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Dear Reader,

Welcome to MVMENT! MVMENT is a publication about gender and sexuality inequality, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual identity and more; it is run entirely by students, for students, on high school and college campuses across the country. We believe that by engaging with these issues from a multitude of perspectives—including survivor stories, opinion pieces, investigative journalism and visual art—we can be better equipped to combat the systemic inequities our society has too easily normalized.

This first issue represents the yearlong work of dedicated individuals to make MVMENT a reality; despite numerous obstacles, it was ultimately the perseverance of our editorial board, liaison groups and contributors that made this possible. To them, I am incredibly grateful.

The following pieces are all student-created, and many are difficult to read. That is intentional. They explore the rawness of rape culture, gender identity and sexuality inequality. While the first issue focuses primarily on opinion pieces and survivor stories, subsequent issues will include a balance of journalistic pieces as well. Before we ask you to engage with these pieces, however, it is important that you know how MVMENT came to be.

MVMENT was conceived in late 2016. Leading up to that point, news outlets had written articles about sexual misconduct cases at multiple New England schools, and for the first time I realized these communities had elements of rape culture. It was no longer something I read about in the news or statistics presented in health class. It was local. It affected people I knew. As Facebook exploded with long expositions about the articles and the climate on campus, written by mostly upperclassmen, I realized how woefully unprepared I was to engage in the conversation. I didn’t know what to say, so I tried to listen.

Hearing friends recount their stories, from being catcalled while walking down the sidewalk to being raped at a party by someone they considered a friend, made the issue human. I had been at similar parties; I had watched absentmindedly as young girls got whistled at by middle-aged men as they walked down the street; but I never said anything. Why?

It might have been childish ignorance, absent mindedness or just the expectation that if something was wrong, surely others would take action. Regardless, it was inexcusable. And the more I listened, the more I realized that I had been a proponent of this culture. By taking part in conversations that blatantly objectified my fellow classmates, high-fiving the senior down the hall who had “scored” with two girls that week and sitting in silence while friends called each other “gay” like it was a bad thing, I had helped foster a toxic culture. I hadn’t knowingly become a supporter of such a society, but like most, I was ignorant about the impact of my actions.

There were many students, however, whose voices were yearning to be heard. Facebook posts had became a platform for individuals to share their views, ideas and experiences, and the comments became a forum for heated debate. But while there were many who posted, many more stayed silent about their experiences. I saw potential for a collaborative space between high school and college students, across all campuses, demographics and locations, dedicated to fostering a bigger discussion about gender and sexuality inequities. A publication meant to challenge our understandings, help us vary the lenses through which we see these issues and better empower us to be effective allies. Out of this, MVMENT was born.

It was ambitious, to say the least, but important to us that it be done properly. I reached out to Will Soltas (‘18) and Emily Robb (‘17) to be part of the initial Executive Board, and we began building the infrastructure in August 2016. Unfortunately, MVMENT fell apart that December, but it was because of that initial groundwork that we were able to pick up the year after. Both Will and Emily believed in MVMENT and devoted their time to bring a very abstract idea closer to reality. Although you may never know them, it is important for me to mention that without them, MVMENT would not exist as is does today.

Within the past two months, we created our editorial board, comprised of 19 individuals, and a liaison network spanning over 20 schools and consisting of over 70 students. We hope to keep expanding into more high schools and colleges across the country. You don’t have to be a survivor to contribute—anyone with a voice, story or opinion to share is welcome. We are not affiliated with any school or organization in order to stay impartial and true to the stories and news that we report. We stand together as a part of one larger community.

It is only by taking the responsibility upon ourselves to learn from each other’s experiences and engage in honest discussion that we can challenge the status quo. We ask for your help, readers, to create a meaningful shift in the way we treat each other. Give each piece the thought and respect it deserves. These works are emotional, terrifying, moving, disturbing and graphic; but they are necessary. Some are anonymous, but they are also written by your friend, or the girl who sits next to you in class, or your brother, or your girlfriend. These are stories that have been too long silenced; now, they need to be heard.

Examine your own role in perpetuating this system. It will be uncomfortable, but it is crucial. Without challenging our own views and the actions of those around us, we are contributing to a toxic environment—not by malice but by ignorance.

Read, engage and discuss. This culture can only survive in silence.


