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Reminders

A funny thing happened on my way to therapy on Friday…

I had stopped into McDonald’s to grab a coffee and a muffin, and there was a rather long line-up. Two rather obnoxious young men behind me were complaining about the wait and attempted to cut in line. Feeling frustrated with said long line-up myself, I called them out on this.

They returned to their spot in the line, but took this as an excuse to begin having an open, outspoken conversation about me, on such topics of pressing importance as whether “he” was a “real” woman and whether or not “he” had had “the operation”. And of course how anyone could ever be so sick and messed up as to “cut off his dick”.

By this point, I’d already paid two of my last three dollars for my shitty breakfast, and I had no intention of giving it up on account of two bigoted, ignorant, arrogant, line-cutting assholes. Besides, leaving would have meant they’d won. So I had to stand there and listen to it.

And listen, of course. Not retaliate. Not speak up. Not question it. Because that begets violence. The last thing I needed was to have one of the McDonald’s employees film me getting viciously beaten.

All I could do was stand there and listen, and do my best to look unphased. Which I did a bloody terrible job of. My body began to betray me. After all I’ve done for you, body, this was how you repay me? I was furious. Seething. Angry to the point it was actually frightening… frightening in not being sure whether I’d be able to maintain control of my actions and continue protecting my safety. My skin felt flush and hot, and I began shaking. Like a leaf. A very, very pissed off leaf.

I was still shaking half an hour later when I walked into the therapy appointment.

I guess we can consider that session a wash.

This was something very new to me. While I’d of course been subjected to overt transphobia and cissexism many times before, those were all in the form of little one-time cutting remarks, made by passerby (“you look ‘cute’ today!”), or as people parted my company (“bullshit is dressing up as a woman when you’re really a man”), or shouted at me from passing cars (“What ARE you?!”, “Does it have a dick?!”), or muttered as I passed people on the street (“psst, you know that’s really a guy, right?”). Most people are happy to cut down a trans woman but typically too scared of sticking around to observe the consequences (lest they, you know, experience empathy or accountability or something). I had never been in the position of having to simply sit there and take it. I’m of course entirely aware of how such conversations about me, the relative “realness” of my gender, the configuration of my genitalia, and how a person comes to such a “sickness” are occurring behind my back constantly. I’m sure some of that even gets talked about by friends of mine. But cynically aware as I am, I hadn’t yet ever been in the position of having to actually hear it.

New as it was, though, it didn’t in any way come as a surprise. This was inevitable. This kind of thing is a fact of trans women’s lives. Even in “enlightened” cities like Vancouver, and “queer-friendly” neighbourhoods like Commercial Drive. And all things considered, that this was restricted to simple ridicule is lucky. There’s a very real possibility that there’s a far worse day waiting for me somewhere down the road, even despite the insulation afforded by my race.

…if not my economic status, if not the yuppie neighbourhood wherein I typically feel much more unwelcome and unsafe than on the red light stroll where I used to live. The yuppie neighbourhood wherein the roving packs of drunk young men fill up the nightspace in the absence of the sex workers and police I used to know and who for me, truthfully, represented a safety net. Young men exactly like those who ridiculed me in McDonald’s.

A friend of mine shared the story on her Facebook, and a trans friend of her’s made a very insulting, victim-blaming remark along the lines of “well, that’s what you get for going into a place like McDonald’s!”. The classism was appalling, of course. Not all of us are in the position to commute by safe, insulated cars to safe, insulated explicitly queer friendly restaurants and supermarkets for breakfast on our way to our totally trans-friendly workplaces. And we aren’t in the position of being able to hide in our homes, either. Only leaving, via teleporter, to get to our therapy, doctor and endocrinologist appointments, our pharmacy, and the laser clinic (which is funnier when considering the fact that I was on my way to my therapy appointment). And even IF SO, even IF we hide ourselves as much as conceivably possible from the world, never dare exposing ourselves to anyone we’re not 100% certain will be accepting (or end up devoting an immense degree of time, energy and resources into maintaining deep stealth), it’s STILL an inevitability. We STILL will eventually, someday, face this kind of hatred. It doesn’t fucking matter if it’s in McDonald’s or in Whole Foods. A yuppie neighbourhood isn’t going to protect you.

