To the gynecologist who gave me a virginity test when I was 18

I don’t know why you did it.

I’ve tried to give you the benefit of the doubt because I couldn’t fathom that the cost of an office visit could be worth it to you, a medical doctor, your role ideally a caretaker, a sworn-in ethical safe-guarder of health. Surely you wanted to be those things at least a little bit, to have become a doctor in the first place.

Surely, too, you had compassion, as a woman.

In the years since, when I turn that day over again and again and again in my head, I’ve thought that maybe you did it because you know that if you had refused, my parents would have taken me elsewhere. That there was a plethora of other doctors and not-doctors who would not bat an eye at parents pushing a young woman before them and demanding a test be given as verdict on her purity, her innocence, her life. Maybe you did it because you did not want me to fall into the hands of a less compassionate person who would not bat their eye, and thus you pretended not to bat yours.

Maybe you just wanted to protect me, to lie for me if necessary.

And although you were truthful, my father certainly did question whether you were lying when you declared me innocent.

I try to convince myself that this is the type of person you were. That you had a calm serenity imbued with sadness, something you’d steeled yourself against because you realized that the lives and safety of young girls were at stake. That you’d trained yourself not to blink, to not express sympathy or solidarity, because you had a conflicted sort of wisdom in line with reality.

I try to convince myself that you wanted, more than anything in the world, to visibly show compassion, to extend your de-gloved hand.

I try to convince myself you could compel yourself to do something of this sort, horrible in concept and utterly invasive and traumatizing in practice, a thing that betrayed your training and your conscience and made it hard for you to look at young faces in the street–you’d do all that, and wrestle with your conscience if it meant avoiding an even greater harm.

I try to convince myself that you were good because you were a woman and you knew that this is how things were and knew that you were as helpless to change things as any of us.

I was watching your face, you understand? I was watching your face as I stood before you trembling with knees weak and undermined from days of cramping in a solitary closet hole. I was fixated on you and nothing else, because you could help me, save me from undergoing this trauma and shame. I stood there, a pillar of mute appeal. I fixated on you, standing before you as I was, a woman so young and so inundated with fear that no word of consent or dissent could leave my lips.

I try to convince myself that you understood what you saw when you looked at my face.

There was impatience in your voice when I waited and stalled and shuffled my feet, unwilling to take my pants off.

Impatience as you said, quickly, quickly, there are other patients waiting.

I replay those words in my head sometimes, and what they imply: This is normal. This is routine. It cycles out, quick, cycle of violation then cycle of cruelty. Quick, quick. It must take its course. To make room for the next.

Sometimes I hear that tone, that impatience, when I’m trying to go to sleep, and I am wrested out of drowsy serenity with a jerking, a violence that can only come from bafflement and betrayal.

And for a moment, I forget to breathe, though it feels my rib cage is being cranked open with the effort of pulling air in, opening up, opening up, opening up…

I hope you never forget my face. I want it burned into your memory just as it was, as I implored you wordlessly, as I hated you, as I stared daggers at you and crossed my ankles over each other.

I hope you remember how tense my body was, how it steeled itself against your hands, my frozen arms extending forming the very Arabic letters that spelled NO. I hope you remember how I turned to stone laying there before you, unfeeling, unreacting, dissident, glaring.

Can a stone be a virgin?

I hope I haunt you.

I doubt you remember me.

But I hope so nonetheless, because that will at least mean that you understand the sanctity of consent, you understand and acknowledge that my parents cannot dictate a violation to my bodily autonomy, that this is not their right and they cannot give you permission based on what is not a right.

Because if you are a woman and a doctor, one who’s taken the Hippocratic Oath and one who routinely is given trust and vulnerability by other women concerning the most intimate of things–

if you are all of that and you do not understand or value and care about that day in your office and others like it–

if you do not understand–

then what hope is there for the rest of us?

© 2014 Ex-Muslims of North America