The sexual assault ally

 

TW: sexual assault, rape, depression, trauma

I recently had a friend who was sexually assaulted and I was the only person they reached out to for help. I had no idea what to do or how to help.  It was an awful feeling, helpless toward someone you care so much about when they really need you.  After time had gone by and it was a little easier to speak about everything, we could speak about how I was helpful and what I could have done better as a support system.  The point of this post is not to take anything away from the survivor, but to help those who are there to be the help, the support system, through these difficult times.  After speaking with my friend, this is what I was able to gather.

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What’s a Trans? Is that a type of Unicorn? How do they become Unicorns?!

So I have always wondered what Transgender really means and how that whole process comes about… I know for a lot of people it is difficult to understand the things that trans people go through because people who are not trans, have not gone through it. And many have either little or no knowledge about them at all. They are seen as the unicorns of society. YES people, they exist, they are breathing humans and they are people just like you and me. I have had multiple conversations with people my age and even older about trans people and how they just don’t understand.

WELLLL I decided to try and help. I interviewed a trans male (meaning that he was a she, got it?), Randolph student Shane Collins, the other day to get some answers to maybe help people understand.

Photo courtesy of Shane Collins. Pic 1, 2yrs old. Pic 2, 19 yrs old. Pic 3, 23 yrs old and present day.

11128280_1636540673235405_1344173354_nHere are some of the Questions and Answers from my interview:

ME: What do people in the Trans community like to be addressed as “Transgender” or “Transsexual?”

SC: “A lot of people don’t like the term transsexual because they feel it’s more of a derogatory term, whereas transgender is a more up to date and modern term.”

ME: What is your definition of “transgender?”

SC: “Someone that doesn’t identify with their own biological sex and decides to change/transition/ or modify themselves into the opposite gender.”

ME: Is it hard to explain this to people?

SC: “Yes, a lot of people think transgender people are a joke because some people just think it’s like.. “ I wake up, I feel like a boy today… but yesterday I felt like a girl” it’s not an on and off switch. In a way yes you wake up and you feel different, but it’s a gradual process and the realization comes with the waking up one day and then finally putting a name to it.”

ME: When did you first realize or start to realize that something was different?

SC: “When I was little, 5 or 6. I had long hair and then my mom cut it off, really short because it was easier to deal with… She had 2 girls. So when we would be in the store, people would say “oh what a cute boy you have” and it was weird because I wouldn’t get like really happy, but I had this spark of emotion, that wasn’t a negative one. From then on I noticed being into the more boy-ish things. I had race car toys, played with all the boys, and didn’t have many girlfriends. When I played Barbie and I had a girlfriend with me, I would make her be Barbie because I wanted to be Ken. I looked and acted like a little boy. And from then on, I just kept with it and finally when I was 21, I learned about and decided to go through with the transition process.”

ME: How did you end up putting a name to your feelings?

SC: “I heard the word ‘transgender’ for the first time when a friend of mine came out to me as trans. Not fully understanding, I did my own research and it ended up fitting the way I feel. It really helped knowing someone else.”

ME: What is something that is Important, that YOU want people to know?

SC: “Being Trans is not ‘just a phase’. it’s a very hard decision to go through. It’s an even deeper process for the person going through the actual transitions. And if they don’t end up going through the full transition, it’s not because they “don’t feel different” anymore, it’s for deeper reasons like comfortability in society, safety, etc. I really want people to be educated about it! I want people to know and understand that the T in LGBT means something. We are not mythical creatures, Trans people exist”

I hope that this has helped some of you understand a little more, with all the talk that’s been in the media lately.

Aydian Dowling – Remember the name

You may not know his name now, but he might be the first transgender male on the cover of a men’s health magazine.

original-8349-1430320818-15Dowling founded the clothing line Point5cc which strives to “highlight transgender commonalities and create a sense of pride.”  Dowling is entering Men’s Health magazine’s contest Ultimate Guy Search, in which the winner will featured on the cover.  The contest is searching for “the guy who possesses all of the qualities that make up today’s well rounded, active, health conscious and thoughtful guy.”  He currently leads in the readers choice portion with 43,000 votes, but the winner will be selected by a panel of judges.  The cover will feature in November of 2015.

To learn more about Dowling and his story, check out the post on BuzzFeed LGBT.  What are your thoughts on a transgender man featuring on the cover of Men’s Health?