Vinayak Kurup, Editor In Chief


lit. art

is not the rush you get when you send a risky text to the boy you like, or the distance that you leap in the air when a spider crawls across your pillow; instead, fear is the wave of temporary paralysis that sweeps through your body when you feel an unwanted hand on your back, the pressure that accompanies the touch, telling you something and not asking, and it is your body forcing you to cross the street because the man behind you is walking a little too closely, and fear is the pace of your run, the pace that is always just a bit slower than you know you can run because you always want the option of escape and it is the trunk of the car that you open before every car ride (just in case) and it is the way your eyes scan the back seat of the car for hidden shadows, and fear is your teeth biting down on your friend’s hand (with the reflexes that come with being sexually assaulted) because she grazed your neck while trying to fix the clasp of your necklace, this is the same kind of fear that froze your whole body as if it were ready for an autopsy when he grabbed your neck and pinned you to the wall of the bathroom, and the fear that comes from the sound of a door being locked and the chance of any escape being taken away from you, it is the stubby nails that held your hand down because it was shaking too much for his liking, and the fear of seeing a bad grade on your report card is not the same fear of your body not being yours anymore, or the knowledge that any of these things could happen to a future daughter of yours. That is fear.

Illustration by Ollie DeFazio

Half-Love and Other Realizations


by Juno Williams*

A long time ago, I realized I don’t want to half-love. Scratch that, a long time ago I realized that I simply cannot half-love. I resemble the ocean, with a love so deep it is still mostly unexplored. And in coming to this realization, I came to another: I am not straight. Girls have an appeal to them that cannot simply be ignored, and ignore them I refuse to. So after wrestling with terms, with different identities, with different sexualities, I decided that I am pansexual. From the hijab I wear on my head, to the way my feet hit the ground. I’ve decided that gender isn’t something that stops me from loving people. It doesn’t dictate how much of my soul I am willing to give someone who I decide is worthy of my time.

And I this guess explains how I love so haphazardly, so dangerously and randomly, with my friends, or even strangers I see in the dining hall. How I have fallen in love with people of all races, genders, and cultures. How I have fallen out of love with people who deserve better than me or people who just aren’t ready for me yet. How I yearn for girls who have the sun in their smiles, for boys who have the moon in their eyes and people who have stars in their veins. My blood is corrupted with this love. A love, a passion, so fierce that I burn with it. But as these truths and thoughts are exposed to the light, I have discovered even more things I cannot ignore, like the toxicity embedded in my bloodline, and the fact that I can never let my family know this part of my life.

I love my family so much that sometimes my chest hurts. But I fear the backlash of their disapproval. Their homophobia is like pending execution: a knife that hangs over my neck and gives no warning of when it will fall. I fear that if I ever claim this part of my identity in front of them, I will become just another statistic, another percentage, another part of the 40% of homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ+. But it is hard to stay hidden in a family that wants people like you dead, or at least somewhere they can’t see them. My mother is my closest confidant, but she is a homophobe who “doesn’t like to be called a homophobe, thank you very much.” She’ll complain about gay storylines, or tell me how seeing two men kiss makes her stomach churn. If my grandfather asked her if that boy with semi-tight pants is gay, she would reply with a disgusted, “Probably.” And if I talked back and asked, “Does my short hair make me a lesbian?” she would hiss, “You tryna tell me something?” It's probably fitting that she married my stepfather, a man who talks about a young boy he is paid to take care of with such disgust in his voice, such hatred as he says, “He’s fucking gay. He’s a fucking faggot.” My older sister, who I consider the wokest member of my family, can understand being gay and being straight. But bisexual? Why don’t you just choose a side. Transgender? She doesn’t have a set religion but being transgender is unholy. At this point I can’t imagine breaching the topic with my southern-raised grandmother. The devout Christian she is and all that.

Right now, I will settle. I may want to be gay and Muslim. I may want to be gay and Black. I may want to be gay and happy. I want to know that if I send my mother a wedding invitation with the words Mrs. and Mrs. on it that she would come. I want my father to walk me down the aisle to the love of my life, no matter who they are. But even if this is something I deserve, it might not be what I get.

I am gay and closeted to some of the most important people in my life, but at least I am gay and safe. And I am so lucky to be closeted. It may be a temporary closet, a closet I think many can see through, but I am so lucky that I have it. No one knows what lies beyond that door. Happiness possibly, but getting kicked out, being shunned, or having the gay prayed away have such higher chances and more dire consequences. So maybe the closet is cowardly. But right now there are more important things I should be a martyr for.

I realize I love a lot; I love with a passion so fierce it threatens to burn me. I realize I love girls, I love boys, I love people who don’t fit perfectly into either, and I love people who are just people. I realize how scared I am that my family will find out. I realize that if that happens, there will be consequences I will have to deal with. I realize that I don’t know if I am ready to face those consequences.

But my greatest realization is that I am, and will continue to be, good enough. No matter who I love, who loves me, or who will stop loving me.

*Due to the author’s personal safety concerns, a pseudonym was used to ensure anonymity. This is an exception that can be made when valid reasoning is provided but not the rule.