Incidents like this are not, in themselves, some grand injustice against trans women. As said, it’s simply a fact of a trans woman’s life. Something you accept as part of the price you pay for a body that feels your own, like home, and a self-determined, authentic identity. A rather reasonable price, really, relative to the happiness, pride, relief, confidence and empowerment that accompanies transition. It absolutely pales in comparison to the far greater injustices that occur daily, and are ongoing, in terms of what’s faced by those trans women less privileged than myself, and what is encoded into our system itself, the overall cumulative, aggregate message that we are ridiculous, pathologically sick, shameful, sinful, unnatural, disgusting, unfuckable, wrong. Relative to the (AT LEAST) 44% of us who attempt suicide due to those messages of shame? Relative to the one in eight trans women of colour who are murdered? Relative to the rates of homelessness, addiction, poverty, assault? Pssssh. Get over it, Natalie.

But they are a REMINDER. A palpable, important, visceral reminder of what the situation is. It’s often very easy for me, living in my insulated, tolerant circle, writing on my happy little transy blog, chatting with my awesome trans friends over brunch or on twitter, speaking to my wonderfully accepting mom on the phone, reading my trans-themed comic books and YA novels, reading my fan-mail, to forget all about what’s out there. Or rather, to forget what it feels like. I’ve been afforded the luxury of keeping transphobia at arm’s length. While I have the often exhausting job of having to keep abreast of all the fucked-up cis-supremacist shit going on in the world on a regular basis, it becomes far too tempting to distance myself from it and treat it as a theoretical injustice rather than direct, meaningful harm to human beings, with direct, substantial consequences.

In so far as I allow myself to forget what being on the receiving end of transphobia feels like, I’m really no better than those cisgender theorists, sexologists, feminists and armchair psychologists dissecting and theorizing us, considering what we are and what we mean in ways wholly divorced from the actual humanity and actual lived experience. So long as I allow the theory of trans lives and experiences to begin eclipsing the facts of those lives, eclipse what it actually is to be a trans woman living under the oppressive and dehumanizing climate of trans-misogyny, I’m no longer a voice of trans women. I’m simply another theorist speaking for them.

And really not a whole lot better than the two assholes in the line-up debating what, exactly, could motivate a “freak” like me to so mutilate “his” body.

In that sense, it almost comes as a welcome reminder. A violent pull back down the hard, ground realities of trans-misogyny. What trans-misogyny is and means is NOT “reification of femmephobia and by extension misogyny through scapegoating of those who most embody the concept that femaleness and femininity are not inherently inferior to or less preferable than maleness and masculinity”. It does NOT mean “systemic silencing of those who threaten underlying conceptual frameworks required for the maintenance of kyriarchy”. It does NOT mean “attempts to avoid, by any available means, consideration of facts that destabilize the comfortable certainty of core aspects of a privileged identity, up to and including elimination of those facts”.

What trans-misogyny really means is the flush in my skin. The shaking of my legs. The coiled anger, desperately awaiting release.

The consequences.

Comments

  1. says

    I really hate that shit like that happens :(

    Don’t know what else to say but hang in there, as always, and thank you for sharing the rollercoaster of your life with us. It’s a precious gift.

    I’m going to go walk my dog now, and clear my mind of violent fantasies involving asshole dudebros…

  2. says

    Truly beautiful piece of writing. I have been in the situation where I have to stand and listen to people berate what I am to their friends but I have the privilege of hiding what I am. My sexuality, my atheism are easily hidden from view.

    I ache inside from how much I wish the world was better for you, for me, for my children, and for everyone who has felt the cruel sting of bigoted hate. All I can do is say I am sorry and do my best to show the world what we miss, who we damage, when we spend our time hating.

  3. ischemgeek says

    … would e-hugs be inappropriate?

    It sucks that you have to deal with that. I can’t say anything else to it.

    THIS is why people who say “Just stand up for yourself!” need to shut the fuck up. It’s not that simple. “Just stand up for yourself!” is easy to say if you’re not the one risking a beating or death if you do.

    • ibbica says

      IMO, “those people” need to do much more than just STFU. To those people I reply: “Just stand up for others!”

      I don’t think I’ll ever really understand why people believe that all individuals both can and should “just stand up for themselves” without the support of at least some of those around them. No-one should have to endure that sort of abuse alone.

      IME, the consequences of being an ‘interfering bystander’ standing up for another in a situation like this are not nearly as bad as you might think, and never as bad as the consequences for an intended victim who decides to “stand up for themselves” alone. It does take a conscious effort to ‘interfere’, but is well worth it, every time.

