[TRIGGER WARNING for abuse, abuse and more abuse, of every kind and directed at just about everyone, including emotional abuse, manipulation, violence…]
This is my account of how I came to be abused by Twiggy and Jamie. Asher’s accounts of its own abuse at their hands are here and here, Allyn’s posts on the subject are here and here, Gus’ post is here, another good friend’s account is here, another account is here. I am the Anja mentioned in Asher, Gus and Allyn’s posts. I personally stand by everything said by all three of them.
As I’m not normally a Tumblr user, I’ve created a special account just for this purpose, and I don’t plan to post anything else to it or engage anyone any further. The last thing I want to do is argue this thing out with anyone - Twiggy and Jamie or anyone else. This is my truth. This is what happened to me; believe what you want.
Writing this whole thing out for you to read is a healing process for me, as well as a defense of Asher, Char, Allyn, and everyone else Twiggy and Jamie have attacked, including myself. It’s also a warning to anyone who may run across them in the future.
If you don’t have the time and energy to read this, which I understand, just know that Twiggy and Jamie have abused many people, including myself, and their accusations against Asher (and, at this point, others as well) are just a way of extending and prolonging their abuse.
The entire account is pretty long, so please, be patient. There’s a lot to tell.
I met Twiggy and Jamie Coatl on FetLife, as co-moderator (along with Asher Bauer) of a radical trans/queer political discussion group. Twiggy and Jamie, for their part, met each other on 4Chan, and Jamie moved to Indiana to be with Twiggy; somewhere along the way, my friend Gus met Twiggy, and they went to Camp Trans together in 2010. On FetLife, Twiggy in particular became known for bombastically angry, cruel and generally more-radical-than-thou posts that far outdid even the typically angry and high-heat/high-volume environment of the group. Asher and I, who had been acquaintances and then friends for quite some time by then, really disdained both of them. T&J moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Gus (who knows better now, and has been a fantastic support through this shit) told me that Twiggy was actually really sweet and I should give the two of them a try; I met them in person at LYRIC, and offered them my couch to sleep on. By this time they had been squatting in Oakland and been evicted, and were homeless, sleeping out in the open.
In person, I bonded with them and found both of them really magnetic, and honestly, really hot. I found their powerful anger attractive and invigorating, and could sense their pain. In person as online, their politics and attitudes seemed to have a repellent edge, but I ignored it, preferring to think of them as people facing many multiple intersecting oppressions, who had extremely hard lives and who I could help out, while gaining some much-needed friendship and solidarity in the process. I may have been making a clumsy, white-knighty attempt at sorting out some of my own issues around my class privilege, and I certainly was trying to deal with my own feelings of isolation, loneliness, extreme insecurity and identity dissociation. I told Asher and Char that they were good folks, and the four of them met and got into a relationship.
At any rate, I started offering them my couch regularly, in my one-room studio apartment. They moved out for a month to go live at the Station 40 collective house, but got rejected as permanent residents for their behavior. They started doing outcall sex work, moved in with me, and started paying rent. They knew that I live with sensory integration dysfunction and executive functioning disability as part of my general neuroatypicality, which makes me highly sensorily sensitive and causes me to experience a great deal of difficulty with basic daily things like physical self-maintenance, cleanliness and organization. They also knew that I was not comfortable with having incall tricks in the one room in which we were all living together. They offered to help me clean, although I had not asked; as is usually the case with such offers, their help allowed me a bit of respite for the moment but did little long-term good.
What happened over the course of time was that I swallowed their vile, hyperdestructive worldview, but hard. I got really, really good at justifying everything they did, especially to myself, and became deeply mired in fear (including and especially of them). I became unwilling and unable to contradict them, and very good at enabling their abuse - of themselves, each other, my closest friends, people online and generally everyone they could get their hands on. By the time they had broken up with Asher and Char, I was not only isolated from A&S - two of my closest friends - but isolated from most of my friends, and terrified of T&J. I had deep needs, open psychic wounds, and they situated themselves right in those gaps, filling them in the most destructive, terrible ways. I learned to overlook, rationalize, forget, and most of all to forget my own needs, forget self-care - not a difficult thing, as self-care is already a very hard, counter-intuitive thing for me to do.
