I would describe myself as a curious person. I had always imagined myself in an academic environment – ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an expert of a particular field, to have more knowledge that I would then share with others. My hobbies were also often related to environmental studies: I am interested in fungi, mycology, I create different species, I observe them under a microscope… I love wondering in the forests, collecting plants, drawing.
Besides this nice experience, I am also a queer woman, in particular, a pansexual non-binary individual, which means that I’m attracted to individuals instead of their genders, and also I myself don’t fully identify with any genders. I had always felt estrangement towards the gender constructs that the environment offered me. In kindergarten I decided that I was a boy and I asked everyone to address me with a boy’s name. I wasn’t wearing dresses and I didn’t play with other girls. Because of this I was often locked in a pantry as a punishment, and I didn’t tell anyone about this because I thought that they would blame me too.
However, besides estrangement with gender, I decided to be a boy because I simply didn’t want to be a girl – being a girl wasn’t a very attractive perspective for me. I went to an expensive kindergarten and in the 90ies we had all the toys that any kid could dream of. The play area was divided into boys’ and girls’ sides: Girls’ side had a full-size kitchen, plastic vegetables, dolls with their beds, and a counting table, while boys’ side had cubes, constructors, and planes that came with their own schemes – these ones I loved the most.
So I decided that if being a girl meant cutting up plastic vegetables and changing babies’ diapers, I just wouldn’t be a girl and I would do more interesting stuff. That’s how my misogynistic views were formed: thinking that girls had lame interests and I wasn’t like them. The teacher didn’t let us play with each other’s toys and because I didn’t wear dresses, especially at events, she often humiliated and punished me. The children would also view me in a suspicious light.
However, I don’t think that my non-binary identity is a result of this experiences. The thing that is connected to these experiences is my sense of belonging to the women’s gender – by saying that I’m a woman I mean the oppression that I’ve experienced since my childhood during my socialization process. I mean my chronic illness of the reproductive system, polycystic ovarian syndrome, for which I didn’t get proper treatment for as soon as I was diagnosed, because when people talk about women’s health, they only consider their ability to have children.
To this was added the pressure of heteronormative relationships during adolescence. I was about 13 years-old when I realized that I liked women. My family was watching a TV show in which one of the relationships was of lesbian women. This was always greeted with so much aggression from my father that I went to sleep crying every night, because I was scared that I could also be “like that”. Finally, it took me a long path to accept and love myself, as a non-heterosexual person in a women’s body.
Of course, homophobia in Georgia is an acute problem, but while gay men only get oppressed when they are attracted to the same sex, for women, sexual intercourse with men is unacceptable as well. The first time I felt oppressed as a woman was when my brother hacked my email and saw photos of me with my boyfriend. At first, he blackmailed me, saying that he would show them to my dad, and as I tried to take the laptop away from him he hit me and gave me a black eye. I called the police, I was feeling very bad, I was crying hysterically. The police screamed at me – “Stop being hysterical and manipulating, how could you call the police on your brother, he’s only looking out for you”. My mom decided to just ignore all of it, while my dad said that I deserved it and made fun of my eye. It was my first year of university and I couldn’t find a job to escape my house, and I couldn’t go to anyone either. My boyfriend also didn’t take the incident seriously and blamed me, telling me that I shouldn’t have had those photos on my computer.
Some time passed and it seemed that the relationship with my brother had gotten better. However, almost the same thing happened years later, but this time about my girlfriend, whom I liked a lot. My brother was suspicious that we weren’t just friends. He started with psychological abuse, swearing, blackmailing, threatening, and then he locked me up in the yard and wouldn’t let me into the house. I called the police again and they took us to the station. The investigator took advantage of my situation and told me to write in the protocol as if my brother had locked up others as well, thus aggravating the sentence, but why would you send your brother to jail, let me issue a restraining order and end it like that. I agreed. Then he told my brother that if anything, I’d be the one going to prison because I’d given a false testimony.
The most painful of all of this was my mom’s reaction – my brother wasn’t allowed to come home because of a restraining order. When the police came to check, she started crying, saying that she wanted me to leave, because the house also belonged to her boy, and she was afraid that something bad would happen to him outside. Then, when my mother got diagnosed with cancer, taking care of her became my responsibility, as a woman. I had to come back home. My brother did the same thing again. My friend was visiting and he kept insisting that we were having sex, and he was threatening me with a gun. I didn’t call the police anymore.
The society and the state is one organism. The society hates everyone that isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual man. Yes, they hate their own daughters. Accordingly, policemen and investigators that work on such cases often experience empathy toward the abuser. Neither their leaders and bosses are better than that. The only way out for me is activism and radical protests, by which we can coerce the state to view us as people and ensure the enforcement of the law in all cases.
Often the victims of abuse are persuaded that we deserved it, that we have to deal with it for the sake of the well-being of our friends, family members. They impose the function of caretakers on us, while no one takes care of us. When they rape us, they shame us, so that we can’t speak to anyone about this. We are scared that we won’t be loved, that we won’t be wanted. Those people that are making you silent find comfort in your silence. They don’t accept you no matter what, they don’t care what you’re like. There’s nothing to lose. The priority is your psychological and physical health, for which all of us have to fight together.
Illustration: Linda Liu