Dolls, Dresses, and Daisies

lit. art

by Daniel Biro

Hide your Barbies in the cabinet and bring out your action figures, take off your mother's heels, and remove the ponytail from your hair. Although you are not embarrassed by these things, you do not want anyone to see them, especially not your dad. Wait for the house to be empty, then turn it into a runway. Strut through your living room in a beautiful gown and stilettos, pose and purse your lips, look at yourself in the mirror and ponder how much better you would look as a girl. Disregard that thought. When you are done, make sure to place everything back neatly. You cannot get caught in your mother's closet.

Cut your hair short, stock up on clothes from the Gap boy's section, and replace your high-pitched and feminine tone with something deep and masculine. You cannot keep up your summer habits for the first day of school. Walk over to the boys and quickly think of a girl’s name. Tell them about that girl you kissed last month and how smoking hot she was. Then run over to your girlfriends and spill about the cute boy you met. Dramatically roll your eyes and groan during dance class and pretend to be hurt during gym class. Save yourself from the embarrassment of your appalling basketball skills.

Basketball shorts, oversized Nike tees, and Axe deodorant (all the other guys use it)—three of the most important things on your packing list for camp, you tell your mom.  Be prepared and memorize a handful of popular rap songs. Catch yourself before you blurt out, “OMG I missed you, Bobby, we’re going to have so much fun this summer!” Say “What’s up bro? How's it going?” instead. Keep your eyes down in the shower house and change in the bathroom. Resist attending gossip sessions during free time and instead work on your hoops down by the court. Never pose in the mirror or express interest in the way you look. Remember, it’s camp, and the guys never look in the mirror.

But you can’t hide forever—it will come out someday. You only have one decision, and that is whether to live a life of silence or bravely and happily be who you are.

Illustration by Ollie DeFazio

We’ve Got Diverse Souls


Reed’s entire photo project will be featured in our next issue!

by Reed Herring

“We’ve got diverse souls” is the beginning of a photo project dedicated to emphasizing societal gender expectations. Where I’m from, boys are supposed to be tough and never show emotion. Those that display their sensitive side are sometimes shunned and labeled as weak and feminine. This culture serves to ostracize and box young men and women within social constructs, while incorrectly relating traditional ‘femininity’ to weakness. My photo project is aimed at tearing down those walls, letting boys and girls be who they are and demonstrating that ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are not rigid definitions but two labels of many.

I Speak For Myself


by Ollie DeFazio

“I Speak for Myself” is a piece in response to the #MeToo movement. With brave women and men coming forward and sharing personal experiences, we see a lot of speculation. This is a reminder that the way we portray and comment on victims in media is not absolute or factual. We must learn to be mindful of those that step forward, let them share comfortably and not twist their words when it can be so hard for them to speak in the first place. Our opinions are not their truth; we must not speak over them.

Broken Glass


How do you write about something that hurts your soul? How do you simply open up a Word document and start putting words down that have never left your mouth, words that are trapped underneath layers and layers of PTSD and anxiety? It’s hard. But it’s not as hard as coming to terms with what you are writing about.

I am eighteen years old, and I have been raped more times than years I have been alive. My uncle used to babysit me when I was a child. My parents would go out, and he would come over to take care of me. He brought me into my bedroom and played special games with me. He did things to me that would make my mother cry, things that will make my mother cry.

It took me a long time to understand what he had been doing. It is hard to understand as a kid. You assume that your norm is everyone else's. As a kid, I went to church every Sunday; until I was in fourth grade, I thought it was something everyone else did too. Just like I thought everyone played special games with their uncles. He always told me I was special and that I couldn’t tell anyone, or God would be angry. I loved God more than anything at that point in my life. I was naive.

When I went to middle school and took classes such as sex education, I started to realise that the special games weren’t normal. At that point it wasn’t the wrath of God I was scared of, it was my uncle. But in eighth grade, my uncle was hit by a car right in front of me. The car was a light blue Volkswagen Bug with a tan roof. And that stranger inside, who had had a little too much to drink, saved me. The broken glass on the street saved me. The day after the accident, I told my mother. I described to her every assault I could remember. It gets worse when you can’t even remember every time. I have never seen my mother cry the way she did when I first told her. She’ll cry like that again.

It has been four years since that day when the Volkswagen Bug set me free. I am a different person. My uncle took so much away from me—more than just my childhood. He took from me my love of God, my relationship with my parents, my happiness.

I write this in the backseat of my car. This is the only place in my life that I feel safe or comfortable. Yet I hope whoever is reading this feels uncomfortable. Rape is uncomfortable. Your uncle laying you on your bed and putting his penis inside of you is uncomfortable. But if people started to understand, I wouldn’t have to be as uncomfortable as I am every single day of my life.

I am not broken. I am merely bruised. You do not need to treat me like I could fall apart at any moment. I did fall apart, years ago, but I picked myself back up and glued myself together. I hope you can help that someone in your life (and I guarantee there is someone in your life who has been hurt the way I have) feel like I do in the backseat of my light blue Volkswagen Bug. I hope you can save them.

