Boys Will Be Boys: The Cycle of Abuse

****TRIGGER WARNING****

One thing I’ve heard over and over in regards to the news that Harvey Weinstein sexually abused women for decades is why it took so long for the revelation to come out. More so why others involved didn’t step forward sooner. When people learn about something outside their comfort zone the natural thing is to question it. It seems illogical someone would hold a secret for so long. They use words without knowing the background and experiences of living with such a secret. Our society has a history of blaming the victim. It’s ingrained into our culture and everyday life. The messages are clear, that men are superior which makes them invisible whenever they use their power to abuse others.

If you look deeper than you can see that many of the victims in the Weinstein case did try to speak out and were usually silenced in some way or another. One victim of the abuse even went as far as reporting it to the police. There is even audio proof of the abuse but even still he was never prosecuted for the assault. This speaks volumes as to how victims are treated. When the victims do speak out they’re met with opposition both from the abuser and the public. They’re shunned back into silence. Secrets eventually find their way to the surface. People can question the credibility of all the victims because they’re privileged to do so. They’ve not had to live through the pain, guilt or shame. Often times how others respond to abuse is just as damaging. It reinforces the shame and guilt from the assault, echoing the voice of your abuser in your ear.

Another thing I see people questioning is why so many victims come forward at once. As if the more victims they are the more likely the news isn’t true. When you speak out about something as tough as sexual abuse you liberate others who have gone through something similar. So many of Weinstein’s and Cosby’s victims were silenced. It’s tough enough to face the abuse let alone a judgeful world that will most likely blame you. When someone is able to break free from the shame, guilt and public pressure it gives all the other victims strength. There is strength in numbers.

Predators like Weinstein get away with these crimes because of rules of society. One that blames the victim. The victimization from Weinstein was so widespread and lengthy that it became a legend in Hollywood. It’s the ultimate plausible deniability. Just look how our culture treats people like Woody Allen, Bryan Singer, Hugh Hefner, Casey Affleck, etc. We reward them with admiration and awards. The evidence is always there. Unless the evidence is too massive to overlook oftentimes the victims are disregarded and overlooked. For example, the Weinstein company. They knew about the abuse for years and tolerated it until the secret hit the press and the public. It was then that they cut all ties because it hit their bottom line. How many more predators like Weinstein are there in and out of Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein justifies his horrible deeds by brushing them off to a time that was different. Wrong is wrong, no matter how long it has been.

Using the excuse of well I didn’t know better is bogus. It’s how you reflect accountability. Regardless of the time in our history, the difference between right and wrong has always been clear. The lack of judgment and being a horrible person in the past doesn’t exempt you from taking the heat when you’re hold accountable years after. So while Feinstein might not treat women like that anymore (which I find hard to believe) it doesn’t erase all the years of abuse. The damage caused to the women he assaulted will last a lifetime. When you’re sexually abuse your soul is split into two. You will go a lifetime having to deal with effects from the trauma.

While women take the brunt of this abuse it occurs frequently to boys and men. There is this boys club where people justify the horrible deeds of men. It’s the boys will be boys mentality. I lived in a family with that philosophy. Being gay was abomination when being a child molester was not. If you don’t fit in with society’s rules of what it means to be a man you’re seen as less than and worthy of abuse. What it boils down to is misogyny.

When I spoke out about the sexual abuse in my family, many tried to oppress the revelations through denial and disbelief. Boys will be boys is how my Aunt responded to my Mom. As if sexual abuse was a pastime. The sexual abuse in my family was rampant and widespread. For years it was this dirty secret that everyone in the family knew. It was an unspoken rule to be like everybody else and not say a word. To talk about the abuse was to bring great shame to the family. The impact of shame completely outweighed the damage of silence. I was ostracized and made to feel less than because I was speaking the truth. I was rejected and blamed. I became the black sheep of the family. I was trying to break out of the cycle and everyone including my cousins tried to silence me anyway they can.

