Saturday, I participated in SlutWalk NYC which, in the shortest terms, is a movement intended to “end victim-blaming and gender-based violence… & make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all,” among other very powerful and necessary goals. More information can be found at http://slutwalknyc.com/
However, for me, it also became a deeply powerful and personal experience. Ever since I can remember, I have been a very feminist-minded gay male and have been a huge supporter of true equality, justice, in addition to social & sexual reform. I have also always been a staunch opponent of violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, inequality, racism, and a variety of societal constructs that this country has unfortunately been built upon. That all harshly deepened when I became a
victim survivor of an all too common sexual assault known as rape on the night of December 12th, 2009. I was not beaten. It was not completely random. But it still happened.
The idea for my sign which says, “I Was Wearing PANTS The Night It Happened” stemmed as a sarcasm-fueled response to recent comments made by Brooklyn NYPD officers. They were reported as criticizing the clothing choices of women on the street because they were “showing too much skin” which would incite rapists to target “girls like them.” With my sign, I wanted to illustrate a few points:
1. Your clothing does not cause rape.
2. RAPISTS CAUSE RAPE.
Victims SURVIVORS are not to blame, RAPISTS ARE.
4. Men can and do suffer through this too.
While women are usually the faces of rape, because it’s such a disgustingly common occurrence amongst them, there are men who deal with the issue as well. I walked to Union Square and in the march by myself, but I found myself surrounded by all different kinds of beautiful people marching in solidarity and in support of the same causes. Several people either complimented my outfit, verbally appreciated my sign, or simply photographed me standing/walking with my sign. There were many spirited and creative minds who illustrated their slogans of support or even their own stories on their signs, all of which made me feel comfortable and unafraid. Any frustration and anger I could have held onto flew into the sky alongside chants of, “Whose bodies? OUR BODIES!” and “No more silence! No more violence!”
I felt free. And unashamed.
After the march, a rally was held in Union Square. There was a variety of poets, performers and speakers all sharing their thoughts and struggles dealing with the issues related to SlutWalk. While the more immediate emotions rose through their words and into my heart, many of them really got me to think a bit more critically about the bigger picture and my future as a potential activist. All in all, SlutWalk NYC was one of the more fulfilling experiences I have taken part in when looking at my life thus far.
Some may wonder why I’ve decided to share these things about Saturday and my personal history on Tumblr (and by way of Facebook). I say it’s because I have nothing to be ashamed about. Nothing. My experience does not define me, but it is a part of who I am now. I have moved past the horrors of my past and onto a stage in my life where I can work towards change for others through art and activism. I am now so much stronger and understand the evils of the world a little bit more clearly. Most importantly, I feel now that silence will bring me nowhere. There may be another young person who will find this post and identify with my story. I’d want them to know that they have nothing to shame themselves for because it is not their fault. They need to know that they will overcome this and that they can make things better for themselves because things won’t get better on their own. They need to know that their strength exists and it’s up to them to use it.
Lastly, I fervently believe that you should not have to change who you are, how you identify, how you make yourself feel comfortable, or how you present yourself because someone has a problem with it. That is THEIR problem. Also, I believe that sexual history is irrelevant as long as you remain healthy and practice safe behaviors that do not TRULY endanger you or your partner. However, please remember one thing. If their problem evolves into something more than just a story and into something that is burned onto your skin for the rest of your life, take the time to heal those wounds. Some aren’t as lucky to make it out alive. And always, just remember that you are not a
You are a survivor.