The following blog post is about my personal experiences growing up with shame, and it outlines feelings of shame, guilt, and mentions―though it does not detail― rape, assault, and abuse. This is a heavy article, and I totally understand if you’re not up to reading it. If you do read it, please feel free to contact me and talk about your own experiences. I’m no therapist, but talking with someone that understands and doing our best to better one another’s experience through understanding, skillsharing, and swapping information is a great thing.
The mental and physical loss― the aching, tragic, and excruciating loss― acquired when brought up in a society based on shame is incalculable. In my own experience, I have lost so much due to this shame― guidance from my mother, guidance in any sort of proper sex education, my own sense of self, healthy relations with self and with others, and my sense of worth. I have lost, and my life will be a constant struggle to retain what I have and gain what has been swept away by ignorance, by a social structure that tells me I am not worth anything if I am not constantly seeking the approval of a theoretical “opposite” sex, by violence.
Reflecting upon my life, however, I feel more than this loss; I feel anger. I am disappointed. I am frustrated that I did not have the tools to teach myself what I know now, before all the damage was done.
I look back upon a young child that tried very hard to fit into a gender assigned to them that just did not fit; a five year old that determined to have pink everything because that was what they were told they should want.
I recall a preteen that was frustrated by their slow-to-develop body, who was scared because boys didn’t seem interested. Who felt outcast. Who looked in fashion magazines and designed grand outfits that they knew would never fit them right, knew they could not make. Who blindly went through the motions they thought were correct, feeling nothing.
There was a teenager who was disappointed that they were not harassed by boys and thought the lack of harassment meant that there was something wrong with them. The same teenager who rejected everything associated with their assigned gender and decided to become “one of the boys” because that was the only alternative they knew.
There is the person who, I their late teens and early 20s, was molded, used, raped, assaulted, and manipulated by people they thought loved them and people they thought were their friends.
The opportunities that have been lost, the wounds that have been incurred- physical, emotional, and mental- cannot be counted. Despite a burgeoning knowledge of sex, sexuality, gender, and relationships, there is still a gap that is hard, seemingly impossible, to bridge.
These wounds run deep and wide, but a continuing pursuit of knowledge and a willingness to suck it up and ram into mental walls until they shatter are the only hope there is. There are days, weeks, and even months where the energy it takes to face that task are nowhere to be found― there is only enough energy to put on a smiling face, turn up the mental static, and just get through. These are times when it is impossible to interact with my own body, impossible to connect with my loved ones. All that can be done is curl up into myself and slowly, laboriously, I breathe.
Even when the energy is there and I am capable of intimacy, my body is held at arm’s length. It is as though the lines of communication between body and soul have been cut, and I am left with nothing but distorted echoes where there should be the heart wrenching soaring of a symphony. While I am able to scrape together what I can to feel some sort of closeness and pleasure, it is so fragmented that I can’t help but be painfully aware that it’s incomplete.
I have no answers but one: had I any sort of comprehensive sex education that included a sex positive, pleasure based, and unbiased look at sex, sexuality, and gender starting at a young age― this would not have happened. It would at least have not been nearly this bad, a mere roadblock in comparison to the great wall in front of me. I’m left trying to piece it together and figure it out in order to have some semblance of a healthy relationship with my body, gender, and sexuality while knowing that sadly, many don’t even realize that that state of disarray and incompleteness isn’t normal. There are many that allow the puzzle that is their self be scattered all over, out of reach, under the stove and in the couch cushions.
I have felt from the start of my sex educational that while I am busy fitting my pieces back together, it is also my job to help others approach and embark on the same journey. Together we can heal. Together, we can create a better future free of shame. Time has been lost, but it’s never too late.