Being Safe, Not Polite

Being very active and visible on social media can leave one open to comments, direct messages, and emails.  I post a lot of photos on my website and Flickr and I read every single comment.  I also get a lot of messages, most of which I reply to.  Many of the comments and messages are very nice and polite, but there are some that are very sexual and disturbing.  Men will contact me or comment with what they would like to do with (or to) me.  These desires can range from anything from wanting to buy me lingerie to sucking my toes (gross) to having sex with me (also gross).

These comments are unsolicited and are not responded to.

These comments are not flattering or affirming.

These comments do not make me feel beautiful or desired.

I ignore them, but they will often linger in my head for a while before I can push them out of my mind.  I do not invite or deserve these disturbing and sexual communications.

Right now some people might be rolling their eyes and thinking this is what I get for posting photos like these:

Cherry Dress 3

 

Yes, I know this photo is very much on the sultry side, but even if I was lying on a bed wearing nothing except a thong, overtly sexual messages and comments are not appropriate nor are they warranted.

It’s not okay to blame the victim of any harassment or point to what a girl was wearing and thinking that she “invited” these comments, or opened herself up to inappropriate messages.

Comments like these are not uncommon to women.  T-Girls often get messages (sexual and otherwise) from “chasers”, a term to describe men who fetishize and seek out transwomen specifically.

Yes, I know.  Not All Men.  Not all men send explicit messages or write or say sexual comments to women.  Let’s get that out of the way.  I don’t want a flood of emails telling me that not all guys are creeps.  I know that.  And yes, I know that some men think they are paying me a compliment but telling me that they fantasize about me or that I…ah, arouse them is not okay.  Telling me that I am beautiful is one thing.  Telling me what you want to do with, or to me, is not.

It’s easier to ignore creeps online.  Twitter makes it easy to block or mute people, for example.  In the real world it’s much harder and much scarier.  The first time a man approached me in public was about six years ago.  I had just gotten a makeover and was wearing a bright red dress and red patent heels.  Again, it doesn’t matter what I was wearing but I remember my outfit because I felt really good that night.  I looked good.  It was a long week and I was happy to be out on a Saturday night.  My dress was new, my makeup looked amazing.

I was meeting some friends at a bar and typical me, I was about an hour early.  I saw a man glance over at me a few times but would look away when I caught him.  I immediately felt uncomfortable.  I had hoped he wouldn’t come over.  When I saw him take his bottle of beer and finish it in one swallow, I knew he found a little liquid courage.

And sure enough, he slid off his bar stool and ambled over to me.  I was standing near the back of the bar and I felt a little trapped.  I had hoped he was just heading to the bathroom but he made a wobbly beeline over to me.

“You sure look pretty.”

I politely smiled and looked away.  I started to walk in the direction he had come.  He sidestepped in front of me.

“I sure would like to date you.”

I pressed my lips together and continued to not look at him, hoping he would pick up on my body language.

He offered to buy me a drink.  No, thank you, I said.

He asked my name and tried to engage me in small talk.

I remember feeling just… angry.

Why was I angry?  I’m sure in reading this it sounds like a guy just talking to a girl at a bar, what’s the harm in that?  But it wasn’t just a guy talking to a girl.  The second thing he said to me was wanting to date me.  He stepped in front of me when I tried to walk away.  It felt like he was trying to intimidate me.  It was working.

I was angry because I felt powerless.  I didn’t know what he would do.  He had already sidestepped in front of me once, and I was pretty sure he would do it again.  I didn’t know when he would leave.  He wasn’t picking up on my non-verbal communication or he was choosing to ignore it.

I was angry because I had a cute dress and a really good makeover and a long week and this… guy comes along and makes me feel powerless.  Scared.  Sexualized.  Trapped.  I wanted to be direct and tell him to leave me alone.  But I was scared to do that.  He looked stronger than me, he might have a weapon, he might have friends nearby.  I’ve heard it’s better to be safe than polite.  It’s true.

I gathered up the courage to interrupt him and told him I was married.  I remember thinking that this was a risk because I didn’t know what he would do.  Would he be angry?  Dismissive?  Would he (please) walk away?

He stopped talking, looked me up and down slowly, and hobbled back to his bar stool.

I shook for a while.  I felt… violated.  I felt stupid.  I wanted to go home.

Soon my friends showed up and I warned them about the guy.  He kept looking over in our direction.  I left when he had stepped into the restroom.  I didn’t want him to see me leave in case he followed me to the parking lot.

This entire experience was brand new to me.  I had just started to go out en femme a few months before this happened and was experiencing the world in a different pair of shoes, both figuratively and literally.  Getting approached by a man was another new experience.