      • says

        In general, I think people should do more to stand up for others, especially in cases of obvious harassment like this. However, the results depend a lot on what kind of privileges you happen to be carrying around. A tall, white, cisgender, able-bodied man in priest’s robes is going to get a completely different response on average than say, a black woman.

    • Rasmus says

      Yeah. Generally speaking standing up to bullies is not a good idea unless you’re bigger or scarier than them.

      There’s something to be said for speaking out as a bystander (like the person standing next in line who would have seen and heard everything), but that could carry risks for the bystander. If I had overheard one young man being an asshole at McDonald’s I would probably have told him to act up and stop being a cruel asshole. Two young men being assholes? Nah… Sorry. Not worth the risk.

      • says

        So I must be pretty stupid then, as a couple of years ago I stood up to a whole crowd of older teens in a bus station who were surrounding a couple of lads and egging them on to beat up a young man of about eighteen. I just “Excuse me!”d through the crowd with my wheelchair and told them to leave him alone. When they replied “Who’s going to make us? You?” I replied “Me and the police.” I then continued to insist they leave him alone.

        I must looked/sounded more confident than I felt because the lads backed down and the crowd dispersed. The potential victim came up to me in the shopping centre later, with one of his friends, and they thanked me which made me feel a whole lot better.

        I was absolutely furious that a whole bus-load of able-bodied onlookers were keeping their distance. I hate the attitude “It’s someone eles’s problem”. I am ‘someone else’.

        I have a friend who recently interrupted a mugging and made the lads, armed with knives, give their victim (a young teenager) his stuff back. She’s only 4’11″ and she said three adult men passed the scene without offering to help. It probably helped that she’d known the perpetrators, and they her, since they were at infant school and called them out by name, but still.

    • northstargirl says

      When I would be bullied at school I’d hear from my brother and my dad that I should “stand up for myself” and fight back. Not only would it have been difficult for me (overweight back then, not muscular, easy pickings) but I knew had I struck back, I’d have been punished alongside my attackers in the name of “zero tolerance.”

      The glib pieces of so-called advice from perceived friends/allies, who offer armchair guidance but will never have to face the problem or deal with any fallout, sometimes hurt even more than the initial injury or insult.

      • Emily says

        I remember the one time I really stood up for myself in grade school, I ended up with a black eye and the one in trouble. The advice of “Just stand up for yourself” doesn’t really work a lot of the time.

        • Anders says

          Sounds good, though. I just told myself they would be sorry one day and endured.

          My cat sends concentrated e-purrs to anyone who wants them. Guaranteedly allergen free.

        • says

          I think the popular myth that bullies are insecure cowards holds little basis in fact. Bullies are often confident and self-assured. And far too often they can back up their bravado.

  4. northstargirl says

    A few years back I stopped in a local department store, one belonging to a chain that likes to style itself as forward-thinking, to buy some random household item we needed. By this point in my life I was long transitioned and had no real trouble interacting with anyone. Except this one random day with this one random cashier. At the checkout the cashier said “How are you, ma’am?” and then immediately stopped herself and said “sir?” I informed her she was mistaken.

    “You don’t look like a woman.”
    “But I am a woman.”
    (laughing) “Whatever.”

    And then the cashier had the gall to cheerily say “Have a wonderful day!” when I walked off, glowering. I was too upset to think to immediately see the manager, but the manager got an irate phone call the next morning. I’ll never forget the manager’s gasp when I told her what happened. She promised to speak with the offending cashier and to speak to all employees about courtesy to customers, and also said I should expect to hear from corporate (which I never really did, only a kiss-off letter after I pressed them on it). It took me years to go back in that store.

    Sometimes I talk to close friends who know about my history and we discuss various things, but try as I may I can’t get them to understand why it is certain normal daily interactions can cause me anxiety even when the majority of times nothing goes wrong. It’s all because you never know when some random someone will give you grief over the simplest things, like going to the restroom (and Heaven help you if there’s a child in there who says “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?”) or buying breakfast, or trying to buy clothes, or whatever it is. Whether it’s people asking me the time when they’ve had watches clearly visible, or a macho guy in a restaurant lunging at me because I looked different, or teenage girls giggling at me (which is why I avoid shopping malls), or whatever, it can lay me low in an otherwise happy life. It’s yet another reminder that these differences come with cruelties as well as blessings.

    If there’s any such thing as a cyber-hug, Natalie, consider yourself cyber-hugged.

