…My favoritest holiday of the year. <3
Also, since this post is a long one: TL;DR: Things aren’t okay or even good, but they’ve gotten a little better and I’ll take what I can get to fuel hope for the future, these days.
Even better, this weekend has brought a spate of desperately needed good news. Manafort’s indictment, Papadopolous’ confessions, Kevin Spacey’s career actually being impacted by the allegations of sexual misconduct (that seems like it never happens! I mean, even Cosby’s career wasn’t really phased after his… hell, Trump was caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault and people voted for him for president) and the ban on transgender people serving in the military being blocked.
I needed that. I mean… I see a lot of articles and opinion pieces that talk about how Muller can’t save us, yadda yadda yadda. But dammit, his efforts certainly help.
So then. In more personal news, I’m doing a little better in some ways. I have my third therapy session tomorrow. It’s slow going, and the focus is currently on coping techniques so that I have them down before we start talking about the rapes themselves. (Amusing, insofar as you have to laugh or cry, enough: the first coping technique the therapist discussed with me was a variation of Abby’s ‘meditation breathing.’)
I’ve been writing in my journal a lot. Not much of it has actually been about things that have been happening to me — although I do have a rough draft of the ten page complaint I filed against the police department (seriously, that thing was easily three times as long as a regular chapter. I was detailed) in there, and a couple of entries about the assault and rape — one about what literally happened (so I would have it to look back at when I inevitably started telling myself ‘no, that can’t have been real. I can’t be remembering that right. I’m making it up, aren’t I?), and one that was a much more visceral, emotional outpouring that I wrote a couple days after, when I was still breaking down crying frequently.
I’m not breaking down crying about it anymore. There are two parts that I do keep flashing back on — I haven’t had a day go by without that happening, yet — but those haven’t been as bad either. I’m not feeling like I’m physically going through them again. I just can’t make myself stop remembering it when they worm their way into my thoughts. :/
That’s one of the things I’ve specifically told my therapist that I am hoping therapy will help me with. Cutting back the frequency of the flashbacks; being able to stop spiraling on them when they happen. Also, I’ve talked to her about MNML and the facts that I’ve been involved a bit in the kink community, and that I’ve had kink fantasies (including consensual nonconsent) and that those are things I don’t want to feel irrationally guilty about, but because of what I went through I do. I’ve not been able to separate the thrill/scare of voluntarily surrendering to someone you trust with the violation I felt when someone I trusted took advantage of me. On a purely intellectual level I know how different those two scenarios are. And I know how very different the ethical consciderations of fantasies versus actions are. But emotionally… no.
I still worry that if I tried to write Abby, that ‘thrill’ wouldn’t come across in her relationships. That it would just be fear, and that it would turn her encounters into rape and abuse. I couldn’t stomach that happening. That isn’t something I ever want to write. I like kinky and thrilling and titillating stuff, yes. And I think the world could do with openness about more varieties of sexy fun and less varieties of shame.
But there’s a reason that Abby calls out the people like Melvin who try to push her into things she genuinely doesn’t want to do, and it’s that I’ve become very sick over the years of ‘love stories’ where the male protagonist basically stalks and hounds the female protagonist into ‘loving’ him — when he isn’t literally following the horrific plot of ‘rape her until she’s yours’ that you find particularly often in older examples of the genre. (But that still show up today. Fifty shades of grey? Horrifying and abusive, and yet people think it’s an example of ‘good’ kink. Fuck that.)
And a part of me is still afraid that if I’m not really careful, I’ll end up twisting things in my writing now. Especially with Hans, since he is physically similar to the person who assaulted me and because I’ve laid some groundwork to establish that he does have some issues with jealousy — which can easily shift into abusive territory, if not addressed.
Another part of me desperately wants to be writing again, and is convinced that my real problem is inertia — that if I could get past my fear of screwing up and my immediate history of having been so shut down, then I would find that whatever I wrote would be fine.