La Laa Laaa Behind the Red Brick Wall

Throughout my years as a Randolph student, I have been very intrigued by the music department. They always have amazing performers and put on great concerts, of course, but I wanted to look at this field of work and find out how gendered it is. In my mind, at the beginning, I thought that there would be more women in this department. *Stereotyping at its finest!* (It sucks when you see how you’ve been socialized too much and now are a product of your crummy society, wahhh) Back to music! However, thinking about it more, I am not sure why… but it’s true, most people think that classical music is more of a feminine dominated department.

Taking a look at Randolph’s website, I checked out all of the majors that Randolph offers, with the Music Department being one of them I was 100% wrong in my prediction that women dominated this field. I made a tally of 12 male instructors and only 6 female instructors. However after reading that, It did come to my surprise (and made me happy to see) that the Chair of the Music Department is in fact a woman. Then that got me interested in seeing how many other departments have Female Chairs at the moment. Out of the 28 majors that you can click on, there were 17 women Chairs and 11 male Chairs. Interesting right?

Retuning to MUSIC! I went to the Touch of Harmony concert tonight and I wanted to see how many students, in this performing group, were made up of men and women. I think it’s an interesting concept, kinda… maybe?  I found that in the performing group “Voices” there are 8 male singers and 8 female singers. (unless I missed someone, or someone didn’t go..) IT’S EVEN! I have no idea if they have it that was for a reason, but I like that there is some equality!! yay!

On another note, I think that the music department has sculpted beautiful pupils and performers! The concert was so beautiful I encourage everyone to go check one out during your time at Randolph. Check the events calendar for dates and times… However, since it’s the end of the year you’ll have to wait till next year…

To all a goodnight!

-June

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

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Randolph College Theater put on a tremendous showing of the Christopher Durang play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  This comedic story revolves around the lives of three middle-aged siblings (Vanya, Sonia, and Masha).  Vanya and Sonia live at home, while Masha is a relatively successful actress who helps pay for the house Vanya and Sonia live in.  Masha struggles with the fact that she is getting older and has much insecurity.  Her young lover, Spike, is an aspiring actor who really hasn’t been successful at all yet.  Though, he walks around like a big shot after almost landing a part in an HBO series.

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Photo Credit: Randolph College’s Office of College Relations.

Nina is Vanya and Sonia’s beautiful and sweet neighbor, who is an aspiring actress.  When she enters the scene Masha begins to act even more dramatic than she usually does because she knows this woman is much younger and beautiful.  Her worry is that Spike’s attention will go to Nina instead of her.  She essentially bullies Nina and it is quite noticeable.  Later on though, Masha warms up to Nina and becomes frustrated with Spike.

Cassandra is the crazy maid that helps take care of the house for Vanya and Sonia.  She believes in voodoo magic and has little episodes where she has visions, warning those around her of things to come.

To look at this play from a feminist perspective, one can point out the role of Spike in this play.  Spike is a heterosexual, white male who feels as though he can do whatever he pleases.  It’s easy for him to tease and mess around with Vanya who is an elder, gay white man.  He takes advantage of the fact that Vanya is a gay man and toys around with him, almost flirting with him.  Spike acts as though he’s better than Vanya and it is easy for him to take control of situations they are in together.  At one point, Spike is just walking around in his underwear.  In his role, this seems acceptable (even though the women looked appalled and Vanya seemed to enjoy it).  Also, whenever Spike feels like he wants to touch Masha and be “affectionate” toward her, he does so as he pleases no matter who is around.

I believe Spike is aware that he has more power in certain situations, but may not be aware of his white privilege specifically.  He is very pompous and ignorant and seemed as if he were in his own world.  Spike actually had a lot of power, whether he realized it or not.  He controlled a lot of Masha’s life because she was always trying to please him in order to feel better about herself.  Spike made her feel young, so she did whatever it took to keep him around (until the end).  Masha controlled the money, but Spike controlled Masha.  Therefore, Spike controlled the money – in some circumstances.  For example, Masha was going to sell her family’s home while she was with Spike.  Once she ended things with Spike, she decided to keep the house.

Does this level of “comfort” come from the privilege Spike has as a heterosexual, white male?  Or does claiming his privilege seem a little over the top?  What are your opinions on Spike’s role in this play from a feminist perspective?

West Virginia natives Michael Martin and Logan Westrope attend prom together as gay couple

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Some happy news came out of West Virginia this past week.  Michael Martin, an all state soccer player, and all conference swimmer and tennis player, attended prom with his boyfriend Logan Westrope.  It seems relatively normal for people to attend prom as friends even though they are the same sex, but to attend as a gay couple is very courageous.  The two were very excited about the night ahead of them and knew it would be a night to remember.

