I remember the night that it happened and what I was wearing. A gray tank top and gray skinny jeans. I was 18 years old, just barely and I was getting dressed for a little after party I was going to. I remember that the grey tank top was my favorite top at the time. It had orange and green stars on it and it fit me so that it showed off my chest and waist. It was my first year in college and my roommate had found it on the floor of our dorm room. He always had random people in and out of the room and sometimes they’d leave clothes. I was a scavenger. I had just started going full-time and I didn’t have much in the way of feminine clothing. The gray tank top was like the holy grail to me at the time because unlike most of my clothing, it wasn’t re-purposed from clothes I wore in high school. I found it and it was mine and it made me feel good, so when my new friend told me that we were going to a party, I knew just what to wear.
Tonight would be the first night I’d meet my new friend. Like most men I had interacted with, I met him online. I’ve always been someone who’s found it easier to meet people online than in real life, especially as someone who was queer. I felt misunderstood as a teenager. I had friends who loved and embraced me, but I still felt lonely. I felt like an oddity that no one would understand and the internet was the only place where I felt normal. Like most teenagers, sex was something that I was curious about. When you’re a queer teen, especially in the 2000s, there really wasn’t a way to discuss sex with your peers without feeling immensely uneasy; and things were complicated for me because I had breasts. During puberty, I started to develop breasts. These weren’t “man boobs” , they looked and felt like natural breasts. So much so that when I would change in the locker room as a teenager, boys would grope me. They wouldn’t grope me to tease me or to make fun of me. They’d grope me out of sheer curiosity. They’d grab me and say “what??…” and just look at me with this confused blank expression on their face. So, I got into the habit of changing in the restroom every time I had PE. I did whatever I could to avoid having PE all together and my last two years, I had enough AP credits to where I didn’t have to take PE. While one of my problems was solved, there was still the problem of me being this androgynous child that no one found remotely attractive, but rather, confusing. No one, with the exception of men who were much older than me that liked, as they often put it “the best of both worlds”. I remember meeting with a 25-year-old man online when I was 16 years old. He took me to a hotel room and we were planning on having sex. He didn’t know how old I was; I often told men that I spoke to that I was 18. Before we did anything, I felt a pang of regret and guilt and told him that I was actually 16. I told him that I understood what I did was wrong and that misleading him wasn’t right. But to my surprise, he told me that he still thought I was hot and we still ended up having sex- and we had sex many times after. He wasn’t the only one, there were several men who were much older than me who had sex with me when I was underage. The strange thing was, I didn’t really like sex. I mean, the sex part of it was ok, I guess, but what I think I enjoyed more was being able to feel an aspect of myself that I had often denied myself from feeling. See, ever since I was a young child, I became an expert at living somewhat of a double existence. I was an extremely self-aware child who understood what people wanted from me and often gave it to them with a smile on my face. Going to private Christian School, I was a teacher’s pet. I was one of the good kids. My parents always held me in high regard and always thought I was a well-behaved child. But secretly, I was everything but. When I turned 18, I was finally able to pursue the things that I wanted to both romantically and sexually without having to be paranoid about getting arrested or getting the men I was involved in arrested. So tonight was going to be a night where, if I met a man and it went there, I would feel no guilt.
The party I was going to was an after part for a bar in the valley called The Oxwood. The numerous men I had spoken to have told me about the Oxwood, a transgender bar where men go to me trans women or “gurls” as they called them. It was a space where trans women could go and dance and cross dressers could go out for a night on the town with other cross dressers. At the time, barely legal me wanted to go so badly. I honestly hungered for a place where I could feel free enough to express my gender without worrying about being judged. I started identifying as gender queer when I was 16 and my presentation was very much a twisting of gender expression. However, as I explored my gender further, I realized that I was far more binary than I had realized and that there was so much internalized transphobia that I had that kept me from denying this about myself. So at the time, i just wanted to be able to express my gender without having to explain it. This night would be one of those opportunities for me. The party was at a man name Danny’s apartment (the name has been changed, but anyone who knows this circle, will know who I’m talking about). Danny was an old man, had to be in his 60s at the time, but he was very well liked. He was very popular and was a Hugh Hefner of sorts within the community.
