The following exchange just happened.
A voice from behind startles me as I’m walking home from CVS around dusk. It’s undecipherable, recognizable by tone as being a greeting or compliment of some kind. I jump slightly, but try to hide my surprise.
“Hey.” I say, as a youngish man neatly dressed in “urban” styled sportswear and cap, passes me on my right.
Walking in the same direction he falls into step just ahead of me.
I stand up straight. Head high, proud. I carefully keep my gait confident and relaxed looking. Carefully cover up any visible nervousness. A long-practiced routine.
Looking back at me he says, “You have pretty, long, blonde hair.”
“Thanks.” I acknowledge cheerfully.
“Are you gay?”
“I’m… Queer.” Why do I make that distinction? I speak the language and I know there is no fine distinction in this version of English.
Beat. Still walking.
“You like to dress up like a woman?”
“Actually, I am a woman. I’m a transgender woman, I’m just a little butched up today.”
Actually, I’m not really, I’m just not all that ‘femmed’ up. Jeans, beat-up Chucks and my long, military styled, Activist Coat.
“You like big Puerto Rican dick?”
“I have no idea actually.”
“You have a place of your own?”
“No, I live with roommates.”
Beat. Still walking. Still trying to seem as relaxed as possible without breaking stride. Smiling damnit.
“You want to find a place? Go out in the woods somewhere and suck my dick?”
I chuckle intentionally, determinedly not sounding nervous or thrown, like it’s somehow terribly amusing and charming.
“No thank you. I appreciate the offer. But I’ve got work to get on to.”
We go several awkward steps in silence. While he pulls ahead slightly; I’m still not breaking my stride or changing my manner, trying to seem completely affable.
Thankfully, as we approach the actual woods, the man stops and enters an apartment building door. I keep going. Smiling damnit, smiling.
This sort of thing is something that happens to me, unfortunately, fairly regularly when I go out and about in the world. Especially in the city, though I don’t really believe it’s exclusively a city phenomenon, I just walk more in a city. There is more opportunity to encounter strangers on the street.
It is worth noting here that I do not feel as if there is anyone to protect me, but me. Especially when I’m out by myself. Which is often.
I have never had strangers come to my aid. And almost every time I’ve contacted the police for help I have either been harassed or much, much worse.
So, it’s the magic number Me and whatever tools I have at my disposal. Which is mainly my wits and experience with all sorts of different people in all sorts of settings.
It’s a tricky situation on a number of levels. On one level, it’s very dangerous feeling when it happens. I’m a transgender woman, alone. And though my size tends to give me a level of protection, it’s a double-edged sword. My size can easily make someone feel threatened.
My experience is that the sort of person who would make comments like this on the street, tends to have some dangerous insecurities that can suddenly turn hostile. I have to be very careful to keep everything on the level of light banter. As a tall person, I can’t afford to show any hostility. If I can hold it together, my height alone will make them think twice about starting something. But hostility on my part can far too easily cause the encounter to spiral out of control into real physical violence.
Which I definitely want to avoid.
So I put on the act. Easy-going attitude and confident, but unconcerned poise. I never break my stride though. And never show a real reaction. Not a bit of nervousness or unease. Amused but not laughing at.
Also, on another level, and this is rather a sad one. More often than not, the only ‘positive’ attention I get from men is of this sort. The only ones who tell me I’m pretty or who actively flirt with me, follow it up by asking if I’d like to suck their dick.
Online, they send me a picture of it.
It’s not that I think all men are like this. I’ve met a few who are sweet and charming, and I have to believe there are some who even find me attractive. Sadly, they have not thus far been especially forthcoming.
So there’s this weirdly mixed feeling. I’m scared. I’m deeply offended. And at the same time, I’m oddly pleased that a man actually finds me pretty.
And that’s usually where I summon the smile from. The one that keeps things light and keeps me from getting killed or ‘just’ beaten up.
The asshole gets to go home and think it’s perfectly okay to speak to a transwoman (or probably ANY woman) like that. And I just get to go home. Alive.
The brain blender flips on to ‘High’. My guts churn.