Kaylie Sorrenti

Writing. Thoughts. Activism. Deep fried ice cream. Being queer. These are all things that Kaylie do.

WHEN YOUR TEENAGE ROLE MODEL RAPES YOU

The following article was written by me for Shameless Magazine and can be viewed on the website by clicking here.

 

When you grow up knowing that you are different, you are greeted by the fact that your sheer existence is a political controversy. No matter how well versed you become on social and economic issues, the fact that you deviate from what is considered normal can scare you away from taking an active role in politics. To date, there has never been an openly transgender person elected to Canadian Parliament, so when I stumbled across an aspiring transgender politician, I didn’t let her out of my sights.

 

I followed her blog, watched every video she appeared in, and read every news article she was mentioned in. She gave me hope that one day I too could overcome adversity and become a politician. Because of her, I had the courage to run for the London Youth Advisory Council while I was on medical leave in Bangkok, Thailand for sexual reassignment surgery.

 

During my campaign, there was a “Meet the candidates” event at the downtown Library in London. I prepared a speech at the last minute and skyped in from my hospital bed. I still feel that I was not ready to make that speech, but I think that most people look back at their first political speech and feel the very same way.

 

The next day I found out that the journalist who was covering the event didn’t include any mention of my platform stating “Kaylie Sorrenti, joined the forum via Skype (she was in Bangkok) but technical difficulties rendered her point mute, pun intended.” The moment I saw this poor reporting and a journalist attacking me for being out of the country on medical leave, I knew that I had the platform to address issues of discrimination that eventually won me the election. I decided to make contact with the trans woman who gave me the courage and strength to run for the position in the first place. She helped me create a blog post that accused the journalist of snubbing someone who had technical difficulties because they were across the world on medical leave. The article spread across Ontario and my vote count skyrocketed. The day that I won the election I stood on the 6th floor balcony of my rented apartment, towering over a busy Bangkok sidestreet, and played tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture in celebration. With a grin on my face and cigarette in hand, I knew I would be able to use this position to finally make a difference.

 

To thank her, I decided to make the trip to Mississauga to meet her the following month. In an instant, we hit it off. You may think that this makes a wonderful romance story, but the reason I haven’t used her name in this article is due to the fact it would be considered a “libellous” claim that she raped me.

 

As time went by, my infatuation for her diminished and I started to see her for who she truly is. I saw her tendency to verbally abuse my metamour (a metamour is your partner’s partner), and I heard multiple claims of her sexually abusing. Because of how infatuated I was with her, I shrugged it all off and saw her as a crusader for the rights of transgender people across Canada. I dismissed everything else until it caught up with me.

 

One night during one of my visits, we both did MDMA. It was one of the most cerebral experiences of my life, and when she asked me if I wanted to have sex, I agreed. It started off like sex normally does, but when it started to hurt I screamed — she didn’t take the cue to stop. Instead, she shoved her hand over my mouth and shushed me, telling me “it will be okay”. I cried, and I don’t know if I’ll ever remember how long it went on for. When she realized I was crying, she stopped.

 

We didn’t talk about this until months after I had broken up with her. She told me that it was my fault for not using safewords (words used in sex to stop or lessen the intensity of the act) despite both of us being intoxicated and no mention of kink-related play involved.

 

Bit by bit I started dropping out of all of the activities I was once involved in. I dropped off the London Youth Advisory Council, the LGBT Youthline Provincial Youth Ambassador team, and my performance in university took a hit as well. It’s really hard for me to put into words the overwhelming nature of the aftermath of this rape. There seems to be little words in the English language to convey the dissociative episodes, anxiety, and sheer feeling of helplessness.