It’s amazing I can recall as much as I can, years later.  The range of emotions from anger to fear to powerless was overwhelming.  As someone who spends a lot of their life presenting as male, I was not used to feeling these things.

It was horrible.  It was horrible feeling powerless when I normally feel invincible when I am en femme.  I was angry that this guy just wouldn’t leave me alone when all I wanted to do was dress up, look cute, and see my friends.

This was a new experience.  But it wouldn’t be the last.

The most recent experience was a few weeks ago when Minneapolis had its annual Pride festival and the MN T-Girls had a booth.  We were there to celebrate with members of the LGBTQ+ community and to promote our group.  It’s one of the most fun days of the year.

Pride is a wonderful event.  There’s so much… joy in the air.  It can be an overwhelming experience.  It can be an emotional one.  It’s not an unusual to talk to a parent who stops by the booth to talk about their child, their spouse, their sibling who just came out as transgender and for that conversation to end in a hug.  There’s a lot of hugging at Pride.

As the day was winding down, a guy approached our booth and seemed really nervous.  Perhaps he was simply hot from the summer sun.  I am not sure.  He asked for directions for a specific booth (which was located right next to ours) and I pointed him towards it.  He thanked me and then made his way around the table and put his arm around me and tried to pull me into a hug.

I froze.

It caught me off guard.  Yes, people hug at Pride but they ask for permission first.

I froze because I didn’t know what he was going to do.  Would he let me go?  Would he touch me with his other hand?  Would he try to kiss me?  I don’t know.

He broke off the hug and walked away.  I don’t even know if he stopped at the booth he said he said he was looking for.

I was shaken.  I felt violated.  Even recalling the moment now makes me sad.

But Hannah it was just a HUG you might be saying.  No.  It was unasked for physical contact.  I have every right to decide who I have an sort of physical contact with, whether it is a handshake, a hug, or anything else.  Regardless of this person’s intentions, as innocent as they might have been, it doesn’t erase the fact that after a few moment of small talk he walked around to my side of the table and put his arm around me.

I was on edge the rest of the day.  I kept an eye out for him, but I was wary of almost everyone who approached the booth that day.  I hated that this happened.  I hated that this guy changed the day for me.  I hated how I was happy and celebrating Pride one moment and then it changed to me looking over my shoulder and being on guard the rest of the day.

When I present as male, which I do most of the day and have done so for most of my life, I have never really felt unsafe in public.  I don’t get sent photos of someone’s genitals.  As Hannah, it’s a different story.  Sadly these experiences are no different that what almost every woman experiences in their lives, too.

It has taken about four days to write this post.  It’s not easy to put these experiences and thoughts into words, and I am also hesitant to post this.  I’m a little afraid, to be honest.  One thought that crosses my mind is that guy from Pride looking for me again.  Does he read my blog and did he know I would be at Pride?  Will he come to the next public event I attend?  Is he dangerous?

I don’t broadcast my plans in advance with the exception of Pride and I am always with my friends at the booth, so I am not alone there.  Does this make me nervous about going out?  Yes.  Although it’s not likely I will ever see this specific guy again, I wonder about the next one.  Could the next creep be behind me at Starbucks?  Could the next guy who “sure wants to date me” be following me to my car?

I don’t know.

I am used to being careful where I go.  When I go out, I am constantly looking at my surroundings.  Do I see anyone I know? Is there anyone looking at me? Being on guard is second nature at this point, but it will feel different now.  I am even afraid of the virtual backlash I could receive in writing something like this. The internet is a place where we can be as anonymous as we would like, and I won’t be surprised if I get emails or messages from people calling me a bitch or threatening me.

I am not sure I know the reason I am writing this but all of this has been clearly bothering me for a long time.  I think the tipping point was the other day when I was at work and got another explicit message from someone who follows me online.  This was not a message that was more sexual than others that I have received in the past, but this message just… triggered something in me.  It pushed me over the line between putting up with it and shaking it off to getting pissed about it.

Recalling these moments has exhausted me and I think I am done writing this post.  I wish I could end with something more uplifting but to all the girls and t-girls out there, please be safe.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Being Safe, Not Polite

  1. Hannah, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and these events. There are many great people in public life and several who are/can be dangerous. As I go out en femme at times, I stay “on active alert”. That is a sorry state to be in when one is just trying to enjoy their life. Many women and T-girls are sadly not safe while out in public. Again…thank you. And be SAFE!

    Bobi💋

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  2. So well expressed Hannah.
    When we go out en femme, we sadly make ourselves vulnerable to the predatory behavior of SOME males. These “bullies” feel it’s their right to pray on those they perceive are weak, disadvantaged or vulnerable. We are opening ourselves up to the uncomfortable and unsafe experiences that these predators inflict on females all over the world.
    What these animals dont understand is that when we try our best to look good and express who we are, we are not inviting them into our world.