When my friend and I got to his house, we were greeted by a bunch of men who were shooting the shit, laughing,and I guess, winding down from the bar. I enjoyed the mood. I enjoyed being around a group of men who i knew liked trans people. It was refreshing and i guess to, some degree exciting. But these men were all much older than me. I don’t think there was anyone under the age of 30 at this party. I was certainly the youngest and newest, so I was fresh meat for these men. They all spoke to me and I remember having relatively pleasant conversations with them. Moving into the other rooms, it became clear to me that this was the sorta party where people were going to simply to have a place to engage in sexual activities after the bar. I of course knew this to some degree going to this party, but, again, I really was just looking for a space to express, more than anything, that’s what I wanted. Remember, I was 18 years old and perhaps not the smartest in the world. I grew up thinking that bars and clubs were these amazing places where you could express yourself freely and meet new people. The Oxwood, in my mind, was an amazing place that could solve all of my problems with loneliness, but of course I couldn’t get in, I was just 18, so this was the next best thing in my mind.
One by one the men left and the sex in the other room stopped. I just ended up sitting awkwardly on the couch for most of the night. At a certain point I noticed that my friend who brought me to the party was gone. I freaked out a little bit. It was about 3 AM and my college was a good 30 minutes away. I didn’t drive. I didn’t really know what to do. Danny told me that he could possibly drive me back in the morning and told me that I could sleep on his couch. This calmed me down a bit. It was strange, but in these situations, I learned to just grin and bear it and these things usually solved themselves. Danny was talking in the room with one of the few men still around. I tried to go to sleep.
Then I felt a mass above me. A warmth that didn’t come from the thin blanket I was given to sleep under. I felt a rough hand reach under my jeans and move to the front of my pants to undo the clasps. I felt alien hands struggle to pull my jeans and my panties down in unison. I heard the clacking of a belt and the teeth of a metallic zipper. Then finally the sound of heavy jeans with keys and a wallet fall to the ground next to me. I felt his skeletal legs stabilize himself on top of me. Then I felt his penis invade my body.
As I’m typing this, I’m feeling the same thing I felt in that moment. I can’t explain this other than a feeling of great weight. He had pinned me down in a way where I couldn’t get up, but on top of that, i felt immobilized. I completely froze. It was almost like i was watching what was happening outside of myself. It was something that was happening to someone else, not to me. We all have these fantasies about what we’d do if we were ever raped. We have this idea that we’d somehow become kung fu masters and we’d be able to subdue an attacker with poise. I remember a teacher of mine telling the class that we could split a man’s arm by puling his middle and ring fingers apart as hard as possible. I always figured that I’d do that if someone ever tried it with me, but I had never even envisioned that I could be raped. I had engaged in high risk behavior before, sure, but for some reason sexual violence was never something I had ever thought could happen to me. In this moment, I couldn’t respond to what was happening to me. I was completely frozen.
I felt his lips touch the back of my neck. A mass of wet squishy flesh that left saliva all over me. He leaned into me and crawled around my ear and whispered to me “I bet all the boys where you’re from love this little pussy”, in a tone that was both patronizing and attempting to be complimentary. “I bet you let every boy have a turn, huh slut?”. As these words buzzed in my skull, I felt my mouth tingle at the roof of my throat and a metallic taste between my gums and my teeth and finally the release of dampness around my eyes. I started to cry. I still couldn’t move, but I could cry. I wanted to speak, but I couldn’t. It was as though he had snatched my voice from my throat and was holding it until he was done. With every pump he took, my tears grew and grew. I remember feeling a dampness between my cheek and the fabric of the couch. My tears turned slowly into hysteria and panic. I could feel words come through my throat and struggle to exit between my teeth as my jaw involuntarily opened and closed.
