Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Post: tw: self injury, sexual abuse

This is a guest post and is not Heath Atom Russell's story, nor Heath's personal opinions: 

I come from a background of sexual abuse and objectification. My father made it well known that he prefers his women "stacked". I ignored his comments about other women, and about my older, adopted sister being flatter than a wall, but eventually puberty and mother nature caught up with me. Both my mother and grandmother were DD+ and by middle school I was there as well,  I wore baggy shirts and refused to wear a bra despite my mother's efforts.

Unfortunately this only attracted my father's attentions more. The abuse got worse, so I did everything I could to make myself unattractive to my father.  He didn't like blondes, so I sun bleached my hair, he didn't like women with short hair, so I cut mine off, didn't like tan women, so I stayed out all summer and tanned. It was a constant back and forth of me trying to become unappealing to avoid sexual abuse.
Eventually this battle lead to me getting an eating disorder, binge eating made me feel happy temporally as I became fat, the only thing that seemed to keep my father off of me. His disgust at obesity in women, despite his own weight problems, was the only thing that kept his pedophilic tendencies at bay. This was the beginning of my own weight struggle. I yo-yo'ed my size from a 10 to a 24. I would balloon, then the abuse would stop, and I would feel safe, then I would drop down, get touched and go back up. Eventually my weight became my safety net away from harm, and I stopped dropping down and I plateaued the summer before my senior year of high school. 
I won't forget the day my self-harm began, I was in a tank top and leaned down to pick up an ice-chest and my father stared down my shirt. I immediately set it down and went back inside to talk to my mother. She had know for years about my abuse, but her reaction is a long story for a different day, she told me that I should just take the compliment.  

That night isolated and locked in my room, filled with fear I took my abuse out on myself. It wasn't "me" that was to blame for my abuse but my body, specifically my breasts. I ended up taking scissors and cutting off a 1 inch circle on my breast.  I didn't have a desire to take them off, but I wanted them disfigured in hopes that I would be spared from my father's gaze. To be spared from all mens gazes, because despite my age and size, I was still, and still do get harassed by men because of my breasts. 
The first wound lead to a second and a third and then on the other breast. I picked and peeled and prevented my wounds from healing. I hid my bloody bras from my mother until one day while visiting my dying grandmother she noticed blood soaking my shirt from one of the wounds and took my to the bathroom to see what was going on. 

I told her it was a pimple and that the others were scratches. She had me immediately looked at by a doctor, who checked me into the hospital because angry red lines on my breasts indicated that I had blood poisoning as well as a flesh eating virus making things worse.  I ended up missing more days of school that year from that than the death of my grandmother. 

After many months of bandaging and wound care the holes closed, leaving me scarred. My father could no longer look at me. So in my mind I had succeeded, I later found out it was less to do with my injuries, and more that he was preying on my younger sister.  
The only good that came from it was that she finally had the courage to do what me and my older sister hadn't, and reported him. the result of that was that did not register as an offender, but is still on probation. 

During my self injury and abuse, I never once thought that I must be a boy because of how disassociated I felt from my breasts. Truthfully I only knew that MTF's existed and was only exposed through Doctor Phil and the like. If I had known about FTM's, I would have bought the trans narrative.  To this day, I have very little feeling in my breasts and have trouble identifying that they belong to me. If I had known that I could change my fate and identify my way out of the whole situation I would have jumped at that chance, I would have bought the trans narrative hook, line and sinker.

I have sat and heard several girls in a space agreeing that they would rather have cancer and get their breasts removed because of how uncomfortable they felt with them and the attention they received; None of them were even comfortable enough to say they prefered female pronouns, and all of them were queer, because "being a lesbian is exclusive". This is a too common narrative: young women willing self-harm in order to accommodate themselves into a world that objectifies them. 

This is completely understandable when you look at how young women are portrayed in western media. All you need to do is change this, and do that and buy this item and you can maybe live up the the expectations that as a women you are told you need to achieve.  People have lashed out at Nymeses for speaking, and for trying to save girls from transition. But when I look at my own background I see stories similar to my own in trans message boards, I hear it in groups like the one I described. 

With everything that is forced upon young women how can we expect them to be comfortable in their own skins?


Anonymous said...

This is so excellent. Thank you so much for being so brave. Your response to the abuse you got and very likely intended further abuse (which you know your father was fantasizing about and which you prevented) just makes complete sense. Many women might express horror, but when girls and women are so horribly objectified in the media, in our own families, and everywhere, then not wanting the main object and focus of abuse just makes sense. An F2T I know said she just didn't want to be raped anymore.

It will make a huge difference if girls and women learn they are not alone in this and that feeling so oppressed that they want to crawl out of their own skin to not be preyed on does not mean they are male in any way, but is just a reaction to abuse. (I found Radical Lesbian Feminism at 19 and that analysis helped me consider most males the enemy, but I already knew that from girlhood, because the boys and men who were not already sexually assaulting girls wanted to and were sexually harassing us. So I would not have been tempted to try to join men.)

I really understand not wanting breasts, comments, stares, etc. One of my first memories was when I was four or three (definitely not older) and it was a very hot humid summer. The boys had their shirts off and I took mine off. One of the older boys stared at my chest that looked no different from the boys' and made a nasty comment. (He sexually assaulted my male dog a few years later). I never felt comfortable with my breasts after that. Ever.

I was lucky to not have my father prey on me, but he did make comments about my growing breasts, which I consider sexual harassment. Do any girls escape this in one form or other? Of course it affects us all.

I never felt comfortable with a shirt off after that harassment. I have friends who also don't -- mostly Butch, but not all. So then at Michigan or other places where Lesbians take off their shirts, we are commented on and pressured. I don't even wear tee shirts usually, but have more solid shirts with protective pockets. (When I was 19 and dressed like a Dyke, the comments from men stopped.)

You and Nymeses are saving the lives of girls and women.

Anonymous said...

My dad gave me creepy vibes when I stayed over his house one night. I was up all night because I couldn't relax with him in the room. Also, my grandfather (dad's side) use to look me up and down every time I visited him. I told my mother and she denied it, dismissing my deep concern completely. He died and I didn't shed a tear. I would have liked to have had a grandfather that acting warmly towards me instead of creepily staring at my pubescent body. I wish the men in my family had better manners.