This is the one TERF talking point that I can almost support. Don’t get me wrong — TERFs are still fucking transphobic bigots who are factually wrong on almost every issue they tackle but on this small thing, I agree with them: I was never assaulted until I came out as trans.
Does that mean that I’m not a real girl, because I’ve only lived under the fear of some cis dude looking my way and deciding that his boner is more important than my consent for a fraction of my life? No of fucking course not. What I am saying is that it took less than a year from starting hormones and asserting my femininity for a man to decide my femininity was his because he wanted it. This is the story of the first time I was assaulted.
The house I was living in had a lot of problems, mostly attributable to passive aggression and gaslighting being the main forms of communication. Secondary, however, is that the house acted as a semi-public venue for a few of the residents’ generally shitty bands, which means that on any given night with at best two days warning you could find in the dining room an extraordinarily eclectic mix of people that someone in the house had probably met one time before, drunk and cross-faded past any sort of self-control.
I mostly stayed away from the parties, because I’m terrified of crowds and because one of the manifestations of my Aspergers is that I’m extremely sensitive to loud noises. But it was late, and I was hungry and most everyone had gone home already, except for one person. Or, maybe it was the next day, and he had stayed over. I don’t remember; it’s not important. I don’t even remember his name.
He had drunk a 40 of beer, some tequila, and some whiskey, and smoked enough weed that the smoke filled the conjoined kitchen/dining room even with the windows open. He was joined by 5 of my housemates, sitting around the dining room table, probably playing Magic. Don’t remember, don’t care.
As I started cooking, he sidled up to me, closer than I would have liked.
“That smells really good.”
“You’re a really good cook”
“What are you making?”
(Don’t remember, don’t care)
“You should make me food some time”
(I laugh, nervously)
A few minutes pass while he refills his pipe or maybe drinks another beer. I’m chopping vegetables now.
“You’re really good at that”
“You should teach me sometime.”
“I mean it’s just practice? The trick is to have your pointer finger rest near the back end of the blade so you can use it as a pivot point…”
(a pause as he realizes that I actually answered his feigned interest with the information it asked for)
“You’re really pretty.”
(nervous laugh again. I do not want to be talking to this person, I want to make food, eat food, and go to sleep, preferably while listening to a podcast and not interacting with any humans at all)
“No, like, I just want you to know, you’re beautiful”
“No like really though.”
“…ok…” go away go away go away go away
I turn back to the stovetop, back to my cooking.
He steps closer, less than three feet away now.
The five housemates at the table sit in silence and watch.
“So, like, I think we should date.”
(back to my cooking)
“You should date me.”
“Aww thank you, but I’m gay”
(not quite true, but the implication is accurate)
“Don’t worry baby, me too”
He steps closer again, close enough now to touch dicks. Statistically, I mean.
The housemates at the table watch. I make “save me” eyes at them over his shoulder. One stands up and silently leaves the room.
Me: “…………….and I’m a girl”
Him: “That’s ok I respect your gender identity baby.”
Me: “I’m GAY AND I’M A GIRL”
The implication is lost on him.
I still have the knife from slicing vegetables in my hand, and I tell myself that I’ll use it if he tries to force me, but I don’t. He’s just such a nice guy, I tell my self. He’s just trying to give me a compliment.
He puts his hand on my back.
I make eye contact and mouth “HELP ME” at the four remaining housemates sitting at the kitchen table. He wraps his arms around me and I add ASL to my pleas for help — an “a” sat upon an upturned palm, moved toward the person in need of help — , as well as continuing to mouth the words.
Two more housemates left the table, presumably to avoid the awkward scene playing out in front of them.
“I’m gay and a girl, meaning I’m not into dudes”
“Aw, baby, why you gotta play hard to get like that?”
He puts his head on my chest. I’m backed into a corner (literally) with nowhere to go to get away from him.
At that moment, the only other person in the house that day walks into the kitchen, sees my horrified look and mouthed words and frantic ASL, and the unknown man rubbing up against me.
He gives me a questioning look, and then immediately moves in and separates the two of us. “Ok, I don’t think she wants that, you’ve had a lot to drink I think you should go,” he says.
“Noidon’twanna,” says the boy, almost incoherent with intoxicants.
“No, ok we’re going outside. Matt, can you help?” he asks the last remaining person at the table, still watching it all go down.
They coral the boy outside, explain to him that Persephone was not comfortable with how he was behaving.
I go back to cooking, partially in shock and partially because what else can I do?
He needs to pee. Anyone would, after drinking that much beer. They let him back in to use the bathroom and he makes a beeline instead for me, and picks up where he left off, rubbing up against me.
He is escorted out again.
He really does need to pee, and so is escorted to the bathroom. On the way back he tries to duck around his escort and back to the kitchen.
He is escorted out again.
A few minutes pass.
Screamed loud enough to wake half the neighborhood.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK,” followed by what sounds like a fairly small Boy kicking the side of the wooden house as hard as he can.
“Yeah ok you need to go home. Now. Do you need someone to walk you to BART?”
[No, he’ll be fine, he said.]
“You’re really drunk dude, we can call you an Uber what’s your address?”
[No, he can walk to BART, he said.]
10 minutes pass.
He comes back.
He starts banging at the door again.
He is escorted to BART.
Half an hour passes.
He comes back.
This goes on all night. I never saw him again but I’m shaking just remembering it.
That was the first time. It wasn’t the worst, or the last, but it was the first. It was one of the first times I felt afraid of the Bay Area LGBT community, and the last time I didn’t have pepper spray within arm’s reach any time I knew I was going to be around strangers.
I know other people have had far more traumatic experiences of assault and abuse, and I don’t want to invalidate or occlude their stories by adding my own, but this is the one I wanted to tell.
The people at the table who left when I asked for help were Emma Alden, Matt Anderson, Ruslan Gilmanov, Jasha Ferrin, and one more whose name I don’t know. The person who finally came to my rescue was Benjamin DeSchazo. I wish I remembered the name of the boy whose dick was more important than my consent, but if I ever knew it I don’t anymore. And to be honest I’m less angry at him than at the people who sat and watched and saw me beg them for help and did nothing.