my voice, shave my hair, wear my jeans a little baggier, my t-shirts a little looser, my shoulders a little more hunched, and if you called me 'she' I hated you.
The triggers set in, became a daily routine of stomach turning, chest tightening and fingernail biting. Really how can you run from something that is so popular in mainstream culture? How can you run from straight sex? from men? from the kings of the jungle? So I figured why run, when I can just blend in, disguise myself as one of them and go unnoticed. That didn’t work. So I hated myself more.
To stand infront of a jury, deliver what had become my deepest darkest secret and get told ‘not guilty’ was gut wrenching. How can you find him not guilty? Was it because I was drunk? Was it because I don’t fit your stereotype? Was it because I wasn’t upset enough for you? I didn’t cry enough? Because I shouldn’t have been out on my own?
Accessing help when you fit into neither the mens or women’s designated sections is challenging, theres only so much a councellor can do with a limited understand of trans experiences and honestly it gets a bit boring having to explain every time. I know I should feel grateful to have even got help considering how long the wait is, but I had survived a year without it and the help was limited by gendered assumptions so the impact was cushioned by misunderstanding and crossed wires.
My feelings towards myself are forever changing, sometimes I contemplate chest surgery, to flatten my chest so I can breath without my binder. Sometimes I think about how I would feel if I could walk around the flat without a top on and not panic that the blinds aren’t shut, because mens chests aren't sexual, they’re just chests. Sometimes I think how I would feel if I were able to wear just shorts on holiday, just shorts in summer, just shorts on the beach, just shorts.
It’s been three years since the attack, 621 days, and I can finally say I’m healing. I’m starting to understand myself and accept my discomforts, anxieties and triggers. I'm starting to understand that its ok to not to always be ok. To have off days, quiet days, to forgive myself when I need it. I’m starting to understand that I don’t want to be a man, I don’t want to be a woman, I just want to be a human, and thats ok.
I’m starting to understand that I’m ok.