When Siblings Claim InnocencePosted: September 22, 2012
The backlash I get for speaking up about the mistreatment of trans people, especially within feminist and queer women’s circles, follows the same dynamic I had living with my abusive family. Nobody in a position of relative power admits they’re being hurtful, and it’s possible nobody is even aware their behavior is abusive. Every member of the family has a preset role they expect each other to follow in a dysfunctional social machine designed to avoid dealing with the source of the abuse.
The system forms a hierarchy with the adult on top (usually an abusive father or mother) and a pecking order among the children, typically from oldest to youngest. Each child passes the abuse down to the rung below them. Among marginalized groups the hierarchy is more complicated. There is a general consensus on what places someone on top, and straight white cisgender men (along with several other axes of privilege) are the “parents” of this family, in the sense that they are given the most power and authority. The pecking order from there on out is more complicated, because there are so many axes of privilege involved.
One thing is clear, however: If anyone breaks from that system, if anyone disrupts the hierarchy, they are attacked. On one hand, those on the rung above you will encourage you to live a happy life and improve your station. On the other hand, as soon as you actually stand up for yourself in ways you didn’t before, you are cut down in order to preserve the existing dysfunction.
The message is, You’re not supposed to defend yourself against your siblings, duh, you’re supposed to hate on your abusive parent. It’s obvious none of your siblings are abusive, how could we be? It’s all mom and dad, not us! The message is delivered, along with bullying, from sibling to sibling down the hierarchy. Any support is superficial, nobody actually wants you to claim the power you deserve. Nobody actually wants the hierarchy evened out. They just want you to support their cause against a common enemy (the abusive parent) while never being held accountable for their own harmful behavior.