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  3. Hannah, that was NOT “just a hug” – it was a gross violation of your personal space that any adult should have known was unacceptable. It is so sad that things like this happen to all varieties of women, and to a lesser extent to men from time to time. Like the time many years ago, before I was aware of the Linda side of me, and some asshole (sorry, but he was!) grabbed my wrist and took a big lick of my ice cream cone. I was alone, minding my own business, he was with a couple friends. Lucky for me, they just just laughed and walked away. Sometimes it helps people to write this stuff out. I hope you are perhaps feeling a bit better yourself.

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  4. Hannah,

    Thank you so much for your message. I appreciate the wisdom, strength, and determination it must take to communicate these violations and resulting emotions. Although my journey as Renee is only beginning, I am grateful to you and the others who have traveled this path before us and passed on sage advice.

    I am truly sorry for the pain this causes you.

    One side effect of embracing my CD/TG is a greater sensitivity to how I treat others, not only genetic women but all those around me. I find myself being more compassionate, gentle, and sensitive. Not always, mind you. My moments of insensitivity and ham handedness are still disturbingly frequent. I shall have to be content with patient improvement in these areas. Your writings are meaningful and I am paying attention.

    Thank you for all you are.

    Wishing you great peace, warmth, and joy.

    Renee Rose

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  5. Hannah, thanks for putting this topic out there. It is not an easy thing to talk about and definitely not a pleasant side to experience. As T-girls out in public we are often subjected to sexist behavior similar to what cis women experience because we are seen as women. It is unfortunate as any female friend will tell you but somewhat common in our society. But as T-girls we also have more threats than the guy making a pass at a woman.

    As you noted, there are those who fetishize us. Like you, the first time I searched the internet about cross dressing or transgender most of the links were to sex sites where “trannys” or “chicks with dicks” would gladly fulfill your every kinky desire. We are portrayed in movies as everything from prostitutes to truly disturbing characters as in Silence of the Lambs. Unfortunately we all get painted with those brushes by some and targeted by them.

    Finally, there is a lot of bigotry toward us. Out of religious zeal or plain ignorance some feel it is their duty tohumiliate or eliminate us by screaming obscenities or physically harming us. This group has as many women as men and can be the most scary because they actually believe they are helping society by attacking us.

    Expressing our feminine side is a wonderful, joyous and fulfilling side of life for most of us. Unfortunately it is a big scary world out there and we all need to keep vigilant and safe.

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  6. This is so honest and truthful for both online and real life interactions!

    I’m literally sick to my stomach right now thinking of dealing with both these types of situations now and in the past.

    Having been on hormones for five years and living full time as myself for quite some time I’ve fully learned that 90% of men are creeps usually.

    One of my worst experiences took place with a drunk in a hotel elevator, I’ve never been more scared in my life…

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  7. “…I have never really felt unsafe in public…”

    I’m sorry to hear you have had trouble like this. It’s eye-opening to see the world another way. Usually, we part timers, I think we stroll down the street with little on our radar. Dressed differently, I’m conscious of my handbag, that my shoes seem to announce my walk, and what if someone grabbed my hoop earring to pull on it?

    How do you reach others to help them understand the impact their behaviour has on others and how it’s not going to get them what they want?

    Maybe that’s too big a question for tonight 😉

    Stay safe,
    L x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hannah, I can certainly sympathize. I have had men size me up, and approach me, when I have been out with my girlfriends even though I proudly wear an engagement and wedding ring. In addition, I have had a man follow me out to my car. If you even make the slightest effort to look their way, because you feel that they may be looking at you, they seem to be empowered. Fortunately, none of the situations that I have been in have progressed beyond them coming up to me. Fortunately, they were not predators who refuse to take “no” for an answer. Although we are trans women, we are vulnerable as women nonetheless, and we need to keep our guard up like cis-women do. Being ourselves can be scary and it can put us in scary situations. Not being ourselves can be equally scary, and for some, it puts them into sad situations too. Life isn’t easy but we do need to live our lives.

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  9. Hi Hannah, I have never been in the situation you found yourself in but I can relate a bit. I belong to a site for cross dressers and I posted a few pictures. Like you most of the comments were very nice and well received. However, then I got one that was very different- sex. It upset me greatly. Thank you for everything you do Hannah, Carolyn

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  10. So very sorry to read this post.
    I come to your wonderful website and am always inspired by your wisdom and grace.
    Despite some progress, we sadly still live in a dangerous world filled with hate and fear, often directed at us just because we want to be who we really are.
    Stay strong and safe, we need you!!!

    Like

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