RBW “Abuse of power”
I’ve been trying to come up with an elegant way of starting this week’s post… but it’s hard to type as outrage and incredible sadness arm wrestle for access to the launch tubes…
And… like a horrifying number of women in this country who’ve had to deal with having their scars suddenly and unceremoniously ripped open during these past two weeks (two weeks?????), I have to speak up. We have, without coordination, nor cohesion, all come to the same conclusion, and realized that despite the pain, and shame, and, for god’s sake, please get this! fear, it’s time to step forward.
I too, am a victim of sexual abuse.
As a transwoman, I kept this buried so very deep, because I already have to battle the gnats and mosquitos of the misinformed, the ignorant, and the downright idiots who believe that their beliefs somehow overrule my existence. They think they can deny me and my identity. They can ignore science (look, we all get why there are climate deniers out there. You make your money from fossil fuels – we knew that. So we’ve never ever given credibility to your denial. But unlike your sick cousins, the trans-deniers, your denial is “just business”). But you both can stop now; you can stop ignoring the U.S. Government, the world’s health and medical minds – you can stop trying to somehow use your beliefs to make fiction into fact. You can stop thinking that your opinion is right and valid when applied to me and my existence. Just stop.
Knowing that I am already helping push Sisyphus’s rock up that hill, I am loath to let any armchair psychologist weigh-in on or re-write my origin story. I was trans before any abuse. The abuse was not, and could not be, responsible for anything other than the pain of being abused.
I am also compelled to help explain to the non-humans out there that the reasons why victims don’t come forward when it happens is…
Their own fucking reasons!
In my case, I was reading Janet Mocks’ book, “Redefining Realness,” and it opened that door that I closed so long ago. Tied-up in a knot of identity and sexuality and childhood confusion, I had been successful at convincing myself that there hadn’t been sufficient evidence to accuse him; that it was probably a “one time only” thing for my abuser. I had to face the fact that, tho’ my gender dysphoria was able to blow down the walls of its prison (once a month it turns out), I had been successful at burying my sexual abuse so far under that prison, that I almost forgot it was there...
Except that it was there. A crack in the foundation that makes every strut bend a little out of plumb. Casts a little bit of a shadow over things. A thorn in my heart where love is supposed to be.
But I must have gotten stronger through my transition, because I was able to say it out loud. I was able to tell Mylove. My lover. The one with whom I share my body and soul. I am…
This… happened to me.
It was a trusted man. My family trusted him, allowed him to take me and my friends places, sleep over at his house. Now, this man was in his twenties. He was a role model, or so my parents thought. He studied hard and became a paramedic. I went to his family’s house many times, and all of my friends would come too. We went to the movies and camping and all the things that are “great things” for boys.
I knew him for about 5 years when, one night, my best friend T and I spent the night. And he suggested that, rather than camping out in his living room (like usual), why don’t we all share the bed? T came from a family with brothers and didn’t seem to think it was weird. So why should I?
I woke out a sound sleep to feel someone moving my hand. When I realized what was happening, it was too late. I jerked my hand back and felt a reassuring hand stroking my forehead saying I had just had a bad dream… just go back to sleep. It happened again, and the same reassuring hand caressed my forehead, the same whisper, once again telling me I was the one who had a bad dream… and all this without a word from me, as I lay there shivering…
The other part I buried, and I still can’t believe I did this, was that my best friend was also a victim. The next morning, T was curled up on the couch in the living room. I asked, “when did you leave?” But his reason was mumbled as our host made breakfast. It wasn’t until the following day that T could tell me that he had woke up with his hand where it shouldn’t be. And he immediately sought refuge in the living room.
Needless to say, things were never the same after that.
I realized after talking to Mylove about it, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Mylove said all the right things I guess I was craving to hear – It wasn’t my fault, etc.
But the truth was, I never gave myself permission to be the victim, because I didn’t think I had a right to say I was “Abused,” since I’m not sure how far my bad dream went. And in retrospect, I’m not sure how much I actually buried… was it a single night? Did I let this happen more than once? Why had T been strong when I had not? He took control, I pretended to sleep. He never saw our friend again… I… can’t be sure when I stopped seeing our friend. Geezus, how much have I buried? And why am I still trying to downplay it?
