QTM Blog
« Back to listings

My Mind is My Body

Jul 11, 2016

Rape takes identities and caricaturizes them. It is slanted to blame those who are already the most marginalized until marginalization becomes some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that defines one by victimhood.

I was defined on the night of my rape as a transman who has bipolar disorder with psychotic features. Nothing else about me mattered, not the fact that my queer identity was as vibrant as the outside of a Hard Rock Cafe. All that mattered is that in the case of my transness, I was beguiled into spending the night with a man I knew was dangerous, solely because he told me that he saw me as a guy. In the case of my mental illness, all that mattered is that I shared a demographic with my rapist-we both had psychotic disorders-not the fact that I was non-violent.

I was defined, not by any attempt to honor a sense of safety, but a motivation to have my masculinity validated. I was shaped by a quivering arrow of a spine, the spirit animal of the nascent transman. 

And so, we drank together. One moment he expressed concern over my vomiting, labored breathing, and compromised consciousness. In the next, he climbed down my inert body like a ladder while the room swirled like incense and raped me.

I was defined by the psychotic ideation that he expressed, including his belief that he had magic powers and was a messenger of the lord, as it coalesced with his violent behavior. It did not matter that my own history of psychosis was peaceful. The rape let out lightning bolts that welded together our dispositions, in the eyes of whomever I might decide to tell. Through the laws of stereotypes and generalizations, I was destined to be defined by his actions against me, a walking aggressor.  

I was defined by his unsolicited and unwanted proposal that we kill ourselves together as he threw me down on the bed with bellicosity. For it was when his darkness found mine in the night that I thought there must really be something wrong with me, that my medical status elicited this kind of egregious reaction from someone, that my mental illness was responsible for seeking out actualization of some kind. It was easy to feel this way because as a child my mother would abuse me more during my suicidal spells and call my self-harm disgusting.

I have told very few people about what has happened to me, and when I do, I tell them that it was a hate crime motivated by animus against my gender identity. I once lied and said that he used anti-trans slurs. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The truth is that the rape caricaturized my mental illness into something ugly. Anybody listening to my story would assume guilt by association. They would think that if he attacked me, I must have done something to deserve it because I was violent too, by nature, or so they would think. In that moment, I ceased to be who I was and stepped up to be something much more sinister: a monster. How could I ever again prove to anyone that I was destined to be more than a stereotype that I shared with someone who at the time destroyed my life?

This happened to me my freshman year of college. Two years later, I was seriously considering reaching out to a psychiatrist for the first time about the full extent of my psychiatric illness, the psychotic component. Then the Newtown shooting happened, and I couldn't bring myself to compete with the slur-hurling public about psychotic people being nutcases and freaks and loonies.

My experience is unique because I internalized these attitudes and beliefs while transgender. I was defined by a conglomerate of marginalized identities, some of which intersected in unpredictable ways. For example, I specifically did not report my rape because as an actively mentally ill individual, I was afraid that my biological heritage would be implicated in the crime committed against me. I was also deterred at the prospect of revisiting my tale with some transphobic cop as a pre-T transman.

Rape takes identities and caricaturizes them. When the same body harbors multiple identities, their inextricably intertwined narratives become less palatable to the masses. That which is less palatable becomes shameful. And that which is shameful becomes silenced.

Silence in a social justice context can best be represented by a metaphor. That is, something needs to be substituted for silence. Those who are disproportionately impacted by rape, or are impacted in ways that deviate from our standard narratives, must be allowed to have a voice. This starts with understanding that the inconceivable can take place.

It starts with understanding that a peaceful person who was experiencing psychosis and also happened to be trans was on the receiving end of violence while refraining from violence themselves.

It starts with understanding that our queer and trans brothers and sisters are hurt by language that demonizes those with mental illness, especially in the wake of mass shootings and related tragedies.

And it ends with the most vulnerable among us having a space in the queer and trans communities that allows us to generate a ripple effect as we confront social injustice, one in which every layer of who we are is seen and felt. For if rape caricaturizes identities, we galvanize the process with a refusal to acknowledge the individuals who rape complicates, mocks, and distorts.

And that is a form of violence, too.

 

Jordan Pollak recently graduated Rutgers University with a degree in psychology. They want to do work in social justice related fields, particularly in the domains of transgender and mental health issues.

Comments are closed.

Sexual health information in your area

Find HIV/AIDS and sexual health information in your area

Visit HIV-HCV411