I was raped – and I’m sick of hearing about ‘false allegations’

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING for rape, sexual assault, victim-blaming.

I was raped. I don’t talk about it online much – or offline for that matter, because it was ten years ago in a hazy past I prefer to forget as much as I possibly can. I was eighteen – a young girl at the time, as I hadn’t discovered my transsexuality yet. I was raped by someone I knew, and nobody but my then-fiancé and my closest male friend believed me. Every other friend I had at the time rallied behind my rapist. Why? Partly because he was ‘a good guy’. Partly because I’d been drinking at the time. Partly because I had a reputation for promiscuity. And partly because ‘women cry rape all the time and it destroys lives’.

Well let me tell you something. I’d much rather be accused of rape with no basis for that accusation, than go through that again. I’d far rather be accused of any crime, and have my name ruined for that, than not only be raped, but then have my name dragged through the mud as a ‘false accuser’ because I had the temerity to speak out after the unspeakable happened to me. To say that false allegations of rape ‘destroy lives’ is a slap in the face to the women (and men) who have truly had their lives destroyed by rape.

What the people who bang on about “how important it is to stand against false accusations” don’t seem to realise is, there is no benefit to making a rape allegation when you haven’t been raped. Hell, there is no benefit to making a rape allegation when you have been raped. You will be disbelieved, if you go to the police you will be subjected to invasive and traumatic ‘rape kit’ examination, you will have every aspect of your behaviour, lifestyle and sexuality analysed by people who know nothing about you. You will be lambasted by society for daring to question a man’s right to put his penis inside you.

I was young and naïve, and I stupidly thought I would be believed when I spoke my truth. Had I known my name would be dragged through the mud, that I would lose almost everyone I was close to, I would not have told a single soul. I even, at one point, had an unidentified person shooting ball-bearings at the windows of the house I then shared with my fiancé. I have good reason to believe it was my rapist and a mutual ex-friend, trying to scare me into keeping quiet. I certainly didn’t go to the police, considering the reception I got from my friends and all the casual acquaintances who came to know of it.

When you talk about ‘false rape allegations’ like they are the most important part of the debates surrounding rape, sexual assault and consent, you are effectively reframing the debate to centre it around men (as the rape of women by men outstrips all other types of rape by an astronomical amount). You are telling raped people that they don’t matter. You are telling people that it is worse to be accused of rape than it is to experience rape.

When you overemphasise false rape allegations like they are the most important part of the debates surrounding rape, you are being a rape apologist. This ‘what about the men’ culture surrounding rape has to stop. What you are doing is reminding rape victims that everyone believes that women cry rape all the time, so there is no point in speaking their truths because they’re not going to be believed.

Even if the most important people in their lives believe them, they are going to lose people as well. Even if the police believe them, there probably won’t be enough proof to get it into court. And you are reminding them that because of this rape culture that privileges false allegations over actual experiences of rape, they have less than a 6% chance of achieving a conviction in court – that the whole thing relies on them being believed, and that most of society won’t believe them.

Because someone being acquitted of rape does not mean they are not guilty of rape. The victim deciding not to press charges, or recanting her (or his) story, does not mean that the accuser is not guilty of rape. The rape not being provable in court doesn’t mean it didn’t occur. A victim not pressing charges doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Sometimes, rape can absolutely be proven not to have happened. But lack of proof doesn’t mean lack of rape. It more often than not means a damn lucky rapist.

Yes, false rape allegations happen. Nobody is denying that. But they happen at a far, far lower rate than, say, accusations of rapes that actually happened that never get reported, tried or convicted. And to frame the debate as if the most important aspect is that some men get falsely accused, is misogynistic and a perpetuation of rape culture.

This is a repost from my old blog.

Caitlyn Jenner, beauty standards, and unreasonable expectations

11745959_10153462433862838_8881880467101625865_nThe media portrayal of Caitlyn Jenner is problematic because it perpetuates several cissexist ideas about transgender people, and cisnormative ideas about beauty and femininity. I want to preface this by stating I have nothing against Jenner personally, but I can’t help but recognise that her experience of transition is not as universal as the media would have us believe, and I can’t help but see that her financial situation and whiteness massively privilege her over the majority of the other transgender people on the planet, particularly trans women of colour and poor trans people.

