Written By Rye Orrange.
Art by Lena Gray.
TW: sexual assault
I don’t remember the details of the assault well. Like many sexual assault survivors, I’ve tried to block the memory out, an act that is much easier said than done. Trauma is an interesting thing in that way. It’s like an eyelash stuck in your eye that you still feel even long after you’ve gotten it out. The assault took place when I was seventeen years old, on my last day of eleventh grade. It was my best friend who did it. We were together on her bedroom floor during our end-of-year sleepover. At the time, I was still identifying as cis and straight, two identities that later escaped me as I continued on my journey of queerness.
Whenever the exciting topic of first queer experiences comes up in social situations, I feel my entire body begin to collapse inward and shut down. While I strongly believe virginity is a social construct created for no purpose other than to shame feminzied people, I still feel a deeply lasting fury that I was robbed of a beautiful, movie-moment, first queer experience. By this time in my life, I had begun to experience the common traits that many closeted youth feel; curiosity and attraction, rapidly followed by denial. I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I was queer, and didn’t realize until several months later that my first queer experience would always be one full of trauma and betrayal. There is something so incredibly raw and heartbreaking about being the victim of a violent act. It will forever be stamped as my first experience with a woman, a moment that ought to be liberating and wonderful. As someone who was assigned female at birth and identified as a woman until I turned eighteen, I had lived under the assumption that if I were to be sexually assaulted one day, it would be by a white guy in a dark room at a party full of wasted college kids. I never imagined that when it happened, it would be by my best friend, a seventeen-year-old girl who I trusted and held close to my heart.
I was terrified. I was afraid of my own body, of touching it, because I no longer felt as though I had ownership of it. Our bodies are supposed to be a place where we find joy, comfort, and pleasure, yet that often isn’t the case for trans people and assault survivors, which are two categories of people who frequently overlap.
Fast forward six months from that moment, to when I moved schools right in the middle of my final year of high school, after an excruciating and unsuccessful attempt at getting justice and pushing for my assaulter to be held accountable. The new school was, in a twisted way, a blessing. There were new people, new social dynamics, and a chance for a differently cultivated identity. I came out as queer shortly after. It was an experience that, for the most part, was pretty painless. As I began to pursue new relationships and further explore my queer identity, I found myself desperately craving attention and intimacy from women and feminized people. I’ve always been a relationship person, dating boy after boy throughout my teenage years, so the urgency to find a girlfriend directly following my coming out didn’t surprise me in the least. It didn’t, however, quite resemble the typical feelings I’ve felt surrounding the need to date – it felt like a survival technique to convince myself that I would one day be able to have a normal queer experience that existed independantly of my assault. I wanted to convince myself that my queer existence wasn’t ruined before it had even begun.
Taking control of my body has been the hardest and most liberating part of my healing journey. As a trans person who struggles with dysphoria and assault trauma on a daily basis, my body has never felt like it belonged to me. Following my assault, I didn’t masturbate for months. I convinced myself it was just a coincidence, that my libido was low, or that I was too busy enjoying my summer. Eventually, I finally allowed myself to accept the truth. I was terrified. I was afraid of my own body, of touching it, because I no longer felt as though I had ownership of it. Our bodies are supposed to be a place where we find joy, comfort, and pleasure, yet that often isn’t the case for trans people and assault survivors, which are two categories of people who frequently overlap.
My trans body is beautiful and resilient. I will never stop fighting to allow myself to feel at home within it.
Throughout the months of my healing process, I have slowly managed to discover things I can do that help me through the process of feeling in control of my body and what happens to it. There are still days when I wake up and feel as though my mind is a million miles away from my body, separated by an invisible wall that keeps me in the past where my trauma lies. Tattoos, submission during sex, and constant appearence changes have become ways that I attempt to both regain control of my body and cope with the loss of control that I’ve felt for so long.
There will never be a linear path towards healing for survivors of sexual assault. I’ve spent the past two and a half years struggling to arrive at a place in my life where I am over it, where I’ve moved on, and can finally forget about the trauma that was my first queer experience. Has that happened? No. Have I found healthy ways to cope? Absolutely. My queer journey and my journey to heal from assault cannot be separated. They are defining parts of my past that will continue to influence many aspects of my future. The scars of this trauma will leave marks on my mind, body and soul that will never quite fade away, but I have discovered ways through which I can regain control of my body. It is a feeling that has been foreign to me for as long as I can remember, but I will get there. My trans body is beautiful and resilient. I will never stop fighting to allow myself to feel at home within it.
About The Author
Rye Orrange is a 19-year-old trans, non-binary white settler on unceded Coast Salish territories in so-called “Vancouver, Canada.” A lover of tea, writing and long talks about the gender binary, Hailey uses writing as a way to navigate difficult feelings and spark uncomfortable conversations, with the hope that it will inspire others to do so as well. They hope to run their own trans-centered magazine in the future, while plotting ways to one day fix the heavily-flawed education and healthcare systems with the help of other badass trans youth.
Follow on IG: @cherryg0d