For years we pretended that the dark secret didn’t exist. It was swept underneath the rug with all the secrets. We were brainwashed into believing that sexual abuse was acceptable and common. The years passed. Family gatherings such as our annual Halloween party went on. We had a predator in our family and the adults knew that the abuse was going on. They did nothing. They were complacent and did just as much damage for trying to silence us all. The adults of the family didn’t stop it and more children were forever damaged by one person’s sick game.

Prior to me, there was one other person who tried to speak out… my Mother. She didn’t know my secret but she knew someone else’s. When she spoke out she was chastised and shamed back into silence. Her cries were disregarded. My Aunt whose child was the predator didn’t talk to her for years. There was no way that her golden boy was a child molestor. How the family treated my Mom sent a clear message to the children to shut up. To be good little children. Be seen, not heard.

The predator would strut his stuff at family gatherings like he was the top dog. He knew that no one would stop them and could do whatever he wanted. He terrorized my cousins. We lived in a big family. By the time he was done he’d sexually abused most of my cousins. He didn’t stop at our family and started to branch out to other children in the neighborhood. Eventually he got caught molesting a girl next door. The lawyer his parents hired ended up getting him off.

To this day he’s never been prosecuted for the many crimes he committed. He’s never received help. He’s what you call a serial child predator. It haunts me to know that he’s probably out there abusing children and there is nothing that I can do to stop him. I had even heard that years ago he was coaching a boys basketball team in the same town we grew up in.

To my knowledge no one in the family has ever confronted him… Most of my cousins grew up damaged in some way or another.

When you try to speak out about a secret those who are trying hard to hide them will stop at nothing to keep them hidden, including those who were damaged from that secret. I was 18 when I first spoke out about the sexual abuse in my family. I had went eight years of hiding my secret and wallowing in my shame and guilt. I couldn’t hide my pain any longer.

You can only put so much air into a balloon before it explodes or goes flying around the room like a chicken with it’s head cut off. I couldn’t take it any longer and exposed my secret to my parents. I was free just for one moment. The secret was free but the shame and guilt remained.

I didn’t just come out about the abuse that day. I had another secret, I was gay. The fact that my abuser was a male was of great shame to me. It was one of the reasons I waited so long to tell anyone because I was worried that they wouldn’t believe me. I remember walking up to my parents door the night I was first abused. I was about to knock on their door before the shame set in. How could I tell them about the abuse when my attacker was my male cousin. So I showered and pretended like it didn’t happen. To this day I still remember the couch I took refuge in that night. I can feel the fabric. I can see the pattern.

My Mom never doubted me. She always believed me. The rest of the family did not, including my father. Well he believed me but he just didn’t care. The next day he went hunting with the cousin who sexually abused me. He told me that I needed to forgive and forget. This was the same man who told me that I was going to die in the hospital alone from AIDS because I was gay.

There is a lot of stigma still attached to sexual abuse. It’s a subject that so many don’t find acceptable to talk about in the open. It’s easier to talk about when something big like the revelation of Weinstein happens. We need to start talking about abuse in the moments in between. Silence deafens the cries of victims. It continues the cycle. If we don’t speak up and out about these horrible deeds these perpetrators will continue to hurt more people.

Until society stops blaming and shaming the victims nothing will ever change. There is never an excuse that justifies a crime. Sexual abuse has never been acceptable. The difference between the present and the past is that more people hold the perpetrators accountable today. We have more courage and strength today than we did yesterday. This happens when victims become survivors by speaking out and giving a voice to others who aren’t able to speak.

When you’re sexually abused you lose your voice. The ability of saying no is taken from you. Your body, mind, heart and soul are violated. There isn’t an aspect of you that’s not affected. I was ten years old when I had my innocence taken from me. It was stolen and it’s not something that can be returned.

