Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's the worst message you ever received from a stranger? What's the best?
Oh, GOD, now this is hard. How can I pick what was the single "worst" message I've received when I've been a queer activist for so many years and I've received SO MANY horrible messages?
I'm not going to review all my horrible saved messages just to narrow them down and select which one was absolutely the worst. I'll just think fast and settle on one that was pretty bad but who knows, may not be necessarily the worst.
Stuff contributing to it being "the worst":
1. The absurd length
2. The absolute horribleness of the content
3. The demonstrated familiarity with my material
A man once wrote me a very long letter (which also included an attachment that was itself over 100 pages long) explaining to me that he would like to possess me in a romantic and sexual way, and how much I hurt him by existing as an aromantic woman in the world. He then launched into criticizing my online behavior and commenting on how my callousness toward horny men was intentionally and incredibly cruel of me. You see, these horny men are suffering in a way I cannot comprehend, and they are entitled through their maleness to ask me for sex whenever they want regardless of my feelings --which should be understood to be irrelevant. It is, after all, a woman's job to be accepting and compassionate toward men's desires, so it is actually abusive of me to criticize their behavior or deny them because I don't acknowledge how much pain they must be in if they're at the point of asking strangers for sex. Also, it is so awful of me to do disgusting things like wear a midriff shirt in one of my videos, or to respond to "age? into sexy things?" with "rude" brush-offs that failed to take into account how desperate, polite, and deserving these poor men were.
He told me he wished I was his girlfriend and/or his mother (yes), and then began some of the most horrifying stories I'd ever seen: he explained that he had never once in his life been able to have sex with a woman who was not ugly or fat (you know, because that's unacceptable), and because of this, he believed his future could only take one of two routes: suicide, or going on a rape spree. He opted not to commit the latter crime because he believed it would satisfy women too much to see him behind bars for it. (Because that's what we should focus on. The nasty women who would be happy to see him locked up for pursuing this right to sex he believes himself to have.) He then explained that he had decided to have sex with older men instead (who must be suffering as much as him), believed this had turned him into a woman (because he perceived that servicing men MAKES someone a woman), and was pursuing a medical sex transition (though still privately identifying as male) because he believed having a vagina would allow him to identify as a lesbian, pursue women, and receive sex. (After all, it's women who get to be sexually selective in our society, and becoming a woman was the only way he would ever have that ability.)
He sent me all this baffling horribleness, attached a diary of sorts that he assigned me to read so I could then go enjoy his blog with full context (on which he said he had a female persona and sought to be sexually playful to attract pretty lesbian women). You know, as if I would love to go read the additional content that comes with homework so I could jump face-first into the life of a man who sees women as existing for sex, abused me verbally for being so sexy without offering sex, and grossed me out thoroughly by saying women's cruelty in rejecting him would inevitably lead to him committing sex crimes. He told me he and I were obviously so alike, such kindred spirits, that he KNEW for a fact if I had been born a man, I would never agree with the awful behavior I'd subjected horny men to just for the supposed crime of being attracted to me. And he tried to comment on a bunch of my online journal entries and website content, stalking me across the internet to tell me a) he disapproves of my opinions and b) he loves me.
Yiiiiiikes. Biggest yikes I have probably ever received.
And I mean, keep in mind that I've received a handful of death threats and a couple dozen rape threats, have had men tell me I'm useless unless I get married, have had a man impersonate me on the Internet posting naked pictures he claimed were me, have had a man try to start a rumor online that I was a pedophile and linked it to my legal name, have had to get a lawyer for defamation, have had a man tell me I have an obligation to wear an emblem of some sort to warn men away from propositioning me so I don't hurt them (and he even designed the emblem for me and instructed me to have it made), and had a guy tell me I should wear a jockstrap under my skirt so I could delight in knowing men would be disgusted (and in the same mail asked me to tell him my address because he wanted to look at the structure of my apartment building in Google Earth; random interest in architecture, you know).
I've received a lot of terrible messages so it takes a lot to be the worst. I think that was it.
As for the best?
Man, how do I follow that? I feel exhausted from typing that out.
Probably one of the best e-mails I ever got from a stranger was from someone who became a good friend later on. My friend Jessie was once an Internet stranger who contacted me to tell me about how my work had revolutionized an aspect of her life. I won't go into detail like above out of respect for her privacy, but she credited me with repairing a relationship and validating her in a way she hadn't been up to that point, and she found many of her unrelated ideas so similar to mine (and even some of our history weirdly matched) that it was inevitable that we became fast friends. We were able to go on from there to discuss writing and relationship perspectives, create character art together, discuss religion and philosophy and communication styles, and have a damn good time on the several occasions we've braved distance to visit one another. I was ever so pleased to attend her wedding not too long ago and be there for her special day.
I actually have a few friendships and correspondence relationships that have begun with a stranger e-mail like that, and many to most have begun with someone reacting to content I've made. It's delightful every time, though sometimes bittersweet because occasionally people get very emotional and credit me for saving their lives or their sanity. It's amazing and humbling. I sometimes wonder about how many people feel that way and never do write me. They must be out there.