When you’re a member of a small close-knit community, you hear things. You know things. People tell you things and you listen, because that’s what friends do. As an active member of a local LGBT community, I have many friends in different walks of life and many different situations. I have the privilege of walking alongside many transgender individuals and am often the only cisgender person in the room. It’s a really great experience, but it can be hard sometimes too. The following stories, very CliffsNotes© versions, are told to raise awareness, and hopefully let someone know that they are not alone, their experience is valid, and someone is listening. Names and certain details have been changed to protect privacy, but the stories are real.
Luke and Kaia were like any other couple in our group, both in their early 20s and very much in love. Kaia was a cisgender female and Luke was a transgender male. They did everything together. When we were all out and about they were always included, and we enjoyed their company; however, around the six-month mark of their relationship, there was a shift in the dynamic. Luke seemed to be constantly depressed and Kaia seemed to be always putting him down. “Why can’t you do this? A real man could.” We heard these comments and began to make remarks, but when we started to intervene, we saw less and less of Luke. Their relationship lasted a little over a year. Luke came to us after the break-up and finally spoke about the emotional abuse he was experiencing behind closed doors. “She was always putting me down and making transphobic comments. I couldn’t see it while it was happening… but yeah it was definitely emotional abuse.” She also had a habit of using her children against Luke because she knew he was very attached to them: “I can leave, and you’ll never see the kids again,” she said, “You don’t have any rights here.” This constant emotional battering took its toll on Luke, but he wasn’t the one to end the relationship. Kaia left Luke for a cisgender male and never looked back. Luke was devastated, and it took him quite a while to get over the break up. Even when asked about it now, years later, he says, “I’m over it…yeah I’m over it…I’m sure I’m over it. It was just painful you know? I can see that emotional abuse and manipulation was happening when I look back on it now…but there are still things I miss about her…and I really miss those kids.”
Aiden and Viki’s relationship was a whirlwind from the beginning. Both were happy to have found each other, as they were both transgender and it seemed to be a match that fit for both of them. Their relationship began in that hard and fast way that some relationships do, and in that same vein, the abuse in their relationship was almost immediately evident. Viki took whatever she could from Aiden: money, things, dignity… Aiden would come to talk to his friends and would express his fear of going back, “She’s going to be mad that I’m here. She hates when I talk to anyone about this. I’m getting kinda scared…she said my only way out was in a body bag.” After a couple of years, the first call to the police was made. Viki had beaten Aiden in their front yard and into the house one night. Aiden crawled to their roommates’ bedroom to get away from her and Viki left. The police were called, Viki was found, and she spent the night in jail. Aiden went to the courthouse and filed a restraining order and moved his things out of their house the next day, but when he hadn’t been seen a week later, we all knew he had gone back. This pattern of abuse escalated within the next two years. Viki took control of all of Aiden’s financials, threatened his pet, forced him into sexual encounters that he was not wanting to participate in, and she continued her onslaught of emotional and physical abuse. After a four-year relationship, Aiden left in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on his back and his dog. “How did I stay so long? … I knew the relationship was bad, but there were some good times that I just kept trying to get back to that didn’t really come…you know it’s funny, I still miss her a lot…I just don’t want to feel this way anymore…and I don’t want to die.”
Both of these stories sound like stories I have heard from cisgender females about their male abusers, but they’re different and the same all in one. The survivors in these stories both identify as male, and it was the identified females in the relationship who were the perpetrators of the abuse. Transgender individuals are experiencing IPV in their relationships. By sharing these stories, I hope it has given someone the ability to speak up and say, “Hey…That’s happening to me too and I think I need to get some help,” “I’m not alone in this,” or “That’s happening to my friend, maybe I should reach out.” Just because we’re not thinking to give transgender folks a seat at the table, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve one.