When sound finally left my mouth, I made sounds that only vaguely resembled words. Whether they were or weren’t, they had the unmistakable subtext of “stop”. I felt my body become mine, I turned around and lifted my arms onto his chest and pushed with as much strength as I could muster. He was an older man. Light skinned, black, short curly hair with a long face. He was thin, but strong and muscular. Pushing against him was like pushing against stone. He had decided that I wasn’t going to move and that’s that. When I kept pushing him and crying, he seemed to not only be indifferent to my distress, but get off on it. He picked up his speed and I kept crying and pushing and pushing and crying. Finally, I was able to actually form the word “stop” and I could see this shock come over his face. It was like after all that, he had just now come to the realization that what he was doing wasn’t right. He got off of me, put his pants on, apologized to me and left the apartment. As I looked up to watch him leave, I realized that I hadn’t actually looked around the room while this was happening. Then about 10 feet away from me I saw Danny. Sitting in a chair, his robe undone pleasuring himself. I was mortified. I felt a mull of dead emotion come over me. I laid back down on the couch, Danny went to his room and closed the door and an even stream of tears fell from my face until I eventually fell asleep.
Danny drove me back the next day. I didn’t speak to him. I was kind and polite and I thanked him for getting me home, back in school. I went to my dorm room, sat on my bed, and almost instantly started crying again. I didn’t go to class or do anything really for the entire day. Eventually I showered and decided to go to the work cubicles and do some class work. I wanted to forget about it. Then one of my friends came to my cubical and told me that her and my other friend in the program were all going to Saugus Cafe. Saugus was this little old timey cafe in Valencia that we all went to when we wanted that signature American style cafe food. I said yes, wanting to be social and do something other than pathetically stare at animation paper and so we went.
My two friends were the girls I was closest to in the program at the time. We were all from similar backgrounds and just vibed really well with each other. There was a layer of trust I felt with them. I didn’t have many people to talk to that I felt I could trust. This was still my first year and I was still trying to let go of missing my high school friends. They reminded me so much of my high school friends who I told everything to. So I told them what happened to me. Almost without skipping a beat or really reacting to what I had just told them, they responded in a congratulatory tone that said “good for you at least, you got laid!”. And they didn’t say that, but they might as well have. When i explained the type of party I was at and that he forced himself on me, they both said to me “well, what did you expect?”. It was at that point when I felt shut down and even though I didn’t say it out loud, I said “I guess I did”.
My rape changed me. After telling my friends, I never told anyone else. I internalized everything that had happened to me. I told myself that I deserved it. I went to this party, I knew what was going on. I’d been having sex with older men years before. I deserved it. I was a tranny. I was built for sexual use. What else could I provide to society other than a wet mouth and a warm hole? I became sexually reckless. I allowed men to use me sexually and discard me at will. I didn’t care if I was having protected or unprotected sex. I genuinely thought that my only true worth was what I could do sexually for a man. As you could imagine, this impacted my education. I remember coloring the background of my first year film on the ground of a BDSM master’s slave’s apartment. I would drop everything, leave class, skip class even, to please men sexually. I had completely let myself go and would wander off with complete strangers and put myself in physical danger constantly. It took me a really long time to realize that I was trying to kill myself, but I didn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger.
For a good year or so, I kept doing this to myself. I never really dealt with what happened to me. I saw my rapist once after the fact and he ran out of the room. I knew that he would never get arrested for what he did. Firstly because for a while I really did convince myself that I did this to myself by going to that party knowing what it was. I kept thinking how would the police even react to that? A man raped me at a sex party? How was that even possible? I know now that even at sex parties, consent is necessary, but back then I guess the thought never crossed my mind. Remember, this was also at the start of when I went full-time. I had no idea how the authorities would handle my gender and I was in the mindset back then that as a trans person, the best thing I could offer a man was indeed sex. As a trans woman, could I even BE raped? Genuine thoughts I had back then.