Cease to Control


by Ariel Collins

“Cease to Control” depicts me being attached to my own hand and my other hand ready to cut myself from the attachment. The flesh connection represents the anger and humiliation that I felt when I was sexually assaulted. The ominous dark cloud shows the person who watched it happen. The silver lining in the cloud displays the trust I had in him to help me. I let that fester in me for a while and it was time to release that. It ceased to control me in the aspect of putting my energy into blaming myself for the disgusting normalization of rape culture in our society.

The Day He Smiled


When I decided to write this story, it was hard for me to decide what to write about. I am only in high school, but I could fill a novel with the countless times I have been sexually abused or harassed. Most girls you know could do the same. I could write about the creepy teachers that were a little too touchy or the guys who said things that would make their mothers cry. I could write about the panic attacks I’ve had in the middle of class because of a look a guy gave me or the weekly therapy sessions that resulted from these experiences. However, I’ve decided on one thing that needs to be told. The world needs to hear my story and understand that things like this happen in real life. It's not just something you see on the news or in movies. It’s my life, and I would do anything to change it, but I can’t. So now you get to read it. Be warned, it’s graphic: the story of the day he smiled.

During my freshman year I partied a fair amount. I rarely drank, but I attended house parties for Christmas, Halloween, Birthdays, New Years—events like those. One day all my friends were going to my best friend’s boyfriend’s house for a party. He was a grade above me, but he and his friends had always been so kind to me, so I decided to join them. It was pretty similar to every other party in my town: music blaring, people drinking and a lot of high schoolers making bad decisions.

I wore black shorts, a green shirt that showed my cleavage and one of those giant white sweaters that went down to my knees. It wasn’t the sluttiest outfit at the party but I wasn’t exactly dressed for church. I wasn’t planning on drinking. I never drink—I don’t like the way alcohol feels as it slides down my throat or the fuzzy feeling I get in my head after a drink. But if you’ve ever been to a party where everyone is drinking and you’re not, you know it can be really hard. People kept asking me if I wanted something to drink, so I went to my friend's boyfriend and asked him if he had a bottle of water. I was just going to pour it in a red solo cup so I would be able to enjoy my night without getting asked to drink. It didn’t seem like a strange request at the time. It’s just water. I didn’t trust the tap water in my town, or else I probably would have grabbed a cup and filled it up myself. I wish I had grabbed a cup, but instead, I listened as he pointed to a cooler in the corner of the room.

“I think my friend put some in there,” he said.

There was something weird about the cooler; it looked out of place. The party was in a nice house, and drinks were served out of the fridge, but the bottled water was in this cooler. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I should have. In the cooler, there were six bottles of Smartwater. They were all lined up, cap up, surrounded by ice. I grabbed one and drank about half the bottle. I wish I hadn’t drank it; it looked like just a bottle of water, but I started to feel weird about an hour later. I turned to my best friend, the one whose boyfriend was throwing the party, and told her what was going on. She told me it was probably a mistake but still took me to her boyfriend’s room to lie down.

“You’ll feel better in a bit. I’ll come check on you soon,” she said.

I laid down on the bed and dozed off. I was fast asleep until I awoke to the sound of the door slamming. Someone had just stormed in, and he was obviously angry. I think it might have taken him a second before he realized I was there. But he did. He did realize. I sat up and looked at him. It wasn’t someone I recognized. Despite the fact that it was a small party with many people I knew, he was unfamiliar. He was about six feet tall with blonde hair that was gelled back in a stereotypical fraternity boy hairstyle. He had piercing blue eyes and was wearing my local high school’s sweatpants with a New England Patriots shirt.

I didn’t recognize him, but I wish I did. I asked him if he was okay since he was visibly angry. I wished I hadn’t spoken to him. He muttered something about his girlfriend, vodka, and some guy named Joey. I couldn’t make out the rest, but at that point, I fearfully suspected that he was ready to take his anger out on me. I moved back in the bed so my back was pushed against the headboard, hands gripping the sheets. My heart beat faster and faster. I recognized what was happening.

He looked me in the eyes for the first time and smiled. It wasn’t an enduring smile that you get from your mom or a sympathetic “you failed your test” smile you that you would get from your math teacher. It was the type of smile that you see in the movies when the bad guy is about to blow something up or kidnap the damsel. I wish he hadn’t smiled.

He crawled on to the end of the bed and inspected me for a second, scanning me up and down. He told me how beautiful I was and how I was going to make the perfect girlfriend. He explained that since I was his new girlfriend, I was going to have to sleep with him. He started crawling on top of me, grabbing my wrists and sliding my body down underneath his. Every fiber of my being froze. He took off my white sweater and sniffed it like it was a drug. He then unbuttoned my shorts and threw them in the corner. Next, he forcefully ripped my shirt off, like they do in the movies during sex scenes. I was in his now.

