I Told A #MeToo Story – And Lost Friends

I Told A #MeToo Story – And Lost Friends

a photo of a person silhouetted in black against a colorful waterfall backdrop with sunrise/sunset coloring; black text in a black outlined box "I Told A #MeToo Story - And Lost Friends" at top middle and grey text at bottom middle "Chronic Sex"

TW sexual harassment, victim blaming, #MeToo

Back in February, I started to publicly discuss a sexual predator within patient communities [initials AB]. I’ve brought it up again recently but, sadly, have wound up feeling less supported. I’m not a celebrity, nor do I claim to be, but it seems odd to have people continue to question sexual harassment in the era of #MeToo.

The Beginning

This whole situation started when this man made questionable comments of a ‘playful’ nature that escalated over time. The first time I was on the receiving end of one of these comments, I actually responded very negatively. He responded and said something about how this was just how he interacted with people.

Against my better judgment, I let it go. Part of that was his involvement with other prominent patients and patient organizations. None of those connections should have pushed me to do differently than my gut suggested.

Over the years, this continued and got worse. Incidents took place between this man and other women – especially young women, like those in high school – for years. The fact that this person is in his 40’s wasn’t, apparently, a deterrent to his actions. Most of this was on social media but wasn’t limited to that. He has harassed and cornered young women at conferences and events. He’s sent text and other messages to patients, asking how he can get into bed with them. This man has removed many of the inflammatory posts from his site where he dismisses words like cisgender as slurs, uses MRA language, and labels those of us who fight for actual justice negatively as “Kirstens” (I shit you not). Other patients in the past have tried to step in and help him understand what is and isn’t okay. When he turned on them or continued his actions in the face of their help, they ultimately abandoned that task.

As I’ve talked about before, I believe that we need more male voices within patient spaces. Even further, we need more voices around queer, trans, and non-white experiences. So why are we allowing people within the first category to make things uncomfortable and painful – especially while excluding those in the latter? I just don’t know.

Speaking Out

It’s something that took me a long time feeling comfortable discussing, even among friends. This man would attack me, telling me to get over my PTSD in the later years of our ‘friendship,’ and other patients – people I trusted – labeled me as hateful for my rebuttals. He was barred and then reinvited to a medical conference at a prominent university on the west coast because of his relationship with the head staff at this conference.

When I began talking, mutual friends would entertain the idea that this happened and claim to support me and others. Still, they would and do maintain an active friendship with this person – even after telling me they didn’t.

It is beyond frustrating to see, especially when fellow patients echoed similar situations and concerns. It tells me a lot about what other people think of those of us who have spoken out about this man.

If I’m completely honest, it still feels that he was sided with more often than those of us speaking out.

Something I wrote in February that continues to ring true today, especially in light of the MeToo movement:

People who call these issues out aren’t trying to stage a witch hunt [sound familiar?]. That’s not what I’m after. I’m not vindictive or hateful on that level and, by golly, I have enough going on with my health and my things I’m running and doing that I don’t need the drama. None of us do.

As a society — whether as a whole or as patient groups — we cannot make excuses for sexism or sexual harassment. We must call these issues out. Just like with ableism we experience at the hands of people who don’t understand, we have to call out this behavior so that it can be corrected. Ignoring it as a courtesy only allows it to get worse and for more people to be violated.

And again, just like with our illnesses, sharing our stories helps people feel less alone. When I’ve shared my experiences with this person and experiences I know of with people, they have felt redeemed and like their gut reactions to comments or questions have been validated.

#MeToo (unless it upsets someone)

When people began to share their #MeToo stories, I took initiative in posting about this person. I used his name publicly on social media. This was met with a variety of responses from shock to shared experience and more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until statements dripping with victim-blaming mentality started showing up.

As a sex educator, it disturbed me greatly to see these comments from people I considered friends. I cried and screamed because I didn’t grasp how someone I trusted – someone who even shared some uncomfortable experiences with this man – could ask questions of me and others like did we ask him to stop.

I couldn’t let these kinds of comments go unchecked. No one’s story about sexual harassment should be policed. A person should be believed, regardless of how much they “fought back” against someone. No one should be met with victim-blaming statements as they speak out about sexual harassment or more.

I spoke out. Calling bullshit, I shared how these questions were inappropriate and harmful – and that, yes, he had been asked to stop several times. It was odd, too, to see someone who claimed to send this man’s messages to spam in order to avoid dealing with them then say that wasn’t the truth. I pointed out the hypocrisy in these questions and how harmful they were.