If I wanted closeness, I certainly got it; there was no privacy. They left the door open while in the bathroom, didn’t ask before fucking (loudly!) while I was in the room, and spent very little time out of the apartment. They played music, video games, Dr. Who, My Little Pony and Sgt. Frog day and night, regardless of my sensory needs, because they couldn’t sleep and their needs came first. At the same time that I was becoming mired in fear and deeply wired into their tremendously dysfunctional politics, I was being completely pushed out of my own space. I started spending tremendous, long hours in the painting studios at school, staying over with one of my partners several nights a week. My art started to change tremendously for the better due to school, and was charged with an incredible, neurotic emotional energy. It was also charged with silence, with binding fear. The labyrinthine inwardness of my art, which had never been tremendously intelligible and outward to begin with, was a space where I could speak to myself in code, and I spent a whole lot of time there. I was wracked with paranoia; I went from one screaming fear - about myself, about my work - to another. I could get no emotional rest, and allowed myself very little physical rest. I ranted to my partners, lay awake with racing thoughts, gushed out my fears and anxieties to my therapist, to my friends at school, to faculty and staff at school who I felt I could trust. I lost my shit on a hair trigger.
Eventually, I meekly consented to accepting incall tricks at the apartment, rationalizing it to myself on the basis that they were poor (this was true) and could more than double their income this way (also true). This meant that I could, along with the one of them who wasn’t taking the trick, be kicked out of the apartment at any time, for hours on end. Several times, I was asked to leave, and never received the call to return, even when I inquired numerous times; when I couldn’t get in touch with my partner, this meant I was left wandering the city at night. Over time, I spent more and more time with my partner, less and less time at home - which had already been filthy and uncomfortable before they arrived, but was now a place of fear, emotional hurt and an abusive, violent atmosphere.
At school, I had a harder and harder time dealing with sensory stimulus, especially in the classroom. My anxiety was skyrocketing, and it interacted with my sensory shit so that I spent a whole lot of time shaking, stimming, hitting myself. I was already used to having to periodically remove myself from classrooms, but I found myself having to do so very regularly, stimming violently all day - from people’s tapping fingers and feet, their talking, music playing in another room… I would walk the halls flapping my hands, punching myself in the arm and vocalizing, not occasionally like I was used to, but nearly every other day. Something else was happening, though, that had happened only extremely rarely before living with T&J: I became regularly unable to talk. I would spend entire schooldays unable to talk, sometimes slamming myself against the walls or shaking on the floor. I’m not someone who’s ashamed to be neuroatypical in any way, but this was really fucking hard on top of everything else. When asked why this was occurring, I could only say that it was mysterious, and even had a hard time allowing myself to admit that anxiety was playing a major role. Certainly, the anxiety wasn’t all from Twiggy and Jamie - it was my first semester at a well-known, high-pressure school, and I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to make it there at all - but I never admitted that being with them had anything to do with it.
If they didn’t care much for my needs, I certainly cared for theirs. I sat all-night suicide watch on both of them multiple times, stayed up all night on jail support after a riot, consoled and listened to them after their constant fights and various traumas, swallowed all their bullshit. They took up nearly all the social and psychic space in that apartment - eventually, they literally took up all of it. When I was suicidal or despondent - which I was, frequently - they left me alone, or stayed with me for an hour or two at very most.
I grew very, very emotionally and psychologically close to them. I saw and felt their pain and struggle, which was very real (and really nightmarish). I filled myself, or was filled, with the bottomless thrum of their rage, and my needs, my pain, became completely displaced by theirs. I felt completely trapped, doubled over. I worked very hard to keep the inner animating engine of their politics and attitudes going, to keep the entire impossibly convoluted logical structure together, as the individual parts were so flimsy, the connections so thin. We really were close friends - very close, practically without boundaries. In talking about my relationship with them, I keep slipping into the language of (codependent) romantic and sexual partnership, although we only had sex once and were never involved in romance. I had less boundaries with them than I had with either of my partners, or have ever had with any partner or any other friend or family member.
Twiggy and Jamie believed and practiced a weird, warped sort of shadow world hyper-radical politics: bending anti-essentialisms around so far that they became giant, universal essentialisms, policing post-identities to death, taking (post-)left, post-socialistic politics to the point of an extreme atomized individualism in which practically every other person, no matter how oppressed, was themselves an oppressor and was oppressing them.
