Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “Empowerment Affirmations.” On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.
Content warning for: mentions of various kinds of abuse, ableism, death
Today I’m going to discuss empowerment in the context of surviving and recovering from abuse, in an affirmative context. This is something I had initially written a while ago, but recently refined. I hope this may be useful to others.
What is empowerment?
It’s about asserting autonomy.
It’s stating that you are an adult and you have the right to full control of your life.
It’s about controlling who is in your trusted circle – and what information you share with whom.
It’s about building self-confidence – whether from scratch or picking up the pieces that they shattered.
It’s telling yourself that you matter and are worth so much more than what they thought of you.
It’s about not putting up with people’s bullshit.
No, you don’t have to put up with toxic people “for the good of the family,” “because he’s your blood relative” or “you have no other choice.”
No, you don’t have to get back in contact with any toxic people after you leave “for the good of the family,” “because they’re your [insert relative here]” or “you have no other choice.”
No, you don’t have to put up with anyone trying to gaslight you about things you know happened to you because “oh they didn’t mean it like that,” “boys will be boys” or “that can’t have actually happened.”
No, you don’t have to debate your existence to anyone who thinks there are “two sides” to discussions around human rights or harmful therapies or cures. These people do not have your best interests at heart.
No, you don’t have to engage anyone who makes you feel unsafe in any form. The fear of the unknown is scary – but being in a familiar environment that threatens your life daily will kill you.
Empowerment is rectifying the mistakes made by said toxic relatives and organisations.
Said relatives and institutions failed to teach you important things, instead leaving you with perfectly avoidable trauma – that is not your fault.
These relatives likely had low expectations of you often on bigoted grounds or they just wanted to control you.
The reasons don’t matter – even if you know what they are or only in part, because getting full conclusions is often not possible. Reasons will not change the reality.
So, if it means learning independent living skills later than your peers, that is absolutely fine.
If it means taking longer to learn what authentic relationships are, that is absolutely fine.
If it means taking longer to learn employability skills or not being able to work at all, that is absolutely fine too.
No, it doesn’t mean you have to “go to the police!” or get any form of legal/social repercussions for anything they did.
Not only will it likely not be worth it due to the police systematically being biased against anyone who isn’t a cis white man, but you know the truth.
You also know people who have been through similar experiences or other genuine friends will support you.
Empowerment is saying to those that failed you that you are better than them.
That’s not being arrogant – it’s stating reality. Taking steps to better your life and shatter their expectations even if just for your own benefit is one of the best things you can do in response.
Empowerment is understanding what support you need and getting help on your terms. You likely won’t get where you want to be without some help, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept help from just anyone.
It’s better to be selective and ensure you get the right help for you, rather than accept anything that is unsuitable – often the first thing offered. This is especially the case for marginalised groups.
For genuine things that you know you genuinely can’t do, it’s your right to choose who helps you do these. This is so you can ensure they have your best interests at heart and trust is maintained.
You don’t have to accept help from your abusers.
You don’t have to accept help from predatory organisations that will fail to meet your needs – if not complicate them.
You don’t have to accept help from anyone else you otherwise do not trust.
Empowerment is about becoming yourself – who you deeply are inside.
Whether that includes transitioning gender or following a deep passion no matter how obscure, the best person you can be is yourself.
So long as it you don’t harm others, people will support you.
Of course, sometimes refusal isn’t always possible for various reasons – but it damn well should be. And someday, you will be able to refuse and empower yourself.
Empowerment is about controlling your narrative.
It is understandable that you repress who you are around dangerous people – that says nothing about you but a lot about them.
You can tell people as much or as little as you like about what happened.
Sometimes being open and outspoken about the need for change is right for you. If not, that is OK.
Sometimes processing the trauma privately and not speaking much about it going forward may also be right for you.
This also extends to when they are on their deathbed. You don’t need to go back and see them one more time to “make amends.” You don’t even need to write about them indirectly.
When said people die, you can speak ill of them as much as you like. You aren’t obliged to pander to the idea of “not speaking ill of the dead” to make others feel comfortable.
They harmed you and you have every right to tell your story. You owe them absolutely nothing.
This also applies if they themselves are a survivor too.
This means they have to realize themselves the damage they’ve done as a result of their trauma and take steps to fix it.
They may take steps to redeem themselves as much as possible, but ultimately nothing will undo the harm they’ve done to you (and anyone else they’ve harmed you may not be aware of).
It’s ok to be sympathetic towards them if that’s how you feel – trauma is complicated.
But you can keep them out of your life for any reason – including that no contact may be the only way to be free of their harm.
Again, you owe them absolutely nothing. Abusers who are genuinely remorseful will understand that they have to live with the consequences of what they’ve done.
This includes parents, romantic partners and other close family and/or friends.
You are empowered and have a long, fulfilling life ahead.
P.S. I recently set up a crowdfunder so I can start my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!