    • Sarah says

      One of my first discoveries on going full time is that trans women are well known as go-to authorities on any matter involving time of day, directions, bus schedule or the weather. If we were more prevalent, smart phones would probably never have caught on.

      • northstargirl says

        I so want to frame your response and hang it on my wall, Sarah. It is absolutely true. :)

        I have told more than one person that transition itself was one of the most wondrous, beautiful journeys I’ve ever taken, and the act itself was very easy for me. It’s all the crap I got from people that was the hard part, and made it something of an ordeal.

  5. says

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. That someone could happily stand there and deliberately discuss what they must know is hurtful just shows how truly awful some people are. Unfortunately, it’s knowing that this, and far worse, can happen any time I leave home, that feeds my severe anxiety, and is why going out requires large doses of diazepam and extensive pre-planning. Needless to say, I rarely leave the house. But I will have to soon. I have an appointment with my therapist approaching, and I have no convenient way to get there. An hour and a half long journey, involving a bus and two trains, in peak hour, is the only option that is currently presenting itself, and this has me close to panic just thinking about. Once again I’m reminded why it’s so frustrating to be told, constantly, that I can go out any time I want. Of course I can, but is it a good idea? I really don’t know.

    • Dalillama says

      Best wishes on your impending trip. L has a lot of the same problems as you, it sounds like, so I have some idea of what it’s like for you. E-hugs to you as well if it’s not inappropriate.

  6. Sas says

    I’m sorry you had to go through that, even if you did manage to pull a useful lesson from it.

    A friend of mine shared the story on her Facebook, and a trans friend of her’s made a very insulting, victim-blaming remark along the lines of “well, that’s what you get for going into a place like McDonald’s!”.

    This is seriously disgusting. It’s funny that you mentioned Whole Foods because I used to work at one, and I was subjected to transphobic comments pretty regularly, both to my face and behind my back, and my coworkers were often subjected to racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. People should never ever think that the woo-ful crunchy granola liberal establishments are safe places.

  7. Icaarus says

    You have changed my perspective on trans people, you reminded me what it means to be human, and in the process have helped me rethink humanity and gender. Thank you.

  8. says

    I’m sorry that happened to you, Natalie. It sounds absolutely awful. I’m not trans, but I do remember what it’s like to be targeted for verbal abuse by strangers, and it’s a really, really shitty experience. It’s depressing that some people never grow out of being schoolyard bullies.

  9. Eric Riley says

    There are times when I *really* don’t like people…


    A friend of mine shared the story on her Facebook, and a trans friend of her’s made a very insulting, victim-blaming remark along the lines of “well, that’s what you get for going into a place like McDonald’s!”.

    While the expression of classism and privelege was appalling, just as bad is the unspoken approval of horrible things that happen in McDonalds as well. It’s *expected*, it’s *normal*, which means it’s ok. It doesn’t matter if it was a McD’s, Whole Foods, or the Empress Hotel – it’s unequivocally *wrong* to treat another human being that way.

    I am sorry that this is the world we have to live in, and I wish I knew how to make it *not* this way faster. I am doubly sorry that you (or anyone) must live with this bullshit on a constant basis.

    • says

      Yes, that’s exactly what victim-blaming is, I think. Treating the problem like it is normal and nothing better could be expected of humans, so the victim shouldn’t have been there. When you consider that trans women can usually expect worse shit from this everywhere, the inevitable conclusion is that it’s the victim’s fault for existing.

  10. Sercee says

    “What trans-misogyny really means is the flush in my skin. The shaking of my legs. The coiled anger, desperately awaiting release.

    The consequences.”

    I’ve been lurking for a while and I usually really like (or, at least, appreciate) your writing and perspective. This line is the one that finally gets to me, though. I’ve always made a point to attempt to see the world from other eyes but it’s very hard to understand what another’s perspective really is. I can sympathize, I can reason, I can stand up for them, but this time I think I get it.

  11. Anders says

    You go on calling it a welcome reminder, I’ll be over here wishing they get penis cancer. Or Huntington’s Disease.

    I’m showing my naivete (and privilege, I guess) here but what would have happened if you had told the employees that you were being harassed? And what would happen if you wrote a letter to the restaurant’s owner saying you were harassed in his place and the employees did nothing?

    • Rasmus says

      Well, it would be worth a shot if you feel up to it.

