Transgender Lives in the #MeToo Movement
By jimmy cooper
Note: This article is about sexual violence from a transgender perspective. There are mentions of transphobia and the perceptions around gendered bodies. Take care of yourself. This is an upsetting time and topic, and I don’t want to put anyone in an unhealthy place. I’d like to note that not every transgender person’s experience is the same, and that this is written based on the experiences of people in my communities.
The #MeToo movement has shed light on assault in ways that many other awareness campaigns haven’t been able to. The issue of assault is finally becoming real for people. Survivors are learning to share their trauma and in turn, heal from it. Some claim men are worried about being falsely accused. It’s a national discussion; everyone has something to say about it, whether that be uplifting or criticizing, inspirational or fearful.
This is all very harrowing for survivors, particularly when they’re so fetishized right now. There’s an image of the brave survivor taking a platform, almost always white, thin, heterosexual, cisgender, an “innocent” in the eyes of society. This is not to detract from their stories—it’s just alienating. Sexual harassment and violence are indiscriminate. Fat girls are in the community of survivors. Black men are in the community of survivors. White boys with larger muscles than necessary are survivors, stone butch lesbians are survivors, disabled folks are survivors, and goddamnit, transgender* people are survivors too. 47 percent of all transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their life. For Black trans people, 53 percent. American Indian trans folks? 65 percent.
We, trans people, survive this—at alarming rates—but we don’t get to talk about it, for many reasons. Our bodies are fetishized and inherently sexualized by many people. There’s a focus on genitals: whether or not we’ve had “the surgery,” if we can have children, how we have sex… I have legitimately been asked, many times, generally by cisgender men, “Do you have a penis?” This in itself, is incredibly invasive and dehumanizing. When we are in cisgender communities, then, the goal is often to not talk about these things, to make ourselves into more than bodies.
There’s also the issue of “corrective rape,” which is a horrifying concept but unfortunately not uncommon in the LGBTQIA+ community. There is the idea that a queer person can be “fixed” if they just have sex with a cishet person, presumably because it’s “just that good.” No one should have to be told that that’s not true, yet here we are. So though LGBTQIA+ populations are more vulnerable to sexual violence (the population most likely to experience sexual violence, by the way, is transgender women of color), it’s talked about the least.
Here’s where gender comes in:
For transgender men, masculinity can be complicated. I know I fell into the trap of toxic masculinity when I first transitioned and still struggle with what it means to be a man on the regular. Cisgender men already face stigmatization as survivors. They’re told that they should have fought their attacker off, or that men don’t get raped, or it makes them gay, or a whole host of other toxic arguments. Transgender male survivors are told that their trauma is what made them trans, or that they are only becoming “part of the problem.” Then coupled with the expectations of stoicism on men, trans male survivorship is bleak.
For transgender women, the world constantly belittles their existence as a woman and tries proving that they were “men” all along, and as discussed, there’s a lot of stigma to unpack there. Because society frequently doesn’t even see trans women as women, they’re not always “legitimized” as part of the movement.
All survivors should be, though. Everyone should be able to share their story, should they want to. They should receive support without fear of others lashing out because they don’t fit the narrative of “survivor” that’s been so constructed for us. Listen to one another, love one another, and hold one another up. We’re all in this together.
*Transgender, as I use it, includes ALL people whose gender does not align with the one they were assigned at birth, which includes non-binary people. I apologize for my use of clear-cut gendered language.