Abuse II “It is your Fault!”

The Patriarchy teaches women, “It is your fault.”

Got raped.  You shouldn’t have dressed that way.  You shouldn’t have gone to that party, that bar, that place.  What were you doing out alone at that time of night?  What did you expect?

The message is.  It was your fault you got raped and not the fault of the rapist.

When we are transkids we learn our sex roles (gender roles) second hand.  We are taught what is expected of women from books, magazines, television and movies.  Ever notice how many times in movies a woman will throw away or be unable to pull the trigger on a perfectly good gun when her attacker is so close a blind person could shot him, instead she winds up screaming for a man to protect her?  That teaches us women are supposed to be weak and defenseless.

As transgirls we may not have actively been taught that girls always lose at games to boys, but being the last picked to be on teams sure sent the message that boys considered us someone incapable of winning.  When we started to actively learn the sex roles expected of the women we were becoming by our teenage years we had already internalized the message that we were inferior to boys when it came to sports and other things.

When I was a teen queen there was a song sung by the Chrystals (written by Carole King & Gerry Goffin) recorded by Phil Spector titled “He Hit Me and it felt like a kiss”.  this came out a year or so before my mother crammed “The Feminine Mystique” into my hands and said, “You think you want to be a girl.  You better read this and maybe you will realize what you are getting yourself into.”

Boys get a mixed message.  They aren’t supposed to hit girls yet they are supposed to be superior in every way, to dominate them since after all the invisible imaginary sky daddy, big boss of the universe is m ale like them and not female like mommy.  So it is the role of males to dominate.

In the last few years there have been the murders of two really cute young girls who had just come out and started living as women.  Then bang they were murdered.  And in both cases the excuse was that they were trans.  It was their fault and not the fault of the murderers.  this plays into what I was talking about earlier.  It is always the girl/woman’s fault when it comes to being abused.

Because of having been born with transsexualism most of us have internalized from infancy a sense of worthlessness, reinforced by years of physical and emotional abuse from family and peers.  This results in us growing up with a sense of inferiority.  Some try to hide their being transsexual until middle age doing everything expected of them, thinking if they play the game they won’t be exposed and won’t have to suffer the abuse.  Even if playing the game destroys them.

Others, myself included wind up either strung out or like me, an alcoholic doing sex work because I had such a low opinion of myself that even when I was good at something I didn’t see myself as worthy of success.

Relationships can be the same way.  When I first started meeting other sisters and most of their boyfriends I though, “Couldn’t they do better than this? Because most of their boyfriends had just gotten out of and would soon be going back to one of those places that rhymes with Yale and starts with a ‘J’.’

But I was lonely and I wanted a protector because I was pre-op and doing sex work so I found a Marine Corp deserter, just back from Vietnam.  The sex was great and I liked being his “old lady” in the hippie slang of the day.  But I also had to support him.  Being a deserter he couldn’t get a job.  I loved him and I wouldn’t have said the pimp word about him if you had water boarded me.  But I was working my ass off with two jobs and hustling to support the two of us plus save for my surgery.

When we broke up I suddenly had the money to do things like hop on a plane when I wanted, buy cameras, clothes etc.

Later I came out as a lesbian and had my first serious relationship with a woman end when she smashed me in the face one night after she had smoked PCP.  We fought for what seemed like hours.  I was badly beaten up but I considered myself lucky I wasn’t arrested.  The women’s abuse counseling didn’t recognize violence in lesbian relationships at that point.

I had felt used for a number of months prior to the final eruption.  But I blamed myself and what I had been born.  But what was really going on was that I had internalized the universal message taught women in a patriarchal society, “It’s your fault.  What did you do to bring this upon yourself?”

Later I was living with a sister. I had let her back into my life even knowing the negative impact she had on me earlier.  For a year I let her tear me down, wear down the self esteem I was building through hanging out at the Women’s Building, therapy, Martial Arts and achieving minor success with my photography.  She talked me into selling off everything I treasured and had worked so hard to get and leave all my friends behind to move to Northern California and live with her.