      I did some fast food work while in high school. It’s impossible to say what would happen because it would depend on a number of factors, like who’s working behind the counter and what of the situation ze has seen or heard hirself, who’s the shift manager, who the assholes are (race, class, etc) and how quickly they clean up their act when they get to the counter.

      As for the letter; I don’t know what it would achieve, but there wouldn’t be any harm in writing in.

      • Anders says

        She could get an apology, which is always nice. I’ve worked for McDonald’s briefly (I’m really not cut out for that job) and they always emphasised “Don’t argue. Just apologize and compensate.”

        Also, music:

        • Rasmus says

          Yeah, that’s what they tell you in the introductory training. It’s the best way to deal with almost all of the customers. Most of them are there to eat and not to cause trouble.

          After a couple of weeks on a job like that you begin to gradually learn more and more about the other customers through direct experience…

    • says

      In some ridiculously idealistic world they’d give their workers harassment prevention training or something. But if the famous violence McDonald’s incident didn’t achieve enough of that, what will a complaint like this do?

      An apology might feel nice, or might not be worth the effort and vulnerability. If one can make them act to help others in the future, now that’s a different story.

      • Anders says

        That incident may have been an exception. We don’t hear of the times they called the police because that’s not news.

  12. Ma Nonny says

    I know that feeling when you know people are disparaging you and there is nowhere to go to get away from it and no good way to stop them from doing it (without risking personal safety). Awful. And blaming the victim by saying it’s your fault for just wanting to buy some breakfast? Mind-blowing.

    I have nothing useful to say, really. I think you’ve already said it. But, I am really happy that these asshats didn’t decide to take their hate any farther and get physical. But it pains me to know that there’s no guarantee for how things will go in similar situations in the future. :(

  13. wytchy says

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. I experienced a similar, very scary situation in high school. Feeling surrounded by people who are saying the most hateful things about you and really threatening to beat you up is terrifying and I hate that you had to deal with it when all you really wanted was some damn breakfast. I am appalled that this sort of thing can happen and no one will stand up and tell them to back the fuck off of you. The fact that people see something like this, or what happened to Chrissy Lee Polis, and just stand there silently is what disturbs me most about the whole thing.

    Internet hugs, I send them your way.

  14. Dendritic Trees says

    That’s miserable, I’m so sorry. I have nothing useful to contribute to this conversation at all, but I can offer you an e-hug, if you’d like one.

  15. cami says

    I posted a question yesterday and even though you didn’t address it directly, I think you gave me an amazing response. Thanks. You know what Natalie? I think that you and I are very different people but you seem to sort of think like me. I like that about you. I typed up a story about an incident that I had that was kinda similair but this blogs not about me so I left it it out of this comment.
    I’m right on board with you about feeling more uncomfortable in yuppie spaces than poor ones. In my town there is a super fancy Whole Foods and an old ass Macs like a block apart. If I go to whole foods then nobody talks to me and people point and stare. But, when I go into the Mickey D’s there is always a table full of homeless people who are like ‘hey Cameron. what up, girl? come join us’ I like hanging out with bums, drunks, addicts, hustlers and whores. Hell, they’re my family.

  16. Sofia says

    This is terrifying to me. I guess i had always just assumed that ya, I will face heaping amounts of transphobia in my life but I would be able to respond. I didn’t actually consider that in most times and places responding will probably mean far worse ramifications for me. And of course living in the sunshiney queer utopia that is the bay area I do feel a relative amount of ease in calling people out on their ignorant bullshit. It just sounds so hard though, knowing that you are more intelligent than these pigs and knowing that you could articulate your experience far better than they could if they bantered for 1000 years…and feeling like you can’t say anything.

    I HATE ignorance. Truly. I hate it more than I hate any other single idea, thing or person on this planet and I can not put up with it! It scares me that I’m sure I will be faced with this situation one day where I can either risk my safety to adhere to my principles and not let people continue to wander in bigoted lies or just sit there and take it, take all the fucked up socially directed hatred that I have heard indirectly through the media and others when I passed as cis my entire life. Not that my words would likely get through anyways but honestly, in the moment, I am not sure which one I would choose. My stubbornness might just really get me hurt one day.

  17. busterggi says

    I like to think I’d have stepped up for you had I been there though I can’t really know if I would have. Please don’t get angry with me but that is no way to treat a lady (I was so villified for that word on Skepchick that I’ve never gone back).

    It seems biologically impossible but there do seem to be more assholes then elbows out there.