I have to hold on to the handrail of rationale – the ways we all react to each situation are our own – there is no way anyone can ever say, “you should’ve done it this way,” particularly in the realm of abuse.
The criteria for credibility was not created by us – it was imposed onto us by those WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ABUSED – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE??????
There is no statute of limitation on pain, on suffering, on the degree of pain or suffering. There is not a GOD DAMNED THING THAT WILL EVER EXCUSE OR FORGIVE THIS ABUSE OF POWER.
And before you start handing out ironic “thank yous” to some candidate/abuser for bringing the public’s awareness to this hideous problem, just stop that too. This has been going on for centuries, but it can stop here. We should all join hands with the brave women (and some men) who’ve stepped forward. And while we’re at it, stop playing partisan games. This is not a political issue. This is a fundamental human issue. We have to teach our children that this abuse of power is never okay. We cannot allow the abuse of anyone to continue, not even one more second. And we cannot allow the abuse to be swept into the other political issues that will be the first things we’re happy to ignore once this presidential race is over.
So what will we do? How will we heal this?
In a world where Brock Peters only gets 6 months for the brutal campus rape of Elizabeth Smart because he’s “suffered enough” losing his Stanford swimming scholarship and being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. In the wake of that, a Montana man, Martin Blake, gets SIXTY DAYS (????) for repeatedly raping his daughter, because he, too, had already “suffered enough” with 17 days in jail and losing his job.
I wonder what that really is?
As many women across our country, I am dealing with the torn flesh of an old wound.
I can find comfort in Mylove’s arms. Mylove, who has dealt with those times when men crossed the line with her. A child of the sixties, Mylove grew-up with every other woman (and man) believing that “boys will boys” and women just have to be okay with that. But she’s also the woman who had her nose bloodied by an ex-boyfriend and turned into a wolverine, wiping her blood on his shirt as she proceeded to shred his chest with her nails.
She has had to deal with a lot of revelations from me and about me. And this one about my abuse, I’m sure, was maybe as heart-stopping as discovering that she had married a woman. As I laid bare my wounds, as I came forward to speak up about how I had been sexually abused, she looked deep into my eyes and soothed my hurt and confusion, shame and guilt, with a simple salve.
She listened and held my hand as I looked at the fear in my shadows. She stood beside me as I gathered my courage to look all the way at it.
She asked what could she do? She hugged me while I cried.
No judgment. No should’ves, could’ves, or would’ves.
And then she asked if I thought maybe I needed to check in with T and let him know I had been abused that night too… as the tears began once again to well up. Once again, she knows me better than I know myself. She knows that this would tear me up. She let me cry it all out.
It’s a weird wrestling match between anger and sadness. And the tears come in waves. And when it looked like I was running out of steam… MyLove started throwing pecans down my cleavage to lighten me up! I can always count on her to bring me out of the tailspin…
She’s right. The pecans are a gentle way to bring my attention back to the present. A way to ask, “what now?” Really, what now? How will we all heal? How do we make sure this can’t happen again?
Well, we can start by saying we don’t support this, don’t condone this, never, ever will we excuse this…
… at the ballot box on November 8th.
Last week was one of my favorite Indian festivals; Navaratri, The nine nights of the Goddess. I don’t have space to go into what it all means, but the point you need to know is that it celebrates the Divine Feminine, and as one of the newest girls on the team, I’m all in. Finally.
So, there are lotsa ways Mylove and I celebrate this sacred time in our house, but one of the simplest is mere “remembrance,” a yogic practice of holding someone or something sacred in your heart and mind and allowing the blessings of the memories and thoughts to reverberate through your entire being. You can do this in even the most mundane of your daily activities, turning each one into a sacred ritual, rich with meaning and experience.
One morning, I was using my ab(dominal) wheel and truly relishing each time I rolled out into a pranam (a reverential bow) and realizing that I was actually doing it toward our MahaLaxmi Puja, the altar in our bedroom devoted to the Goddess of abundance, wealth, and beauty, and smiling inside that I am that Goddess. It hit me, I’m checking off all the “never woulds, never coulds and never shoulds” almost every day since I came out. There is now, nothing out of my reach or forbidden to me – if I wanna cry at movies, call everyone “honey,” wear an evening gown, go window shopping at Sephora, or be President of the United States, now I can, because I’m a woman!
