"I think she'll love it."

My cousin Traci is a transgender girl who has been ostracized by many of her immediate family members. 

One day, my 95-year-old great grandma and I were shopping at the pharmacy. We were in the card aisle and she said, "I forgot to get Traci a card for her birthday!" 

She walked right over to the "female cards" and picked out the pinkest, frilliest card possible. She handed it to me and said, "Well that's perfect! I think she'll love it." 

My great grandma is so much more understanding than Traci's parents are, and this interaction made me tear up a bit.

I love my great grandma.

"A chain-smoking black lady."

A few days after my now ex-wife and I signed the lease on a new apartment, she called me at work to tell me that she went to the manager's office, cancelled the lease, and surrendered the deposit without asking me. 

Her reason? 

She visited the building and saw that the current tenant was "a chain-smoking black lady." 

The smoking part wasn't the problem. Over the next few weeks, she painted the neighborhood as an urban hell-hole full of drugs and rapists. She felt she was saving me from some violent catastrophe. 

I slept on a friend's couch until I had enough money to get my own place. When I left her, people were quick to blame me and slow to ask what happened. Nobody wanted to hear that she would rather be homeless than live with black neighbors. 

I am haunted by the knowledge that fear of strangers can motivate someone to hit the self-destruct switch on their own life or destroy lives around them. Unspoken fear is the true face of racism.

"No big deal."

I've been sexually assaulted multiple times in my life, but I've only come forward one time. The first time. When I was 13.

I was sexually assaulted at a party by a neighbor's friend. I was so afraid to tell anyone, and kept quiet for two months, until I finally wrote to a close friend about it. My friend accidentally dropped the note it in the hallway and it was discovered by the school social worker. 

The social worker called me into her office, confronted me, and called my mom. My mom told my dad, who told my stepmom.

My mother told me that she'd "been through worse" and that it was "no big deal" and that I "could've ruined his life." 

My stepmother told me "it's all right because we all think he's gay" and "he didn't mean anything by it." 

And what did my father say? Absolutely nothing. 

Because of this, I've stopped coming forward. 

I haven't been able to get my parents' words out of my head, and it's been almost a year and a half.

"I hate when people are not happy."

My first serious boyfriend in high school would belittle me any chance he got. He was manipulative and hurtful, and he used me to get what he wanted. He forced me to have my first kiss, and quite a few after that. When I told him I wasn't ready, he told me that I was. 

One day, I told him that I'd had enough, and when he threatened to break up with me, I agreed that maybe we should.

He then told me, "The only reason I agreed to a relationship with you was to make you happy, because I hate when people are not happy." 

Yeah, because being manipulated and used made me so happy. 

Trying to "help".

Growing up, I was always a bit heavier than my peers. I never really noticed, though, and never let it get in the way of having fun. 

The first time someone pointed it out was humiliating. It was in second grade gym class. 

The coach allowed certain people to slack off in class, while remaining very strict with a select few. I was in the second group. The coach always told me to work harder and do better, and I never understood why.

When I finally asked, the coach admitted that he was trying to "help" me by making me do more so that I could lose weight. 

Needless to say, it hurt.

"Well, you haven't done any of that yet."

When I was in college, I struggled with serious depression. I would get overwhelmed easily and I ended up missing a lot of class. 

I was always upfront with my professors about this at the beginning of the semester, giving them a heads up about my situation before anything happened. 

I was enrolled in a class with a professor who was very esteemed and beloved by all students and fellow professors in the department, and on the first day, I explained my situation.

His reply was, "Well, you haven't done any of that yet."

Later in the semester, I missed a very important part of his class, one that others relied on me to be there for. He called me into his office, told me that I had disappointed everyone in my class, and that I would not be welcome to attend the rest of his class for the semester. He told me that I owed it to my peers to stand up in front of them and apologize, which I did. It was the worst experience of my life, considering the state I was in.

The next year, he retired. The school put on a ceremony in his honor. I had made great progress since then, and so I attended, and I realized something. I recognize that he has made so many positive contributions to the lives of so many students for decades. I recognize his accomplishments as an educator. That doesn't mean that he is without fault, and that doesn't mean he was right. I respect his reputation, but his dismissive response to my trying to warn him about a personal issue is what stuck with me.

"Ugh, too much makeup!"

When I was 16, I started experimenting with makeup. There was some family party I had to go to, and I spent a lot of time getting myself all dolled up for it. When I came downstairs to leave, my twin brother looked at me, made a disgusted face, and said, "Ugh, too much makeup!" Like I was personally offending him and hurting his eyes. 

I still went to the party looking as I did, but I felt really self conscious the whole time. 

And now, more than 20 years later, the entitlement and disgust he expressed in his reaction to my face still sticks with me.

"You lead older men on."

When I was 15, I was stalked, molested, and sexually assaulted by a 46 year old man who my parents were good friends with.

I tried to keep everything hush hush because it was humiliating, but my parents found out and confronted me about it. My father was sobbing and trying to understand what happened. My mother was furious and drilled me with questions. 

The whole scene ended with my dad and me sobbing together while my mom yelled, "I never thought my 15 year old daughter would be a whore. You lead older men on. On purpose!" 

To this day, I struggle to have a relationship with her. It is swept under the rug. We don't speak of it. 

I will always feel betrayed.

"You are not smart or pretty enough."

Growing up, my teachers were the root of my low self-esteem. I was dyslexic, and they would actually make fun of me in front of other students. 

I wanted to try out for a public speaking organization, but as soon as I stood up, one of my teachers told me, "You are not smart or pretty enough to compete in public speaking. You need to go back to your seat and sit quietly while the students who actually have a shot at winning try out. Try losing 10 pounds, learn how to do your makeup and get rid of that lisp then we can talk." 

Everyone laughed including the 2 other teachers in the room, while I was forced to sit in the back of class and wait until tryouts were over. 

When my mom asked how it went, I lied and told here it went well and that I might actually make it. I didn't want her to be sad. I was 11 years old.