Archive for April, 2016

No One Tells Me To Smile

“What’s up baby?” He almost whispers as he gives me an upnod. It’s like he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. I almost don’t catch it as I am running by. It’s unwanted male attention in its mildest form, not lascivious but still uncalled for. Harassment almost seems like too strong a word yet that’s what it is. By the time I process all of what just happened, I am already gone, 10 strides up the street and more focused on finishing my run than anything. But it sticks with me. Both in the sense that it was unwanted and it is exceedingly rare in my life, which I appreciate. But I never like dwelling on why.

I am in a Uber in Charlotte, on my way back to the hotel. The driver of the Dodge Charger, he’s telling a story about helping these two women change a tire. He keeps laying it on thick, all hand gestures even as he speeds down I-85. He spits out a string of puerile terms to describe what he seems to think is just his objective appreciation of these two women, slamming, smoking, and so on. Objective and like an object are so similar and yet so different. I am reticent to say anything, so I opt to say nothing at all. I just want to get back to my hotel safely. I know the tenor of these stories, the way men talk when they don’t think women are around. I still hear them with far too much frequency.

My contact in Charlotte is introducing me to folks in the office. It’s good to put faces to names, but this is the entire reason I dreaded this trip. Once or twice, people are pretty good about pronouns. But over and over? I’ve heard this script before. Before long it’s just he, over and over. Did everyone else notice? Of course they did. Later I learn someone did notice, but was just following my lead. Maybe I should speak up. But I don’t know what to say. It’s hard enough with people I know better; it’s even more difficult on a work trip surrounded by strangers. No one else says anything either. No one else ever says anything. I tell my boss about it after the trip. He gets madder than I did about the whole thing and asks if I want to do anything about it. I say no. He did the exactly the same at our last team gathering.

I sip on a Metro Lager at Sutter St Station. I am running early for a meet up with a guy from a dating site. He comes in a couple minutes early and gives me that look. You know that look. Actually, hopefully you don’t. It’s loud so he asks if I wanna go someplace quieter to talk. I agree and finish my beer though I’m in no rush. I already know where this is going. The first thing he says when we get outside is that I didn’t say I was trans. He demands to know why. I respond with a question, why I am obligated to make that one of the first things I say about myself? It’s a valid question, one he doesn’t even attempt to answer, one no man in my experience ever attempts to answer. He then demands to know if I am fully trans. I wish I didn’t know what he means by that. But I know exactly what he means. I have spent my whole life trying to distance myself from people like this. But there’s just as many of them in San Francisco as there were in Minneapolis. I tell him that he can keep walking toward the Ferry Building. I turn back towards Sutter St Station.

This is all just the past month or so. I am sure there are more examples, but I forget more than I remember. I don’t know how else to survive. Next month will provide more anyway. I know I am luckier than most, that despite the psychic toll, what I deal with is largely benign with regard to me well-being and safety, and much less than many trans folks. That realization leaves me speechless some days. I know who I am. I don’t need the validation of others. But it’s hard to shake those specters. After eight years, I thought people would be better. Certainly many things are. But not nearly enough. I can’t keep waiting for the world to catch up. But I can’t make it move any faster either. No one wants to be harassed and no one should be. It’s rare anyone touches me awkwardly; no one tells me to smile. I am grateful, since that should not happen anyway. But it’s not because men have magically figured out how to treat me alone better. Without asking, I’ll never really know why. But I know why.

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