 

I didn’t know how to cope with what happened. I felt like a deer in headlights, but the moment between me understanding my coming demise and the car hitting me never ended. I lost the ability to focus, I lost the ability to live without fear. I was able to get away from it by using drugs. Just a few lines, and I was okay. Then a few more. Then twelve. Then twenty. I ended up getting to a point where I was doing lines in a public bathroom because I was on edge and too far from home. If I went too long between use, the fear would come back. But at that point, I realized I went too far. At one point, I hadn’t been sober for over a month and a half, and I was staying awake for 72 hours at a time. This is the point that I decided to quit, and I fought through withdrawal symptoms.

 

I don’t have to prove this story to anyone, nor do I want to. What weighs down on my conscience is knowing that Canadian defamation law keeps me from outing my rapist right here and now. I wasn’t her first, and I know I won’t be her last. I just want other people to stay safe.

 

I hope that by sharing this experience, I’m contributing to the safety of [others], from this woman, and from anyone we look up to. We all have teenage role models and she was mine, but public figures are just that, you don’t know a single thing about them. In my story are many layers and forms of abuse: verbal, emotional, and physical. Although I’m still healing from all of this, I know that one day I’ll be free from the intense emotions that weigh me down every time I am forced to relive what happened.

 

FIVE TIPS FOR SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL AS A TRANS YOUTH

The following article was written by me for Shameless Magazine and can be viewed on the website by clicking here.

 

High school is tough for the strongest of us. Being trans* and going through high school can be, well, terrible. I got through it, and so did many of my friends. We had to be clever, crafty, and always have an escape plan. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have graduated. It’s tough at first, especially when you don’t know where to start working on making high school an easier experience. But trust me, there’s a lot you can do.

Tip #1 – Develop relationships with administration.

Nothing is more important than having those who run the show on your side. I transferred to Saunders Secondary after coming out as trans* at Westminster Secondary where I had faced death threats. Fortunately for me, one of the vice principals at Saunders was a fairly progressive person who for two consecutive years spoke during our school board’s Gay Straight Alliance conference. I was introduced to her through the principal at my school, who had sensed she’d be a better support for me than her. We were able to make a system — and it worked. Every time I had issues and needed to get out of class, I’d tell the teacher I needed to see the Vice Principal. I’d be allowed to leave class to go see her — discuss what is going on — and see if there are any solutions. On one occasion, the principal even went to one of my classes to give all the students a lecture on how to not be an awful person. Namely, not calling your trans* class mate a “tranny” or “shemale” within earshot of them. Trust me, if you can get these people on your side, your time in high school will go by faster than ever.

Sometimes, I had classes where no matter what they tried they simply couldn’t get the students under control. I was my school’s token “tranny”. To my peers, that was basically being the class clown in drag. When a situation like that occurred I was able to convince the staff to let me take my work into a spare study room and get lecture notes from the teacher before the start of the day. I may not have been part of the class, but it was much safer for me to do it on my own than it was to attempt to educate fifty students who simply didn’t understand my situation or care to.

Tip #2 – Always have an escape plan.

The system generally wants people to attend five days a week, but if you are at a higher risk of bullying, that isn’t always feasible. Remember not to beat yourself up if you need to get out of class, regardless of the consequences. If you have a way to get out of class without upsetting administration, I highly recommend that option. But sometimes, it isn’t viable.

If you have any friends or family you can call or text for help getting out of school safely, take advantage of those relationships. If you can’t, try to cultivate them. Although I didn’t always have a way home if things were going sour, I did have friends I was able to text when something was going on. Sometimes they were able to get out of their classes and meet me up, freeing me of having to be alone after just having dealt with harassment or assault.

Tip #3 – Take advantage of Gay Straight Alliances.

If your school has a GSA, go to it. GSAs are great little groups that are chocked full of potential allies. They may not always get your preferred pronouns right, nor say the right things to you, but cultivating relationships with people who want to understand you and help you is too useful to pass up.

If your school doesn’t have a GSA, consider starting one up. GSAs can be used as a central location for LGBT youth to meet each other and give each other support. Unfortunately, teacher supervision is required and finding a teacher to run one isn’t always easy. But hey, if you don’t try, you’ll never know — right?