I’ve not always had my voice. I’ve not always been able to say no. There are times still that I lose my voice. I have to fight daily against the demons of my past. When I am finally able to verbalize the world NO, I am free. The strength behind this word is powerful and doesn’t match the smallness of letters.

When I feel like I can’t speak it’s the strength of other survivors that inspires me and reminds me that I still have my voice. I know that the other side is loud and persistent. They expect us to be silent. They’re depending on us to keep our mouths shut. I refuse to remain silent. I know that the words that don’t escape my belly are the ones that could open the door for more harm to come at the hands of a sexual predator. I share my story in the hopes that I might reach someone in need. It’s so easy to feel like you’re alone when you’re dealing with this sort of trauma. So many victims continue to be silenced. They oftentimes have no one to turn to so they go anywhere they can whether it be addictions or suicide. If you’re able to come out on the other side it becomes pivotal to stand up for those like you. While I didn’t have the power to stop the sexual abuse when I was a child I now have that power returned. When I share my experiences, both the good and bad, I liberate others to do the same in return.

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Femmephobia in the Gay Community

So I was reading comments on a Facebook post (I know that’s a recipe for disaster) about a young gay man who was overtly feminine. Well the article wasn’t about his personality but that didn’t stop the haters from spewing their internalized homophobia. In an hour of the posting there were at least four comments about how he was a disgrace to the LGBTQ community and that he was making the “normal” gay men look bad. I was just disgusted and reminded about how much internal homophobia there still is.

Sure I get it. Most of us had to hide who we were for a very long time. We were told having feminine traits was unacceptable. A man loving another man that’s not masculine. Men are macho, drink beer and are womanizers. Society has set this idea of what is and isn’t acceptable for men, as they have with women. If you don’t fit that mold you’re made to feel less. As to not stick out like a sore thumb you go inward hiding who you. The only thing that does is stunts your growth.

Bottom line gay men who look down upon guys who are feminine have deeply rooted misogyny. I’ve always wondered what is so wrong with a man having the traits stereotypical for a woman or man who wears a dress and/or makeup? Why does society tell us that it’s wrong and ugly? Who wrote the book on the rules and guidelines for masculinity and femininity. I have yet to find that book. So why do so many people feel trapped by this to the point they have to prove to the world their masculine by shunning anyone who might break a hole in their false image.

I look at our gay youth and I’m just awe inspired at their courage to be whoever they want. Most of them never had to endure what we did and we should be happy for that. They’ve not had it thrown down their throats that they must conform to the rules of manhood. They can be just as fabulous as they were born to be. Guys who are femmephobic are so jaded and bitter that they must take it out on others. To feel good about themselves they have this great desire to tear others down. The only person that looks bad is them but they don’t care. They don’t even see the elephant in the room.

That kind of hatred is dangerous and toxic. Growing up it was always known that men don’t cry. I would compare myself to other boys and I always felt different. I didn’t like the same things that most boys did. I wasn’t into sports and I loved musicals. When I came out of the closet it was the most freest I’ve ever been. Those chains no longer tied me down but sadly for so many they still are even years after they’ve come out. I can remember a date that I was on in my early twenties and the guy just gave it to me about how much like a woman I was. He went out of his way to shun me. I felt horrible but he was the one with the problem.

It’s so easy to forget what is out there until you’re faced with it head on. I learned this when I started to perform in drag. I had guys who’d tell me that they wouldn’t date me because of it. I even had other gay guys question why I dressed up in drag. Personally I think drag queens are the best part of our gay community. So many don’t see it that way. To get up on stage in heels, makeup and a dress takes nerve in this world. I mean getting on stage is nerve wracking enough. I love anyone who says fuck you to the social norms. Drag for me blends gender and art. So many gay guys look down upon drag queens when in reality they were the ones fighting for equality early on. We have them to think for a lot of the strides we have made today. How a person dresses and/or acts has no relation to who they are inside. How someone dresses doesn’t make them a bad person. A bad person is someone who does bad things including making others  feel less. There’s no strength in belittling someone else for who they are, what they wear and who they love.