Now, those of you who’ve been with me here at “Raised By Wolves” since the beginning, know that I wrestle with the sublime to the ridiculous almost every day. And anyone who knows Alexandra Billings knows she’s set the bar very high about what and where we place our attention. But you also know that I’m going thru my second puberty and reveling in the simplest freedoms like wearing lipstick and lace, and any of the other previously forbidden fruits. I am the biggest cheerleader for “a little extra sumpin’- sumpin” a touch more bling, a bit more sparkle… you might not only live once, but this is the only version of you you’ll get this go around and, as many have said, life’s too short for bad coffee, no lipstick, or pulling back for any reason. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog…
I’m using the ab wheel, remember?
I was really feeling the deeeeeeep stretch of each pranam, and wallowing in the glory of really feeling, not only comfortable in my skin, but great in it. Here I was, 45 pounds lighter and yet waaaaay stronger and fit and maybe, just maybe, able to wear a… bikini soon. It’s the first time I’ve ever, ever dared allowed myself to even allow that thought to form…
As I looked up from one more amazing, deep stretch I saw my long manicured nails (rocking a rather bold mother-of-pearl finish) and giggling with glee that my hands looked so… so…
…and it hit me, or rather rumbled from deep inside of the bottom of the deepest vein that runs to the depth of the physicality of my being… an earthquake of joy and love and gratitude.
I am a woman… I… made… it.
Deep wracking sobs kept rum-tumbling out, over and over and over. I’m talking snot-bubbles, burning eyes, the whole shootin’ match… not even trying to avoid the drool pooling on my yoga mat, I let go of the wheel and curled into the fetal position.
I felt my subtle being rising above my fetal self.
“Look at me, I’m crying that deep cry that I’ve waited for an entire lifetime!”
“Wait, what are we doing out here? Don’t wanna miss this… get back in there and let go, girl!”
“Is this what they would call deep soul cleansing? (And where did phrase come from anyway? Some cheap novel?)”
“NO! It’s what they say when… what are you doing?”
“Shut-up! You’re missing this!”
“Right, good idea, okay, I’m heading back in there…”
“Well, stop talking and go!”
And then, I was able to really let go. And I swan dived backward into a waterfall of tears… and it was… amazing. I have no idea how long I was there, I can only mark time by the river of tears spilling from my mat to the floor.
When I finished, I stood up and staggered upstairs and looked at Marcy like I’d both stepped out of a torrential downpour and a two-hour mediation…
What happened to you?
So I told her.
The physical changes of gender transition are sometimes the only part that anyone seems to care about. I’ve had my theories about why this is, for others, and for me. Those are the measuring sticks for the “one little victories” that literally track the progress of all of the hard work, and I mean hard (oh, honey, just one of the procedures would horrify the strongest of the strong), that is now, part of my daily life. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s… worth it.
Once you begin to understand the mind-body-heart connection as deeply as we do, you’ll understand why this is one path of the journey that many of us have to take. It’s the only way to remove the thorn that’s festered in our psyche for most of our lives.
But that’s not what any of this is really about for any of us. It’s an odd lot. Our maturity gets kicked into hyper drive as our bodies step into a wormhole of our second puberty. Yes, it’s like Syfy. And there’s nothing that can prepare you for what that feels like. But it is what we signed up for. And learning to dance with biology while trying to be who we’re supposed to be: both true to ourselves, as we are true to the society that hates us, doesn’t understand us, objectifies us, reviles us, AND loves us, supports us, is intrigued by us, learns from us, is inspired by us… makes daily life a non-stop adventure.
And the who we are is, as Alexandra reminds us, the most important and interesting to talk about.
This is the number one topic around our house, lately. And Marcy and I are continually looking at all the things that have changed in the last two years. Now, before we proceed, many people refer to this as “Scottie’s transition,” which is inaccurate for a number of reasons – chief of all, as a married woman of close to 30 years, it’s our transition if anything. But we all like to have something to mark time with, so just between us girls, we call it “since vitamin E” (for estrogen). This doesn’t connote when I came out because the chaos and false starts that all crashed into one another at that time have blurred the start of it all, except, of course, the ending of that chapter of our life and the beginning of now.
