If you have been on Facebook or Twitter in the last week or two, you may have noticed an outpouring of posts stating two words: “Me, too." This movement offered women the chance to open up about their experiences sexual harassment and assault. However, queer, gender-nonconforming, and men's voices in this narrative are seemingly ignored, particularly in the original post's exclusive wording. This lack of representation matters in the fight to end sexual violence.
If you have been on Facebook or Twitter in the last week or two, you may have noticed an outpouring of posts stating two words: “Me, too.” If you’ve been a bit confused by the impact of this short phrase, it originates with Tarana Burke’s “Me, Too” campaign started in 2006 but has exploded in the wake of the widespread allegations amassing against producer Harvey Weinstein. This emotionally powerful movement opens a space for women to express that they’ve faced sexual harassment and assault with safety in numbers.
Of course, not every person will want to share this information publicly and simply because a woman does not publish this phrase does not mean that she has not experienced this type of violent behavior. Additionally, this cascade of responses demonstrates that sexual harassment and assault has touched the lives of most women in our lives rather than existing as an abstract concept or threat affecting people we don’t know.
You may have noticed that much of this discussion so far has centered around cisgender women. While this group does systemically face sexual violence at the hands of men, queer people and non-cis women alike struggle with this sexual power dynamic as well in stories that are often less voiced.
As this hashtag bloomed across social media, it became increasingly clear that queer perspectives were not as open to be heard in this conversation, as many felt excluded by the original post’s request that “if all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This lack of representation for the experiences of non-binary, male, and queer people stigmatised many from offering their stories sans judgment.
For LGBTQ+ people, sexual harassment and assault can take many different forms. As a particularly vulnerable population due to their systemic oppression, trans women, particularly those of colour, suffer the hegemonic threat of rape as a result of reinforcing power dynamics. This issue of power inequality may be a result of police brutality, manipulation of trans women’s privacy, or transphobic men’s violent responses to engaging in consensual sexual practices with trans people, among a variety of others.
Many queer people assigned female at birth suffer “corrective rape” by friends, relatives, or strangers who wish to “correct” their identity to an assumed cis, straight womanhood via sexual violence. Lesbians and bisexual women generally report sexual violence by an intimate partner at higher rates than heterosexual women, according to the CDC. Shockingly, 48% of bisexual women experience sexual assault for the first time between ages 11-17.
Almost half of gay and bisexual men experience sexual assault other than rape as opposed to 21% of heterosexual men (though reporting rates for straight men are suspect noting the patriarchy’s silencing of men’s sexual trauma). Gay male cultural elements such as increased rates of drug and alcohol abuse and public sex in settings like bathhouses can contribute to unhealthy sexual practices or dynamics perpetuated by some predatory gay men.
As a gay man who has been out since the age of 13, I have dealt with sexual harassment and assault more than once in my lifetime. My body has frequently been the battleground for questioning young men who felt entitled to harass, grope, and threaten me to discover who they were. On one night in St Andrews, I was harassed by six or seven people at a ball who interpreted my outfit (a blazer with no shirt and gold booty shorts) as express permission to touch me and even shove their hands into my pants or pull them off in public. Whenever I have confronted this behavior, I have had to resist accusations that I should be thankful for this undesired attention.
Sexual violence is a subversive social force so infrequently challenged en masse in ways the “Me Too” movement has opened up for survivors of sexual harassment and assault. However, queer voices have been largely ignored from this discourse and demonstrate a significant gap in the project to dismantle sexual harassment and assault against all people.