Michael had asked Logan to prom by handing him a bag with a chicken sandwich and a note saying “Are you chicken or will you go to prom with me?”  Logan happily said yes.  This was a great story of progression and acceptance coming out of West Virginia.  It would be great to see more stories like this, but there is hope that one day these kinds of stories won’t be such big news.  Ideally, these stories will just be normal in our society.

Please go read this story in full detail at Outsports.  It is a great read!

What are your opinions on attending school events as an openly gay couple?  Have any of you done so and had similar/different stories than Michael and Logan?

Solidarity and Recognition for Male Victims of Sexual Assault

I would like to start by stating that this piece is in no way meant to ignore, disregard, or otherwise insult female/non-binary/etc victims. My only intention is to provide some information and some support for male victims of sexual assault. This is an action that I find necessary because of how rarely I have heard this specific group of victims discussed. Often, the idea of a male being raped is played as a joke (insert a tasteless prison shower comment here), or is directly disregarded (I have heard people say “Men can’t be raped!” dozens of times).

In light of this situation, here are two very important statistics for you to contemplate. Keep in mind, these are only applicable to America.

1.270 Million and 1.267 Million are not too far away from each other, and I would suspect that there are yet more men who are afraid to come forward. After all, when a man says he was assaulted – especially by a woman – it instantly causes many to question their masculinity. I expect more and more male victims to step forward as we continue to examine the situation and as victims realize that they are not alone.

If you have been the victim of rape or assault, regardless of your gender or the gender of your attacker, you are not alone. There are millions of victims just like you. I encourage you to come forward if you are able and to seek support wherever it may be available to you.

 

Bravo Bruce

 

Last Friday night, the transgendered people added a new high-profile member to their community. Around 16.9 million viewers tuned into Diane Sawyer’s 20/20 interview with Bruce Jenner. In the interview the former Olympic gold medalist and stepfather of the Kardashian family told the world that he identifies as a woman and is currently making the transition to become a woman.

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Some thoughts on the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This month has been a delightful one for me despite the many sleepless nights typical of April and college life in general. Why? You might ask. It was because wherever I went on campus, I would be greeted with signs of support for sexual assault victims or acceptance of people regardless of their gender.

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Senior Class Gifts and Classism

Paying for college is hard. It costs an insane amount of money, and that cost increases annually. For independent students, finances are an even bigger stress factor. After four quick years, we’re abruptly thrown into the “real world”, and expected to immediately begin paying off our student loans (or, more likely, we’ll be stuck with them until we die and our credit score will cry great big tears of misery). Remember asking your parental figure to check under your bed for that scary, imaginary monster? Yeah. That monster is now made up of at least five digits and will follow you from country to country, refusing to die even if you declare bankruptcy!

…Can anyone tell I’m feeling pretty anxious about beginning loan payments post-graduation, with a microscopic art intern paycheck?

We’ve essentially exchanged our financial souls for knowledge! We’re so poetic!

But… wait… Randolph isn’t done with us. Senior Dinner/Dance tickets? Absolutely! Graduation fees? Well, I guess I don’t have choice. Caps and gowns? Curses! I was hoping Commencement would just be like a lengthy Dell Run. Fine.

Aaaannnnd a senior gift? You want a donation… for a bench or a fountain. From us. From the same people who have already pledged all our past savings on top of the student loans we’ll be struggling to pay off for decades?

With what money? Randolph, honey, you already took all my money. What are you expecting? Aren’t you supposed to wait until I’m moderately successful and wrinkly to ask for donations? You can’t even wait until I receive my diploma?

To make matters worse, when approached by more affluent peers, we are judged for being unable to contribute to a gift we didn’t consent to give. This strikes me as a remarkably classist tradition. I’m very aware that senior class gifts aren’t solely a Randolph College or RMWC tradition. It’s incredibly common. But, at a larger school, you’re protected from judgement and harassment if you cannot (or choose to not) donate. That isn’t the case here.

Yesterday, I was approached by a student helping to organize the class gift. I responded honestly that I didn’t have any money. Glaring, he snapped back, “You really don’t have any money?” No, I really don’t have any money. That wasn’t my first negative encounter with someone about not donating, and I doubt I’m the only one.

If you’re judging someone for not donating, really think about your reasoning. We have a very diverse campus, with students coming from a wide array of circumstances. Assuming that someone isn’t donating because they’re “cheap”, “lazy”, or “apathetic” isn’t reasonable.

So how do we make this better? Perhaps if donations were anonymous or only staff members had access to the names connected to donations, this problem would be solved. Have you faced classist criticism on campus? How did you handle it?