“Since vitamin E” marks, instead, the beginning of feeling good, feeling right, feeling like me. Truly me. The me without an asterisk. The me without apologies, compromises or masks.
We always joke that, after almost 3 decades together (29 years, last April 29th, for the mathemagicians out there), it’s about time some of those little annoyances that plague every couple, were gone by now. But something (stubbornness?) in both of us, keeps many of them alive.
Not so, however, on Vitamin E.
The other day, Marcy came out of the bathroom with tears in her eyes, “Oh my God!” I asked, “Mylove, what’s wrong?” She shook her head and stammered, “Not only did you replace the toilet paper, but you put it on so the sheet comes over the top!”
And before you ask, the toilet seat is always down in our house (but it has been since my childhood, a mom and three sisters in the house, I wasn’t stupid back then either).
I put out the trash cans the other night, and when I came back in, Marcy was thunderstruck. “Oh, my god! You were quiet!” I was a bit bewildered, apparently, the “dude” that used to live with her (some arrogant schmuck named Scott) thought it didn’t matter if you made a ruckus late at night in the neighborhood. How inconsiderate…
I’m kidding, sorta. In a marriage or long time, committed relationship, theses seemingly inconsequential events are the shorthand for decades-long debates and decisions.
And as funny as those things are, the real changes since Vitamin E to our relationship are subtler, yet incredibly powerful. As a woman, I feel every change of the winds well before we get around a bend. And tho’ I’d love to think I was always attuned to Mylove’s frequencies, Vitamin E has cranked up the volume, and I can sense her shifting moods from three area codes away. But importantly, I know why her moods shifted in the first place, why it’s a big deal, what the ramifications could be, and most importantly, I know what is necessary for me to do with all of this. (Hey boys, take note here, sometimes it’s nothing).
Now, am I saying that Vitamin E is like sapho juice, giving us increased superpowers? Thufir Hawat would say heightened potential (Dune anyone? Anyone?). But for me, who’s first and only natural dose came in utero, the reintroduction into my life of “E” has shut down the panic-stricken screaming that I had to strive for decades to become deaf to, the pleading and, eventually, faint gnawing whisper that came from being imprisoned in someone else’s life. It vanished almost the moment estrogen returned to my veins. And with it, the entire security apparatus built to contain the prisoner’s mere existence was also gone – freeing up about 70 percent of available energy resources.
So, call it operating (finally) at full capacity.
But, even more than that, I have a clear view and no pebbles in the fertile soil that is my consciousness. My petals are fully opened to the sun’s rays, and now I have so much more to give to the one I love. And so much more to receive. And that’s the biggest change in our relationship. We both are so much more there for each other. We, who were already a model of a loving marriage, no longer are pretending we don’t, or can’t, understand each other. We have always been speaking not only the same language, but the same exact dialect. But, I could never admit that before, and Marcy could never pretend to understand.
So, if we suddenly stop making sense to each other, we each know it’s because we won’t understand each other.
And that’s a horse of a different color altogether.
Luckily, neither of us has, especially since vitamin E, had the patience, desire or tolerance to waste whatever precious time we have in each other’s arms and hearts, especially if it’s because of any self-inflicted stupidity.
And I guess, I’d like to think I’ve always been that kinda girl. But then again…
… I did use to put the toilet paper on backward… just for fun.
I said, used to.
Okay, I resisted for as long as I could (unless you count the few Facebook shares I could not keep my sharing finger from selecting), but I have to take to the keys to ask…
…how will we heal?
The political climate is only the mirror of a country struggling to “grow –up,” and we’re as conflicted as a teenager on a Friday night. (Trust me, I know as I enter full force into a second puberty – it ain’t pretty!) It’s a time when we have cast off the social decorum and intelligent ways of communicating that have, for better or worse, gotten us this far as a country and a society. Somehow the gloves are off and we all, willingly, with full intention ,say things, print things, infer things, and worst of all, SHOUT things that we want to be incendiary, not caring if they are accurate, and actually hope that they will hurt…
…without any thought of the consequences.