I can’t imagine what my transgender brothers and sisters must endure on a daily basis. They’re at the forefront of this battle. So many are judging them for who they are deep within. It’s not surprising that so many transgender people try to end their lives, not to mention the countless murders of trans folks. All because of gender. Misogyny is what it boils down to. From the beginning of time women have been treated less. Like being a woman makes you less of a person. Who the fuck came up with that rule??? I think being a woman is one of the best things in this world. I mean women bring life into this world. If it weren’t for women we’d all be fucked. So anyone that tries to step out of the social norm is instantly an outcast. I mean that’s why people have such a problem with being gay. We’re breaking the rules thus for breaking the ceiling in their hate filled house. I learned this a long time ago with my father. People like this gain a false sense of control by grasping onto an ideology. They’re not confident with it because it’s not real so in order to stay safe they must convince as many people as they can that their way. They will stop at nothing to stop the cracks from breaking them free. They don’t care who they drag down or who they hurt in the process, as long as it keeps them safe and secure.

Life is too short be whoever you want to be. That’s how I approach life. If it’s not hurting anyone and the person enjoys it then more power to them. For the longest time I was embarrassed by my feminine side, as I had been brainwashed into believing that it was an abomination. I now realize that’s the best part of me. I love my sensitivity and the fact that I’m not afraid to cry. It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally proud to be fabulous and I feel bad for those who don’t feel it themselves. They’ve hidden those beautiful traits for so long that the lack of has become a part of their personalities.

Anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is labeled a loser. Guys on this post called him disgusting, not apart of the community. They just continue to spew. They’ve internalized the homophobia cast upon them and in return are doing the exact same thing to others who have the traits that they were scolded for. These types of guys are stuck in the past and are going to be left behind. The youth of today are free from those chains that held us down for so long, at least most of them. They can be whoever they want to be without the fear of judgment.

Our youth have broken the mold of what it means to be gay. They’ve colored outside the lines. There is this young boy who I quite admire. He’s proud of his fabulousness and he’s constantly encouraging me to be proud of mine. To this day I still struggle to be me. Here he is at ten years old (or around that age) and not afraid to be himself. It’s so refreshing to watch his journey. Thankfully he has a wonderfully, loving mother who embraces who he is and encourages his exploration. I mean this kid is already a fashion icon. There are so many young boys just like him. I wish I was able to be like that when I was a kid. I’m not one of these gay guys who are so stubborn and stuck in their ways that they feel like they’ve got to prove that way is wrong. While I’m sad I couldn’t embrace my fabulousness that early I’m proud and happy they have the chance to. That’s all we can hope for, that the next generation will have it easier than we did.

So I’m just disgusted when I read these types of comments because it reminds me of what I went through. I’m very thankful I didn’t let that poison turn me into the person who shunned and judged me. No one should be judged or made to feel less for who they are or who they love. If a man wants to wear a dress who cares. The last time I checked wearing a dress isn’t going to cause the end of the world, though some act like it will. Neither will wearing makeup. Life is tough enough, be what you want to be. There is no normal or a mold that you have to fit in.

One of my favorite poems speaks to all of this:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

We are ALL meant to shine. Who are you not to be? Be fabulous, wear it proudly. We’ve earned that right. So if you want to sashay down the runway, do it! I can tell you that you’ll probably enjoy it. I’ve hid for so many years and not just my femininity. It causes great internal damage. Playing small doesn’t serve the world, it doesn’t help anyone especially yourself. When you’re authentic and free that liberates others. So by being fabulous you’re giving another human being the courage to do so as well.

In the end, I feel sorry for these guys. So lost and stuck that they don’t even realize it. They’re the one with the issue and the only ones making our community look bad. We’ve been put through enough, it’s our time to shine.