Suddenly, he released me and stood up. I wish I had escaped. But I just watched him stare at me, deciding all the things he was going to do to me. And then he smiled.

I could go on and tell you about how he pinned me down and raped me, but I won’t. I don’t need to, because his initial smile haunts me more than anything he did to me. I see that smile every time I close my eyes. I relive the experience every time someone smiles at me the same way. At that moment I knew I would never be happy again.

If you are reading this and feeling bad for me, don’t. I don’t need your pity; I need you to do something about it.



by Ollie DeFazio

This piece is confronting the objectification of women. When I speak about what it means to me, I hope it encourages other people to be vocal about the ways they represent themselves too.

Every single time I’ve posted a piece of art depicting a woman’s body, I get at least one genuinely lewd comment.

Having people make comments on women that aren’t even real makes me wonder what they might say to a woman that wasn’t just a drawing.

Seeing people react this way makes me question my art and my message. It makes me want to keep the way I relate to others to myself because it’s degrading to my art and to me. It’s silencing. I was exploring this reaction with this piece, and in doing so, it made me realize that when people objectify the women in my art, I internalize it.

People need to realize that when they make unwanted sexual comments and assumptions about anything, it has consequences. “PURE,” to me, is playing on defying assumptions and objectification of women and voicing your opinions and intentions. I think this not only applies to artists, but also to girls in general. If I were to count on my fingers how many times I’ve heard someone berate a girl because of how she presents herself, I’d have to have about ten hands.

So I hope that girls not only stand up for themselves, but also be vocal that we do not live to impress other people with the way we dress and the way we think.

Sticks and Stones


by Rajrishi Das

German is a remarkably logical language. Unlike English, it is pronounced phonetically, with no silent letters or exceptions in pronunciation. It has clear rules for declension and verb conjugation, and there are three grammatical genders.

Gender assignment, however, is German’s most glaring area of irregularity. As Mark Twain once famously complained, it is a language in which the translation of the word ‘turnip’ (‘die Rübe’) is defined to be feminine, while ‘the girl’ translates to ‘das Mädchen,’ a noun of gender neutrality. Its three genders are often assigned to nouns with ambiguous reasoning, and they seem to have little correlation with modern societal views of gender.

But to native German speakers, the language’s inconsistencies aren’t a common topic of discussion; its ‘flaws,’ if recognized as such, go mainly uncommented upon in the dialect’s daily usage. By labelling words and concepts with the articles der, die or das, the German language outlines the intellectual space that various ideas occupy and defines its speakers’ lingual connotations of gender. To the German speaker, the terms for ‘kitchen’ and ‘woman’ are perpetually linked in their language, regardless of their personal views on gender roles, expectations or stereotypes.

When I started learning German, I bought into its gendered philosophy. I didn’t do so explicitly—rather, I made subconscious associations between various concepts. I followed the lingual guidelines I was being taught and categorized nouns as masculine, feminine or neuter.

The first day of my freshman year in high school, I walked into my German class barely capable of speaking coherent English. My nerves rushed my thoughts, muffled my words and highlighted my lisp. So, when the ancient and jovial teacher, Herr Schuster decided we should introduce ourselves to the class, my vision blurred and my words slurred, and a wave of nausea came over my body.

“I’mRaj,I’mfromNashua,NewHampshire,” I mumbled, drunk with apprehension. I lowered my eyes and studied my shoelaces.

My classmates responded with blank stares, and a surge of heat came over my face. I repeated myself, louder this time, and glanced up at the classroom.

That term, my German class was overwhelmingly white and male. Of the nine students in the class, I was the only student of color, and I counted just two girls. I was one of two freshmen, and after my first day, I was terrified of the class. But not only that, I was mostly afraid of the overwhelming, pedantic German language.

As time passed, I began to bond with my peers despite our differences. We shared common struggles in learning der Akkusativ or in pop quizzes on nouns’ genders or verb conjugation. The older students took me under their wing and helped me adjust to boarding school life.

After a few weeks, I finally knew everyone by name. There was Will, the drowsy, good-natured senior who kept sleeping through class; there was Alexander, who came from St. Petersburg; and then there were the two girls, Sophia and Alex. Every day, we spoke broken German together. Our class was united in our struggles with collective American inflection.

As I grew more comfortable with German’s various tenses and grammatical gender rules, I also started to see the unspoken differences between us all.

On one bright November morning, Herr Schuster taught us about the German household.

