A voice and its uses

This has been a really great week. Last Friday, my first article on abuse in polyamory went up on Everyday Feminism, which got great responses and brought me a lot of new followers (a belated hi and welcome! to all of you.) On Wednesday, The Toast published my piece about my relationship with my best friend. I’ve been wanting a way to share this story for a long time, and I’ve been a huge fan of The Toast since they started (this was the first piece I read and it’s been pure and devoted love ever since), and I was BONKERS excited that they wanted to publish my piece.

And this morning, my brother (and co-blogger!) Lane and I presented at the Philadephia Trans-Health Conference about dealing with partially-supportive family in the process of coming out and transitioning. We had an astonishing turnout, especially since it was at 8:45 on a Friday morning, and it was awesome to get to stand up with him and share with a group about the experiences we’ve had. A lot of people said our talk was helpful to them, which always makes me happy. (We may write up some of our talking points here at a later time.)

So it’s been a great week for sharing my stories and using my experiences, some of them pretty awful at the time, in ways that are helpful to others. But life can’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time, and today a thing happened that I’ve been braced for since October… my ex-boyfriend, who was emotionally and sexually abusive, posted one of his many attacks on my ex-husband Shaun, and used the fact that I left Shaun after he hit me as part of his ammo.

He was able to do this because I mention that in the piece about my best friend. I thought long and hard about including that, but decided to go ahead because it is true, and that’s a part of my story that I have every right to tell when and where I want to. I don’t want to tiptoe around what happened, regardless of how it might make others uncomfortable or be used by people who hate me. I’ve been finding my voice this year and I’m not willing to throttle it back.

But I’ve always known that one consequence of doing this would be that my ex-boyfriend would immediately pick up on it and use Shaun’s treatment of me as another example of why Shaun is an evil person who should be shunned by everybody, while still shrugging off and making excuses for the abuses and assaults he perpetrated on me. And there’s no way I can effectively stop him from doing this, nor am I going to try. I’m just going to say, publicly and for the record, that I utterly repudiate this person’s use of my experiences, which I never shared or discussed with him, against my former husband. It is appallingly disrespectful to use (and distort) my voice and story when it suits him and ignore, minimize, and attack it when it doesn’t. It’s also exactly what I expected of him.

I’m not going to link to the post; in addition to the disrespect he shows me, what he writes is false and misleading in several respects, and continues his pattern of discussing sexual encounters without the consent of the other people he names as involved.

Also for the record, if I believed Shaun to be a danger to other women (in the way I do believe my ex-boyfriend to be a danger to women and communities), I would speak out about it; not because as a survivor I owe it to my community, but because I have found power and healing in speaking out, and because I do think it helps for those of us who are willing to share openly about our experiences. I don’t believe that, so I haven’t said anything. I don’t feel unsafe sharing a space with him or attending a conference he will also be at. I did and do feel unsafe sharing a space with my rapey abusive ex, and I will continue to avoid any conferences or social groups where he is welcome. If anybody wants to hear more from me, I am willing to be contacted with questions (except by the ex-boyfriend I’m discussing; any contact from him, I will continue to view as harassment.)

Anyway. I have, as I say, been finding my voice this year. And one thing I’m learning is that when I speak, other people may choose to use my words in ways I didn’t intend and don’t appreciate. That doesn’t erase the value or power of my voice — that’s not something they can take away from me. But it’s one more thing for me to speak about.

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