Transgender Life

I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.

Faded Routes - On Street Harassment

Gina_Darkness_1

Today I went for a walk while altering my route, to avoid a man whose attentions have become a little too close for comfort.

I've been vaguely aware of him for a year or more, as he watches the world go by outside his apartment window. There was only ever a face in the gloom of his apartment. Then last week a man stopped me alongside a canal to give me some kind of compliment, and I realized it was him. He told me he'd fallen in love with me from afar, from his window.

He seemed under the influence of alcohol. I smiled politely at his words, and kept walking in the opposite direction. I felt sorry for him for being drunk in the early afternoon.

I told my flatmates. They described it as harassment and asked me if I was okay. I shrugged. Was it harassment? Wasn't it just some drunk guy trying to be nice? And again, I felt sorry for him. He might be an alcoholic, an illness that turns people into something terrible, not least for themselves. Who was the real victim here?

But then the other day, I was returning from my graduation ceremony in a black dress, black tights and boots, a little more eye-liner and mascara than usual. I entered a particular street and recognized the mix of 1980s and 1990s music booming from a certain window. I looked up, inadvertently, and there he was, staring at me. Eye contact made. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Keep walking Gina, like it never happened. Keep walking, like you're not aware his eyes are lasered in on your back and every step you take as you walking down the street away from him. But the flurry of thoughts came anyway: what if he thinks the outfit and extra niceness is for him? What if he takes this as flirting, as a signal?

Later that evening, and me in a looser outfit and my fluorescent running shoes, I walked past his apartment and he shouted Nice Shoes, or something to that description. Again, a slurring in his voice, and the shouty style of his calling out. But it's the first time he's addressed me from his window.

So today, for the first time, I took a different route to the one I've been taking every day for a few years now, one that took me along a canal that I like. That route is now over for me.

Dramatic? An intensification was happening. He had crossed the line within a space of a week from looking to talking, and from talking to shouting. I wondered what next week would bring. Should I turn around and make the gesture for 'Shhh, silence'? Or would this be read as a further engagement, or a provocation? Should I leave a note under his apartment window, telling him I'm not interested? But does he see engagement on my part as evidence that I'm secretly enjoying the attention?

Whatever I choose, he'll think engagement is proof that I want it, want him. His assumptions are sufficiently clear, I think. Without a man walking with me, I must be a single woman. I must be into men, and that I define myself by men, and that I need the affirmation, a boost to my self-worth by a man's interest in me. There is no good way out of this. Either I silently put up with the attention and hope he eventually stops, but if I say nothing, this is proof that I don't mind, or even that I enjoy it. Or I engage in communication, a scary intensification that could be read as anything, my No-Means-Yes moment, because why else would I be taking the trouble to respond?

I'm a little bit afraid. I've been harassed before, but not by someone perched like a sniper, along a quiet street that I use every day. This isn't Twitter, it is real life. He could follow me to wherever I go, including home. At some point, I would reveal my too-deep voice. Then his misogyny might turn to transphobia, or more accurately, I think, homophobia. He'll no longer think of me as a woman, but a trap.

Which brings me to the trans-exclusionary group LGBAlliance, who say that trans identity is not connected to LGB identity.

At a social and psychological level, trans women can experience a liminal life between different things. Male and female, or male to female. A discordant past and a meaningful present. Publicly and socially when it comes to harassment, depending on who's interpreting us, we can occupy a space between a cis woman and gay man. We can suffer misogyny, but it can switch in the blink of an eye to homophobia, especially when, like me, your voice reveals your transness. The boundaries between L, G, B, and T aren't as set as some people like to think, not historically and not at the social level today. We can suffer the same hatreds and repercussions. This man, from the vantage point of a sniper, doesn't see chromosomes or big gametes. He sees a woman, and this defines our interaction and the consequences, until a new dynamic risks coming into play, with a new set of consequences. And so I stand, not at the end of a binary, but at the centre of criss-crossing energies, benign or malevolent, like a hitch-hiker negotiating a spaghetti junction, weaving my way through traffic, car horns, and road rage.

So I tried out a new route today. It took me along different streets, not necessarily worse, but the canal has gone, the price that must be paid to avoid street harassment. A day in the life of this transgender woman.

 

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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

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