there have been absolute horror stories of late in the news. terrible things being done to women. this is not something new. women have borne the brunt of such acts of violence for as long as both women and violence have existed. or at least since patriarchal times. rape, domestic violence, assaults of varying degree are common enough, but when i was studying at university, we learned an even more disturbing statistic. it was this, that there seemed to exist a direct correlation between a rise in violence committed against women and the advances in women’s rights within society.
just let that sink in for a moment.
that seems to imply that even as we win, we lose. but what it really showed was how much rape is about power.
to demonstrate this relationship the professor had visual aids including graphs that mapped out the dual, nearly parallel lines of ascent. the higher the place women were able to claim within society, the higher the incidence of assault and violence perpetrated against them. a very euro-centric lens was used to make these broad (forgive the pun) assumptions.
women in other cultures that don’t enjoy the same advances in the rights they possess, in countries where they aren’t allowed to go to school, much less learn to drive, or participate in a vote, are they any safer? the graph didn’t speak for them…how could it?
for clarity, it should be understood that this women’s studies course was way back in the late 1970’s, at a time when i was only with women, and part of a community of radical lesbians, with whom i would commit routine acts of graffiti on walls and highway underpasses plastering angry messages such as “all men are rapists”. (i have since had a change of heart)
these were the kind of women who would later reject me, for having actually had sex with someone to become pregnant rather than employ a ‘turkey baster’, the kind who put me down and avoided me when they learned i was actually bi-sexual, the kind who fought to exclude some of my ‘girlfriends’ from ‘all woman events’ because these friends had started out life as a male. did it matter to them that these late blooming women no longer had any of their original equipment? no, it did not.
surely transgender women have just as much if not more danger of rape in our society. surely these champions of women’s rights and safety, these knights in shining ‘hermour’, who saw so vividly the fact that it is men that commit almost all acts of sexual assault, who would paint that message in letters three feet tall in public places for all to read and consider, surely these bastions of womanhood, these amazons, would be considerate of the fact that transgender women are as much at the mercy of such violence as are women who were born in little baby girl bodies!
but they were not…
i have raised two daughters, both of whom are grown and living on their own at this time. neither has been raped, that i know of. but i have been. i know this pain, this shame, this rage, humiliation, the wounds that never heal to scars. each rape that happens is a fresh assault, i feel everything all over again. i will be that knight in shining ‘hermour’ because, having survived and having managed to process the horror so that my self esteem survived with me, i know how to do this battle.
some who pretend to engage in this war do not.
some will try to understand rape from a purely socio-economic point of view and imagine that it more frequently occurs in cultures where women are absolutely disempowered. some will correctly argue that it is not a problem of promiscuous cultural paradigms blurring lines. most understand that the rapist is not simply looking for sex. he (and yes, it is almost always a ‘he’) is turned on, not by the act of copulation, but by the thrill of exercising power over another person, to the point of robbing them of their humanity. it is so much worse than sheer lust. it is evil.
but of the women with whom i used to vandalise walls and highway underpasses, only a few would include my lovely youngest daughter, the one who started life with the ‘wrong equipment’ for her beautiful feminine spirit, among the community of women whose rights must be protected. their rapes, the ones against transgender women will seem less important in the estimation of these vanguards of female-ness …i know, i’ve been privvy to their conversations as they blatantly exclude all but ‘womyn-born-womyn’ from their realm of consideration and empathy.
this oppression, this exception made by one kind of woman against another kind of woman, seems just as stupid as say, thinking that a woman from saudi arabia being raped is any more horrible and odious than the rape of a woman on a topless beach in jamaica. it isn’t that the rape of a transgender woman, or of a man for that matter, is less important to them …it just isn’t on their radar. (gaydar)
and it isn’t only radical lesbians that have this penchant to place less value on transgender women, the cis-priveleged society is largely still of the mind that people like my daughter are just weird. the rape of a straight, cis-gendered woman is going to be harder to ignore than just another ‘tranny’ getting assaulted (don’t they all work in the sex-trade anyway?)
yes! rape is evil…it is evil when a woman on a bus in india is gang raped, it is evil when it happens to a high-school girl unconscious and being dragged from party to party getting raped all along the way, it is evil when the president of a bank calls it consensual sex after raping the maid who cleans up his hotel room. and it is no less evil when a transgender woman, whatever her employment may be, is raped, or knifed, or assaulted, or killed.
a problem as ubiquitous as is rape cannot be solved by divvying up the victims, or only condemning certain rapists. when society learns to cry foul as readily over the rape of someone like my beautiful transgender daughter, then, and only then, can we hope to win this war,