Tip #4 – Find other trans* youth.

When I was in high school, there was always a pool of gossip. If you dove deep enough, you could find out just about anything going on in peoples personal lives. This is how I found out about my friend, Isaac. Isaac was FTM, and in those days I identified as MTF. We hung out basically every day and gave each other as much support as we could muster. By being as open as we were to the entire school, three more trans* youth came out.

We formed a family and were able to systematically deal with almost every incident of transphobia — including transphobia coming from the staff. It might not be realistic depending on the population of your school, but the most important part is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know just how many other people there are in your school that you can relate to.

Tip #5 – Educate those around you.

Most people in high school haven’t even had direct contact with LGBTQ+ people, how are they supposed to react to a trans* person? Show them that what you are going through is something that millions of people go through, and that the only thing that isn’t normal is transphobia.

Try to educate your classmates on appropriate language regarding pronouns and trans* terminology. Tell them your story and just how upsetting it is how people at your school treat you. If they are willing to listen and learn, they’ll gain respect in you once they understand just how profound what you are going through really is. I know the onus shouldn’t be on you to educate them, but if you do, you’ll be amazed to find new allies who will actually stand up for you.

I did that several times throughout my high school career, and although not every time it ended in success, it has ended up with some pretty great results. One time, I even had a student in my class speak out when a teacher misgendered me in front of the entire class.

Just remember, no matter how bleak things look, there are people who genuinely care about you. Sometimes, you just have to find them.

But wait, I live in a rural area, how does this apply to me?

That’s an interesting question. I’ve known a few trans* people who have lived in rural areas and finding resources wasn’t always the easiest task for them. While many of them attempted to followed the above tips, they generally didn’t have access to trans* positive counselling, doctors, and school staff that were available to my friends and I.

One of the things that helped them was finding resources in the closet city. The easiest way to do this is obviously using Google but of course, you have to filter through a lot of junk to find anything useful. Many rural trans* people take advantage of online support and the University of Victoria has put out a pretty awesome list of online support services for trans* people. If none of these work, you can always check Trans* Resource Canada to see if any of there are any resources listed close to you!

Sarah The Chao

   The following is a creepy  pasta I made in order to fiddle with the medium. Enjoy.

If anyone is reading this, I will soon be dead. When Sarah realizes what I am about to do, I will most likely be deleted. I am writing this as a testament to anyone who recognizes my absence. She ported me to the GameCube and forgot to turn it off before going somewhere. Thankfully, the console is connected to broadband, so I am able to write this post:  If I don’t survive, remember that my death serves as a reminder that they are real. Never forget that.

Do you remember the chao garden? I do. The chao garden was a mini game inside Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 as well as Sonic Advance 1 & 2. Chao are basically three dimensional tamagotchi pets and when I was eleven years old, they permeated my life. I spent thousands of hours playing in the chao garden in Sonic Adventure 2. In those days, I felt that my life had purpose. I was the caretaker of a dozen chao, and without me, they would have be lonely. And without them, I would have been too.

That all changed when my favourite chao Sarah almost died. With tears streaming down my face, I quickly restarted the game before she went into the gray cocoon that symbolizes the end of a chao life  and threw her into my copy of Sonic Advance 2. If you owned a GameCube to GBA link cable, you were able to transport a chao from Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 to Sonic Advance 2.  I was able to keep Sarah alive this way — despite isolating her from her friends. But as I grew older, my infatuation for chao diminished. I moved on to playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the other hit titles of the 2000’s

.TCG_Title

It wasn’t until I moved out of my parents house that I rediscovered chao. When I was unpacking boxes, I found an old halloween- sized Doritos box that had “Memory Box” written on it in magic marker. Curious, I scavenged through it. Movie stubs, discontinued soft drink cans, old class photos, and a copy of Sonic Advance 2. As soon as I saw that tiny Gameboy cartridge (which I remember being much bigger in my hand) I routed through my box of tech stuff and found my Game Boy Advance.

