Note: 'Genderfluid' refers to a transgender identity in which a person 's gender changes over time, or is 'fluid', such that they could identify as male one day and female the next.
“I am not a woman, but womanhood will always be a part of me.
This is what I grew up with: the knowledge that I am never going to be safe, because of the way that my body is gendered and the way that the culture I live in teaches men to see it. I grew up knowing that multiple generations of my family have been abused and violated by evil men who tried, and sometimes succeeded, to shatter their dignity, deprive them of hope, and break them down from whole, complex humans into a series of easily dominated fragments.
I grew up knowing that I would not be listened to if a man (or boy) sexually harassed me and I went to an authority figure for help - a lesson I first learned at age 11, when the most serious thing I should have been worrying about was turning in my book reports on time. I grew up knowing that if I dared to walk down the street wearing shorts because the San Jose summer is too hot for anything else then a man I have never met before will feel justified in shouting at me exactly what sexual acts he’d like to perform on my body, and it doesn’t matter to him if I’m only 16, or if my blunt-banged babydoll haircut makes me look even younger than that.
I grew up so terrified of being out alone at night that when my father once forgot to pick me up after an 8 pm biology class I worked myself up into one of the worst anxiety attacks of my life, worrying about what some stranger might do to me if he found me waiting by myself on the outskirts of a thoroughly abandoned community college campus. When my father finally came to get me I screamed at him for hours, too frightened and angry to hold myself back. I grew up so afraid of men that I came to hate myself for being bisexual, and once I realized I was also genderfluid, to hate myself for partly being one.
I grew up rehearsing in my head the fastest ways to take down a man if he tried to rape me, surrounded by messages that it would be my fault if he did, and knowing that 994 out of 1000 rapists will not even be imprisoned for their actions. The most sickening part of this story is that I grew up, by virtue of my totally unearned white privilege and cis-passing appearance, safer by far than the women of color and transgender women and the women living at the intersections of both those identities who also have to wait outside at night for someone to give them a ride home, who also walk down streets in the summer wearing shorts because it’s hot outside and they want to be comfortable, who were also once 11-year-old girls just trying to make it to the end of fifth grade.
I grew up exhausted. I’m still exhausted today. I don’t hate myself anymore, and I know that things are getting better, but I also know they aren’t getting better fast enough. Last year, in my first quarter at UCLA, a police notice was posted in the lobby of my apartment building about a woman who was raped walking home from a party in Westwood.
I don’t know if they caught the man who raped her.”