The FogBY ANGELA
I have had a life journey that is complex – and ugly – and beautiful. I love the new world that I am living these days. I also love that I’ve had the experiences of starting life out in a different form.
I recognise I am privileged to be able to share perspectives across the gender boundaries, even though non trans folk cannot understand, nor can we mandate that they should. I suggest that until you walk a parallel journey it would be impossible. I am now reanalysing my gender experiences – not everyone does a critique of gender power. It’s taken for granted.
When I was growing up my parents like so many of the era, had trouble talking about sexuality, I suspect most families did. I understood the basic concepts, men and women got married and then they had children. But we didn’t have the language of sexual rights then, in the rigid social norms of the time.
When I got married, I didn’t really deeply understand the physical or psychological human parts. There were rules, you either obeyed them or the wallopers or the crushers would exact a price through physical beating, perhaps loss of life, certainly rejection and abandonment. Sexuality didn’t affect my life. My parents didn’t talk about it. I went to an all-boys school and we didn’t talk about it there either. I’m sure that boys were having sexual adventures, but it was not visible to me.
My wife and I loved each other and sex was a secondary outcome. There was a joining of two people together in love. It wasn’t a sexual sport. It was about love. I lived in a simplified world, a world rich with serialised radio plays, a Biggles world, a Blue Hills world of dad and dave on the farm – not a sexualised world.
Sexual assault of older women is a problem. Of course, it’s a problem. I don’t understand the thought processes of the people who are perpetrating sexual assault. Maybe they think older women should be grateful for the last little sexual thrill. Maybe that’s the only way they can justify that in their heads, in a self-serving way. Sexual assault is never a thrill for the victim/survivor; it is devastating for older women. The numbers are just plain unacceptable and sadly they are not surprising. You just don’t do that to other people. You just don’t.
Women – for too many – are possessions. We have fewer rights. Historically we had to fight to get the vote, we weren’t able to inherit or take over the family property, it had to go to a male family member. Women are seen as the bearers of children, the subsidiaries. They feel that we are not equal. We are not even part of the human race.
I am ignored more often as a woman, particularly as an older woman. I notice the influence of that which I offer as a solution or comment that I put forward in a conversation is given less weight and so ofter it is ignored or repackaged by an alpha male in the conversation. I assumed some power in my past job and sat in the front row of the theatre. I had a degree of power. I wielded power. I could feel the power in the way people listened. It is no longer my experience as a woman and as an older woman.
I don’t even think many women understand how big the gulf is. In some ways they do. But when you live it as a man you assume it, you assume power. There is an expectation that our culture anoints male children with power. We don’t see it till we don’t have it. They take it for granted. As a trans woman I no longer have it, that reality slaps me in the face.
When I think of vulnerable older women I think of an image of an older woman, she is appearing through the fog, colourless and lacking definition. We recognise there is a human form there, but we don’t really care to know too much about her. We understand she may have suffered. We understand she has loved and created but we don’t really care. The sharpness is gone. Through the fog we can’t really see her – we could if we tried. But we don’t try.
The same can be said of older men. There is a power differential. Women have been targets for males taking what they need. It’s the male thing that is deeply ingrained in the human gene and culture that women are more greyed out, once the flush of youth and vibrancy has departed, more used and abused.
We need to educate men to the extent that they will think hard about the consequences before doing it. Men need to be held to account. We also need to hear older women’s stories. They demonstrate the vulnerability. They can build empathy in ways that a printed page of dos and don’t can’t. Rule books are not protecting older women – because we are not seeing the older women nor understanding their suffering.
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