I initially wrote and published this letter on December 24, 2011 and titled it “Something more I need to say, to someone who still isn’t listening.” It is a follow-up to a significantly shorter letter within a finite series of brief letters. I started writing the original brief letter the day my former partner told me that I just need to “let it go”, while someone he later declared he had feelings for was harassing me and threatening me with involuntary hospitalization. The original brief letter (which it seems he didn’t recognize as what I wrote as soon as he made me burst into tears) read as follows:
Don’t tell me to “let it go”.
Don’t tell me to disempower myself.
Don’t tell me to become passive again.
Don’t tell me to be complicit with silencing, re-traumatization, abuse, exploitation, alienation, marginalization, and imperialism.
Don’t be the person who says “Please don’t interrupt me while I’m punching you in the face.”
Don’t take their side over mine.
Don’t tell me that when I ask you to stand by me when I have to stand up for myself, that this is the same as asking you to choose a side.
Don’t tell me you know my burdens better than I do.
Don’t tell me you know better than either I or my psychotherapist do(es), on how to deal with my burdens.
Don’t tell me my burdens are so small, so trivial, so insignificant.
Don’t try to micromanage my traumas.
Don’t minimize my pain.
Don’t try to erase my history.
Don’t try to dominate me–I have not given you consent.
Don’t try to tell me you know what I need, better than either I or my psychotherapist do(es).
Don’t try to tell me you’re listening, in the same gesture as you’re telling me to be quiet and ashamed.
Don’t try to minimize my warriorhood–that’s a battle you’re going to lose, and you should have more respect for both of us than to pick that one when there are other astronomically more important battles you actually can win.
Don’t tell me how much of a victim I am.
Don’t refer to my history or current circumstances as drama–I’m not acting.
Don’t try to compare my burdens to a heavy suitcase, when in fact they are both the bones that hold me together, and my armour — I can no more put it down than I can wilfully revert to spinelessness.
Don’t try to tell me “You’re stronger than this” when it is because of “this” that I am strong at all.
Don’t tell me you love me, and in the same gesture, tell me you hate me.
I’ve made a few relatively minor edits to the content of the follow-up letter, so that it makes marginally more sense in terms of chronology. After publishing these letters (which finally allowed me to get some sleep), I started writing this blog.
I can’t be friends with you anymore, and as a result, I don’t want a relationship with you anymore. I owe you a lot, but one thing I don’t owe anyone is my silent obedience. That was never part of the deal.
You got involved in my life when I was most in need (and though you knew this, I recognize that you weren’t fully aware of just how much I was in need). You nourished and clothed my body. You sustained the roof over my head. You gave me tools to express myself. And all you asked in return was for my companionship, through an aspect of your life we both share an interest in, which you don’t otherwise fulfill.
Until you wanted more than that.
I tried to play along, within the soft limits of what I was comfortable (and often uncomfortable) doing. I told you when I really couldn’t keep doing that any more. We renegotiated, in a manner of speaking. You told me what I needed to hear — that my identity is valid in its own right, and that you don’t need things from me that I’m not comfortable doing with you.
Until you weren’t so convinced.
I tried to tell you how important my identity is, and how long it has been running like the current of a wild river beneath how I presented myself when we first met. I tried to tell you that I was always the first to find reasons to be skeptical of it, and that the struggle to accept myself was not an easy one. I tried to tell you that it nearly cost me my life before I finally accepted myself the way I am today.
Instead, you undermined everything I was telling you by constructing my identity as an act of holding myself back, while you patiently waited for me to just give in.
My heart has never been so broken, as in that conversation.
What broke my heart is that you never heard my stunned silence, because I suddenly realized you were never listening for it. To you, my silence meant consent, compliance, and obedience. My silence meant you got everything you wanted without protest or negotiation. Your sentiment — that I am just holding myself back — is completely phallocentric and coloured by rape-speak. What you really told me is that even though I told you it doesn’t work for me, what I really mean is that I want it. What you really told me is that even though I told you no, I’m not comfortable with that; what I really mean is I’m just holding myself back from something I want to happen. What I was really telling you is that I only hold myself back from being raped — from being sexually objectified by people I would not offer my consent to.
Another, equally painful, aspect of my experience with you is the time we did fuck, until I vocalized as immediately as I could (breaking through stunned silence) that I didn’t want to, and that it wasn’t working for me. There was no physical pain involved, but I already felt objectified as a female body with a straight sexuality, despite how this should obviously strike you as contradictory to my orientation and gender. This should have told you that what was going on was the opposite of erotic, because it was dysphoric for me. Nothing you or anyone else did to get me “ready” made me feel turned on. You all treated me like I have been treated by every previous partner and perpetrator: mistaking me for a straight woman whose only pleasure was derived from being treated like a pleasure-object first and a vessel to receive the phallus second. And you especially had a responsibility to understand why this was wrong. But instead of engaging with me sexually in a way that shows an appreciation and respect for my gender, you treated me the exact way I was treated by the last person who raped me. Emotionally, this was along the same lines as silently re-enacting my last suicidal gesture.
I should have told you how you made me feel, but I didn’t trust you anymore. You didn’t seem to notice. No one seemed to notice.