“In families, siblings, or sometimes close friends, give each other nicknames.” He articulated each word with perfekter, nativer Deutsch, and we absorbed his words into our burgeoning vocabularies. “For boys, I might call Raj ‘der Raj,’ since we are very good friends.” Herr Schuster flashed me a wink.

“For girls, it is very simple – we say, ‘die Sophia,’ or perhaps, ‘die Alex.’ This way, we can tell between ‘der Alex,’” he continued, gesturing towards Alexander, “or ‘die Alex.” He gestured towards Alex, and I saw flashes of red appear in her cheeks.

Alex and I were friends, but although I never mentioned it to her face, I had always noticed something different about her. She always wore men’s clothes, for one, complete with the button-down dress-shirt and a tie. She spoke in a deep voice, for a girl. She cut her hair short and cropped the sides, like Cristiano Ronaldo. I always assumed her name to be short for Alexis, or something like that: a girl’s name.

After class that day, I saw her get up and confront Herr Schuster, but he returned her whispers with a blank, unseeing stare. He had taught German for 40 years; he was too entrenched in the language to understand the harm he caused with his words.

For the rest of the term, my classmates and I walked into the classroom every morning, as per usual, and went about our typical Deutsch Smalltalk. We wished each other ‘Guten Morgen,’ we asked each other ‘Wie geht es dir?’ and when we took attendance, we looked around and told Herr Schuster that ‘der Will ist wahrscheinlich noch im Bett,’ or that ‘die Alex ist krank,’ and that she was in the Health Center.

It wasn’t until a health class during the spring of my freshman year that I first heard the terms ‘gender expression’, ‘gender spectrum’ or ‘gender fluidity.’ I never learned their German translations.

Through my language in our German class, I had robbed Alex of his identity. Despite his efforts to express his gender as male, I was too stuck in my ways, too close-minded and too entrenched in my self-imposed prisons of oppressive language. In English and German, I had always referred to Alex with the incorrect pronouns—my words outlined the intellectual space in which I considered his identity, and I was complicit in defining the hostile, gendered societal environment that infringed upon Alex’s personhood.

As members of society, our words hold crucial weight. It is through the usage and spread of language that societal values are developed and maintained, and it is through the language surrounding us that our identities are shaped. When we, as individuals, use language to express the association of negative connotations with others’ identities, we contribute to the perpetuation of hostile, bigoted and oppressive environments.

I did not intend to subject Alex to discrimination. He is my friend, and I hold no hatred towards any aspect of his identity. But when I failed to consider the implications of my language, I upheld our society’s systems of oppression.

Logic implies that sticks and stones break our bones, but society isn’t defined by logic. It is through our language that society defines our identities; it is our language that has the power to inflict and heal wounds. In choosing our words, we choose whether to uplift or hold down the oppressed.

Let’s speak carefully.

The Issue With the LGBT Label


by Paul James

The gender non-conforming community has long sought visibility and equality with traditionally accepted genders and sexual orientations. The creation of the LGBT acronym was essential to do so. However, this label can be restrictive and can even limit the pursuit of the equality it was created for.

An acronym like “LGBT” is useful for presenting a unified group when it comes to writing laws or receiving support from human rights organizations. It provides a sort of common language to ensure that officials or organizations all legislate or donate with the same group of people in mind. The creation of the LGBT category helps such social efforts because it defines specific groups of people according to their gender and sexuality, making them visible as a group to lawmakers rather than as parts of separate demographics. It also presents a standard for the media, eliminating confusion when referring to the LGBT community in news articles or broadcasts. This unification is essential for mobilizing support and creating a public profile and campaign for equal rights. LGBT gives people something to identify with and rally behind, rather than fumbling for different words to describe their gender or orientation. Previously, anyone that didn’t conform to traditional ideas of gender and sexuality was either “gay” or “queer.” However, the LGBT acronym and its extensions take more people into account.

The “LGBT” label also allows people to personalize their ideas of self rather than being referred to by a blanket term chosen by outsiders. “Lesbian” was added so that women had a separate identifier from “gay,” and additional labels were created to further clarify where people stood on the spectrum of sexuality. Using  a label created by the LGBT community for its members gives people a sense of pride in who they are, while enabling more accurate discussion about the issue of LGBT rights. Members of the LGBT community no longer have to be grouped as “gay” because others can’t understand anything beyond that. Now there are labels for almost every orientation. In some cases, the acronym is expanded to LGBPTTQQIIAA in an effort for greater inclusion.