Their identity and privilege politics meant figuring themselves as the most oppressed at all times, no matter how bizarre, upside-down-and-backwards - or simply vague - their justification had to be. They attacked everyone, calling them out whether justified or not, manipulating them, abusing them with a searing rage, triggering people on purpose. Twiggy was particularly active in doing this online: many people reading this will be previously familiar with her behavior. Jamie was less active online - appeared to have less energy for it, and seemed to have a lot of difficulty writing things due, I presume, to disability associated with being schizoaffective. However, Jamie was no less vehement in politics, and no less cruel.
Their idea of bashing back against op[ressors, when they viewed practically everyone as oppressors, meant justifying all sorts of nastiness. Twiggy sent pictures of slit wrists to a recovering self-injurer, and pictures of tortured animals to vegans. When a cop was mysteriously shot in Virginia, she set up a Facebook page of the dead cop as a zombie, and used it to harass the cop’s family, friends a coworkers, just days after the shooting had happened. I started getting panicked anonymous phone calls saying that the FBI (!) was, for lack of leads on the motive to the killing, trying to gain access to the personal info associated with my IP address. Our caller persuaded Twiggy to remove the Facebook page, write an apology and post it online. She stayed cool through the whole thing; I was terrified. She never apologized.
Their through-the-looking-glass insurrectionism (although they never called it that) meant constantly carrying weapons - pepper spray and pocket knives, but also larger knives, an ASP baton, a full-sized tow chain and other implements - and being constantly ready to engage in violence. Jamie took the lead on this, and was constantly bragging about physical prowess, issuing passive-aggressive threats, and telling stories of having beaten people up. They claimed to be constantly under attack on the street, but it became clear over time that just as their sole reaction to any disagreement online was rage and screaming, their sole reaction to any negative interaction on the street was extreme, violent escalation. I recall their reacting to us being hollered at from a car by throwing rocks at the car; this was about the mildest their reactions got.
They even defended me from an attacker once, but even then, their reactions were extreme overkill.
I was terrified of their violence - both of them, but especially Jamie. I was scared of what they would (and occasionally did) do to each other, and if I went against them, what they would do to me. I was scared they might eventually kill each other, and although this never occurred to me, my friend Allyn was apparently scared that they might kill me.
They were extremely abusive and manipulative towards each other, and violent as well. Twiggy at one point stabbed Jamie; at another point, Jamie pulled Twiggy out of traffic, and Twiggy was so triggered by this sudden physical contact that she choked Jamie. Physical contact triggers of this kind frequently provoked violent reactions; as the incidents were usually a matter of a few seconds long and happened with lightning speed, it was often difficult to tell whether they were engaging in violence, or just extreme bodily convulsion. I still have a hole in my bathroom door from one of these episodes. I’m still not sure what happened - I think the door may have been punched.
They had constant screaming fights. Jamie would often end these fights by leaving the apartment, late at night, to take walks. Jamie would leave the housekeys behind on purpose, knowing that Twiggy, aware of how disoriented Jamie frequently got walking around outside, would come running after Jamie in a panic. This sort of manipulation was constant.
They practiced absolutely terrible consent, despite the constant presence of physical triggers - the type of rough play, touching and grabbing without asking they accused Asher of doing only once, they did constantly, every day. I believe Asher when it says it was pressured to behave in this manner; I was pressured to behave in similarly bad and dangerous ways.
Their politics were formed almost entirely around their own oppressions and needs - they were extremely invested in trans, queer, and mental illness politics, for example, while expressing open hostility towards old people, claiming that ageism was exclusively an oppression of young people, and carrying stereotypical reactionary “human beings are designed to eat meat” views of veganism. They expressed no solidarity with broader groups of oppressed people, and carried immense hostility towards others, frequently fantasizing about mass murder and idolizing Charlie Manson and the Columbine shooters. When they spoke against racism and class oppression, it always seemed to be about themselves; they never mentioned poor (cis or trans) people of color in the prison system, with perhaps the lone exception of CeCe McDonald. Their only engagement in political actions was to occasionally riot. For all their extreme political puritanism, they did no distro work, no prison work, no organizing, went to no meetings or groups, never did anything with Occupy even once. Of course, it isn’t fair to expect all radicals to do these things, and they certainly had a mountain of shit of their own to deal with - but I’ve never met people with such stringent and frankly extreme politics who did so little.
