Thousands of Stories Encompassed in the #metoo Movement Are Not Being Told
The #metoo movement has been a liberating step forward for women around the world as we finally force the male dominated society to take their foot off the backs of our necks, and their hands out of our pants. As grateful as I am for it, suffice it to say, it was long overdue. The powerful message behind #metoo and it’s sister #TimesUp have restored sovereignty to women both in the workplace and in other social environments.
Unfortunately, a lot of stories are not being told.
Let’s start with a fact:
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% — Almost half of ALL transgender of people — are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
The rates of sexual assault among Transgender people of color are even worse; American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) respondents of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported having been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
There are also alarmingly higher rates of sexual assault against bisexual women and lesbians compared to heterosexual women.
However, Trans women and men rarely report their assault to authorities. Instead, they retreat into a dark place, trying to reconcile the event within themselves for fear of being shamed and humiliated by doctors, nurses and general cis society. As I’ve discussed before, as Transgender people, seeking medical assistance can be an emotionally taxing process- now more than ever with the newly introduced Religious Liberty Rule that allows medical professionals the right to refuse us treatment on the basis of their religious or moral belief system. I’ve had trouble with doctors my entire life, and it’s not just a matter of preferred pronouns. They seem terrified the moment they see me and I’m not who they expect to meet. I’m usually riddled with anxiety, wondering if I’m going to get some devout religious person who is going to scowl at me under his breath and run for the door without even giving me a basic medical examination. It’s happened. Multiple times.
When it comes to sensitive subjects regarding our body, such as problems with our nether regions, that we must reveal to the physician we’re seeking the care of, we’re incredibly vulnerable. Many Trans women would rather not deal with the exhausting, emotional task of seeing a doctor and often let their symptoms or wounds worsen beyond repair.
Dealing with the police fetches the same results. Transgender women, and gender diverse women in general (Including intersex women, and gender non-conforming women) have a difficult relationship with authorities. In some cases, police have been known to deliberately target, harass and imprison Trans women as if it’s a sport. We’re treated like subhumans in jails and prisons around the country, subject to beatings, humiliation, torture, medical negligence and rape. We’ve all heard these stories in our community, and thus, have a keen awareness of how authorities view us. It’s clear they’d rather see us hurt than offer help in our hour of need.
Despite the published data citing that Transwomen are more likely to experience sexual assault, the #metoo movement hasn’t been leveraged (or embraced) for or by Trans* victims. Sarah McBride kicked down that barrier for Trans women when she spoke, as one of the first Trans women to do so, about her sexual assault. It was a brave step, and her reasoning for staying silent previously is heartbreaking;
“I stayed silent because so many people believe trans women are “too disgusting” to be assaulted, or that we’re sexual predators ourselves. But I’m not staying silent anymore.” — Sarah McBride
Bravo, Sarah! Unfortunately, the media largely dismissed whatever stories tricked out afterward, reinforcing the fact that Trans women who speak out would be discarded in favor of a more family friendly movement. There are a few, but not enough to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem we have, as trans people, compared to our cisgender counterparts.
It’s definitely not an easy thing to talk about, for anyone. And while cisgender women feel the same aspects of shame or embarrassment, often even blame for the violence they’ve experienced, what stops trans women and gender variant people from reporting goes layers deeper. It’s just too easy for them to talk themselves out of it. They don’t feel they’ll receive adequate attention, or they'll be laughed at and mocked by authorities who have no training in interfacing with people like us. None.
In Indiana this past year, a ranked Captain of the Plainfield Police Department, Carri Weber, went viral for attempting to explain why her colleagues seemed to demonstrate no awareness, sympathy or compassion for Transgender women that experience violence during an ‘attempted’ training course.
It led to her cishetero colleague rallying his fellow white, cisgender colleagues against her, throwing a tantrum, yelling at the course leaders and storming out of the room. Every man in that room failed to realize that their very behavior demonstrated why the course was needed, and why we are more threatened but less protected. The irony was lost on them. So, they reported Captain Weber for telling them they possessed “White male privilege” which they dubbed a slur. With their fragile egos bruised, they were pleased to find their retaliation against Captain Weber (Who is a lesbian herself) resulted in her suspension.
And then comes the internet… which by the thousands attacked Capt. Weber and the course leaders for looking like “Dykes” and questioning their gender alignment with remarks like “Does that teacher have breasts?”
Some of the people siding with the bigots in this video work at police stations around the United States, and they proudly stood in support of rebuffing Transgender awareness…
Now, ask me again why Trans women and gender diverse individuals rarely report their assault? There is not a line of communication for us, and the #MeToo movement, as powerful as it is, hasn’t been made to feel all inclusive yet. In fact, all of the media coverage on the movement has been about Cisgender women, including the TIME Magazine cover championing them as “Silence Breakers.”
The harsh reality for us lies in the silence that remains.