this is a letter i wrote, and sent, to someone who kissed and touched my body in a way that made me feel unsafe. a beautiful gender queer who i wanted to kiss for months and months. a person who made a mistake, similar to mistakes i think we've all made. at first it was a personal letter, then it turned into an open letter, then it turned into a poem.
i want to make clear, this is not a call-out. it's not meant to demonize anyone, because then it would make demons of all of us. i want to hold us more capable than that. i hope it will let us see the ways we've been taught to fail each other. the ways we desperately need to learn to love each other better. i hope it will inspire us to touch each other with our listening, our presence and our patience.
i hope this message finds you well. and maybe in a blanket. actually i’d recommend you go get a blanket. seriously. go get one right now. i’ll wait.
ok. now that you’re adequately prepared…
i’m sorry i wasn’t able to talk to you about this in person, but writing is my stronger suit anyways. maybe it’s for the best. i just didn’t have the time or capacity. i am trying to have it now. i think i have to. for you and for myself.
i want you to know that what happened between us when i was visiting did not feel safe for me. not even close. i am going to explain to you in detail what specifically didn’t feel right and how i wish it had happened instead. i’m going to revision it. not just for me, but for you.
for all of us.
touch is connected to memories, all the times we’ve been touched and held and pushed before the touch we’re feeling right now.
i think how we hold each other matters.
there are a few things i want you to know. i have wanted to kiss you since the day we jumped into the ocean together. i think you are sweet like flower nectar. i appreciate the way you make me laugh. the way you make me feel even just a little bit understood, just by the way we look at each other. it's a feeling i don't have often.
i appreciate the way you drape fabric across your gender. i appreciate your other worldliness and the way you radiate belonging to someone, sometime or somewhere else. i appreciate your pain and the way it resonates with mine.
i also want you to know that the mistakes i’m writing to you about are similar to mistakes i have made. similar to mistakes we’ve all made. we live in a rape culture. we are trying to fall in love and find each other and fend off clawing loneliness in a cauldron that enchants us to be toxic to each other.
we have much unspelling to do.
we have an obligation to try to be better to each other. we must own it, when we fall short of the ways we belong to each other. when you came into the room i was sleeping in, i was fast asleep. i was intoxicated. i was not in a position to be able to consent properly. you didn’t ask me if you were welcome in my space. if i wanted to be near you as i slept. because i trust you i didn’t say anything, at first. the way you held my body, at first, felt soft and gentle. i appreciate soft kisses. i appreciate sleeping in the glowing warmth of people i care about. and as i fell asleep you held my breasts and tugged at my tights like you were searching. like you were expecting. like you were every boy i’ve ever shared a bed with who has treated my body like a treasure map. eventually i told you, “i need to sleep. i have to wake up early.” and at first you held me like you heard my request, until your hands started searching again.
as i slept i dreamed of my body covered in bruises. i was flowering swollen in all the places your hands touched me. in all the places my boundaries were not honoured, asked for or seen. when we woke up the same thing continued.
i pressed your hands to my heart because i didn’t have the words to say, “just hold me.”
my body is a field of partially exploded land mines. a beach where replicas from world wars rest dormant til they destroy the animals whose paws detonated these antique explosives.
i don’t feel safe in my body right now. i feel jumpy and uneasy and unable to imagine trusting. i am living in the shadow of robbery. and while you were not the robber, you scavenged at the ruins. you and every other person, including me, who hasn’t asked when we needed to. everyone who hasn’t listened.
we are failing at holding each other in good ways and i believe – i have to believe – that we can do better than this. that we can hold each other like we cherish the light from which we come.
so next time, love. please ask. ask detailed questions. ask when the person you are asking is present, awake, sober and capable of answering. ask what feels like safety. what feels like tenderness. what feels like threats and danger and desertion. ask in whatever way makes sense for you, but most importantly, listen attentively to the answers. listen with your touch so that the other person feels heard in the way you hold them. listen so we can learn to hold each other better. listen so we can learn to love each other better.
from one tender, broken, searching heart to another.
if you appreciate this piece and want to see more like it, check out the multi-media anthology zine: we believe you - femmes surviving toxic masculinity.