In a world in which our absolute and only goal in life is expected to be ‘passing for cisgender’, she burst into the newspapers having transitioned – transformed, even – completely. She is a media darling because, where so many of us don’t fit the cisgender-person-shaped mould that we are expected to force ourselves into, she meets the societally acceptable standards of femininity and beauty that mean she is ‘a worthy trans person’. She’s white, she’s slim, she has the ‘right’ amount of chest, hips and cheekbones. Many transgender women are never going to look ‘like cisgender women’ – hell, there are many cisgender women who don’t fit that narrow description! But Jenner has had the ‘right’ surgeries and the ‘right’ amount to make her look acceptably ‘feminine’.

There’s this idea that trans women were men and are now women (and conversely, that trans men were women who are now men); among the people who accept us for the gender we say we are, at least. Suddenly, Jenner appeared on the cover of a magazine as Caitlyn with no sign of the steps that got her there – not that she owed us those, of course! But the way her transition has been reported is the only palatable way for the cisgender media and society in general to cope with us. She “was a man”, she “had a sex change” and “became a woman” completely. There was no in-between. There was just man and then woman and never the twain should meet.

This ignores many truths. That for many transgender people, medical transition simply isn’t possible for financial, social or health reasons. That pre-medical-transition and non-medical-transition transgender people are just as valid in the genders we identify with as anyone who’s been through ‘the full change’. That many of us are never going to ‘look cisgender’ no matter how hard we try (or don’t – the point is that we shouldn’t have to). That many of us are not doing a straight binary swap from one presentation to the other, that non-binary, genderqueer, and other gender-nonconforming transgender people exist. That it’s not always the case that transgender people want only one thing in life: for people to think we are cisgender.

We need to change this narrative that implies that transgender people want nothing more than to ‘pass’ as cisgender. That’s such a ridiculous concept; what exactly does a cisgender person look like? What is generally meant is that we are supposed to desire a result where nobody would ever guess our assigned sex at birth. Wouldn’t it be better, though, if instead of struggling to attain near-impossible standards of acceptable appearance, we changed the world which applies ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ to perfectly innocuous features of the human face and body? If we could redefine what it means to ‘look like a man’ and ‘look like a woman’? A transgender woman will (and should, to the world) always look like a woman, because she is a woman. Even if she chooses to avoid medical transition and grows herself a beard, she will still look like a woman, because that is what she is.

Sadly, we live in a world where people would tell my hypothetical transgender woman that she ‘looks like a man’ because we’re drip-fed gendered norms from the moment we’re born. Aged four, my son called a cisgender man “she” because he had long hair. This is not an unusual mistake for a small child (or even an older person) to make, because from a young age we are taught that this feature means man, this one means woman. Infants pretty much all look the same, they certainly don’t have features that can easily be gendered. Yet my son, when he was a baby, was “strong” and “handsome” when read as a boy, and “delicate” and “pretty” when read as a girl. People internalise these false ideas that certain features indicate certain genders so much that the same baby was described in totally opposite ways by different people, based on nothing more than whether I’d dressed him in purple or brown that day.

This is my problem with the Caitlyn Jenner situation. Her transition was received with overwhelming positivity by the media and society in general (although naturally not everyone ‘approved’) and I wonder how well she would have been received were she not slim, white, and above all, ‘pretty’ by cisnormative standards. I wonder how well she would have been received had she come out at the beginning of her transition, before she had undergone the hormonal and surgical treatment which helped her to ‘pass as a woman’ according to cisgender people’s flawed ideals. I’d like to see a shift in the general perception of what it means to look like a man, and what it means to look like a woman, so that instead of being expected to spend our lives chasing the fallacious concept of ‘passing’, we can just be accepted for who we are without question.