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Philomena's Story: There and Back Again.

I have always found writing therapeutic. I know I am healing when I can focus enough to have a good scribble about something. If I pile enough words in just the right places, I can hide the painful bits enough to trick my brain into scooting right on past them. I know I'm where I need to be when I can find the humour in a situation and make it into an amusing antidote. But some things just aren't amusing no matter how you try.



This is a story about a man dressed in fishnets, PVC mini skirt and stilettos, forcing his exhausted wife/hostage to participate in violent, porn-inspired sex games every night after she gets their three young children to bed. I know that's pretty heavy, I just had to blurt it out in one go. I've tried dithering about and hiding it in other stories but I'm finished covering it up.


When I met my husband, I was smitten by his charming accent, intense blue eyes and wild long hair. I didn't particularly like the heavy metal style, or the men who sported it, but he was different. That accent! Those eyes! I was 24. I had a confused but robust libido. It made me do really dumb shit. Anyway, I thought nothing more of the hair until he flounced past me in a miniskirt and pigtails shortly after we moved in together. I was shocked, but I was also in love. We opened up, that night. I told him of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child, my bisexuality, my general wariness of men and he told me about his cross-dressing habit, rooted in his own troubled childhood.


He said when he was about six years old, he ran away from home. He eventually came upon his auntie's house. He was captivated by the sight of her underthings on the washing line. He had a bit of a crush on this auntie, he told me, she was young and very pretty. He decided to put on her clothes to see what they felt like, her knickers and skirt over his short trousers, her bra and frilly top over his jumper. He never made it to the main road where he intended to hitch a lift. Instead, he fell asleep next to a haystack, where his frantic grandparents found him a few hours later, still dressed in his auntie's clothes. He said he'd never been happier than when he was in those clothes. He told me that's why he often wore women's clothes - to relax and to feel better when he struggled with depression.


He later used the things I shared with him that night to coerce and abuse me. He insisted I should have no objection to having sex with him dressed as woman because I was bisexual. This did not jibe at all with what I found attractive, but when I tried to object he said I was being a hypocrite and a snob. He accused me of trying to shame him when I gagged at the smell of his silicone toys mixed with alkyl nitrate fumes and bodily fluids and said I needed to get off my high horse, that just because I was born into a female body did not mean I was a better woman than him. Weren't we both damaged women? If I really loved him why would I cause him more pain? I forced myself to override my feelings to prioritise his. I loved him, and he was very nice and so cuddly after I did what he wanted. I confused his grooming with love.

We married after I became pregnant with my first child. He stopped pestering me as much for unwanted sexual things because he no longer found me attractive. He didn't like fat, he said. When I did refuse his advances, he would say I had no right being snotty about his appearance, the state I was in. I was resigned to all things sexual being confusing and horrid at that point, the hopes of healing the abuse from childhood and blossoming into a healthy, happy being were gone, along with most of my self-esteem. My default mode again became pretend it was happening to someone else, make the best of things and carry on. We plugged along peacefully enough this way, and I had two more children during the next six years. He did not help at all with the kids but he did not interfere with my slightly off-the-beaten path parenting. I took his passive disdain for support and thought it was balance enough. Looking back I was so very lonely and exhausted. I've often longed to retroactively shake some sense into the sad stupor of that young mother.


After my third child, he sank into a deep depression and was in bed for months. He began to dress as a woman almost every evening. Or, I should say, what he considered to be a woman. It was not my idea of womanhood. In fact, his version offended me. It was degrading and violent. He clearly thought being a woman meant wanting to be raped and tortured. I told him wearing strap-ons was very sore on my c-section scar, my "turn" being tied up frightened and hurt me, I expressed my preference for gentle, nurturing sex. He told me complaining was very manipulative and selfish and that I was trying to stifle his womanhood. He said I couldn't handle him being a woman because I was jealous, that it wasn't his fault that he wasn't fat and I was ,that I was barely a woman at all but more like a wizened balloon. I tried to avoid it all after that and focus on the children.


