Kitchener, Ontario (TFC) – There is no fear in stating that womyn who love womyn have it difficult. There is not wool enough to cover the fact that world-wide patriarchy has been deliberately constructed against our will and without our existence in mind. That so many of us are afraid to profess our affection for it being a crime, often social and legal, is no coincidence. It is because we dare to live and love female that we are jailed, beaten and raped by men, further mocked and harassed by male-identified womyn. There is no untruth in realizing the world we live in has been instructed not only to deny our living selves but to actively undermine our loving selves.
With that being said, how do we even begin to approach the reality of living and loving female with the added experience I will define broadly as abuse at the hands of womyn? I find myself almost lost for words to describe this paradox despite it being so personally relatable. For how can I even begin to unravel a knot that may only be related to through personal experiences of love and trauma. In the closet I’ve survived and in between broken boundaries I am still alive; so how can I learn to thrive? Like myself, how can womyn realize love for womyn after having been abused by womyn? I will let my story speak for itself:
As a child I was close with a girl I cared very deeply for and I imagine so many of our stories start this way. We met when we were both five years old. We shared the same interests, the same neighbourhood schoolyard, the same childhood dreams, we even shared the same name. Her shoulder-length brown hair matched mine and my brown eyes loved hers. Hand-in-hand and head-over-heals; we were our first friendship, our first sleepovers, our first secrets shared, our first look inside the realm of possibility. Instead of playing house we played football, instead of boys we dreamed of living together.
We were two-in-one, Sam and Sam, together as much as we could manage. We were the common denominator of a division I never saw coming, one soul cut in two that somehow found itself in each other. I never thought there wouldn’t be an us. There simply couldn’t be an us.
We were young, oh so young.
We were too young to know intimate relationships between females were A Thing, yet old enough to gravitate towards each other. Too young to understand love yet old enough to know we were expected to grow up, find boyfriends, and marry one one day (when we spoke of living together we had to consider where our husbands would sleep). Still too young to realize the society built against us, we were old enough to bend to the bricks it placed on our backs. And although I never spoke of it, I was old enough to know that what we shared was more than what I saw in the friendships of our peers at school. I was old enough to see our authentic selves dissipate as to each other we disappeared and soon grew into girls neither of us could recognize. She turned out to be my first love and I was the first heart she broke.
Hindsight later showed me being groomed by her. Whether she knew what she was doing or not, the deed was done. Say this, she would say, and your parents will let you come over. Do this, she would insist, and it will be fun. When she told me what to say and do I thought she knew best. When she bullied others, I thought it was a game and she really didn’t mean it. When a boy she targeted was so traumatized that his mother decided to take him out of school, I reasoned that she wasn’t the only one who teased him. When she turned on me, I was unsure of what to believe. And though this had been years in her making, the abuse culminated in one night out of the countless I stayed over at hers.
Of course I thought about going upstairs, about calling my parents, how could I not have? Of course I wanted to leave, but how could I leave her? I knew her as my second self and to have this happen was beyond anything my elementary mind could fathom. Instead of fighting or fleeing I ultimately developed my now widely used coping mechanism of freezing. Instead of telling someone, I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in to save myself from the evil that I experienced. Instead of confronting her, I blocked out the memory of that night. For years, all I could remember was the car ride home the next morning. For years, I didn’t know why I hurt so much. For years, I couldn’t say where sat the root to all the self-hate I grew to embrace. For years, I blamed myself.
We were on a popular website for children together in her basement. This was not a new occurrence. What was new is something that, to this day, I continue to relive as traumatic. Still to this day I am unable to say why she decided to seek out and expose me to heterosexual pornography on her computer. And to this day I still can’t understand why when I said no, she instead searched for more. To this day I can’t shake the feeling of her betrayal, of her ignoring my pleas, of my boundaries being crossed. To this day, I still get terrified. Back then I was terrified for I had never seen such violence before. Now I am terrified for I have lived the truth of my words having no influence on the actions of another. No, I had never known fear, until that night.
She mocked my innocence and continued her abuse: She chased me around the basement, I ran. She verbally abused me, I sighed. She tried to suffocate me, I kicked. She framed her attempt to kill me as just a joke I was supposed to be in on. She turned “soft-core” heterosexual pornography on the television that night to fall asleep to. That night we slept in separate chairs. That night I lost a part of me that has taken years to realize missing. I can only imagine where I may be and who I may have become had our ship not sunk as it so violently did. That night was the beginning and the end. There are no other words to say how she hurt me.
Since then I have found it extremely difficult to allow myself vulnerability with womyn, to be close with womyn, to love and to trust womyn as I had once loved Sam. No matter how deep my care is for whoever she may be, for how could I let myself be open to hurt again? Since that early childhood experience I denied any feelings of attraction I had for womyn. Since I blacked out what happened, I internalized shame and self-hate. I sought out acceptance and love and became hypersexual – with men who would, in turn, abuse me. Since then, any resemblance of authentic sexuality was out of the question for me. Until a couple of years ago I hid myself from myself.
It was… hard. To say the least.
Reliving trauma was what I was used to. It was my normal. Until I started to question normal. And with that I felt fear. But fear is normal, and what I do know for sure is that fear is just that, fear. A feeling, like any other. A feeling I know well and a feeling I will learn to manage. I know it’s normal to have fear; from past trauma, for the future unknown. I also know that it is healthy to embrace that very fear and squeeze it. I know that instead of releasing myself to its grip, I will come to relish in its familiarity and look behind fears shoulder to who and what lies ahead. I know where I want my life to go, I just have to look through fear to see it. I know I can, and so can anyone do what their mind believes in and their heart desires.
Oh and there are womyn I desire so. Womyn I admire, womyn I adore; womyn I love to such a degree it scares me. And so, beside myself, what do I do? How can I let myself express adult love through my childhood fear? Caught between the remnants of Sam and Sam, myself, my budding sexuality and society cueing me how to act: what can I accept as my authentic self? How can Sam, both old and new, scarred and still bleeding, dismissed for years and unforgotten always, be, once again, just Sam? How can I honour Her Fear without holding myself back In Fear; fear I both loathe and have come to love as a sister to my sorrow.
Please do not take away from this me saying to be fearless. Fear has the capacity to be adaptive for survival. Without fear, I may not be here today. Without fear I wouldn’t have a point of comparison for the love I know exists. Learning how to own the fear that once owned me has been a process I have been working towards since I began to realize what had happened. So take that fear and own it. Own whatever fears you, dear sisters, dear womyn loving womyn, dear female survivors of female abuse. Own your fear and continue to survive in a world that thrives on fear. Own your fear and continue to love ourselves and ourkind.