It was our second date, and he was just as kind and just as funny as he'd been the week before. Dan wasn't the best looking guy in the room, but he knew his way around a joke, and he never ask me to pay for dinner. I was hooked.
He was a big guy, over six feet tall, blonde hair, and had beautiful hazel eyes. We bumped into each other at the local grocery store one afternoon after I accidentally threw myself under his shopping cart. Since that time, we'd gone to a movie and been to dinner. Our second date was to take place at his apartment where he was going to fix his famous homemade pizza. I've never been a big pizza fan, but I liked Dan, and I'd only been transitioning for a few years and at that time, any date was a great date. As long as there wasn't any wacky sexual expectations, or signs of psychotic mania in the hallway, I was in. I was twenty two, and already completely and utterly desperate.
I was never one of those people in my community who lived a lie. I was Transgender and was never ashamed of it. After a suicide attempt at 16, when I finally found my Trans brothers and sisters, it was the first real breath I'd taken. I felt a huge weight lift off me, and every voice that told me I was insane, or wrong, or headed straight to Hell, was squelched. So I never went around pretending my past didn't exist. I never purposely deceived people. I wanted to live in this new body I was constructing because for the first time in my life, my reflection was starting to match my spirit. I couldn't have been happier, and I wanted to tell the world about it.
And so Dan was fully aware of what I was, where I came from, and where my heart was, and he was fine with it.
"I see you. All I know is what I see."
He told me that within the first twenty minutes, which is why I said yes to the homemade pizza thing. I figured I'd found someone true and someone pure, and I wanted desperately to live with it for as long as he'd let me. And I'd do what I could to keep it going. And that included choking down cooked dough and tomato sauce.
We were sitting on his couch with the Chicago skyline blinking behind us and some Melissa Manchester blaring in the background. We sipped wine, chatted, and as the evening wore on, I suggested we see each other the next week. It was getting late, and taking the El past ten at night was always risky. Dan then looked me in the eye and took my hand:
"I want you to stay." He said softly.
"Next time." I said firmly.
I moved him aside and headed for the front door and my coat that was hanging on the brown, three-pronged hat rack in his hallway.
Suddenly, and without warning, I felt his hand on my shoulder. He turned me quickly toward him, and kissed me. The kiss was hard and almost painful. He then put his hands around my waist and pulled me toward him. I tried to get free, but the more I struggled, the tighter his grip became. My heart began to race in a way I'd never felt before, and my body went into a hyper-speed panic that I felt in the pit of my stomach. I knew I was in terrible, terrible trouble.
I put my hand on his thigh, and as he began to slowly release me, I balled up my fist, and hit him square in the groin. He jumped back in pain, and I turned toward the door, sweating and crying. My voice was stuck in me somehow. I couldn't seem to scream, and my breath became shallow and deep. I also couldn't really think. I saw the doorknob, but turning it became almost impossible. And as my hand reached for the sleeve of my coat, I was whisked back into the living room, and fell flat on my back. I landed inches from the coffee table, still clinging onto my coat. Dan's eyes were red and huge and they glared at me with a rage and an anger that filled up the room. As I wriggled and tried to squirm away, before I knew it, he was on top of me, pinning down my wrists and spreading my thighs. And as he came close to me again, with his mouth near my neck, he felt between my legs, and popped his head up:
"You...?!" was all I heard.
His breath got hotter and closer to me, and he flipped me over on my stomach and began tearing at my dress.
I was raped that night.
I never went to the police and I never told another living soul. None of my friends knew, no one I worked with, and no family member ever found out. I kept this in me for almost 20 years. It was 1983, and being what I was, was not only against the law in Illinois, it was unheard of. I remember once, a girlfriend of mine was being chased by her boyfriend who was coming at her with a kitchen knife, and when she found a parked police car; out of breath and near hysterics, told them what she was running from, and the two cops laughed and told her to "act like a man." So, I knew deep down that going to the police was useless.
In Sweden, where gay marriage is legal and where they lead the world in the pursuit of gay rights and gay legislation, a Transgender woman was raped in front of her apartment complex. The attacker, however, was charged with assault, because the judge claimed that:
"We believe that he wanted to rape... this woman. But as she proved to be a man, his plan [would] never have been possible."
The judge concluded that the rape was "invalid" because the victim was anatomically a male. Instead, the perpetrator was convicted of assault and will pay just over $2,000 in damages to the woman.
I don't know the answer to where it is we belong as a community. We're the "T" on the end of LGBT, and we're liars when we try and blend into a meeting of feminists. We're standing on the outside of a lot of windows, and no one's really championing for us to come in and tell our story. And in our own world, with our own people, there are Transgender men and women who proclaim their gender as the one given to them by whatever doctor they've written checks to. If we're confused about where to go, and who we are, how can we expect the mainstream of society not to be either?
Whatever the answer is, on the way to finding it, on the way to trying to live with each other and be with each other, we have to stand our ground and we have to do it with assurance and power. But we can't do it alone. We need help. We need other people. And we desperately need each other.
I was raped. I was raped and it took me years to figure out that it wasn't my fault, that I wasn't to blame, and that it wasn't my shame I was carrying around. Whatever it is anyone thinks of me, I was raped. We've taken huge steps in the last couple of decades. We're here and we're noticed, and we matter. I feel that. I love my community. I'm proud of who we are and where we're headed, but I sometimes feel that when I step outside my own front door, I'm truly on my own. My country doesn't have my back.
And as a world -- a world of change and newness and brilliance -- if we continue to keep our own prejudices and ignorance in the forefront of our jurisdiction and societal laws, we'll eventually find our compassion and kindness will suffer. And soon, without warning and with total conviction, the silence around us will be deafening.
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