Could I have handled it better? Absolutely. I could’ve taken the exchange to a private message – though, it should’ve started that way as well. Since I didn’t start it, I don’t feel too much pain over it – especially when victims from various walks of life messaged me about why victim-blaming comments were being made.

People who know me know that I speak my mind – and know that my history of abuse combined with chronic pain is why. I’ve been nothing but forthcoming on how holding in emotions causes me physical and emotional pain. Despite that, I tried for a few months to ignore my gut (yes, again) and continue relationships with people who want everyone to just get along.

It’s clear now that I can’t.

TBH Losing Friends Is Okay

I lost several friends during this exchange because of speaking out and setting boundaries. I received an email a few weeks later from one person trying to explain that this was the final straw in a number of things they disliked. While they think my voice needs to be heard, they said, they find me to be a little “too much.” I talk about being queer which apparently feels exclusionary to people who aren’t.

That frankly is bullshit.

Within the next few days? The victim blamer and the excluded person both were joking with the sexual harasser all started talking together on social media.

I used to find comfort in the arthritis community. Now? I try to avoid it whenever I can, frankly. We can’t all get along, but it’s upsetting to see people who want that abandon victims for perpetrators. It’s nauseating as fuck.

I’ll be honest, too – it hurts to know that old friends and this creepy dude are the ones who will hold me back from being able to attend conferences or take part in events. I won’t go or won’t apply because I know there will be awkward exchanges. Even when I do apply, their influence may guide people in deciding I shouldn’t be there. Hell, this asshole and his defenders ruined that medical conference for me, something that I was so fucking excited about. I shouldn’t have expected much given how this university handled Brock Turner, but JFC.

Thankfully, after this exchange went down, I do feel better. My pain has gone down in huge amounts. Emotionally, I know that I’ve spoken my truth to the best of my ability. Physically, my pain related to holding in emotions is no longer there. I’m no longer dealing with emotional potatoes.

When combined with other self-care methods, my daily overall pain has gone from sitting at 6/10 to 3/10 (though it went back up a few weeks after I wrote this because winter is a thing).

My social media accounts have gone back to what they always should be – a way for me to speak to the world. I no longer sit worrying about how others are perceiving what I’m saying. Between that and the below tweet, I’m back to feeling much better about why I do what I do.

You can share things with others – illnesses, life experiences, etc – but not really get along with them. The people you share XYZ with and those you feel are your friends don’t always overlap – sometimes they’re a Venn diagram. That doesn’t mean you aren’t acquaintances – we just can’t all be friends.

I see friends as people who hold each other accountable for these kinds of comments. Sometimes, that’s not what others think friendship is.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes all you can do is step out and bask in the sunshine of your truth.

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Louis CK Sets An Example?

Louis CK Sets An Example?

photo of a clock on the wall with pink text: "Louis CK Sets An Example?"

TW: discussions of sexual assault, harassment, rape, pedosadism, abuse, the fucking patriarchy

As I start writing this, I’m feeling rather… odd. My best friend from college and I are texting about Louis CK’s apology in the New York Times.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or low on energy, stories recently came out about his sexual misconduct. There are several other men who have recently been shown to be serial sexual predators in one way or another. Before getting into Louis’ apology, let’s explore the other most recent high-profile apology – Kevin Spacey.

Kevin Spacey

I had some weird initial feelings about this. I used to like Spacey’s work. When I read what had happened, though, it became clear to me that this was the truth – and a horrifying one at that. I’ve since tossed anything and everything I have with him in it.

on left, photo of a white appearing person with an angular haircut, heavy eye makeup, and wearing a white top; on right, a blue box with light blue quotation mark, white text "There is only one you for all time" - yellow text "fearlessly be yourself" and at bottom middle white text "Anthony Rapp"

Anthony Rapp is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever seen. What he’s most famous for right now is being on the newest Star Trek show. However, he’s been acting since before he hit double digits. He is highly respected due to his Broadway cred, especially having been a part of the OBC of Rent.