    • Besomyka says

      You could rephrase it without loss of meaning (unless you really to subscribe to some sort of gender thing) “That’s no way to treat someone.”

      How do you expect people to interpret the phrase as you wrote it?

  18. resident_alien says

    So very sorry you have to put up with shit like this.
    Fuck’s sake,can’t a girl get some breakfast and be left the fuck in peace?
    Apparently not.Arseholes.

  19. Happiestsadist says

    I’m so sorry that happened to you, and for what happens to more or less every trans* person. Nobody deserves that.

  20. Andi says

    I get this a lot. I work in the hospitality industry, and unfortunately I work in an environment where people are getting really drunk. It’s rare that I don’t hear someone behind my back saying “is that a guy or a girl” but there’s been several occasions where I’ve had really fucking offensive things said directly to my face, or had some guy very obviously talking about me to his friend sitting next to him, having a laugh at my expense. The nature of the job is such that I’m not really free to go elsewhere or get away from the abuse, and it’s nearly done me in from time to time.

    I wish I had the words to make them realize how hurtful they are, but I don’t. And so I have to stand there and take it, and pull my best blank face on. I think if I didn’t need the money I’d probably look for something that wasn’t in the public eye, because I think it’s really doing me some damage.

    • Sarah says

      Ouch, that’s rough, Andi. Makes me wonder: do the employment laws around “harassment” and “hostile work environment” obligate employers to intervene in these situations? I know there’s the law and then there’s what really happens, but it seems like something that would be a known hazard of the industry and that there would be some existing guidelines and precedent that would apply. And I should note, I’m not saying here how things should be or what anyone should do – more just wondering what is existing practice, since – and ianal – it seems like a situation where a policy of tolerating abusive customers would expose employers to significant liability.

    • Rasmus says

      Sorry to hear that. That’s just wrong and your manager must suck.

      I can’t believe that there are places where you can get drunk and talk shit about the staff openly without getting thrown out. If it isn’t illegal it is at least against any kind of business ethics.

  21. says

    I disagree with the ending.
    What trans-misogyny means is both of those categories. It’s the emotional/physical response just as it is the theoretical one, and both expressions have room when we talk about these issues.

    Other than that, I fully sympathize. I’ve had such experiences. They’ve affected me the same way.

    • says

      Well, the point of that paragraph isn’t to dismiss the theory stuff. Obviously I think talking about the underlying motives and issues and implications is extremely important. What I was getting at is the theory is ultimately only there to contextualize the lived experiences and stuff. If that theory ultimately fails to DO anything for us, or fails to connect in any meaningful way to the realities of trans-misogyny and its consequences, it’s failed. So in terms of priorities and ontological heirarchies, the actual hard, lived realities of trans-misogyny and its consequences must always take precedence. As in: I don’t think we should stop talking and discussing and thinking, just that we must always bear those realities in mind when doing so.

  22. says

    The worst part is how this stuff replays in your head.

    I was with a trans friend the other day and she was approached and harassed right in front of me by some guy, probably on the “yuppie” side but not sure as that neighborhood is very diverse. Anyway, we collected ourselves and got him to go away with no violence–I’m ashamed to say I almost was violent, which would’ve increased my friend’s fear if nothing else. But I realized how stark a reminder it must’ve been to my friend, it was a jarring reality check for me, and I also wonder what she’d have done by herself, especially if there were two of him.

    I guess I don’t have a point to make, just trying to share the pain and frustration and fear.

  23. Lucy says

    I’m sorry this happened to you Natalie, and don’t have much to add apart from another offer of e-hugs from afar. Thank you for writing this though, you made me think about privilege, appreciate more that many people are in danger for several reasons at the same time, and that I should appreciate more the consequences of sticking up for oneself.

    Context: I had similar transphobic hassle from a group of idiots at the weekend, shouting “are you a man or a woman?” across a crowded place, but was fortunate enough to have my brother with me who called back “I’m a man thank you very much”. If I’d been on my own, my idiotic tendency to stick to principles might have got me in trouble, as my first instinct was to reply “I’m a human being, so why aren’t you treating me like one?”

    • says

      Lucy, that sounds like an awesome possible reaction. It might be risky, but it’s incredibly brave and might be effective so they don’t do it again. Might? When I get harassed on my own just for being a girl who looks fragile, I also do idiotic things that might get me in trouble. I just hope it helps the next person who looks like an easy target.

  24. Solitas says

    This is why I never went through with my transition.

    The fear. The fear of being hurt.