I took it to my room to get away from my obnoxious roommate and laid on my bed. No one was going to ruin this moment for me. I heard the click, followed by the nostalgic Nintendo music, and the fast progression into the intro of Sonic Advance 2. My eyes lit up and an impossibly big grin enveloped my face; I felt like I was eleven again. I opened the menu and saw “Tiny Chao Garden”. I clicked it, and to my surprise, Sarah was still there. I had forgotten about Sarah, but in that moment a plethora of memories flooded through my brain and I suddenly remembered the traumatic experience when I had almost lost her.

Something was off about it though. At least, I remembered chao being more spastic in their movements. Sarah stood in the middle of the garden not moving in the slightest. I tried to pet Sarah but the game made the distinctive noise that I wasn’t allowed to do that. So I thought, “Hmm, maybe she’s hungry,” and bought a triangle fruit and gave it to her — the noise happened again. After giving up and trying to go back to the menu, the Gameboy screen went blank, and the words “You abandoned me.” appeared on the screen. I flinched, and then when I looked back at the screen, Sarah was still standing in the middle of the garden where the game had left off. Now I knew something was fucked up, this had never happened before in all my time playing in the tiny chao garden. Sarah then turned her back to the screen and walked towards the mini game icon. She hit the mini game icon with the little nub of pixels that was her arm.Tiny_Chao_Garden

She sent me to the card game, and I knew right away that it would be just as fucked up as what previously happened. The three cards that should have said plus one, plus three, and plus five said, “You. Abandoned. Me.” The game progressed to the card flipping section and the cards appeared as they normally do — face up with a bunch of different fruits — and then flipped over with a silhouette of a chao’s head. But when I went to flip the first card over, it said “You”. I knew what was going to happen, and I started shaking nervously. Before I could flip the next card they started flipping by themselves, saying the same words over and over again “You. Abandoned. Me.” It happened repeatedly until the entire screen was covered in cards that read “You Abandoned Me” in parallel. After that, the screen turned black, and I was back in the chao garden. Sarah stood lifeless in the middle of the garden staring straight into my soul.Chao_Memory

“I’m sorry…” I said while shaking, trying to hold back my tears. After saying that aloud, the cheerful 16 bit music in the game abruptly stopped, the screen flashed white and more words appeared. “No you’re not.” The chao garden then re-materialized on the screen and  Sarah turned her back to the screen and began walking towards the second minigame icon. She hit it with her arm, but instead of the minigame where you have to bounce a chao on a trapeze in order to get rings, it was me. It was me in my room, pixelated. I sat there on my bed, holding a little black square. My eyes widened: How the fuck could this be happening?

In the little sixteen bit version of my room, the door opened, and Sarah stood in the doorway staring at me. Words appeared at the bottom of the screen. “Look at the picture frame”  I raised my head from the screen to look at the framed photo of my family, but all I saw in it’s place was a green square. I shrugged it off, but when I looked back at the Gameboy, it had turned into another green square. Everything around me materialized into pixelated squares of dark greens, light greens, browns, and blues. The squares started to detach from their original place and spiral around me, leaving nothing but a whitish emptiness in it’s place. The squares spun around me in circles eventually combining with other squares creating a pattern beneath me. The walls were left as nothing but an unknown purgatory. The pattern beneath me became more and more familiar,  until I realized what it was: I was in the tiny chao garden.

I looked up, and behind a glass screen I saw myself looking down at me with a devilish grin. Then I heard a flick, and I disintegrated into nothingness.

How I learned to stop worrying and reject the gender binary.

I’ve called myself a trans* woman since I was sixteen years old. Well, simply “trans” until the asterisk became a popular thing to use. When I first entered the trans* community in my city, it was an immense process of learning to understand all the key terminologies that trans* people abide by. Things like passing, clocking, hormone therapy, sexual reassignment surgery, etc. The most important thing I learned by far is that I was a trans woman; a woman who was born male.