I don’t know. I’m still in an uneasy state of flux, there. Most recently when I think about writing MNML, I’ve found myself considering writing a couple chapters from some of the other stories I’ve been building up outlines for over the years, instead. Because I’ve put so much time and energy and care into MNML, and I’m scared of ruining it. And because, well… I do have a lot of other ideas. Years and years and years worth of stories that I would like to share. And with new characters I could potentially explore thoughts on some of these new, horrible, things I’ve been through without destroying who they were meant to be and who they’ve been being developed as for years now.
The other thing I’m trying to cope with is the arrest I went through for protesting. I’ve had a lot of guilt over my response to that event — I haven’t gone out to direct actions since then. I haven’t been able to make myself. I know that BLM is a just cause, and that the corruption and racism endemic in our local and national police organisations is horrific. I know that far, far too many instances of cops killing people, or planting evidence, or planning to fabricate their reports have been caught on film — somethimes even on their own cameras! — and they’ve consistently gotten off unpunnished. I know that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, and that choosing to do nothing is choosing to side with the opressor — inaction always supports the status quo.
But I cannot go through that again. And at first I thought that I was being irrational, and weak, and selfish: other people were arrested too! Other people who were arrested have gotten back in the streets!
One of those ‘other people’ is a really good friend of mine, actually. Even before these protests were organized; before the Stockley verdict, she and I would get together about once a week just to cuddle on a couch and watch a movie, eventually cook something way fancier than I can manage on my own, and maybe play a board game or two after dinner. I think really, really highly of her — while I was still thinking things like ‘if I were in XYZ situation, this is what I would do because it is the right thing to do’ she was actually in those situations and doing the right things. And at times when I’ve frozen because something was happening in front of me that I couldn’t believe was actually happening, she acted.
Anyway. After the rapes and then the arrest, we missed a few weekends of hanging out. I couldn’t leave the apartment. We talked some on skype, but basically I was afraid to leave home — and, frankly, I was afraid to let anyone other than Jae touch me. And couch cuddles had been a pretty standard part of our evenings, y’know? I was afraid that I would freak out, or… I don’t even know. It wasn’t a rational fear, because rationally I know that she would understand what I was going through and wouldn’t be upset if I set different boundaries for a while, or couldn’t relate to her the way I always had while I was processing this new trauma. Because she did understand when I kept canceling because of the anxiety spikes that hit when we got close to the weekends again.
So, long story slightly shorter (because we all know I can babble forever) we did start hanging out again. It’s… surprisingly hard for me to get myself into the car and on my way, still. But I don’t regret it when I do, and my circle of people I’m comfortable with is expanding to include the people I’ve always been comfortable with again. But the point is: the week before last I was talking with her and some of the stuff relating to the arrest clicked.
That weekend I’d gone to a legal observer’s training session. I was thinking: okay, if I can’t handle the risks of being a protester without having anxiety fits, then this is a way that I can still contribute to people’s safety, while being a little safer myself. It’s a way for me to still be out there, doing the right thing. Or a right thing. Fulfilling a role that needs to be filled.
And over the course of the training, I built up into a rolling panic attack. Emotionally, I was back in that cell. Or ziptied in the streets with a cop in riot armor leering at me as he told me I had to tell him about my genitals. Or…
Well, it was bad. And I don’t think I’m in any shape to act as a legal observer, any more than it would really be safe for me to be out there as a protester. Because I can’t guarantee that I won’t panic, and a panic response to the kinds of escalation I’ve personally witnessed — and the even worse ones I’ve seen livestreamed from protests I didn’t make it out to — could easily endanger myself and others.
But I was talking about that with my friend, and lamenting that the only thing I was currently confident I’d be able to actually do would be to file my complaint with the Civilian Oversight Board. Well, she mentioned that she hadn’t filed hers yet, and asked what part of the timeline we could actually report on. So I told her what I’d found out, which is that since the COB only impacts the police, and not the ‘corrections officers’ at the jailhouse, they could only do anything about our complaints up until we were officially handed off to the correction facility.