Rapp’s conversation with Buzzfeed where he shares a scary underage interaction with Spacey is incredibly raw. As a survivor myself, I absolutely understand the concerns he shares in the piece as well as the empowering feeling many of us have since more and more stories of famous abusers have come out. While we all obviously wish this wasn’t the case, it feels like progress is happening – like we are finally ripping apart some of the privilege white men hold, especially in the entertainment industry. While not the focus of the piece, Rapp shares some signs of PTSD – well, at least signs that I experience. I won’t armchair diagnose, but simply say this is so familiar – and so common – for survivors.

Spacey’s response… There is so much wrong with his statement. I don’t even know where to begin. The victim blaming of Rapp’s feels? It’s something I’ve experienced so much that I literally threw up in my mouth the first time I read this.

Don’t weaponize your sexual orientation, Kevin. You could’ve come out any other time, but only did so in order to distract from these issues. Stars from Billy Eichner to Zachary Quinto called bullshit on this quickly, and they weren’t alone. Organizations including GLAAD decried the situation, angry that many news agencies focused on Spacey’s sexuality rather than his pedosadistic actions… especially as more of Spacey’s victims and their families – like Heather Unruh and her son – come forward.

Spacey is now ‘seeking treatment’ of some sort of nature, though the exact thing is undisclosed. If he thinks dealing with alcoholism or pedosadist tendencies 30 years later will fix this, he’s sorely mistaken.

This statement just played into age-old myths equating all gay men to pedosadists. It’s absolutely disgusting for the queer community. I, for one, refuse to wrap him in our rainbow flag as a gay sibling. Anthony Rapp, on the other hand, will always be welcome in our community.

Back to Louis C.K….

photo of a person silhouetted against a starry sky - white text "THESE STORIES ARE TRUE. Louis C.K."

If you haven’t read Louis’ statement, I highly suggest doing so. I want to preface all this by saying I don’t believe this absolves Louis of his actions nor should it. This apology, though, is far better than any we’ve seen so far – especially in comparison to Spacey’s kinda-BS-statement-thing.

Unlike Spacey and others, Louis acknowledges that the actions he took were not okay. In addition, the sexual advances he made towards these women put them in an impossible situation. He admits that he abused both his power and his fame in his actions, something no other apology I’ve read takes into account.

Something that I’m especially grateful to see is Louis acknowledging his privileges: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” It feels like he’s been reading a variety of articles on how to respond to being called out – and acting based on them.

I won’t say that this statement is the best possible one. However, it’s the best one I’ve seen thus far… The recognition of abused power, harm done to many people in the process, and more is something we need to see. I’m sad that it takes people going through horrible experiences for us to see what apologetic behavior should look like. That said, it’s only good in comparison to the shittastic statements like Spacey has made. Louis spent years avoiding these allegations and hiding from them. Clearly, he knew then that these actions were wrong… so why apologize now? Is an apology enough, especially when he doesn’t even actually say he’s sorry?

I just don’t know.

What’s next?

The only people who can accept an apology are those harmed. I can’t say, as someone outside the specific situation, whether or not Louis’ statement does the trick. Regardless of how anyone feels about it, the proof is in the pudding, right? It won’t be until people see sustained changed behavior that the apology becomes fully recognized.

Apologetic words mean next to nothing if you don’t institute the changes to back them up. When confronted about their actions, many abusers will show sorrow or remorse. Frankly, that sorrow is more related to being caught than the harm itself. Each time I staged an intervention for my abusive mother, for instance, tears would flow and hugs would be freely given. Things would change for approximately two weeks. After that, though, the harm started creeping back in.

Most abusers, like C.K., commit harmful acts because of a power trip. That’s why we must constantly keep power in check using intersectional means. The more we work to dismantle what power like this can do, the more people we can protect from serial abusers.

Speak out. Say something when you see something inappropriate. Raise some hell.

Last minute addition:

I found Ellen Page’s recent post on things she’s been through incredibly moving. Please go read it. My favorite part is that she acknowledges her privilege while recognizing the disproportionate amount of abuse BIPOC endure:

Let’s remember the epidemic of violence against women in our society disproportionately affects low income women, particularly women of color, trans and queer women and indigenous women, who are silenced by their economic circumstances and profound mistrust of a justice system that acquits the guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence and continues to oppress people of color. I have the means to hire security if I feel threatened. I have the wealth and insurance to receive mental health care. I have the privilege of having a platform that enables me to write this and have it published, while the most marginalized do not have access to such resources. The reality is, women of color, trans and queer and indigenous women have been leading this fight for decades (forever actually). Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Winona LaDuke, Miss Major, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, to name a few.

Further reading: