So much for a light-hearted blog about family life! I’m very much a discovery writer and it often leads me down the path unexpected. I write for the same reason I read – to turn the page and find out what happens next. At writers group this week, I wrote a poem that gave me this week’s topic. (I will share it but please bear in mind I am no great poet – it’s something I do sometimes).
Anyone who dares to read the appalling comments under LGBTQ news articles will know that there are many people who struggle to grasp the concept of consenting adults. My view is that if you’re over eighteen and agree to a sexual encounter or to be objectified it’s none of my business.
As parents my husband and I started teaching our children consent from tiny babies. When we massaged them we would rub our hands together and ask them did they want a rub. Even at only a few months old they either reacted with excitement or made it clear they weren’t in the mood.
I’m an affectionate, huggy type but I’ve ended up with a daughter who doesn’t like touch. We’re at opposite ends of the hug spectrum. Banana Bug has always been self sufficient. She hated cosleeping and only liked slinging outside the house because people talked to her more in the sling than they did in the pram. At home she preferred to sit in a chair and watch what we were doing rather than be held. I learned early on that alone in a dark room she would cry for a moment or two then sleep whereas if I held her she’d cry for hours. Now she’s twelve we have a compromise – she will hug me on my birthday and at Christmas. It’s so hard as a parent not to hold a child tight when they’re distressed but she needs space to deal with things. (Her brothers love their cuddles although my nine year old is pretending he doesn’t at the moment) And one day I will find someone to knit me substitute daughter that I can hug. Aside from her touch issues she is a fab kid and I wouldn’t swap her.
But the rules are simple in our home, unless someone is in danger you only touch another when you have consent to do so. Play fighting becomes fighting as soon as one party wants to stop.
A recent viral news story about the Stanford Rapist produced a victim statement so powerful that it’s hard to read:
Here is the news story and that victim statement in full. I agree with the senator that this statement deserves to be amplified. Perhaps the most shocking thing is that his parents could not grasp that their son’s twenty minutes of “fun” had given Emily Doe a life sentence. He got away with six months in prison and will no longer be allowed to compete for the US swimming team at the Olympics.
I’m one of the one in four women and I have a story. I was fifteen and there was a soldier with PTSD. He wasn’t long back from Iraq. It was in a ladies toilet and he held a glass to my mouth and pinned me to a wall. There was no way to fight back or even scream. That man’s actions have not defined me but he has left a lifetime mark that has not be erased. I appreciate he could not help himself and was in a bad place but so was my life at the time.
Far worse for me has always been the police reaction afterwards. The man that attacked me went on to physically batter two other women, throwing one through a plate glass hotel reception. I was not anyone’s priority. My mother had been one of the women attacked and was not in a fit state to stand up for me.
The police said I’d been too drunk to be a reliable witness and I’d been provocatively dressed. They were not going to take it further. Whilst I was more drunk than a fifteen year old should have been, I was wearing a man’s shirt and a pair of trousers… but should it matter? Do I have to justify it? I was fifteen and was not a consenting adult. He knew my age. His sentence for beating two women and his “assault” on me? A £150 fine.
In 2009 I wrote a story for NaNoWriMo about a man being raped by a woman and some of the stories I received by email were beyond heartbreaking. As hard as it was for me to speak up about my experiences it is far harder for a man. None of the men I talked to then had ever come forward and in many places a woman raping a man is not seen as a crime or will be treated as sexual assault. One thing I am sure of is that we do not know the extent of these crimes as the ones that make up the crime figures are exceptions rather than the rule
My poem uses the traditional pronouns but that’s because it was inspired by a picture of a boy and girl, and the story of the Stanford Rapist. Rape is about victims and perpetrators the gender of either is immaterial.
The news story was still very much on mind when we were given the challenge of writing a poem based on a photograph. I chose one of two children at school. The girl looked straight at the camera with a determined expression whereas the boy was looking away, fed up:
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
at her pigtail
under the desk
“I said stop that.”
“It’s only because he likes you, Tilly.”
at her pigtail.
“Leave me alone.”
under the table.
“I said leave me alone.”
"I’ll be with you in a minute, Tilly."
at her pigtail
“I’m warning you.”
under the table
“Stop it. I’m warning you.”
Her cry for help is ignored.
at her pigtail
“I warned you.”
under the table.
“Oh Billy, you’re bleeding.”
“Tilly! How could you?”
She learns he has the right to pester
He learns she has no right to fight him off
she said leave me alone
she passed out
two Swedes dragged him off
he gets a six month sentence.