Therein lies the problem. LGBT is not nearly nuanced enough to include the vastness of the gender and sexuality spectrum. Adding a plus sign to the end arguably does an even greater disservice, and including the identity “questioning” invites a host of negative jokes. An expanded label like the one above may alienate those who find it confusing and too complicated, which often results in a negative perception of the LGBT community as a whole. The labels created for the sake of increased visibility and equality only scratch the surface of someone’s sexualty, while at the same time restricting them to a singular category. People now have labels that were once liberating forced upon them when they have to check a box that says “LGBT,” without acknowledging that there are more than four points on the spectrum. The LGBT acronym that is useful for presenting unity in the media, but also restricts LGBT people to a specific identifier. Instead of being recognized as a person with countless facets, they can now be referred to as “the gay/lesbian/queer/questioning” kid.

The LGBT label can also have downsides in lawmaking or philanthropic use. Human rights organizations can claim to be LGBT allies, while only aiding a specific group of people. They can focus funding and campaigning on behalf of transgender people, while disregarding the struggle for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and many more who may not identify with any label yet. Laws protecting LGBT rights can also potentially be applied only to those four labels, while leaving gender non-conforming people unprotected and not recognized by the state.

Some even claim that the LGBT acronym goes too much in the way of separating the community from cisgender heterosexual people. They argue that it becomes a way of pulling apart rather than joining together, and in that way it defeats its own purpose of equality. Furthermore, a four-letter acronym doesn’t let allies know where they stand, if they are welcome or unwelcome. Most of all, however, the controversy over choosing a label for such an expansive and diverse group often discourages the uninformed from learning about the LGBT cause.

If the goal truly is to build support, raise awareness and create equality for gender and sexual minorities, the intentions and executions of such labels are in dire need of reform.

The Silence You Gave to Me


by Hayoung Lee

The painting describes the exterior and interior states of a rape victim, by depicting the different stages after sexual assault.

The naked person with their legs spread describe the moment right after a rape happens, when the victim is confused on how to deal with the incident. The braid that the person wears is split into two, where one is of darker color, and the other is of brighter color. The brighter braid symbolizes innocence and naiveness, thus its loose ends represents maturity. This portrayal symbolizes how society, which has normalized rape culture, enforces the victim to not view the event as immensely problematic. In contrast, the darker braid represents a stable and unified self-identity. The separation of this braid represents the loss of identity and self-confidence, as shown from the loose hair tangling with the descending series of figures. As the figure falls, their white body is tainted with dark spots of color and loses its limbs. This symbolizes how sexual assault physically contaminates the individual, sometimes making them lose their selfhood and strength to resist. It shows how the victim actually sees the sexual assault: traumatic and horrifying.

The bald head represents the victim’s eventual acceptance. The head looks upwards with a blank face, suppressing the memory as only a minor incident. Instead of being placed on the head, hair wraps around the bald head’s mouth, restraining them from announcing their agony to the world. This illustration symbolizes how the victim feels humiliated and ashamed of themself and fears opening up to society.

The side profile of a figure represents how the rape victim portrays themselves to society. While the smile, the abundance of hair on the figure’s head and the figure’s hands playing with hair seems to show the victim having retrieved their identity, the opposite is true. The figure looks downwards, showing the victim’s refusal to face that memory. The smile is stitched, illustrating the fabrication of the victim’s happiness, the front the victim tries to put up. The hair of the figure wraps across the entire scene, trying to cover it up, symbolizing the victim’s continued attempts to forget what happened. The orange color of the figure’s eye and lip, also seen on the bald head, and the blood seeping out of the grey breasts, represents the continued contamination of the rape victim’s selfhood. This final scene represents victim blaming, how the abused resents themself because society’s reaction and normalization of the incident makes the victim blame themself rather than the perpetrator.

Not Just Physical


Illustration by Ollie DeFazio

The intent of this piece is to help show the mental traumas that survivors of sexual assault go through and the bravery and strength they have in overcoming their experiences. I hope to also reinforce the idea that through all the ups and downs, the moments of strength and the moments of doubt, they remember that they are valid, empowered, and strong.

For a year, I allowed my story to sit hidden under dust. Termites ate holes through my confidence as I desperately fought to bury what really happened beneath every fake smile. I perfected a haunting laugh and dismissive comment for when people repeated his version of the night.

I tried to convince myself something else happened. “Crying and shaking is normal when people do something new,” I told myself. “What he said happened, it really did happen.” I even tried convincing myself it was consensual.

For a year, I was successful, depending on your definition. To the rest of the people at my small New England boarding school, I was doing exactly as I was supposed to: wearing pencil skirts and blouses, getting straight A’s, picking up a new boyfriend. I was good at keeping up an appearance; in fact, it was the only thing keeping me together. I told myself that if everyone else thought I was okay, I probably was. The pure momentum of overscheduling and false security in my reputation got me out of bed everyday.

Until it didn’t.

During my senior year, after my assaulter graduated, I inhaled for the first time in a year and exhaled my story. Three times:

The first time, I told a therapist in the health services at school. I fought through the story and cried as she told me she had to tell my parents.