I’m as guilty as the next girl. I look to score points, like a boxer peppering my opponent with body shots to “weaken” him so that my real point will land the knock-out punch. I will, with the right turn of a phrase, stop my opponents in their tracks, the blazing light of truth will cut through their stupidity and ignorance, and they will not only cede their argument, but will change their entire opinion and come to my side to work for the greater good of all.
At least that’s how it looks in my head. And that’s what I tell my heart when it protests about my pugilistic ways. And that’s what I shout into my pillow to justify being, well, just like “them.”
Rats, and I was doing so well…
I know I may look like a bright-eyed teenager (rose colored glasses anyone?), but I am, and have been, a media professional for over thirty years. My stock in trade is not only my opinion but the country’s various opinions. It’s how we who are selling the dog food* have to play. You don’t sell TV to yourself, after all. If we did, would we really have ever canceled Rocky & Bullwinkle?
(*“selling the dog food” is a term that refers to the fact that TV is just a medium for selling consumer products. Advertiser-based, it is ruled by the companies that sell to consumers, so don’t believe it one second – there s no such thing as liberal media bias it’s the biggest line of horsesh*t ever sold. Anything that is too controversial for Bob & Betty Sixpack in middle America, won’t ever be said on TV.)
Most of my work (with the exception of hanging out with surfers for 5 years for ESPN’s “Surfer Magazine”) has been “red state – red meat.” In other words, it’s the kind of stuff that is most likely to air on the flat-screens at Hooters – testosterone-laden dude food that goes down best with beer, bravado and bros. So, I can, without any apology or hesitation, say I have studied our great nation’s zeitgeist from the inside out. Call it survival or just knowing your audience, but I know why those on the red side of the equation want so badly to win.
And I chose the word “badly” by design. This “win at all costs” isn’t even appropriate in football (“inflate gate,” anyone? – Everyone who wasn’t from Boston cried foul for months afterward) business (Wells Fargo for 5200, please) or religion (let’s not go here, shall we?). So why is it being done so badly in the battle for the beltway?
Yes, I hear you saying, “But, throughout our history, it’s always been this way, we have always fought tooth and nail for “our guy” (hmmm…). But let’s be real, even the Republicans didn’t think this would ever get this bad. This is bad bad, Robert Altman satirical bad, weak night on SNL bad, nobody will ever buy this, bad.
Fair disclosure, I have had a slightly cynical outlook on politics since high school. Ever since I, as a starry-eyed junior who earnestly ran for senior class president (after earning my stripes as ASB president), was told by the out-going seniors that they were going to vote instead for my opponent because they were graduating and thought it was a good joke to leave the other guy in charge. (Sorry, Lawrence that’s what it was.) I learned that power rules, the best candidate doesn’t always win, and life isn’t fair. That politics is a game… and second place sucks.
So what did I do? Did I quit? Sit-out my senior year with my arms folded? No. I got schooled, so I was going to be the schooler. I became a nasty, backroom politicking, power-broker myself, and the next year got my girl into the oval office. I used the same tactics that brought me down the year before. I harnessed the out-going seniors, those who wouldn’t even be around to live with their decision, but I appeased my conscience by knowing I had used my powers for good.
But that was high school. And we weren’t playing for keeps.
Even so, why do I think that, after all, these years, after three wars (four?) and black lives matter, and HB2, and an obstructionist congress, and gerrymandering, that it would be different in this election?
Because it has to be. At no time since I’ve been able to vote, have I ever had my life literally on the line. When I first got the right to vote, I got a mean package deal. In a scary twofer, I also had registered for the draft (remember Ben Sasway?) because the war machine was still running at top speed and I was of the age to feed it.
Now, before I go any further, my TV fans know (and you should too) that I actively support our men and women who defend our country. (This isn’t just slapping a bumper sticker on my car kinda support – I put my money where my hiring mouth was, and made it a practice to bring returning vets onto my crews.) There are obvious differences between being drafted and enlisting. It’s another thing that makes our country great. We all get to choose how we serve.
But this election season, the vitriol has been the epitome caustic. My rights have never been on the line before. There’s states that I literally can’t go. This is freakin’ America! Are you kidding me? There are systematic and well funded efforts to pass LAWS that make it legal to discriminate against me and my LGBTQ brethren. Here. In the good ‘ol U.S. of A. And the right is so blinded by their rage that will say anything, do anything, hurt anyone, to seize this power. And without also making a false equivalency, the left is not entirely blameless, giving as good as they get, we all take off the gloves and go toe-to-toe without anyone caring…
…where we go from here.
How will we reconcile with each other after whoever wins in November? Will we be able to ignore the cuts and bruises we all suffered on the way to this decision? Will those who have spent the last 18 months with veins bulging in their necks and blood on their tongues, actually be able to put all that aside to work together?
How could we? It’s not like elections past. The Republicans tried to distance themselves but it was too late, they already sold their souls and the devil came a’callin’. Doesn’t matter that, to stand by their boy, they have to compromise every value this once proud party had, they’ll have to soldier on and take a bullet for the team, merely to save face with the largest donors…
…all at the expense of our country.
And I’m not going to pretend to present a fair and balanced view here. Hillary is a President. Her opponent is nothing more than a spoiler – but the spoiled of that war, is a legalized mandate that it is okay to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, it’s okay to roll back women’s rights, It’s okay to mandate over woman’s bodies. Misogyny is okay. Racism is expected. Hatred is a tool. Xenophobia, the law of the land.
There is no pretending that this is the last gasp of white male privilege. There is no getting around the fact that the great white hope is willing to trade fear for substance, blame for responsibility, and hatred for patriotism.
The army of apologists and surrogates sell out themselves and this country every time they step in front of a microphone or camera. They know it, and nobody is smart enough to pull up on the stick to get out of their own nosedives. How will any of them look themselves in the mirror after November?
How will any of us look each other in the eye and go forward?
We’ve seen this movie before. We just lived through eight years of an obstructionist congress standing on principle to block anything that moved in the name of “gamesmanship.” But this go-around even the Republican leadership can’t hide their sins, and the fact that they can’t control Godzilla now that they’ve blasted it with the atomic ray gun, has us all bracing for impact. Every morning they have to peek between their fingers at the latest headlines to see which is the latest “Republican value” to die an unholy death. Their boy is apparently settling a golf bet to take them all the way down, and apparently there’s no bottom in sight: not defrauding students with his fake university, nor faking charitable donations, nor illegally going against a federal embargo with a communist Cuba and lying about it to Cuban-American patriots, not defiling a beauty Queen, insulting a Judge, spewing hate toward an entire country and an entire religion, and just about anything that isn’t white (except Hillary), not taking bribes from Russia, nor bribing a state’s attorney general. Not even referring to this country as a “third world country,” is enough for his basket to hit bottom. And don’t get me started about being “smart” enough to not pay taxes. Nothing is low is enough. Nothing apparently is too far for them to ever cry, “uncle.”
This is what happens when you sell your soul.
But there I go judging again.
I honestly have no idea how I will look any of my friends who are pretending that their vote for that guy isn’t a vote against me. I have no idea how Republicans will ever really believe that they will have any shred of credibility left. It’s an amazing phenomenon, really. Just like those high school seniors who wouldn’t be around to reap what they had sown. I’m wondering where all of these people think any of us are going. They’ll have us on the day after the election. It’s not like half of the country suddenly disappears; and it’s not like any of the festering wounds will maybe ever heal.
So what then, is the answer? We can’t close Pandora’s box, we can’t put that genie back in its beer bottle. We can’t kill Godzilla; we can only pray he goes back into the sea.
We are already different as a country. Mainstream media has lost all credibility. Our establishment’s pillars are crumbling. We are so polarized that there’s no such thing anymore as a “healthy exchange of ideas.” There’s only us and them. No we.
Will it change in November? Will we have learned anything positive through this all? Will the ideas of reform and change that were brought up produce anything other than even more talking points?
Will the racial divides that have been exposed get spanned with bridges of understanding, or will the disenfranchised continue to rally around a champion that will do nothing more than knock down those bridges with the spray of hate and fear?
We’re all holding our breath…
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"