maxim backer is a queer spoken-word poet from western ny. i was involved with them from 2005-2007. during this time, they emotionally and sexually manipulated me in ways which still manifest in my relationships, my dreams, and my interactions. in this relationship, i learned that sex was leverage. sex was a wager in exchange for love. if i was good enough for them, if i said the right things and loved them the right way, i’d get fucked. if i wasn’t, they would go find someone else. it all started out dreamy, of course, but i was young, and i didn’t see red flags like i do these days. maxim was charming as fuck. they were hot and queer. they shared my major, and were really into politics and talking about gender, and they liked the music i liked… everything i wanted at 19. and when they were sweet, they were pure sugar. by cheating on their girlfriend with me (and lying to both of us about it) they made themself into a powerful scarcity, something to be chased after, very early on in that vulnerable honeymoon stage when you maybe aren’t thinking too clearly. they used their charm as a threat, bragging about sexual exploits from their past and reminding me that i was something they chose, and i had to be everything they needed. and their reward to me was love, an affectionate kind of love they knew i lacked in my previous relationship. they took the parts of me that were the youngest, the most vulnerable, and drained them. i learned quickly to fear the loss of this person, through their use of typical manipulation tactics like telling me no one else would ever love me like they do, or making me tell them they were the best i’d ever have. my self-worth was eventually reduced to how much this person wanted to have sex with me. they would make plans to see their ex, then test me by suggesting that maybe i wasn’t old enough for them, or maybe i wasn’t ready, or i couldn’t handle them. i had to prove it. i had to show them, to be better than the other people maxim brought into their life to pit against me. once, they screamed in my face because i would not fuck them. another time i awoke to them holding my hand down their shorts. just about every week, they would suggest that i would probably cheat on them. when i made new friends, they accused me of sleeping with them. if they approved of me, i was their girlfriend (i was using she/her at this time) but if they were less into me, they would just say “well, technically we aren’t together.”
why didn’t i leave? i hated myself for a long time for not leaving sooner, thinking about how stupid i was, how pathetic it was to not stand up for myself, to let them make the rules. and to an extent, i was a willing participant in the relationship. i take responsibility for staying, but i also understand now, after many years, what manipulation can do to a person, and i know that so much of what maxim did was not okay. my life got to a point where none of my friends would be around this person. it didn’t matter anyway, because maxim had something negative to say about all of them, anyway. i fell down that isolation rabbit hole real quick, because if i didn’t answer my phone when maxim called, there were consequences. my friends could wait, or so i came to believe in this twisted mess. we broke up multiple times, but it always came to a point of need. they would say they needed me, and didn’t i need them? i eventually felt like i really, really did. i actually got to a point where i couldn’t understand what my life would look like without this person. i almost failed out of undergrad because i was so emotionally fucked by this relationship. i lost myself. for 2.5 years, i lost myself. i did not have the self confidence to look at this for what it was. i did not feel strong enough to walk away. eventually i met someone who would become my best friend, who named this for what it was. she said, jess, this person is abusing you, and you have to walk away.
why am i writing this now, 7 years later? because i walked away, but i haven’t let go. i’ve written a lot in the abstract, but until now, i haven’t named my abuser. i have been afraid of them, that they’ll deny it, that they’ll come after me. but i’m not afraid anymore, and someday soon, i hope i’m not angry anymore, either. i hope this person has taken accountability for the person they were when we were involved. i hope they stay true to their history in their poetry, and not project some alternate reality in which they were never responsible for causing emotional and sexual harm to another person. i hope they have made peace with their own history that caused them to view sex as a weapon. i hope they find this someday. i hope they read it. and if they do: maxim, do not contact me, under any circumstances, ever. just be honest with yourself, and try not to put any more hurt into this world.
y’all: our abusers can be queer. they can be radical. they can be sex-positive. they can be sensitive artists. they can perform with famous spoken-word poets and participate in events which condemn interpersonal violence. we can deny abuse because of someone’s tender queer clauses, but we shouldn’t have to. we can name things for what they are, for how we experienced them. we can heal. you don’t have to be lost forever.
mutual friends “choosing sides” when a couple calls it quits speaks volumes about those friends, and much less about the two individuals actually involved in the former partnership. it reeks of a selfish, punishment mindset: “you ended your relationship and it inconveniences me! now i shun one of you! feel shame!” …queers, we all need support. two folks parting ways —in any kind of relationship— is not about you. your role is support, friends, or it turns out you’re not very good friends at all.
during the first week following diagnosis, i drank a lot of kombucha. somewhere in my least logical, most hopeful mind, i could reverse everything.
"metastatic disease cannot be ruled out" the shortest horror story ever written
you’re called max
and you used to call me a slut in bed
once i woke up with my hand down your pants
another time you yelled when i refused to fuck you
now you read poetry with famous queers