    My mind tells me that just existing as I am hurts less than transitioning and being hurt by others.

    • says

      My mind tells me that just existing as I am hurts less than transitioning and being hurt by others.

      Your mind is right.

      Honestly, I say this with complete sincerity: there is nothing any bigot or transphobe or anyone could ever say or do to me that would make me regret this. NOTHING.

      • northstargirl says

        “…there is nothing any bigot or transphobe or anyone could ever say or do to me that would make me regret this. NOTHING.”

        This. A thousand times, yes.

      • says

        Unless your specific meaning is that you agree Solitas is making the right decision, whilst for you the opposite decision was the right one, there appears to be a miscommunication here.

        • cswella says

          What she is saying is that even though going through the transition means more hardship, the transition itself is well worth it.

        • says

          My specific meaning is that Solitas should trust her instincts that the pain she’d inflict on herself by not transitioning would ultimately far outweigh any of the pain that others may inflict on her for doing so.

          • says

            But, it seems more likely ey said the opposite:

            This is why I never went through with my transition.

            The fear. The fear of being hurt.

            My mind tells me that just existing as I am hurts less than transitioning and being hurt by others. (emphasis mine)

            Ey’s insincts are that ey’ll the pain she’d experience from other people would outweigh the pain of not transitioning…

    • Sarah says

      Speaking as someone who lost two decades of her life to fear, I feel very sad whenever I hear anyone say that fear has kept them from living the life they want to live. Sometimes we need to talk about the stuff that is not so good. Talking about the bad stuff helps to heal the injuries, and it opens the way to make bad things better. But the larger truth is that for the most part, the good stuff far outweighs the bad, and the quite natural fear that we feel going in almost always turns out to be entirely unjustified. When we venture into these darker topics, it’s critical to keep this vital truth in mind: for those who want it, transition is a path that leads to immeasurable joy and happiness.

  25. echidna says

    Any suggestions about the kind of things a bystander could say that might help to defuse and stop the thoughtless/nasty comments?

  26. Fox says

    I know it’s easier to say “I woulda..” than to actually act, but I’m still just utterly appalled that in a long line of people, not a single one told these creeps to fuck off. Somehow “the masses” standing by and letting an evil take place depresses me almost as much as the (comparatively) smaller number of monsters actually committing the evil. :(

    I’m so sorry, Nat.

    • Rasmus says

      That’s easy to say, but it’s a lot harder to actually do something when you find yourself in a situation like that. Especially when it’s not just one bad guy, but two or more and you don’t know if you have any backup if things deteriorate.

      Even if you’re not scared there is still a bystander effect where nobody wants to be the first to do something about it.

        • Rasmus says

          Sure, sure. I’m not saying that it’s not good to try to intervene. That would be great. But that’s not even the whole problem. People stand and watch horrible things for all sorts of reasons.

          I think that a lot of times people don’t even understand what’s happening before it’s over. It’s usually not that easy to connect the dots from a distance.

          For example, if I would overhear two men saying nasty stuff about a man in the room I would think that they were idiots, but I would not necessarily understand that they were speaking about the woman who was standing in front of them, unless I was standing close enough to immediately clock her and let it sink in what that means and then connect all the dots. (I don’t think I have ever clocked a trans person in a public space.)

      • julian says

        I think we’re past the point where we need to make excuses for our inaction. It’s high time we start (return to?) reminding people it is important to not let this sort of harassment slide and that our rationalizations for ‘avoiding trouble’ aren’t nearly as nuanced, or good as we think they are.

        We should intervene even if it is to tell to knock it off.

  27. Setar, too lazy to log in on his blackberry says

    Ugh. Having been bullied for most of my meatspace social life, I am constantly paranoid about others talking about me “behind my back” and hate it when they do. That is an awful thing to do to anyone, unless being up-front would put you or someone else at risk of harm.

    I have experienced this once, only it was some idiots on the Canada Line snickering about how stoned I looked/was. I was so pissed off I actually screwed up my stop count and got off one stop early because I just wanted to be -gone- before I turned around and told them “yes, I’m stoned, but that does not make me deaf or subhuman”.

    I think you hit a much better point under the surface, though: yuppies are awful, awful hypocrites. They will profess social justice and equality, but once one steps outside of the “acceptable” yuppie boundaries/privileges it becomes perfectly okay to denigrate and castigate said one for violating such boundaries or not bowing to such privileges to the point where yuppies will effectively deny any deemed non-yuppies a right to exist.