About 4 years ago, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I don’t remember what caused this, but it was one of the first times I had really acknowledged and said out loud that I was raped beyond the conversation I had with my friends.
When you’re a woman who discusses rape on the internet, you end up getting a certain type of response:
I now understand that these are all trolls, but back then it all felt so real and so overwhelming. Making that video took a lot of strength and I was allowing myself to be vulnerable. These people made the assumption that I was speaking about this for attention because I made a video and posted it. Comments like this are one of the many reasons why I didn’t discuss my rape and really haven’t discussed my rape openly until very recently. I hate that people think I feel empowered by what happened to me. I hate that people think i’m trying to get attention for discussing sexual violence. It’s upsetting because it’s somewhat of a catch-22. If I don’t discuss it, I suffer in silence, if I do discuss it, it seems like I’m looking for attention. I can tell you right now that nothing positive has come from me being raped. I’m sure my rapist has raped other women and what bothers me so much about the entire thing is that I got the impression that from his perspective, what he was doing was something he thought I wanted and then realized with a shock that it wasn’t. What system do we live in that would convince a man that what women want is sex without consent? It’s terrifying to think about that.
I’ve been dealing with a lot of the aftermath of my recent Huffington Post article. You should be unsurprised to know that Kenneth still hasn’t stopped
More painful than being raped is having your rape trivialized and then denied. I know what happened to me. I was there. I think women who lie about being raped are terrible. I’m not one of them. I never pursued charges, I never tried to get anyone arrested. I was raped, it caused me trauma, and now I’m at a place where I feel I can discuss it. This happened about 7 years ago. It doesn’t impact me in the same way it did then. An interesting thing about me today vs me 7 years ago is that how I am seen and handled in this world is so different. Back then I was androgynous. People didn’t know where to place me etc. But today? Today I am perceived as the woman I am and people assume that I’m cis. What that’s meant for me is that outside of the rape I’ve experienced, I’ve also experienced sexual harassment, stalking and sexual assault numerous times. An unfortunate part of being a woman is being on the receiving end of sexual violence and then having to place your feelings beneath a man’s. Men who have never met me believe that I was never raped and that I must be lying. Kenneth has only ever known me online, but he KNOWS for a fact that I wasn’t raped. He sides with a man who he has never met before over siding with me. He keeps saying I accused HIM of raping me, which never happened. I am so used to harassment that NOTHING Kenneth said upset or bothered me. I’ve said this so many times, but I get harassed constantly online. it really doesn’t faze me. I think Kenneth is a fascinating case study and I think that a lot can be learned by observing his actions. Kenneth, to me represents a type of man that is usually too ashamed to give himself a face. but here he is in all his proud glory. How people have responded to this and so many of the things relating to this is what genuinely upsets me. The reaction that a lot of men have had to this article makes me glad that I never reported my rape. I couldn’t deal with people saying these things to my face 7 years ago. Honestly, it would have ruined me.
I wanted to make this post to get some degree of closure. It took me forever to describe my rape because it’s something that when I think about it is actually really traumatic. I can acknowledge that maybe there are some unfinished issues there, but for the most part, it’s my past. I can’t ignore it. It will always impact me, but I can’t let it get me down. Kenneth thinks I revel in my victim hood. I revel in my survival. I revel in the fact that I have dealt with so much and in 2015, I can smile in front of a camera and still discuss sexual violence. I”m hopefully going to be speaking at an event next year to teenagers about partner abuse, sexual assault and rape. If there’s one good thing to come out of this, I guess, it’s that I can connect with other survivors and maybe prevent teenagers from doing what I did. I think we live in a very different time now. I felt so alone as a teenager and I hope that with the shifts in media, queer kids don’t feel that they’re so alone and act out because of it.