I tried not to put this all on you, because I made the choice — not you — to make a bid for my own death in the end of 2009, and I hadn’t even told you about it until the beginning of this past September. I tried to be humble, and patient, and to wait for you to see me as I am. I didn’t tell you how much you had hurt me, as I struggled to look past it, rationalizing somehow that it wasn’t your fault. I tried to be strong, as I left my dreams and life aspirations behind me, to redefine the course of my life as I have redefined my very identity. When things fell apart, I redefined my priorities. We redefined our relationship, too — I started to be vocal again about my needs (which have never really changed).
Until you picked a fight with me, and you raised your voice to me — a gesture I will never forget.
You started to do more things with me that weren’t just the niche that brought us together. You started to see me as a whole person, with a variety of interests, friends, needs, and skills. You started to have a real relationship with me, where I felt my needs were being heard, and where I felt the possibility of finally having those needs fulfilled at last (those which are not so base as immediately necessary to my survival). You helped me to develop new skills and ways to express myself.
Until that wasn’t enough for you.
I finally had to admit to myself that I have been disabled for my entire life, and that no matter how strong I can act, it’ll always just be an act. I finally had to take a cold look at a lot of relationships with people who I thought were my long-term friends, because of the ways their behaviours mirror that of people who are long-gone for having perpetrated the very same offenses against me. I had to ask myself, as difficult as it was, why I made these important exceptions. I had to go back into therapy and start opening up all the same festering wounds again. I had to do the work of unveiling why they keep being abraded by the people I’m attracted to for friendship, companionship, and love.
And then a single person decided that both you and I were worth so little, that we were a lower priority than a conversation about human excrement.
And that wasn’t enough, was it?
Because I took issue with this, I was subject to a threat that had the power to completely annihilate everything I had accomplished, in part with your help, over the course of the previous two years of my life.
At this time, I told you I was living on borrowed time — that New Years of 2010 was the beginning of my life in many ways, because I was barely surviving when we had met six months prior to that occasion. I told you, at this time, that I had made a bid for my own death two years ago. I told you that in many ways, had I been successful, your help would have come too late.
But even that wasn’t enough to convince you of how much I needed you to make up your mind and stand up for what’s right.
Your response was to tell me that, despite never having disclosed for the two years that things were serious between us, that you had feelings for the person who was threatening the complete disintegration of my entire life.
And you had the gall to tell me that you are ending our relationship, because of how my “negativity” is depreciating your other relationships.
No. It was over when you told me how you really feel. In truth, it should have been over so many times before this all came out, but it took a threat to my very ability to sustain stable housing and continued emotional integrity for me to leave you–for you to finally enact your choice, concerning whether or not your orgasm is, in fact, more important than my most basic needs.
You want to know who else chose their orgasm over my most basic needs? He gave me one of my X-chromosomes before sexually assaulting me for ten years, while carrying on daily shaming, blaming, belittling, beating, and neglecting myself, my two siblings, and the person who contributed my other X-chromosome. You even knew about this, and you still silenced me for two years, raped me after you had successfully worn away my capacity to say no to you, and neglected my most basic needs when I was most powerless.
It was over when you really stopped listening — when listening to even half of what I have to say, so you could figure out when it’s your turn to speak, was too much effort on your part.
It was over when your friends — your friends — started sending me hatemail, and expressing their ableist bigotry in private exhibits of condescension towards me. And why were they doing this? Because I wanted to be left alone, and had to resort to phoning the police on the person you have “feelings” for, in order to stop the ongoing harassment while I faced the very immediate possibility of becoming homeless for a third time.
Whatever you get out of it, I hope it’s what you need. I hope it’s worth everything you’ve invested in my life, because it must be worth more for you to choose it over me.
I could have waited — and would have waited, being the masochist that I am — for you to take the time to do the work of asking yourself all the same questions I had to.
I tried to wait for you to extend any reason to convince me we still had anything in common, worth maintaining even a shallow acquaintanceship.
I can’t be a part of this problem any more — I need to move on, as much as it makes me feel a lifetime of guilt all over again, for everything you’ve done to help me. I also can’t reconcile my identity — my escape from a life history marked by violence, exploitation, marginalization, alienation, and imperialism, in many important ways because of a denial of this identity — or my effort to better myself through ongoing long-term therapy, with you.
I expect you to think of me as being selfish, because you have persistently failed to see how selfish you have been through all of this.
I expect you to misunderstand what the meaning of rational self-interest is, and to consider yourself as a used, passive victim of someone the likes of a con artist, because it takes work to hold yourself accountable for your own decisions, and I haven’t seen you do that work often in all the time we’ve been together.
I expect you to even think of ways you can make yourself out like some sort of knight in shining armour at the beginning of this relationship, juxtaposed by your self-acclaimed victim status at the end of it, because I get the sense that even though you won’t say it, you think I owe you my friendship, my life, and everything you’ve given me in return for what you’ve done to help me over two years.
But the fact is, you can’t purchase my obedient silence, my friendship, or my life. You can’t hold me in obligation to you, especially if you aren’t even willing to engage me anymore. And you can’t get blood from a stone.
I’ve already said thank you more times than I could possibly count, and shed many tears of gratitude over the countless things you’ve done in my favour, despite how many tears I’ve also shed over my silent misery.
This is good-bye.