    I’ve had to suffer some of the worst of the yuppie-gated-community crap from my own family and thus loathe yuppiedom with a passion. If I wrote dictionaries, the definition of ‘yuppie’ would be “See ‘Just World Fallacy’”

  28. says

    I’m so sorry this happened :( If I could make it all go away for all trans people and gay people and genderqueer people and…I would. I hate that you have to feel like this when it’s nobody’s goddamn business but your own.

    ::hugs::

  29. Cynthia says

    So you had an excellent reason to feel bad this week, didn’t you? I’m with Anders, I’m hoping for penis cancer.

  30. Morgan says

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your story with everyone, it’s a really good thing for people(like me) who are probably guilty of cissexism on an unconscious level.

    I’m only wondering, why is “you look cute today” considered cissexism?

    • Morgan says

      I accidentally a word.

      “really good thingreally good thing for people(like me) who are probably guilty of cissexism on an unconscious level” TO HEAR

    • says

      Sarcasm, with “cute” said in an infantilizing tone, as though to mock my gender presentation as merely a “cute” act of dress-up. I tried to convey that tone by putting “cute” in the quote marks, and hoped context would do the rest.

      • Morgan says

        OH, okay, thank you! That makes sense. That’s frustrating for me to hear as a petite girl as well. I’d much rather be respected than written off as something of a child.

  31. says

    Ok, so here’s a question:

    Reading this led to me pondering the ways in which I might have wanted to call out the assholes, given that I’m generally a bit scarier looking that most folks, but I honestly don’t know if that would, in some way, make it worse.

    I don’t like the whole “go up to the person after its all over and say you were rooting for them while they stood there and took it alone” thing, but I don’t want to do something that will, in some way, cause more problems than it creates.

    Given that my gut reaction of staging a loud conversation about techniques for skinning bigots with a house key would probably be out since it could be interpreted as a threat, what should a would-be ally in the restaurant do in that situation?

    • says

      Begin saying trans-positive, validating things to whomever you’re with, and do so in a way where you’re sort of speaking over the bigots? Like, I don’t know, “Don’t you think it’s amazing how people are able to define themselves for themselves even in a world that works so hard to keep them from doing so?”, “I’ve always felt that an identity presented despite social risks is far more genuine than those of people who simply go along with expectations”, or just “Wow, she’s got a really cute jacket” or whatever. Just a thought… like hearing someone say something positive about me or validating of my gender at that moment, in that space, would have REALLY helped. -shrug-

    • Rasmus says

      The hardest part is to start talking and start taking up space in a situation like that. I don’t think I could do it with two bigoted men unless I knew them or if I was in company with a friend.

      If you can past that initial barrier and get the bullies to notice you and listen to you, then you will probably think of good things to say. You could basically tell them that you’re not going to stand and listen to their bigoted crap. (If they were kids or you teens I would lecture them a little and demand an apology to the you lady, but I wouldn’t do that with adults, that’s their fucking job to figure out that they’re supposed to do.)

      Saying supportive things about the victim also sounds like a wonderful thing to do in that situation.

  32. Anders says

    The important thing isn’t what you look or feel like. It’s whether you know you’re a woman.

    (I sound like a fortune cookie)

  33. says

    Holy fuck, but you’re a great writer.

    I don’t know shit about transgender issues. Really, I don’t have a “stake” in it, except for my concern for fellow human beings whose concerns seem little- to never-addressed. I’ve sometimes been afraid that my desire to understand it as much as possible, to “read up” on it, makes me one of those detached theorist types. It’s so not my goal, but I just couldn’t put my finger on how to do it right, other than to care sincerely, ask the people actually experiencing it, and to try and be as correct as possible in my understanding of things. This makes it much more clear, I think. Contextualizing is important, of course, as long as it helps actual people. As long as we still (and primarily) care.

    Your ability to constantly question even your own understanding and approach to get at the heart of things is seriously amazing. And your caring so deeply (how could you not, of course?), with your ability to evoke even a sliver of the attendant feelings — yeah. I don’t want to say “amazing,” because I’m upset and mad for you now, but that’s what what you’re doing is. Fucking amazing. I hope you know that.

  34. Anders says

    And we have a question from the GitP board:

    What would have happened if you called the police before answering back?

    Or if you had pepper spray?

    This is not intent to imply in any way, shape, or form that it was your fault for not doing these things.

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