Men constantly appraise my appearance

Laura Aston

I had been aware of street harassment of women from a young age. It was probably about the same time I was aware that I was really a female myself. It always horrified me that some males would whistle or car horns would beep when they saw a woman who was attractive to them. It terrified me that I would be having to put up with that if I dared to come out and transition to become the woman I am today.

The first time I experienced street harassment myself was about 14 years ago when I was physically changing my appearance. I remember people saying at the bus stop at the top of my street “Is that a laddie or a lassie ” or “he looks like a drag queen on his day off” . When I finally transitioned I had to tell all my neighbours, the local shopkeepers and everyone who knew me about what I was going through and that’s when the worst of my experiences happened . Not in the words that were used towards me or the giggling and name calling just behind my back but from the continual fear every day of having to face it just as I was leaving my flat . I realise that being transgender is not a common experience but it hurts knowing that you are the source of gossip and ridicule from those in your street .

I am comparatively fortunate in that I apparently “pass” as a woman . I don’t like the term because it implies that I fit into most people’s judgement of how a woman should look like and act. But it does mean that I don’t experience much transphopic street harassment. I have heard people call me a half man – half woman (where do people get these terms? ) and once a car stopped and someone asked if I was a man or a woman . Many years ago someone spotted I was trans and called me a f###ing freak , a tranny , and most bizarrely a Nadia (he was referring to a Big Brother winner ) . He also tried taking my picture whilst swearing in my face . It wasn’t a happy experience but somehow I am always calm in these situations and he got bored and left me alone . I also remember some workmen singing “Man ,I feel like a woman ” when I went past . It says a lot that most males who are offensive never manage to do it to my face .

What disturbs me most from a transgender woman’s point of view were the two occasions when I was followed and propositioned . On one occasion a man followed me right to my flat door , obviously I didn’t notice him before but that really was terrifying . Again I know it is because they noticed I am trans and somehow equated that with me being a sex worker and a street worker too . The sexualisation of trans women really disturbs me and experiencing those incidents still frightens me a bit .

One of the everyday things I have experienced since I transitioned is that men constantly appraise my appearance whether talking to me or not . I sometimes feel I am under the microscope and I was never aware of this when I was living as a male . Of course I love being who I really am now but in so many ways I am made to feel like a second class citizen . The harassment I get as a woman is less nasty that what I got as a transwoman and I can’t work out whether I should be happy about that or not ?

As far as my neighbours go I moved house two months ago and nobody here knows of my past . Instead of the pointing and giggling I get smiles and compliments , but not all the time . I stopped going outside for a smoke because so many males seem to think that a woman smoking needs to be chatted up !! It never stops …..

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4 Responses

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  1. Lena says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Laura. Stay strong!

  2. James says:

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences of street harassment both here online and at the recent Hollaback! Edinburgh workshop. I’m so glad I’ve known you throughout my transition – thanks for all your support over the years.

    Stay strong and wonderful.

    James

  3. Helen says:

    Laura,

    I am delighted that you were able to tell your story and am glad that you now feel accepted as a woman.

    However, street harassment is part of being a woman. It is repulsive, intimidating, and represents men using gender-based power to frighten women and remind us of our ‘place’, as they see it. They then undermine you by saying that it’s ‘harmless’ or a ‘compliment’.

    Please don’t think you have to accept it, or that it represents some kind of compliment. Report it if it comes from a construction site, or from road workers, or from men driving company vehicles with identifiable logos.

    In transitioning, you have given up your own gender-based power, which is one of the reasons men find you such a curiousity. Most women will simply accept you – and will identify with the hassle most of us have lived with almost since puberty.

    Helen

  4. Susane says:

    Some men are basically ignorant pigs and I’m glad I no longer identify myself among that gender.
    I don’t know why some people can’t mind their own business! Is it because they have no minds of their own?
    I think it is the sign of a weak personality and poor upbringing to attack what you don’t understand.

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