The second time, I told my mom what happened. “Well, at least he didn’t rape you. It could have been much worse,” she said. I smiled and nodded.

The third time, I told my brother. He was a freshman. Some boys in the locker room had repeated the same story I’d been laughing about and accepting for my entire junior year. He was concerned and unfamiliar with this side of his older sister, so he joked about the uncomfortable story.

“Want to hear what really happened?” I finally snapped.

Then my delicately built wall began to crumble. My boyfriend and I broke up, and my best friend switched schools. My attempts to separate myself from my feelings were failing slowly and then suddenly all at once.

I had my first panic attack on the night of the bonfire to celebrate our school’s age-old rivalry. He came back to campus. His arm brushed mine; it lingered too long.

All at once, I was back in the tunnels underneath the school. I remember him ripping my sweatshirt off, my monogrammed necklace chain popping in two and falling onto the cement floor. I was on my knees with his hands holding my head. Each thrust sent pain through my entire body. My hands were on his thighs and on the floor, desperately trying to push myself away. I was crying and shaking, but he kept going. When it was done, I collapsed on the floor next to my vomit, half caused by his actions and half from my horror at what had happened.

Later that night, I went back up to the school as if nothing had happened. I laughed with my friends. I watched the fireworks. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. I wrote in my journal, “I don’t know what to think except for that I don’t want to think at all.” I lied to myself that night, and I kept that lie alive for a year.

Every time I saw him in the halls, I smiled. When he brushed up against me by accident, my stomach flipped, and I ran to the bathroom to cry. His touch repulsed me, but I told myself I just didn’t like him. When my new boyfriend kissed me, I learned to separate myself from my body. I began needing physical affection for reassurance. Months after that night in October, it was like the event hadn’t even happened; it was completely erased from my memory.

A year later, that November night of my first panic attack, I realized how much he had impacted my life. I was swallowed whole by darkness, and the monster that consumed me made my heart race until it ran straight out of my chest. It strangled me from inside, hijacking my lungs. I feared for my life.

Sexual assault is not just a physical assault.

It is an assault on your whole life. People tend to talk mostly about the assault itself and the terrible actions done to someone’s body. Yes, the physical assault had a huge impact on my body, but even more, the assault changed the way I thought of myself. It put my strength to the test, and many times I failed. I could not control my body’s reactions, and I mourned the disappearance of my confidence. I doubted myself in every way, asking myself, “Am I making this up? Does it really qualify as assault?” Multiple times, I told myself, “I must be just making a big deal of nothing.” These seemingly subtle jabs at my self-assurance snowballed into an incapacity to trust myself. Years later, my mind is still slave to occasional flashbacks and meltdowns at the mention of an assault or the feeling of hands grasping my head. But by writing this story, I am making an attempt to challenge my doubts and assert my strength.

Sexual assault is not just a physical assault, and I am a survivor.

My Body, Breached


“I respect you.”

I smiled. Thank God, I thought. I had evaded it again. I was not ready to open my legs or myself up to anyone yet, especially not him. I had only ever given up my lips, and I intended to keep it that way until I was sure I could handle anything more. His fingers in me would be a shift in who I was. An open door into a world I was unready to bear. Another point gained in every Never Have I Ever game.

The faint blast of some Billboard Hot 100 song came up through the floor, the bass seeping under the door and shaking the tiles underfoot in time with the shaking of my head. No. Blackness, bass and booze comprised the spirit of the roomy bathroom in which we took refuge from the party downstairs. But it didn’t remain a space of refuge for long.

His fingers cupped my skin with a soft and slow caress, but his touch did not soften me or fill me with the good kind of electricity. Instead, it filled me with shock as his hands moved down my body. My skin tightened so hard around my skeleton in fear and loathing that I shrank a bit in size. I didn’t understand. Didn’t he just say…? My head tilted down, and I saw his paws tugging on either side of my leggings, my great wall, the only thing standing between me and his fulfillment of unmatched desire. I stared straight ahead for the next five minutes, becoming familiar with the pale paint and cracks in the wall, clouded by the darkness that hung in the room, pointing fingers at us both. These were my new best friends, the wall in front of me and the dull music surrounding my head, the only things diverting my attention from reality. But they were also my enemies: the walls caged me in, and the music prevented any ears from hearing my agonized protests.

I can still hear his lumbering words after I told him I wasn’t ready. The words he spoke before he went ahead and pushed his fingers into me anyway.

“I respect you.”

The Night You Broke Her Wings

lit. art

by Rajrishi Das

When you first saw Her, you felt like God.

But She had given life to butterflies,

and you were afraid of wings.

So, you reached into Her blouse,

caressed Her heart with your fingers,

sank your teeth into Forbidden Fruit,

and drowned Her prayers in blood.

When She burned in hell, you wondered why

She was afraid to

fly away.