SlutWalk Melbourne 2011: Cody Smith
I just want to make it clear that I am here on behalf of myself only. I do not represent anyone but myself and my words are all my own. Public speaking is not something I’ve done before so please understand if I don’t seem confident in my speech as I never actually feel safe in public.
Firstly I’d like to state that I chose to speak today as a masculine voice because I think it’s important that all voices are heard.
I speak as a transman,
as someone who was socialized as female,
as someone who accesses masculine privilege (amongst many other privileges),
as a survivor of sexual-assault
as a survivor of victim-blaming.
I’d also like to state that my views of female socialization are incredibly strong throughout this speech and that I recognize that women are not the only people subject to sexual-assault.
This is a trigger warning:
I am going to be talking about sexual-assault that I have experienced. I will not be going into detail about the attacks but I am going to be using the word “rape” as it is very important to me to use it’s strength to keep myself strong.
I have been sexually assaulted both as a female and since finding myself, as a trans man. It has taken me years to stop blaming myself and sometimes I still find myself doing so. I struggle a lot with the fact that as a woman, I felt too unsafe to report my rape to authorities but somehow felt safer to do so as a transgender person. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I felt this way and I’d like to share some of my thoughts.
I never knew what it felt like to be a woman, even before I knew I was a man.
When I was still in the closet about my gender, I was taking all my pointers from society. I knew I had to reach someone’s expectation of femininity and tick someone’s box to be a “real female”. These boxes I thought I had to tick were as simple as past-fashioned stereo-types “girls have long hair”, “girls wear dresses” etc and as relatively complex (for a young teen) as “if my sexual partner is a female and I am a female then I have to identify as a lesbian…unless of course we invite a boy into the picture, which makes me bi”.
What I never realized when I was trying so hard to be female is that I was actually doing what far too many people do and not questioning WHY I had to do these things and who’s ideas or expectations I was attempting to live up to.
Since knowing that I am trans and learning more about my rights, since stepping away from being female, since stepping into the privilege of being read as male, I have been able to see SO clearly just how much I was blaming myself for everything. The guilt I had when I was trying to live as female was overwhelming and it makes me feel SO sick to my stomach to think that there are still people existing and living every day with this unwarranted guilt over their heads.
I’d spent far too many years blaming myself for my own rapes. For my state of intoxication at the time, for what I was wearing, for how I was behaving, for how I was dancing and who I was dancing with. For choosing to spend my last $20 on booze instead of a cab and therefore having to walk home. For not being physically strong enough to keep the rapists off me and for even leaving my home in the first place.
For hundreds of years, women have been socialized to feel responsible for everything.
To feel responsible for everything negative.
To feel negative for feeling.
There is so much self-doubt slammed into women by society that even if other people aren’t blaming them, survivors will be blaming themselves.
Within the last six months, I opened up to my mother about an assault I had lived through. Her initial reaction was something like “WHO DID THIS TO YOU? I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL THEM” but within what could not have been more than five minutes, her headspace had shifted to “When did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Don’t I support you enough? I’m a terrible mother. How could I let this happen to you?”
We were two hysterical beings filled with rage, sitting in our pjs and bawling our eyes out. I wasn’t crying about my rape. I was crying that my mother was blaming herself.
After holding her and comforting her until she was able to hold herself, I was left feeling guilty. I felt guilty for making my mother cry. I felt guilty for not being able to support her more. I felt guiltY for not being able to convince her it wasn’t her fault. Then I felt cold. Why was I comforting someone else because they were upset that *I* was raped? Where was my comfort? Then another rush of guilt came. It was my fault my mother knew I’d been raped. It was my fault she was crying. It was horrible of me to want more comfort. I felt guilty for needing to be held.
I wish so much that years ago, someone had have told me that my rape was not my fault.
I URGE PEOPLE:
If anyone has ever been brave enough to share with you information about being assaulted. LET THEM KNOW IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. If you are standing near someone who is OUT about being a SURVIVOR, tell them: IT IS NOT, WAS NOT AND WILL NEVER BE THEIR FAULT.
Since living as male, in queer and feminist communities as well as the huge world outside of my privileged bubble, I have had hardly anything aimed at me to feel that ANYTHING is my responsibility. I am sick of women’s voices being the only voices speaking up against rape. I am sick of SURVIVORS’ voices being the only voices speaking up against rape.
It is not the responsibility of survivors to educate everyone else on rape.
Same as it is not women’s responsibility to educate people on sexism; it is not the responsibility of People Of Colour to educate naive white people on racism. It is not the responsibility of people with different ability to educate people on Ableism. And it is not the responsibility of trans* people to educate cis people on trans* issues.
If you come from a place of privilege, it is your responsibility to recognize that, educate yourself and educate OTHERS.
I have walked down a dark main road, after midnight both as a woman and as a man. There is a REASON a lone woman will cross the street to AVOID me.
DUDES, MEN, MALES, FELLAS, GUYS: I can not say this enough, it is YOUR responsibility to educate yourself on rape. It is YOUR responsibility to educate your friends on rape. It is your responsibility, just for accessing your privilege, to use it the best way you can.
If you believe in women’s rights. If you believe in feminism. If you believe women and men should be equal. Then I dare you to doubt yourself, I dare you to strip yourself of all your safety, I dare you to wear clothes that society will scrutinize you for. Wear something that will get you attacked. THEN recognize that there is nothing a woman can wear that WON’T get her attacked.
I don’t know what else there is I feel I can say. I’m exhausted. Thank you so much for your time and thanks Clem for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
I’m going to leave this unfinished because this dialogue should only stop when rape stops.