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We shouldn’t have to live in fear of going for a simple walk or jog, but many people do. A walk can quickly turn into being sexually harassed ten times in all of twenty minutes. This harassment would not be acceptable if it was done within the walls of a classroom, or a place of business. But for some reason, many people consider it acceptable when it is done from a car or on the street. The victim, always a stranger. Always someone minding their own business. Always a person who simply wants to get their morning exercise done, or reach their destination to buy lunch for themselves. And when they try to recount their experience, they are often told to suck it up, or that it was probably just what they were wearing. Or – perhaps worst of all – that they should take it as a ‘compliment’.
The first time I experienced street harassment, I was only twelve years old. Think about that for a moment. Twelve. Years. Old. I was not yet old enough to understand that I was more developed than most of my other twelve year old friends. I seldom wear skirts now, because I identify as transgender. Back then, I tried to deny my identity and I tried as hard as I could to be normal. To ‘fit in’. I borrowed a mini skirt from my friend who was less curvy than me, and I wore it. I wore it with the matching top. I was more filled out, too, but I never noticed. I didn’t notice until adult men – read that again. Adult. Men. Slowed down long enough to call me a slut. I was twelve. I did not even know what the word meant, but I quickly found out. One would think my refusal to wear skirts has to do with my gender identity, but it actually has more to do with that day.
That was only the beginning of many years of street harassment. I wish I could say it has gotten better, but it has only gotten worse. Within the past year, I have taken up exercising. I want to be healthier. So, I walk daily. Sometimes, for an hour a day. Sometimes, more. It all depends on how busy or not busy my day is. Living where I do, it is hard to avoid walking on the main streets. I am literally harassed – on average – three to five times a day. There are some days where that number is easily ten, depending on how busy traffic is. The harassment ranges from honking (which is mostly just an annoyance – I startle very easily and do not appreciate being ‘honked’ at), to having kisses blown at me (degrading and rude), to having words shouted at me (which I can never hear regardless), to downright obvious harassment (such as being offered a ride by a creepy man at LEAST thirty years my senior [I am only 23, and I am often told I look even younger], to being asked ‘Yo, girl, how old are you?’, to being questioned about my sexuality, and on the worst days even rape threats when I ignore my harasser). I used to just keep walking, and take it in stride.
I realized that doing so just gives them permission to keep doing it. I realized that if I didn’t stand up for myself, I was teaching these men (and occasionally women, too) that it was okay to harass me. That calling me sexy, whore, or making humping gestures at me is ‘okay’. But when I was walking home from college, and a group of at least six men were following me, asking me how old I was… I realized that it is NOT okay. It was terrifying to me. It is annoying, and it makes exercising hard. So, I have started to take a stand. When a friend honked at a pretty woman, I asked him why. He explained that he thought it would make her feel good. When I explained that, often, the only thing it does is scare us or annoy us… he was honestly surprised. Education is imperative. As many of these people don’t really mean harm. Then again, there are many more that do. And when we experience harassment daily, we can never tell the difference.
The other day, I was walking home from the Kangaroo after just filling my Roo cup, and an older man in a white truck honked at me. I ignored him. But when I crossed the highway, I caught him from the corner of my eye turning around to chase me down. This happens a lot, and is downright terrifying. So, I assessed my situation. I had two paths I could take. One down the business area, where there were bound to be people around. One down a hill, with a forest on one side and houses on the other. I took the safer route, the business area. He honked again, stopping. And this time, I stood up for myself. I pulled my cell out, a way of letting him know I wasn’t afraid to call for help if I needed to and I firmly told him to leave me alone. When he drove away, and I kept walking I felt a surge of fear, but this time it was coupled with a surge of pride. We don’t have to put up with street harassment. But as long as people behave as though it is acceptable, people will believe it is.
Also, I am transgender. I wear traditionally men’s clothes most of the time (and only wear women’s clothes maybe once a month). So I dare anyone to tell me ‘It’s probably because of how you dress.’ I dare them.
A couple of years ago I was walking through my high school when someone, dressed in uniform I may add, grabbed my butt from behind. I was speechless and felt hurt and degraded. I looked back only to see the man who wasn’t even a student with a smirk on face, like he was proud of what he did or felt it was his right to do so. Ugh! Disgusting.
Just for context, I’m a trans woman, socially transitioned but very early in medical transition. Although I don’t like the term, I ‘pass’ some of the time, but have tended to get the most harassment/unpleasant comments on public transport, where I’m stuck in close proximity with a group of other people for a while. I’ve had a few incidents this year – several unpleasant comments, and one case where I got followed off the train by someone – but this is the first incident that really shook me.