They instrumentalized radical suspicion of abusive psychiatric misuse of sociopathy diagnoses in order to paper over their own sociopathic behavior. Neuroatypicality, mental illness and oppression were used as excuses to never have to apologize or admit they did anything wrong. When something bad happened, it was always someone else owning up - never them.
Not constantly centering or thanking allies turned, in Twiggy and Jamie’s hands, to never thanking anyone at all. I didn’t expect to be constantly held up for admiration for offering them a place to live or caring for them when they were down - I understood that my class privilege does not entitle me to special treatment - but they never even said “thank you.” I did my best to operate in a spirit of mutual aid, not charity, but the aid wasn’t mutual. Sure, I wasn’t given ally cookies - I was hardly even recognized. I could tell at times that they appreciated my crisis relief efforts, but then again, I was looking really hard for a hint of appreciation to peek out here and there.
As part of their us-against-the-world attitude, I was isolated from my closest friends, including Gus, Allyn, Asher, Char, and other people in the kink, queer and trans communities. As an instinctive protective measure, I developed new friendships with people at school, queer folks who weren’t as up on their politics but had all the right inclinations. They ended up being real allies to me, miles better than Twiggy and Jamie ever were. Luckily, T&J never isolated me from my partners, although all the mental illness and strain I accumulated from being with them had, I am convinced, an extremely negative effect on both my relationships.
Even long after it had occurred to me that the two of them acted a lot like Patrice, my ex-stepmother who abused me, my father, my mother and my brother as a child - after Asher and Char broke up with them, and Asher came out saying it had been abused by them - I couldn’t even admit to myself that they abused each other, let alone me. They saw the slippage and instability in my identity, in my self, and latched the fuck on, making a howling, neurotic shambles of my already messy mind and my personal space, emotionally and psychically paralyzing me. It’s taking a lot of time and a lot of work for me to clean this shit up.
Part of their response to the breakup was for Twiggy to start identifying loudly and constantly as a misandrist, and even, towards the end, to start identifying as a political lesbian. If this sounds like radscum shit, well, that’s exactly what it was like.
Well after the breakup with Asher, I finally decided (with great trepidation and gnawing internal conflict) that I could not take it any more, that they had to leave, and I gave them 30-day notice. They narrativized this as my “siding with the abuser,” and decided that Asher had taken away their “friends” (me) and their housing (my apartment). At this point, their dominance of my apartment - the single-room living space I had offered them a share of - became a complete takeover. Terrified of their violent tendencies, I moved completely into my partner’s apartment. Every single text message with Twiggy and Jamie became a huge anxiety trigger. They decided to move back to Indiana, but informed me that they would be staying over the deadline. They told me that as I hadn’t delivered a formal, written 30-day notice and my hosting them in my apartment was against the terms of my lease, there was nothing I could do about it.
Scared to death that they were simply going to hold my apartment hostage for as long as they pleased, and unwilling to go to the police, admit the pigs into my life and admit to my landpeople that I’d been subletting part of my studio against the terms of my lease, I sent out mass text messages to gather a large group of my friends and force them out of the apartment. Luckily, I never went through with this plan, which would have ended up involving the cops anyhow.
They never informed me when they left. I entered the apartment with trepidation, thinking they might still be there; shortly after, I found out that they had said on the Internet that they were on the bus to Indiana, and I entered the apartment again. They appeared to have left suddenly, as though they were running away from something. Their pepper spray was on the bookshelf, and a number of their books. Jamie’s hat, underwear and Sgt. Frog backpack were still there, as were Twiggy’s heels, a whole collection of Crash Pad DVDs and various other of their possessions. McDonald’s containers, bottles and cans filled to the top with sunflower seed husks, and various other garbage littered every surface, and substantial colonies of mold grew on the dishes in the sink and in the refrigerator. Dust and bugs covered everything. The power was out (I hadn’t paid the bills), and a lamp was plugged into a plug on the outside of the building by way of an extension cord snaked through the window. On the table sat an emergency services bill addressed to Jamie, totaling nearly $2000. I never found out what it was for.