In twenty minutes
she gets a life sentence
on a pigtail
“Stop that. Miss?”
“Billy stop that. Now!”
There’s never another twenty minutes.
I was listening to a wonderful guided meditation in the bath yesterday and was heading off into a peaceful trance when he used the phrase “trance is not an everyday occurrence” only I misheard it as “trans is not an every day occurrence” the phrase made sure I didn’t go any further with the meditation but instead my mind turned its attention to my blog post. Amanda maybe the person transitioning but the whole family is going with her.
I’ve never had an issue with Amanda being a woman. My husband is a great man (woman) and I am very much in love. When I told him not to wear my tights I wasn’t upset but I was unprepared for the consequences of that decision to be completely accepting. It messes with my own head and heart that I can’t completely accept the other woman in our relationship.
When Amanda first started as a woman she was a bimbo and not the kind of woman I would hang out with let alone consider a relationship with. I’ve since learned it was a process she was going through and is still going through. Because I’m not with Amanda full time yet it’s hard to get to know her. She has a habit of avoiding me and only really coming out when I’m away. In my head I know Amanda is Mr Kimlin and they’re the same person but they don’t talk the same way or act the same way and it’s hard to get used to the changes. She’s not the man I married – she’s Amanda and we’re having to get to know each other.
Earlier in the morning I’d woken up and enjoyed a moment of holding my husband. These days every time feels like the last. Those intimate moments with a man that I enjoy. To me then he’s he and I can’t even begin to think of him as she. I’m not gay. In my forty years I’ve only ever found Joan Armatrading attractive in a sexual way. It takes one helluva a woman to want me to take my socks off. I’m going to miss Mr Kimlin if/ when he becomes Amanda full time. And can I ever call her my wife? The children still call her dad no matter what she’s wearing. My use of pronouns is still unreliable even though I know the right thing is she.
When Steph Newlove is trying to work out how to be a lesbian when she’s not that’s how I feel. I rather fancy my husband in a silky nightie but in my head in those moments he’s still a man.
In my teen years my mother was hating men and had a relationship with another woman. I loved that woman and still have a lot of affection for her even though I haven’t seen her in over twenty years. But it meant I had to “come out” as straight. There’s a reason the only man I ever took back to meet my mother in those years was obviously gay ;). I’ve had to think about sexuality a lot more than a lot of straight people do and I know I’m not a lesbian.
In the evening I wrote my father’s day card. How will we be impacted that way? Will I have to buy a wife card early during mother’s day? That bit I struggle with because I never wanted a wife. I am a wife and mother and when I married it was to a husband I wanted to father my babies. I ended up addressing the card to Honey Bunch and putting an x-rated message in it but it took me hours to write it and decide how to write it. Normally I'd write a bad poem but I didn't have time to come up with one.
I love Mr Kimlin and will learn to love Amanda but I think part of the problem is she’s never expressed her love for me. It’s always Mr Kimlin who expresses his love. She never kisses me and I always make the first move.
I've shared an appropriate Joan Armatrading song below (I know times and attitudes are changing and moving on but I still love it):
Amanda is my husband she's in the process of deciding if she wants to be all woman. All I have to say about that is yes dear.
Banana Bug is my thirteen year old, stroppy, deep, existential and incredibly talented arty-farty teen. She doesn't like men -- well not in that way -- so any off the cuff advice from her love life will be all girl. OK what love life? She's deeply embarrassed I even mentioned it.
Gasbag is a nine-year-old pessimist who thinks deeply about how the world is rubbish. He resembles a catalogue model and thinks sleep is for wimps. Another arty-farty (but his smell worse) type, he tends to only draw Five Nights at Freddies characters and Sonic the Hedgehog. He's also a talented young poet. And last week I even managed to get him to draw a credible twite (that's a type of bird and not anything rude.)
To me my youngest is Sausage but he requested I call him Ironman. He's a funny little diva that can rock outfits that include both Sonic the Hedgehog and My Little Pony. Always performing, unlike the other two he has a sharp devious mind. If you tell him not to go over the line he'll bounce right on it.
Sat here at my desk, I try to work out how to introduce the Kimlins to the world. We have a profound message don't we? Surely under the superficiality of family life I can excavate profundity. So I asked the family:
Me: What do you have to say about life? What would you like to tell the world?
Amanda: Huh? (she has her headphones on and is playing Mech Warrior. I don't know if they're playing with him or her but I'm definitely looking at the one with chicken fillets and more make-up than I've worn in thirty years)
Banana Bug: Not much
Me: I give up on life.
At least until the next blog entry.
The Kimlin Family