When we were married ten years, we moved our family to Ireland, back to his childhood village, a move I'd always dreamed of. He said it would be great for the kids and help pull him out of the years of depression. He'd been so homesick, he said. We would have the adventure I'd always wanted and finally be a happy family. I was hooked by the idea of leaving the bad memories behind and starting fresh. I put the hundred or so red flags out of my mind and walked right into it.


Not long after we arrived, my husband began to wear his woman costume every night. He told me I was the only person he trusted to see him as his true self. He told me to call him by his female name. He started talking to me in his female voice all day. I was afraid the kids would hear and be confused, especially because he often took on a pleading, begging tone, but he seemed to be totally unaware of their presence. He'd be on his laptop all day, looking for inspiration for what he'd make me do that night and I'd spend all day dreading it. He stopped buying fuel to heat the house, and I had to dress the kids in three layers and put them all to sleep in one bed, so they could keep each other warm. I read to them for hours every night, and they seemed happy and oblivious. Those times with my babies were sweet even with the sickening knowledge that he'd be out there waiting no matter how long I stayed after the kids drifted off, no matter how long I held my bursting bladder before giving up and going out to use the bathroom, he'd be out there ready to pounce.


I knew no one, I had no money of my own, I couldn't drive nor could I safely walk anywhere with the kids. He was the only adult I saw unless his burly bully of a brother stopped in or one of his childhood friends came by for a chat. The roaring misogyny of his brother frightened the hell out of me. He kept reminding me how I was now on "their territory" with a decidedly menacing relish. One day when they were having tea and the sugar bowl was empty, the brother growled at my husband "you'd better get a stick for that woman!" and my husband stared right into my eyes and slowly nodded and then joined his brother in uproarious laughter. I went into the bathroom and vomited. I was completely trapped and ashamedly responsible for landing myself in such a horrible situation. The enormity of it paralysed me.



He began calling me mistress all the time instead of my name. He liked to play a shackled, subservient woman begging not to be beaten and raped and forced me to act as the sinister dominatrix, then insist we switch roles for his final thrill. I was losing my will and completely withdrawing into myself. I felt like I was disappearing altogether. I was exhausted and sore and suicidal. I began drinking heavily in the evenings to numb myself.


I remember one night shaking and sobbing, snot and drool running down my face, telling him that he was snuffing out the tiny flame that was left of me, to please stop, he was killing me and the kids needed me. He responded in what he thought was a submissive female voice, kittenizing his baritone, "Yes, mistress. Is that an order?" and then proceeded to ignore me and the needs of our children for days until I became so desperate that I engaged again by speaking to him in the stern taskmaster voice he insisted I use. I hated myself for stepping back into it, for going around and around again.


On my fortieth birthday my sister-in-law insisted they take me out to a local pub. He tried to stop her, but she got his friends involved, and it would look too conspicuous if he didn't allow them to throw me a little party. I paid for it dearly for weeks after but it was there I met my first friend in my new country. She saw a haggard-looking woman, sitting with a group but somehow alone, and she came and sat by me and said "I see a real sadness in you, are you okay?" I said I was okay, just tired. She gave me her number and told me to ring her sometime, that we could meet for a cuppa. I was afraid to ring at first but then I did and she came to see me at the house, much to my husband's fury. After a few visits, she told me the way my husband treated me was unacceptable, and the kids and I did not have to live like that. She said I could get out and she would help me. She did not know about the sexual torture, she just saw the signs of domestic abuse. That woman saved my life.


When I told my husband I was leaving he said he was going to kill himself. He said I was punishing him for his depression that was caused by the pain of not being able to live as a woman. He said I thought I was better than him, that I was a cruel snob, that I was being coached by “lesbian feminist bitches” and destroying our family and hurting our kids. For years after I got out, he kept trying to control me through threats of suicide. He said he could not live as his true self except with me. When that didn't work, he recruited his brother who gleefully threatened and intimidated me daily for two years. I had escaped the sexual abuse but I was still desperate and bedraggled with three children now 4, 8 and 11.


I did the best I could to build a happy new life for me and the kids. I struggled with alcohol abuse, but I thought my kids were generally thriving. My younger two seemed like happy toddlers, my oldest acted out a bit but was easily enough distracted. I don't know what, if anything, he took in of my husband's sexual proclivities or his abuse. I still don't.