So, she listed a few things as examples of what would be covered — the arrest itself, and when people were being hit with shields while they were sitting as instructed, or when we were lined up and being ziptied, or anything we saw or experienced when our possessions were being inventoried and bagged. And I said yeah — stuff like the offficer looming over me and demanding to know what my genitals were. Or the way I was seperated out from everyone else and transported to the jailhouse alone because of being transgender, or…
Well, the point is: she was horrified. And that was when it sort of emotionally clicked that what I went through was not really the same as what most of the other people who were arrested that night went through. Not necessarily worse or anything — I don’t know how that could even be quantified — but different. And I shouldn’t be comparing my response to theirs when we were different people who had gone through different traumas, even though they were all connected to the same event.
The three worst things for me all related to helplessness.
There was the creepy cop with the same smile as my rapist, who insisted he had a right and need to know what was in my pants, and his comments about “male bits below” and “female bits up top” and the fact that I was literally on the ground with my hands tied behind my back while other cops surrounded me and laughed at the situation.
There was the way I was isolated from the other people who were being arrested — people I could at least trust to care if something happened to me — so that I wound up alone on the sidewalk surrounded by armed men and women who demonstrably didn’t give a shit what I went through, since not one of them intervened to tell rapey-face that he was being inappropriate, or called him out on the lies he told me to try and justify his insistent questions. (And they were lies. He was not involved in determining which transport I was put on — that had already been decided. And he was not ‘preparing me for when they asked at the jail’ because they did not ask that at the jail.) And with this I also include the way I was consistently pulled out of groups of protesters when I was being processed and put on display in front of them as ‘other,’ deadnamed and outed, and the fact that I was one of three people who were eventually shoved into a solitary cell. (The others were two nonbinary individuals who were crammed into a cell, and a transgender man who was eventuall stuck in mine.)
And the third ‘helplessness’ I was subjected to was when they did find another transgender person, and they stuck him in the same cell as me — and then denied him medical treatment, and food, and even water — and I had to spend the rest of the night and into the next morning watching him slowly fall apart as his condition worsened. And all the while knowing that all he needed was some sugar and maybe some kind of fatty food, because he was hypoglycemic and I actually knew something about that because of research for Megan back in book one and…
…and we were stuck in a solitary cell and ignored, and I couldn’t do a damn thing except do my best to stay calm because anything that spiked his adrenaline would make his situation worse, faster.
That’s where I go when I try to tell myself I can do direct actions still. Back to that helplessness, and watching other people suffer and knowing that I can’t do anything for them. And that I’ve been separated from anyone who can do anything for me, even so much as provide morale support, because transgender people get put on display, outed, and stuck in isolation.
So, in the end, I’ve keep falling back to game design. There’s less emotional impact and less emotional energy needed there, but it’s still complicated enough and interesting enough to keep my attention focused. It’s… escapism-lite. I’ve put together outlines and mechanics for a good dozen little games in the past month or so, and I’ve actually programmed some crude proof of concepts of a couple of them.
One that I made before all this happened is even available to play. Like MNML, it’s free. If anyone wants to try it out, you can play in a browser at: https://www.scirra.com/arcade/rpg-games/endless-dungeoning-18443
You can also find it in the google play store, if you search for “Endless Dungeoning.”
(But that’s enough of a self-plug for now. Frankly, it just feels too surreal that I’ve even put that much of one out while in this emotional tableau.)
The real gist of what I’m trying to convey, I guess, is that I feel like things are improving. I can’t handle everything dealing with the rapes or the imprisonment, but I’m dealing with at least some of it better. And between the new Wolfenstein release reminding people that killing Nazi’s isn’t supposed to be controversial and Muller’s investigation beginning to hand out indictments, I’m feeling more hopeful than I have since Trump started looking like he had a shot at the White House.
That’s all for now. Be safe and well, everyone.