She immediately took all the money I had so I couldn’t just leave without becoming homeless.  Then the emotional abuse started.  Eventually one night before I had an exam at school she was being particularly mean to me and I went to sleep on the couch.  She attacked me beating me with a huge Buck Bowie knife in a sheath.  I blocked it using my martial arts training. The knife broke through the sheath and I wound up breaking pieces of the edge off wiand lodging them in my shin bones.

She then tried to shoot me but I had unloaded the gun and hid the magazines.

Her friends told me it wasn’t her fault and tried to convince me I had done something to provoke her.

The circle goes round and round.  This is the same message I got from my mother when the boys in elementary school would beat and abuse me daily on my way to and from school.

Women join in giving the abused the message that it is her fault.  That is the result of internalization of the misogynistic message that no matter how abused a woman is it is her fault.

3 Responses to “Abuse II “It is your Fault!””

  1. Diana Says:

    The post makes some good points. I think that transsexuals as a whole may be behind natal women in recognizing they suffer particularly from the sense of fault and worthlessness that has been imposed on the female sex.

    My evidence for this is anecdotal, but fairly stark. Several years ago (but it was in this millennium so it was not exactly ancient history), I was attending a support group for TSs. The topic came up that a member of the group, who was not present that evening, had been assaulted. Another member of the group insisted that when a transsexual is assaulted it likely is because she is asking for it, as TSs tend to present themselves in a slutty way.

    I was shocked that a member of the so-called community could hold that view in the 2000s. And this was not an otherwise crazy person. But, as your post suggests, there has been a great deal of harmful social conditioning directed at females in general and transsexual females in particular. This person had internalized it, and I am sure she is not alone.

  2. Ariablue Says:

    One of the first things to go in a transition is the constant, implicit, monolithic social reinforcement that any male gets, no matter how effete or queer they may be. There are levels of privilege associated with just how ‘manly’ someone is of course, but there is a barrier between male and female in terms of treatment that is stark and undeniable.

    Every little thing a boy does is respected in one way or another. If it is ‘bad’, it is bad in a way that everyone must notice and be concerned about, and if it is good it is a sure sign that little Johnny is going places. Any stupid thing a man may say carries more weight than the most brilliant observation made by a woman. These are just undeniable facts, as anyone who has experienced them can tell you.

    So when a person transitions at any age, the first thing society pulls from them is the positive social reinforcement that men get. If one was perceived as queer, it might not seem like as much of a loss but it really is a sea change nonetheless.

    As time goes on and if you manage to make the change to where everyone perceives you as female, you’ll notice that things you say and do just don’t carry the same weight. The constant, drumming feedback we all get from other people, and society in the aggregate, is not supportive the way it is for men.

    This fact alone ensures that women will lack confidence in their own ability from the outset, and colors our whole approach to life. If nobody ever tells you that you are doing a good job or recognizes your efforts, it eats away at your self-image. Generally the only ones who may be supportive of women are other women, but women tend to do this very sparingly with each other as a group. It probably has its roots in primate social heirarchy behavior, and that’s a topic unto itself.

    Trepidation is the constant theme in a woman’s life under a patriarchal regime. That is the key difference between men and women in our day to day lives- it’s in the approach. Everything a woman does is measured in her mind to a different set of criteria. You have to be careful to know your place or you face the possibility of becoming a social pariah. You have to keep a stiff upper lip while you are getting your beating because that is your duty, your lot in life. Take it like a woman, it’s part of the job.

    I suppose it’s a common thought among people who don’t experience our condition, but your mother saying look at what your getting into bothers me a bit. As if it’s something any of us asked for, right? Before I transitioned a friend asked me why I wanted to be a woman and I replied, “Why do you?”. I don’t want to be anything, I just am.

  3. Suzan Says:

    I think my mother wanted me to know that life for women especially in the pre feminist late 1950s and early 1960s was different from the expectations I might have romantacized from the movies and television that was a source of my vicarious socialization as a girl.

    Of course my mother also had a serious talk with me about boys and how I should be careful and not even think of putting out because my reputation would be ruined and I would have to leave school.

    Things were a little Edward Albee/Tennessee Williams drama around my house after the started busting me for dressing up at 13 and when I told them I was transsexual at 15.

    But then how normal could life be for a transkid in the first half of the 1960s. Sex change operations were kind of like space travel at that point. Some people had done it but it was really freaking rare.

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