First, what is #MeToo? It was a recent viral campaign started by Tarana Burke to create awareness about sexual assault, by encouraging victims of sexual assault (mainly black women and other WOC) to come forward with their stories and say, this happened to “me too”.
I believe that conversations about sexual assault should typically center women. Women are the ones predominantly effected by sexual assault. That being said, there’s a few grievances I have about hashtag, #MeToo. For one thing, people seem to be angrier at me, a man, for using it than they are about actual sexual assault. Angrier at me, a survivor of sexual assault, for using a hashtag than the fact that I was assaulted in the first place. The reason being that they believe men are appropriating the hashtag from women, like white people and “All lives matter” appropriate Black Lives Matter from black people. Here is where I disagree. White people appropraiting Black Lives Matter is white people stealing something from black people, appropriating something that didn’t belong to them and trying to silence POC. Stealing something that belonged to black people and appropriating it. That much is absolutely true, but in the case for #MeToo, men can’t steal a hashtag away from women, if that hashtag never belonged to women in the first place. Just ask the creator of the hashtag herself:
(credit to Bryan Beretta)
Did you hear that folks? A movement is not a movement if it rejects the most marginalized.
My use of the hashtag was not an attempt to silence women. Again, the hashtag was created for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and say, me too. Regardless of the fact that I’m a man, I lived the first 15 years of my life presenting as my assigned gender at birth: female. %75 of the entirety of my life, my entire childhood and teenage years, were lived as female. Just because I came out as transgender five years ago doesn’t suddenly nullify and negate my lived experiences as a feminine presenting person. Many people agree with me, saying that it’s okay for queer folks to use the hashtag along with women, just not straight cisgender men.
To me, that sounds somewhat reasonable. Straight cisgender men are the predominate perpetrators of sexual assault. However, in order to justify my use of the hashtag I have to out myself as transgender to strangers on the internet in order to validate my experience with sexual assault. Additionally, cis gay men would also have to out themselves as gay. Since coming out, nobody really seems to care about my assault. Not to sound like I’m looking for sympathy, but up until I came out of the closet, it was something that was taken seriously. The same women who would have supported me a few years ago now tell me “Boo hoo, men are always playing the victim. Always silencing women and making everything about them. Stop playing the victim.” One day I’m a victim of male violence and sexual assault, and the next day I’m not. It’s invalidating, isolating, and makes me feel guilty for even acknowledging my assault.
This is not what feminism is. Shaming survivors for being the wrong gender, forcing transmasculine people to out themselves in order for their assaults to be validated, and getting all up in arms about a hashtag that will be forgotten about in three months? A hashtag that was created specifically for survivors, regardless of gender?
The 2015 US Trans Survey found that 51% of transgender men and 58% non-binary AFAB people are survivors. Let that sink in for a minute. Over half of the population of transmasculine people are survivors of sexual assault. We are better than this. People are more important than hashtags.