We are Orlando

My heart has been pretty heavy since the news hit about yet another massacre in the States. I have been quiet and reflective; not sure I was going to say much of anything publicly. After all, I did not know any of the victims and we all already know that it’s a horrible tragedy.

However, I reconsidered that because there is no part of my life that isn’t touched by this. I live in the bay area of California, where Harvey Milk served when he became the first openly gay politician before he himself was massacred. There has never been a single time in my life that I have not had at least one gay friend.  At various points throughout the last couple of decades, I have worked at nightclubs – both gay and straight. My sometimes boss was (is) a flamboyant and wonderful gay man. Last year I took my six-year-old faery goddaughter to the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco right after gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court so she could witness a happy moment in history. A little over a month ago I attended a lesbian wedding. Last week I spent time talking to a friend about whether or not she wanted to explore a same-sex relationship. And last night my heart broke as I held up a candle, raised my voice in song and marched with thousands of others through the streets of San Francisco.

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For the last week or so, the very amazing women in my life have been making lists and telling stories about being victimized. As humans we have always bonded over trauma, no matter what our gender is. These stories have broken my heart and made me admire and love the tellers even more fiercely, especially their ability to stay open and vulnerable despite the violence in their lives. Mine is nothing compared to many and when I can be grateful for that, there’s a very serious problem. I was going to skip out on the conversation except that an amazing woman asked us to keep them coming, so that she might be able to post hers someday. So here is mine.

*At age 6 when I had short hair and glasses, a young boy asked me if I was a boy or a girl. He bullied me into showing him when he didn’t believe my answer and then held me down and pulled my hair while telling me that I was the ugliest girl in the world.

*At age 8 my friend’s father started snapping my bathing suit, spanking me and grabbing at me under the water every time we went swimming. We went swimming every day, mostly at his insistence.25 years later, she called to ask if he had been molesting me all the years that he had been attacking her.

*At age 11, I was one of the first girls to wear a bra. Almost every boy in the class had to try to snap it or unhook it every day for the rest of the school year, laughing at my embarrassment and discomfort. Teachers and parents had a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude or a ‘they’re just curious’ excuse when I complained.

*At age 17, I was told that if I wanted to stay where I was living, I had to sleep with the guy who paid rent.

*At age 18, two male friends came to visit from out of town. One molested and mentally abused me, trying to force me to sleep with them both. The other looked at my torn clothes and my tears and only asked why I still wouldn’t sleep with him.

*At age 19 on the first day of a new job, my supervisor stood pressed against my back, grinding into me with his arms around me to show me how the job was done. When I complained to the boss he was called into the office where they proceeded to talk about my mouth for the 10 minutes I listened in before walking out, never to return.

This list could go on and on for every single year if I truly wanted to rehash all the trauma in my life. Instead I’m going to jump right back into the present.

*Every single day at least 3 people (friends and strangers, male and female) mention the size of my breasts and at least one tries to grab or poke them. Every. Single. Day.

*2 weeks ago I danced with a guy who told me I was beautiful when I really needed to hear it. When he got more aggressive and started picking me up, spinning me around and pinning my arms, I protested. He tried to kiss me instead of apologizing. I quit dancing.

*1 week ago I watched an acquaintance get pushy with a friend and many of us helped facilitate her retreat. When his attention turned to me I said no more than 6 times and smacked his hands away repeatedly before getting angry and violent, shoving him off his seat next to me and moving away. When I complained about his behavior to some of the best people I know, their response was that he gets that way when he’s been drinking and his behavior was not anyone else’s problem.

*For the last 3 weeks I have documented constant public threats against one of the best women I know from her ex. This continues every day while we lose sleep from too many miles away.

*In the last 6 months I have listened to men I know who are normally fair minded and sensitive say horrible things. One labeled a recent love a whore as soon as she did not choose him when they were BOTH seeing other people. Another one of my oldest friends JUST asked when younger women started dressing like whores. A third only posts passive aggressive quotes about women’s behaviors or half naked pictures of women on his news feed, all day every day. There have been no less than 4 “you hit like a girl” type demeaning jokes in the last 24 hours that have reached my ears.

PLEASE realize that these stories are everyone’s problems. #YesAllWomen doesn’t exist to bash men, nor does it exist to shove an agenda down anyone’s throat. It is to show you that even the strongest and even-keeled women you know are or have been victims, whether they look like one or not. Sure, not all men display these tendencies – but to hijack the vital conversation or to complain about all the lectures is detrimental to what could be a very big enlightening lesson. In every recent case, it has been MY job to leave the dangerous situations – when it should be that they never happen in the first place. Accept that it happens – that sometimes even the most considerate men have tendencies to lash out at women, just because it is totally ingrained in how we all grow up. Admit that your sons may pick up some of these behaviors – and try to mitigate that osmosis with better teachings and respect. When they start throwing things down girls’ tops or snapping straps, don’t laugh or roll your eyes, and instead show them why it is wrong. Stop being defensive and learn from the women in your life. Then stand up for and with them.  Make the world a better place instead of an angrier one. We beg you.