US: Why I'm Not Staying Silent About Being A Trans Woman Who Was Sexually Assaulted

Sarah McBride is a human rights activist and National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign

On Sunday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds began to fill with people of all genders, particularly women, participating in the viral campaign that took off in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations — by posting “me too,” they were demonstrating the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment. I tossed and turned all Sunday night, grappling with whether I wanted to share my own experience. While no one owes anyone else this information, I felt empowered by the bravery of so many exercising the power of their own voices in sharing their stories. It was a mass display of solidarity and I felt comfortable, for the first time in five years, to claim in the open my identity as a survivor.

Like others, I at first chose to stay silent for many reasons. I certainly stayed silent because of society’s propensity to not believe survivors. I worried that if it took me a few hours to truly wrap my mind around what had happened, how anyone else would believe me?

I stayed silent because I knew that while many survivors are met with disbelief and doubt when they share their stories, trans survivors often also face a different kind of disbelief — one rooted in the perception that trans people are “too disgusting” to be assaulted. Alleged rapists and sexual harassers will sometimes insist that they couldn’t possibly have done what they’ve been accused of because the person accusing them is too unattractive to merit being assaulted. We’ve even heard that defense from our sitting president.

I also stayed silent because I feared that any story that “sexualized” me would undermine my voice as a woman and as a trans advocate. Women and trans people are already so often reduced to our bodies. I feared that people’s curiosity and invasive questioning would crowd out my voice on this and all other issues.

And I stayed silent because I knew that when people hear “trans person” and “sexual assault” in the same story, their minds pass over the reality of the situation and immediately go to the dangerous myth of the “trans bathroom predator.” Anti-equality activists have so stoked fears around protections for transgender people in restrooms, I worried that sharing my story could unintentionally reinforce support for anti-trans policies that actually foster violence — including sexual assault — against trans people. Read more via Buzzfeed