I think there are issues that are rarely addressed in this piece and I honestly hope that it increases awareness for people, that there are no boxes to put people in, there are only many endless paths of life and I am so blessed to be experiencing mine, with love to each of you.
1982. I was perched uncomfortably on the edge of the sofa in the formal sitting room of my first long term relationship with a woman.
"You are frigid!" she said to me.
"Frigid?" I thought. How could I be frigid when I wasn't even in my body during the whole sexual exploit.
I knew nothing of sex except that which had been taken from me and this did not feel much different. It was a lot of: "I'll do this and you do that and we'll all pretend we're enjoying it because, if you don't, it means there is something wrong with you, that you're 'queer' (aka different)" ...but what if another 'queer' person is telling me this? So now I've heard I'm queer from straight people and that I'm not queer from gay people, so I guess that means I'm nothing and I guess that's true because whenever anyone touches me, I am not here." Complications.
I'd learned to leave and I didn't know anything but leaving because it was the only way to survive the pain. I never wanted to come back to that 'body-house'. I'd anger her more as I watched her frustration turn to drunken rage. She yelled and yelled into my empty shell as I floated out in the ether, tethered to my battered body like a balloon to a corpse.
When she gave up to get drunk and seek solace elsewhere, I'd creep back under my skin to occupy my cold and empty house. I'd beg for sleep, face down with the covers over my head and tucked under my pillow, a shroud for comfort and peace and warmth and belief, the belief that I was good and whole and clean and warm.
It took five years of counselling to figure out what had happened to me in the first place, another five to begin the healing process, another couple to realize I was good and that I deserved to be loved - that pleasure was not compliance with the history of sexual theft and violence.
When I was little, it became a nightmare. I told 'them' that Penguin from Batman and Robin would descend from the attic hatch in my closet where he'd taunt me with his umbrella and cigar - not Freudian at all! It was easier to call for help with this nightmare as the reason than it was to call for help because of the real reason, the gripping fear that the males would come and take more, take that which was not theirs, my innocence the prize of their conquest.
I learned to leave my body back then, to depart through the bedroom window, to fly above the small town that held me captive. When it was safe to return, I'd call a spirit council of the women protectors in my life, those from camp and school and summer resorts, to stand sentinel by my bed where they would tell me stories of a future where I was good and whole and loved. I wish they knew how they saved me, how they made me breathe again when I quite literally stopped as the weight of the thieves squeezed the life from my small body with their assaults.
I grew and left home, well, home left me more or less. I was eighteen and free but for the chains of the past. I met her and loved her and she told me I was broken, frigid. I thought being gay would have been better, that the abuse would end. It did not end here. Others seemed to see a stamp upon me that allowed them to treat me as 'less than' and, in fact, I found I was unkind and abusive in my relationships too. It was all I knew.
I am grateful to have had the doctor that directed me to counselling so early in my adult years, grateful for the women who led me along my path of recovery, for the patience of friends and lovers and for my own dire need to be well and to heal that child inside me. I can see the scars. They ache still. There is no erasure. There is only understanding, healing and some peace. All of the events of our lives make us who we are, they inform our decisions and behaviours but they do not always make or break us. I hope this story is a good story. It is true from my heart and I am proud to have learned and survived. I am well. I am grateful for every day of my life. I am able to love and be loved well. I wish no less than this for everyone.
I wish to be clear that my sexual orientation is not a result of the abuse. I grew up knowing I was different.
Each of us walks a path as convoluted and complicated as the flow of the rivers and the blood within our veins. Be at peace with one another. Be well. Seek joy and love through kindness and giving.
Thank you for reading this.
-Gillian Cornwall, February 26, 2013