I had nightmares about the apartment - my own apartment - from which I woke up shaking so violently that I fell off my bed. It was well over an additional month before I felt comfortable moving back into my apartment; I wanted to avoid it so badly that I put total faith in housing plans I had with a friend from school, and declared 30-day notice before those plans were secure. When the plans fell through, I panicked. Luckily, I was able to revoke my 30-day notice in time.
I cared deeply for these fuckers, and they abused everyone in sight, including themselves, each other, Asher, Char, and me. They fucked with Allyn, too; I’m sure there were others as well. I’m also sure they’ve engaged in long-term abuse of others before. Jamie claimed that rape allegations from an ex-partner were false, but I’m not so sure I believe that.
As much as Twiggy and Jamie did to isolate everyone they abused from everyone else, to destroy community, they never managed to destroy the friendships between me, Allyn, Asher, Char and Gus. That’s a victory they’ll never have the satisfaction of.
They did deep hurt to my politics, but I think the healing process is actually leaving me improved. I’ve learned not to put a utopian faith in my radical ideals, beliefs and tools, not to abuse my own politics and run them overboard like Twiggy and Jamie did. I’ve learned to view the oppressions I face as just one part of a broader global network of interlocking struggles, to understand that I may not always have it so great all the time - I’ve survived brutal street violence, two suicide attempts, childhood and now adult abuse, all sorts of internalized oppression and shame, all kinds of awful shit - but mine is not the only struggle, and many, many other people around me are oppressed in ways that I am not and could never dream of, even though they may have privileges that I lack. I’m not claiming to love all the world’s inhabitants, but this basic understanding was lacking in my relationship with T&J. I’ve learned to extend my trans politics beyond issues which personally effect me, and not to expect others’ politics to be “perfect” and pure. I’ve learned that maybe making and enjoying art, having fun doing so, and trying to get something out of life is kind of a good and fucking important thing, and not at all incompatible with being aware of and militating against fucked-up shit going on everywhere around me. I’ve learned not to discount my own agency. I’ve learned that being unwilling to make mistakes can lead one to make terrible mistakes and do terrible things to other people. I’ve learned that knowing that I live in a world structured on oppression and violence doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to be a self-immolating activist, to burn myself on the altar of others’ needs, that this is neither a cure for my insecurities nor a way of loving myself (or anyone, really). I’ve learned that that cheesy Audre Lorde quote about self-care being a radical act, that one my therapist kept offering up to me, is actually true.
Actually, actively caring for myself, giving myself space to be valid and important, is a long, slow process, but I’m a lot better at it now than I was before.
I’ve learned that people can hurt deeply, be extremely oppressed, and be utter, sociopathic monsters at the same time. I’ve stared that one in the face.
The emergency services bills are still coming… I don’t suppose they’ll ever be paid.
I am a survivor. Even when I literally cannot speak or communicate normatively at all, I will not shut up. I will not be psychically paralyzed, have myself wrenched open, again. I will not have my community taken away from me, and I cannot be stopped.
To Char and Asher, to those I hurt during this time, to those who were injured after I welcomed Twiggy and Jamie into the community, to those I alienated, to those to whom I justified Twiggy and Jamie’s revolting actions, I deeply apologize.
To those who stood by me, who were too terrified of Twiggy and Jamie to try to pull me out of my well of fear and isolation, who offered me incredible support, to Allyn, Gus, Asher, Char, my former partner N. and my current partner S. (you know who you are and I love you both), thank you so, so much. To the friends at school who sustained me so incredibly through this harrowing time, N. and A., you have no fucking idea how important your support was. I can never thank any of you enough.
Though they’ll probably never read this, thank you also to all the staff and faculty at school I confided in and to my therapist, all of whom put up with my rants, soothed my neuroses, and helped me organize some sort of defense for myself when things were at their worst.
People, please, PLEASE take care of yourselves! I fucking mean this. Far be it from me to tell you how to run your lives, but… Don’t use yourselves up. Don’t let others suck you dry, no matter how badly they seem to be hurting. This is not a sustainable model for mutual, communal care. That includes not letting a rosy trans nationalism fool you into thinking that every single charismatic, multiply-oppressed, well-dressed trans or queer person who comes along is or necessarily should be your friend.