This post is a guest contribution by Sylvia Wrath.
Editor’s note: This article contains graphic discussion of rape and child abuse. Please read with care.
I hear the trees and passing cars and I think of better times where there were none.
Whether or not you like them, the nonbinary South Asian multimedia group Darkmatter inarguably enjoys a large fanbase, even though they mainly move within gender-nonconforming and transgender circles. Considering this seemingly narrow appeal, how did they get into The New Yorker? How do they host packed shows with waiting lists? How did they create such a large following of varied political constituents? The answer is simple: Darkmatter was never really that radical to begin with. The tragedy is that I fell for the trap, too.
I was once part of a nonbinary and transgender support group, where I met my partner, my lover, and my eventual rapist. During that time, I led people to Darkmatter as a focal point for radicalization, thinking this was a palatable form of rebellion. I was right; their influence spread through streams and brooks, cascading through my life. My partner and I pushed each other to be more self-referential, more radical than thou, until we found the only way to go was down into a pit of despair. When the dust had settled, I could no longer see Alok’s face in the same way. They stared at me with the eyes of my ex, no longer their own, and I felt the world closing in.
At one point, near the end of that relationship, I had wished to see Darkmatter in person at one of their widely-anticipated shows. As a victim of child sexual assault, I had felt alienated at the time from the nonbinary support group that my ex and I shared, and I sought solace in the popularity and witticism of Darkmatter’s poetry and over-the-top gorgeous fashion. However, I was unable to attend Darkmatter’s performance, just as I had been locked out of the discourse of my “peer” circle. Little did I know that I wouldcome to resent Darkmatter for much more than symbolic reasons.
Fast forward to the present—it’s Tuesday, April 19th, and a member of Darkmatter uses the word “kinky” to describe “little girls,” and further goes on to implicitly blame said little girls for their own victimization, saying “even little girls” can be “evil” in a post on their Facebook page. I had to read the article three times to fully grasp the intent and purpose—that Darkmatter does not care for survivors of child sexual assault. Whether or not either have experienced child sexual assault is a moot point; ultimately, blood had been shed.
I saw blood. Not just the trickles from a cut, but a writhing sea, hiding serpents of old. Through the depths there is my dad, naked, his chest hair matted and ugly. He points and he yells, and I am screaming. He calls me a faggot and I know the worst is yet to come. I cannot bring myself to type what is next, for I assure you the horrors of my childhood are unbeknownst even to myself; who knows what else lurks in the depths.
After my ex raped me, they told me they loved me. After my ex raped me, they told me they had been coerced into committing to child sexual assault when they themselves were a child, as if deflating my criticism. We were part of a liberal activist circle, but these dynamics are clearly nothing new to radical circles, either. How many times has a rapist or a pedophile been exalted in radical queer circles to the point where they become beyond reproach? How many times will it take before we realize there is no nonbinary or queer “community” for us to be safe in, on Facebook or otherwise? I hear this in echoes of Darkmatter’s piece, one which I can barely read without hearing the psychedelic machinations of the past’s failure, its failure of me. At the time of this writing, Darkmatter had issued a pseudo-apology in the form of a Facebook comment, that has been since deleted (along with the original post on their Facebook page).
What I write is not a call out, nor is it a accusation, but a simple statement: Darkmatter has failed me by triggering the deepest depths of my self-loathing, and for that, I cannot forgive them.
Art by Sylvia Wrath.