TRIGGER WARNING – SEXUAL ASSAULT

NOTE: This question has been heavily edited to remove graphic details. Some readers may still find this post distressing due to content dealing with sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Q: I am a gay boy and when I came out to my parents, they beat me up and threw me out of the house. I wandered the streets until a neighbour found me. I thought I would be safe with her but I wasn’t, she brought me to a place with a bunch of guys and they raped me. I can’t believe I survived. I feel like my biggest mistake was telling my parents that I’m gay and  I can’t help but wonder if I deserved everything that happened to me. Why do people hate gay men so much? As bad as my story is, I wonder if it’s me that’s the truly evil part of it.

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First of all, I want to thank you for bravely sharing your story.

I’m so sorry that this happened to you and please know that despite what others may tell you or how you may feel, this was NOT YOUR FAULT. No one ever deserves to be physically or sexually assaulted. I’m going to say that again – this was not your fault. This was done without your consent and you did not deserve it.

It seems to me that you were trying to live honestly – by coming out to your parents. That’s not evil, that’s a good and powerful act, but unfortunately it is also a very vulnerable act. It’s heartbreaking that not all parents are accepting, and as your story shows, some are rejecting in the worst way. I’m so sorry that that was your experience and that it lead to the other traumatic incidents that you described. Again, it is not your fault that these things happened – they were violent and illegal acts of hate. I urge you to consider reporting your experience to the police, and to connect with a counselor or therapist to process your feelings as you move forward in life.

The answer to your other question – why do people hate gay men so much – is complicated. North America (and the world at large) has a historical legacy of homo- and transphobia.

Being homosexual or transgender has often been pathologized – for example  homosexuality was only removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental disorder in 1974 and removed as a ‘disturbance’ in 1987; while Gender Identity Disorder was only changed to Gender Dysphoria last year.

Many religions have overtly homophobic scriptures that condemn homosexual behaviour, as well as passages that discourage men from acting or dressing as women and vice versa.

North American culture in general too, tends toward being subtly (sometimes overtly) homo- and transphobic even now. I believe it also has to do with perceptions around masculinity and gender roles. People have certain expectations for men and their behaviour, usually that they act tough and aggressive, that they pursue women, etc. Being gay, or more specifically, acting effeminately, can violate those expectations – which can make certain people really uncomfortable.

Depending on a person’s upbringing, cultural and religious background, and their adherence to traditional gender roles, they may have strong feelings against queer and trans* folks that in their minds rationalizes violent behaviour against us – but that is never, NEVER okay. A hateful opinion or belief can never justify violence.

If you experience any kind of violence or threats on account of your sexual orientation or gender identity, that is considered to be a hate crime in Ontario and you are entitled to pursue legal action against your attacker.

At the end of the day, the best way to beat homo- and transphobia is to outlive it – you are already doing this because as you said, you survived. Please continue to care for yourself, seek help and support, and share your story when appropriate (always include a trigger warning as a courtesy to other survivors). Caring for yourself is resistance; it is a full on rebellion against the experiences you described and the people that might try to tear you down. You are a worthwhile and valuable human being, no matter if you’re gay, trans*, or purple. Reach out to friends, do things that nurture you, eat well and try to get enough sleep. You might also consider expressing your feelings and thoughts through art, journals, and music as you try to move forward.

Again, I’d strongly encourage you to consider counseling. If you’re not local to Guelph, the kind of services that are available may vary; but a google search on LGBT-friendly counselors or those that specialize in working with male survivors of sexual violence would be a good start. Group support for male survivors of sexual assault might also be available.

One resource that could help you to make those kinds of connections might be the Community Advocates for Sexually Abused Males (CASAM)  – they work with the Canadian Association for Mental Health and operate the EARS Line, a confidential support, information and referral line specifically for male survivors of sexual violence. Give them a call toll-free at 1-800-553-3277, they’re open 24/7.

Remember, this was not your fault – you are not evil because you are gay, and furthermore you deserve to live a full and happy life free from harm.

Yours in compassion,

-Liz

For our readers:

If you find yourself suddenly without a home or shelter for the evening, please consider contacting the Community Torchlight Emergency Shelter Resource Line , toll-free, at 1-888-821-3760. They can connect you with an appropriate shelter. Don’t hesitate to ask specific questions about queer and trans* friendly services. If you’re not local to Guelph, start by calling the Police – they may also be able to direct you to an appropriate shelter.

If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, please contact Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis’ Sexual Assault Centre or call their 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-265-7233.

If you require inclusive counseling on a sliding scale (where the fees for service are adjusted to your income), consider the following local LGBT*Q-friendly establishments:

Family Counseling and Support Services

The Couple and Family Therapy Centre

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