Trigger warnings: Rape, abuse, transphobia, self-harm, depression, suicide, fuck you all. Mom, don't read this one.
The first time I told someone that I had been raped, she told me I was lying. The second time, I was afraid I was. It took years to work up the nerve to tell a second person, and by that time I had blocked and rewired my memories enough that I wasn't, really, sure when I told her. I told her only after she admitted that she had been molested as a child.
I told her because she was afraid I wouldn't believe her. I believed her because she was so afraid that I wouldn't. I told her, and believed her, because it was so obvious that so many hadn't.
I had blocked and reordered much of my childhood by that point that much of what comes back still feels off. I have shadow-memories of what happened, day after day, in the barn I had to pass by every day simply to get off my parents' property. There are memories that I struggle with, unwilling and needing to touch, knowing they are there and receiving flashes of them every once in a while: A hug from my roommate yesterday pulled body-memories of the neighbor boy's mouth on my neck which took my knees out from under me and reduced me to a ball on the floor, pleading "no, no, no..."
For a while, I convinced myself that I was crazy, evil, making it all up. I remember hating my lying self in highschool, because that doesn't happen to good kids by people they know -- their peer group, even. Their mother taught us to "hide from cars at night!" She should have taught me to hide from her children. She should have taught her children not to be monsters.
From games of doctor that involved actual stitches to torturing animals to sexual things that an eight-year-old should not even know about, all wrapped up neatly under "You can't fight back or yell or tell anyone what we're doing in here, or I'll tell the police that your daddy is growing pot, and then your mommy and daddy will go to jail and you'll go to foster care." The disadvantages of living far out in the country are not lost on me, and being the youngest of the neighborhood kids was not in my favour.
The instant I started insisting that I should get to play the brother or the dad in games of house because I was a boy, too, I was doomed. The neighbor kids, a brother and sister who lived at the end of our long driveway, began very studiously attempting to "set me right" and show me how I was definitely a girl.
And that ended badly enough that I can't remember much of the next three years. Even writing this much forces me to stop and do housework and pay my rent in a flurry of motion, flushing the rising panic from my system. Even so, in the course of cleaning, I find my Big Knife and put it on my wallet, just in case, and the discovery of a Big Hammer causes me to heft it and pace about the house a bit, making defensive motions. And after doing these things, I am able to sit calmly and write again without my hands shaking, but the damage is clear.
And, in a way, their tactics worked. I stayed (mostly*) silent about my gender until someone asked me point blank in freshman year of college after I did several projects in a row for school related to trans-activism... Even then, my answer was "Er... No? Not exactly? I mean... It's complicated...." Considering the person asking the question was my beloved flamboyant translady roommate, who was at the time about a mile back in the closet, this conversation is hilarious in retrospect. I would love to have seen my face at the time.
(* I may have been preparing to come out after cutting my hair in highschool, and then when I dressed up as a boy to meet my mother at the airport, the first thing out of her mouth was a wailing, worried, "Oh, you look like a man!" Just remembering that hurts enough to almost put me in tears. Also, as my mother is so fond of pointing out every time the gender conversation comes up, I was always a very gender-balanced child. Gee. I was good at boy's roles in theatre, liked to sew, wore a kilt, insisted girls could wear kilts, too, my final project for my stage-makeup class was to turn myself into a highwayman, complete with musketeer goatee, and I hadn't worn girl's pants since ninth grade, but sometimes those boy's cargos were worn with a corset... Yes mom, I said I was a boy. I never said I wasn't a fabulous, cross-dressing one. )
This abuse and closeting lead to massive depression (and the accompanying weight gain), and in its turn lead to various bouts of cutting, years of anorexia with which I still struggle on occasion, and at least one serious consideration of suicide which was only stopped by sheer apathy and a furious bout of escapist reading (thank you JK Rowling. I think you saved my life.). And by the time I finally told that second person, I had almost convinced myself that that first person I had told was right, that I had been making it up. That it was all just some wild fantasy I cooked up in my head.
But I have scars I can't otherwise explain. I have memories that bubble up, unchanged, every time someone touches my ribcage, my knees, certain places on my neck and arms. I ran over a scar I didn't know I had while working on one of my tattoos, and had to stop work and deal with a memory of a rotary tool bit grinding on the arch of my foot. Haven't been able to go back and finish the tattoo yet, but I'll get there. I probably explained the injury away at the time as having walked barefooted on the wrong surface. I was an injury-prone child...
I pressed everything back into the back of that dark closet of the mind, and there they mingled together and infected one another. Now, as I try to pull bits of myself that I have long since lost back to the forefront, one thing tangles in another as by necessity they must, and like a Miyazaki film there is suddenly black goo and infection spewing everywhere, but if we pull hard enough and let enough goo come out, then maybe we can pull out that infection and let the wounds begin to heal. And then we have to clean up, but that's okay because this is a bathhouse so we have the technology.
To do this, I have to admit to myself that these memories are not lies, that what I remember, what I can remember, is as authentic as any memory. These things come unasked as I walk into my new life, and I deal with them as they fester up, and it is awful, but so much better than letting them rot and infect who I am. So I won't use crayons, thank you, because they make me shake and burst into tears and remember being hurt with them. But I will be okay, because being able to identify why they do this is so much better than just blindly feeling the need to forcefully fling the box of crayons away from myself and huddle in the corner whimpering "no, no, no..."
And every time the memories come, every time these things are dredged up from the silt, there is less panic and terror. The memories are further away, less seated in my entire being. I can be more than the panic. More than the pain. I'm not sure what I'm doing, but I think I'm doing it well...