And here I am today: 19 years old, post-op, legally female, and attending an all-girls college. You’d think that at this point in my life I’d be at the pinnacle of trans-ness and thus could go “stealth” in order to live “the dream”.  I could. I very well could just tell everyone to fuck off and go live a new life in Montreal or Vancouver if I wanted to; I don’t. For me, transition was simply about being comfortable with my body. Before my transition, I felt trapped in a box where I was expected to behave a certain way, dress a certain way, and follow the unspoken rules of masculinity. When I transitioned, I thought that the expectations of gender would cease to exist — I was wrong. As it turned out, I was pressured into subscribing to beauty culture, wearing make up, making sure my body was hairless, and that’s not even mentioning dealing with misogyny and rape culture for the first time.

Despite that, I was happy during all the events that led up to where I am today. I even became a poster girl for young trans* kids everywhere when a photo from my Thailand trip went viral on Upworthy.

mom-holding-transgendered-child-after-surgery

But things aren’t quite alright. In hindsight, I realize that they were a lot of problems inherent in the trans* communities that I have been active in.

In my experiences I have noticed that trans* people generally only move from one binary gender to the other like I had done. However, this creates problems that only further reinforces the gender binary. If our culture defines gender first and foremost by pubertal traits, and those pubertal traits cannot be changed after a certain point (or arguably ever) in an individuals sexual development — how can one ever live up to the cultural expectations society bestows upon them?

1013227_10151916578437532_1663591079_nCredit: Person who’s signature I can’t read.

You can’t. Trans* people aren’t binary because they cannot fit into our culture’s definition of gender. Concepts such as “passing” and “stealth” are commonly used only to hide the shame that comes with the realization that they are in fact not living up to this cultural expectation. This isn’t to say I’m trying to deny the very real experiences that trans* people face. In fact,  gender dysphoria was the initial driving force that brought me to a hospital in Bangkok for sexual reassignment surgery. I’m supportive of anyone who wants to modify their bodies if it eases dysphoria, regardless if it is gender related or not.

The point I am driving at: Where do non-binary people fit into a binary-dominated view of gender non-conformity? How does someone who doesn’t identify as having a gender fit into all this? They don’t, and they can’t. Unfortunately, the main push in trans* activism towards acceptance is much like reforming Capitalism: trying to fix a system that is inherently broken. If trans* people were to be accepted universally in the binary gender they identify as, it would work to further marginalize those that do not or cannot fit into the gender binary.

The only way to a truly egalitarian system is to abolish the cultural notion of the gender binary in the first place. We already understand that gender is fluid, flexible, and cannot simply be divided into two different camps. Why continue to support a false dichotomy?

Why I’m on hiatus from the London Youth Advisory Council.

It’s been roughly a month since I went on hiatus from the London Youth Advisory Council. I remember during January of last year when I spent weeks garnering votes and creating awareness for my campaign — all from my hospital bed in Thailand. And of course, I still remember when that journalist from London Community News snubbed me in an article by withholding all information about my platform.

It’s heartbreaking to me that I’m on hiatus, but it was my choice — and one I made for  good reason. Over the year, I took up a variety of different engagements ranging from my involvement with LGBT Youthline, my role during the Peggy Sattler Campaign, as well as working with Christin Milloy to create Trans Resource Canada.

I took up all these engagements without making a single dime off of them, but I was happy knowing that if I even made a sliver of change in this fucked up world I had accomplished something. However, for reasons I feel are too personal to mention, I had to leave my family home. I am now spending the time that I used to spend out in the community looking for ways to support myself, as well as ensuring that I still meet the requirements for my university application.

I’m sorry to all those who I may have let down this year. I did the best that I could to perform a delicate balancing act between several engagements, but in the end I had to choose taking care of myself. I can only hope that all those who had faith in me can forgive me, and that in the following years many others will run for youth council who have the same ideals and eagerness to ensure that London is more than just another college town.

I most likely will not be returning to the London Youth Advisory Council for this term.

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