I’ve delayed writing this post for quite a while, partly due to the fact that I still struggle with connecting myself to the idea of being a survivor, and even more so, a male survivor. I am a trans man, 22 years old, and I’ve been offered to write about my experiences with child abuse. So, here is what I have to say.
I’ve had a very unusual upbringing. I was often ill, so my family basically kept me in, with no contact with peers. I was homeschooled. So I had very little understanding of what is and what isn’t normal or healthy in a family, and I recognized parts of what was happening to me as abuse only when I was an adult. I remember my childhood with a feeling of discomfort, memories of routine violation of my privacy. It wasn’t uncommon for my family to grab me without my permission, take off some of my clothes in the street. I didn’t have my own room. Little things built up, and reached culmination when I was 11 or 12 and got sexually abused. But the path that led me there was quite complicated.
I have OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder. When I was a child, it manifested in an extreme feeling of guilt that continued till I confess in something, repent for my sins, so to speak. It could be something very casual, like a desire to drink from the river, but it still annoyed my relatives quite a bit. At some point I had to confess one of my relatives that I masturbate. She was outraged. She said I’m going to go insane and end up raped, that I’ll seek sex everywhere. She also used it as a tool of manipulation and threatened to tell my other relatives about it when I misbehaved, and she eventually did. It’s still painful to write about. Being a sheltered kid, I had no opportunity to double check her words and to consult anyone. I didn’t exactly believe her, but it overlapped with my OCD and anxiety, and I gained aversion to anything sexual that lasted till I was 19.
Several months later I started my first period, and it arrived with minor issues, like delays or spotting. My family panicked and started taking me to doctors. Now I know that such things are normal, why they didn’t know is rather weird. One of the doctors diagnosed me with an ovarian cyst, and said I must not make quick movements and should take pills for several months. This ruined my lifestyle and metabolism, I started having problems eating, lost some weight and gained spine issues. They kept having new doctors check me. One of these doctors disproved the diagnosis and permitted me to move again. He was also the one who inappropriately touched me during sessions.
Why didn’t I talk about it? First of all, I wasn’t sure. I was told, in a very vague way, that there are people who are called pedophiles, and that these people will want to do something horrible with me, and I intuitively connected this “horrible” to sex. But I didn’t know it’s still sex if there is no bed and no getting naked. Second, I was told that I seek sex just a few months ago, and I had severe doubts that I’m making it all up because I want it. Third, I felt gratitude, he saved my life.
I spent a lot of time thinking about it, thinking about what lessons to learn from here as a future parent, and I don’t want to narrate my story in a way that suggests one single guilty party. Both my family and the doctor played part in my abuse and traumas I live with up to date. But what actually put me in this vulnerable position is an atmosphere of sex negativity when it comes to childhood. Not only people harmed me by denying me safe sexual outlets, they also didn’t tell me what exactly sexual abuse is and when I can be certain something bad is going on. They didn’t try to keep me from abuse, they tried to keep me from sex. So I ended up abused, but I didn’t have a consensual sexual encounter with another person till I was 20.
I know that when I become a parent, I will give my kid unlimited access to information and answers to any questions. I will be positive about their sexual development and encourage them to stay safe. I know a lot more now about how a person is supposed to develop, and I’ll share this knowledge without cutting out “inappropriate” parts. A child’s own body cannot be too adult for them.