I figured if I helped facilitate a good social life for my son, he'd surely be okay. He soon had a great group of friends who spent every weekend at our house. But my son spent too much time gaming and on the related on-line chats and I wish now I had had myself together enough to stop it. He began repeating alarming things he'd picked up in gaming forums - a fascination with war, bits of random misogyny, anger toward feminists and what he learned to call SJWs. I tried to counter these things with discussions and offers of books and films I thought would widen his perspective, but he favoured the opinions of his online friends. He had a big falling out with his real life gang at about 16 when he began to loudly protest the idea of trangenderism. One of his friends was dating a girl who identified as a trans boy, and it was not cool to be transphobic. Gender nonconformity was all the rage with the teen set. I had my own reservations about gender ideology but I hadn't broached the subject with my son. I wondered if his protests had to do with his dad but noticed his words and phrases were not his own but ones he picked up on line.


Later, my son, now 18 and estranged from most of his friends, met a similarly struggling girl, and they became inseparable. They dated for about a year, with lots of dramatic ups and downs, after which he told me he didn't really like girls, they were too difficult and manipulative, and that he found vaginas rather revolting. He said he thought he was probably gay. He spent more and more time on line. Once a very physically active child, I saw the negative effects of sitting up all night on his laptop and sleeping all day, but no matter what I tried, he found ways around it. Around his 19th birthday he began dating a woman who identified as a trans man. They were, in essence, a heterosexual couple, but I tried my best to be supportive and respectful by remembering to use their preferred pronouns. Soon after, my son was accepted into an animation program at a nearby college and moved away to live near campus. He joined the LGBTQ+ society and the gamer's clubs. His partner was in the same course. He seemed to be doing better, emotionally, socially and academically. I began to worry less about him. He was an adult and I had to let him live his own life.


I checked in on my son a few weeks ago. He declared himself to be a woman. He said I was never to use his "dead name” and that he needed me to say I believed he was a woman. I tried to gently express my concerns in his pauses for breath during his aggressive, decidedly well-coached diatribe against me when I did not immediately accept and enthusiastically affirm. I morphed in the span of a phone call into a vile, manipulative woman who abused and belittled him as a child. I made him incapable of dealing with reality, his struggle with gender dysphoria. I did not remember a single incidence of his wishing to be a girl, only his insistence that I call him Knight, Harry, Anakin, Indy, Soldier, Sonic and Boromir. When I said as much, he became furious. He said I did not own him or know him and that I was trying to make myself out to be some sort of benevolent, all-knowing angel, instead of the vile, transphobic TERF I was. When I began to sob, he said I was manipulating him again. He said he had no love for me, I was not even a friend. He said if I wanted a relationship with him I'd have to show some humility, to admit that he was a woman but that, really, it was too late for that. He said I made him want to kill himself, and he wanted nothing more to do with me.



It's been about 9 years since I got away from my now ex-husband with the help of a few good friends and a domestic violence service. I can breathe in full, deep breaths most of the time instead of shallow, jagged ones. I have been able to mostly wrangle my alcohol use into something fun and social. I have a nice life with my two younger children. I have a partner who is respectful and kind. I can even enjoy sex. I'm thinking of writing an amusing memoir about adjusting to life in a new country. The sexual abuse part of the story won't be in it.


My ex now lives in the Philippines where he "rescued" an impoverished woman less than half his age to be his grateful maid and sex slave. He and his brother coerced me into signing for a no-fault divorce and kept everything. He does not support his children, financially or otherwise. I do not know if he lives as a woman, a man or as his true self, an abusive, deeply misogynist, homophobic autogynephile. What I endured at the hands of my husband almost killed me. I know there are many women out there experiencing the same kind of abuse, maybe not to the level I did, but on a level that is harming them and, often, their children. Their stories need to be heard.


A supposedly well-intentioned society insists that men are now women, simply because they say they are. Men like my husband. These men are lauded as stunning and brave. Women injured by these same celebrated men are shamed, silenced and further abused. I and my children are not fodder for men's fetishy whims or the virtue signalling of their enablers. I will continue to tell my story in all its ugly truth. I hope others will tell theirs.



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