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Listen to trans women who come forward and give us the resources we need to heal.

[TW: description and mention of r/pe, PTSD and transmisogyny.] The weekend of August 24th, 2018 marks 5 years since I was raped in my dorm room at Temple University in Philadelphia. My life was completely turned upside down by the assault, my dreams shattered and I’ll never get to achieve them. Everything I wanted to happen, won’t. Is it possible to reflect on something too much when it completely reshaped my life and the dreams and vision I had for it? No, I don’t think so. When I first reported what happened, it wasn’t by choice—no, a bureaucrat in Temple’s Residential Life office had forced me to tell that story. They caused me to go through something that was a violation in its own right, for me. They forced me to relive—multiple times—one of the most violent experiences of my life. I remember that day in the bureaucrat’s office like it was yesterday. It’s painful to be able to relive the experience, I relive the trauma that was dealing with reporting the rapes every day; although the rape itself has fortunately slightly faded from my memory. I still remember it, I still weep and mourn that day, yet I don’t feel its pangs as much anymore. I hope that, one day, I can even stop mourning. Is it possible that my life wouldn’t have been completely overturned by the rape if I was given the proper treatment? Yes. I don’t simply guess at the idea that my life would have turned out differently had I been given the proper resources, I know that it would have been. Colleges—despite their legal responsibility— aren’t equipped with the tools to provide adequate rape treatment and, trans women are not served as a population by rape counseling services. It’s known that rape survivors who get treatment, whatever that treatment may be, have better chances of recovering from their rape and have reduced PTSD outcomes. However, I didn’t receive that treatment. My school didn’t provide resources that actually met the needs I had post-rape, it also never provided the resources I needed to deal with unrelated stalking incidents either, it just didn’t have me on their radar. They made this clear when they told me that they didn’t provide services to survivors of rape and stalking with me later finding out that, in fact, they did. Another, more helpful, bureaucrat in the college let me know that they’ve helped people before.
Related: DON’T BE A TERF: TRANSMISOGYNY 101

The news is dominated by sexual assault, but what about the harassment that fuels rape culture?

By Ally Sabatina With the news cycle being what it is—and that being one with a presidential superpredator at its epicenter—it seems every day brings a new not-so-subtle reminder of the United States’ prioritization of cis men. The very least I can do in all of this is write one piece on this day that shifts the focus for cis men to everyone else and rather than talk about the safety of their social positioning, I strive to highlight at least one element of the human experience that allows one to glean that their privileged social position, and their presumed safety, rests squarely on the assumption that no one else can be as safe—or as protected—as them. So when we talk about the ways in which cis men get to swim through life seemingly unmarred by the bulk of their experiences, we have to talk about those they damage in the process. With a news cycle dominated by sexual assault and its resulting trauma, it pays to shift focus to the covert vehicles in which the patriarchy causes harm, including but not limited to targeted harassment, catcalling, gaslighting and their ilk. While I come from the camp that magnitude cannot prove prevalence, solidarity of shared experience is a powerful drug, so if nothing else, I asked a few friends of mine to document the instances in which they felt harassed and/or micro-aggressed outside of what they would usually discern as their trauma.
Related: ROMANCE NOVELS TO READ DURING THE AGE OF #METOO

#MeToo is challenging mainstream society to critically examine long-held assumptions about sexual scripts and femme pleasure.

By Michelle Carroll Lately it feels like it's nearly impossible to go a single day without hearing a viral story of sexual violence. And of course, this is a good thing. Finally the pain and shame that was previously whispered to friends and confidantes is being taken seriously by popular media. The #MeToo movement’s goal is to promote widespread culture change—from abolishing violent sexual scripts accepted by our cultural consciousness to deliberately creating space to talk openly about healthy sex, affirmative consent, and respecting boundaries. In the short term, their work is to make sure that survivors who come forward are not only believed, but supported. However, the engines of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements is the pain and trauma of women, and unfortunately there is nearly an infinite supply of sexual trauma in our communities. https://twitter.com/rachie_claire/status/929082629877624833 But what about the survivors and victims among us who want to read something else? The 24/7 news cycle focused on victimization does not help us feel sexy or safe. Even before #MeToo, dating and sex were fraught with minefields (especially if cisgender men are your jam). Healthy, fulfilling sex was a goal that one worked towards, not the inevitable conclusion of a Friday night at a local bar or dance club. We deserve fun, exciting, hot, steamy, sexy time too! In my experience, the only place to get consistently consensual sex with a diverse array of communicative people is from a romance novel.
Romance Renaissance
It is a truth universally acknowledged that romance novels get a bad rap in popular culture. Literary critics and general readers imagine romance novel readers and writers as sexually repressed, white, suburban moms. But, in reality, romance writers and readers are a diverse group of critical thinkers. Without fanfare, a small legion of intersectional feminist romance novels has burst onto the market, reinvigorating a genre long grown stale by the domination of white, cisgender women authors. The romance novel genre is deceptively large and complex, with specific tropes and rules that challenge authors to realize unique characters within the strict confines of their chosen genre. And of course, every novel must end with a happily ever after for the characters. There are subgenres for all preferences: contemporary romance novels, cowboy romance novels, regency romance novels, historical romance novels, sci-fi romance novels, fantasy romance novels. And there are tropes within each of these subgenres that define how the author will tell the story of falling in love. Some popular examples in the genre are: the “(white) alpha hero” who uses his masculinity and white privilege to control the world around him, including, in some ways, his love interest; the “disguise” trope is when either one or both of the main characters pretends to be something they aren’t; “the fake engagement” trope is when the love interests agree to a fake engagement to circumvent some external problem but ultimately fall in love for real. Although a majority of romance novel subgenres are not predicated on violence against women or the attitudes that lead to violence against marginalized peoples and identities, it’s easy to replicate real world inequalities in romance novels if the author is not fully conscious of these lived realities.
Related: AFROFUTURISM: A BRIEF HISTORY AND FIVE BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED

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