Let's talk about sexual abuse (II)

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?

Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, 1977

It has been and continues to be difficult to put into words this issue, this tyranny that I swallow daily - the issue of a (possible?) sexual abuse -, which is now tormenting me with an internal dialogue that seems to have no end, but which is very painful. And I continue with my emotional and mental chaos. And more questions keep adding up, questions like "What impact has the (possible?) sexual abuse had on my genderqueer identity?" "What does the (possible?) sexual abuse mean for my overall identity, for who I am now?"

I started to break my silence a fortnight ago (actually a long time ago, but a fortnight ago for the first time with a tendency towards a resounding "yes"). I made a first attempt to write about some more related questions running through my head two days ago, and ended up terrible. I made the mistake of going back to the exchange of (a few) letters with my father 5½ years ago, when I (again) cut off contact with my family for good. I remembered asking him questions about signs of childhood sexual abuse, referring to a list of possible symptoms I had found on the web. His response was unhelpful in this regard. I trust his answer regarding more obvious symptoms (bedwetting - didn't happen), but not regarding more subtle symptoms, emotional changes, etc, as he never really noticed almost any of my emotional needs (neither did my mother). But what unsettled me two days ago was especially the absence of any doubt, of any why? regarding my "problematic" behaviour in my childhood. I was simply always the problem. There was no Why? No What's happening to our child? And I wrote him two more letters, with more questions, but I never received a reply to these letters. Thinking about it now, I don't know anymore who has cut off the contact...

Tough. It made me cry a lot, and I didn't manage to write anything else two days ago. Yesterday I was also awful all day, with thoughts of elaborate suicide plans most of the morning (elaborate plans impossible to carry out). Yesterday I didn't get anything done most of the day. I was thinking of going back to my diaries of 5½ years ago, but I realised that would have been a very bad idea. I really know that my diaries from these months are full of references to thoughts and images of sexual abuse that haunted me then. I don't need to go back to my diaries to verify this.

But since there were no memories 5½ years ago either, in therapy we focused in one way on stabilising me, working on emotional abandonment, which I was clear about, and in a way avoiding the issue of sexual abuse. It worked for a while, sometimes better, sometimes worse (there were times during the confinement of spring 2020 when it worked worse, and I changed my narrative for a while from "I don't know, probably not" to "I don't know, probably yes"). Back then I wrote: "The night of Monday to Tuesday, when I masturbated, the image of a child (me?) sucking a dick came back to me. I managed to push it aside, imagined nicer things, nicer cocks. The image was too blurry to recognize the other person, and I didn't see anything but his body either. I haven't had similar images since my breakdown almost four years ago. And since my whole childhood is a black hole, with no memories whatsoever until I was 8 or 10, I have no idea what happened in these early years of my childhood."

Now the exact same thing is happening to me again. This morning, for example, I also thought about masturbating. Or, at first, I thought about putting the prostate massager I bought a few months ago in my anus, but just the thought of it made me cry. I can't imagine now putting anything in my anus, it connects me directly to the trauma of my last affectionate sexual relationship, to the thought of "when it's going to end" when my then partner was fucking me. So, no anal pleasure. Second option: masturbate, without the prostate massager. The result was fatal. I started to masturbate, I had the image of a little child looking at an erect cock, and I had to cry loudly. I tried again, unable to get rid of this image, with the same result. And I decided to stop. The same thing already happened to me maybe a fortnight ago. Sexual pleasure seems to be out of my reach for now.

What is all this telling me, is it my body talking to me, telling me things, or is it my fantasies? And I return to my permanent internal dialogue....

And then comes the other question: What does my gender identity as a genderqueer person have to do with (possible?) sexual abuse? I understand gender as biopsychosocial, as Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker explain in How to Understand Your Gender. A practical guide to exploring who you are: "For anyone, the experience of gender is a complex mix of biology, psychology, and the world around us. (...) Because biological structure, psychological experiences, and context are interrelated in unique and complex ways, our gender is really like a snowflake: no two are alike." I don't believe that a (possible?) sexual abuse is the cause of my gender identity, but it is more than likely that it has contributed to my struggle with and against my masculinity. And, if so, I am in "good" company. According to the research "Gender identity and childhood experiences: an introductory quantitative study of the relationship between gender identity and adverse childhood experiences" 33% of genderqueer people responded with "Yes" to the question "Has an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever touched or fondled you or made you touch their body in a sexual way?" (And 11% responded with "Yes" to the question "Has an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever tried or had oral, anal or vaginal sex with you?").

That would be about the same as the figure for women's experiences of sexual abuse before the age of 18: one in three. The figure for cis men is one in six. According to other research by US NGO FORGE, "Interestingly, while most non-transgender males in our survey never experienced sexual assault, people who were assigned male at birth and who (possibly later in life) identified as MTFs experienced relatively high rates of abuse as children, youth and young adults." Specifically: 45% up to the age of 18.

I am repulsed by (pseudo)-research that identifies childhood sexual abuse as a cause of a non-normative gender identity (non-binary or transgender) or a specific sexual orientation. I find them too monocausal and simplistic (and, moreover, they tend to follow the idea of a "normal", "healthy" development of a cis-gender identity and a healthy sexuality that is heterosexuality, which do not deserve an explanation (as they are "normal"). Everything non-normative - dissident gender identities or either homosexuality or asexualities need an explanation. Normative bullshit!) But if I understand neither gender identity nor sexuality as "fixed", but both as biopsychosocial, it is more than likely that sexual abuse has an impact. Does this mean that I would not have come to define myself as genderqueer without (possible?) sexual abuse? I don't think so. But if I manage in time to resolve my internal dialogue (which, I believe, is only possible towards a yes), it is very likely that I will rewrite my gender history (and who I am) in one way or another.