I was sitting on a central line train to Bank at around 6:50pm, when a group of three men got on next to me – one sat down next to me, while the others stood around him. At first, they were just snickering among themselves, and I didn’t really notice what they were talking about – I’ve felt safest by simply ignoring people in the past, and so generally just listen to a story or music on my headphones. After a while, though, they began to talk more loudly, pointing at me, making ‘jerking off’ motions, and leering at me. I couldn’t get the gist of what they were saying – I think they were speaking in Italian? – but I got a strong impression from their body language and from little I understood that they were making mocking/sexualised remarks against me. I hope that mentioning this is in line with Hollaback’s anti-discrimination policy – I appreciate why this exists, but think this is worth mentioning because it helps explain why I didn’t want to react to what they were doing at this stage, either in terms of confronting them or trying to move down the crowded train – I was scared of confronting them in any case, and, if they hadn’t been discussing me, I’d have felt really embarrassed and self conscious, and perhaps would have caused them to actually start harassing me. I’m a fairly small person, and react quite badly to this kind of physical situation, and so continued to pretend it wasn’t happening.
After this had gone on for a few minutes, they began to talk directly to me (in English), asking me ‘what’s under your skirt’ and telling me to ‘go home with them, and they’d show me a good time’. I didn’t respond or acknowledge them, and had my headphones on to try to block them out, but rather than losing interest, they got a bit more aggressive, asking if I was a ‘perv’ and a ‘ladyguy’ – still trying to proposition me, but in a more demeaning and unpleasant manner. I felt uncomfortable and unsafe at this point, because I was stuck next to them by the rush hour crowd, two of them were standing over me, and none of the other passengers had given any impression that they had heard anything the matter. Finally, the train arrived at Bank, where I got off and they stayed on the train, but as I stood up, one of the two standing guys grabbed and squeezed my crotch area through my skirt. Especially in light of their earlier comments, this made me feel really uncomfortable – I was really worried by the way they kept alternating between sexual harassment and transphobia – but was also really bad for my dysphoria, because I feel really awful about my genitalia and don’t want strangers (or anyone for that matter) grabbing/outing me.
This happened two weeks ago (16/7/14), and I’ve been mulling over whether or not I wanted to do anything about this. On the one hand, it was really upsetting, and I want to do something about it – this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, but it’s been the first time someone’s actually tried to physically rather than verbally harass me – but on the other, the strain of transitioning hasn’t really left me with many emotional resources to pursue this. Having to jump through a million hope with gatekeepers etc., going out every day in a body I hate being read by most people as a ‘confused weirdo’ (at best) has really exhausted me, and I don’t want to have to go through all the strain of pushing BTP to do much about it.
Walking my dog at night while talking to a friend on the phone, I heard someone behind me getting closer. He kept saying “girl, girl slow down” and “common don’t be that way.”
I didn’t think he was talking to me because I am a post transition trans man with facial hair, and I was in deep conversation. My dog stopped to smell something and I saw the shadow of his hand reaching toward my ass. He was only a foot away. I turned around, looked him in the eye, and said loudly, “Hey!” He pulled his hand back, and I started walking away quickly trying to get to the well-lit 300 N.
I informed my friend on the phone of the situation, where I was, and gave a description of the dude…He continued following me shouting, “Hey it, hey he-she, I got something for your mouth.”
He followed me for 8 blocks turning where I turned and ducking behind bushes so I couldn’t see him then popping out and cat calling again. I kept my friend on the phone with location updates until I turned a sharp corner and hid in an apartment complex until he went by so I could get home.
I am so grateful for my friends at Hollaback! Baltimore who taught me things to do in these situations because this could have turned out much worse. I’m still shaken but I decided to post on here right away so others in Salt Lake City could be aware in this part of town at 11pm.
Dude description: white dude ,skinny , guessing 5’8 ish, patchy mustache and chin hair, buzzed head and a neck tat of words.
saturday 17 march 2014
A man came to me and proposed to me a bag of candy. He had a scary face. I didn’t accept it because the man was strange . I walked and he follow me but I went into a coffee shop and ordered a drink and saw the man in the window
I was very afraid to be in the street alone at night.
I was on the tube when I noticed a man eyeing me up, he was attractive so I didn’t mind. I got off the tube and noticed him following me. Later I noticed him playing with himself from afar. I walked faster until I couldn’t see him anymore but not being familiar with the area meant that he had cornered me to say “stop teasing me.”
I heard a lady asking if I knew this man. I told her “no” and watched her expertly tell him to leave me alone and said she was not going to let him get away with this harassment and saw him run away with fear as she stood her ground.
Funnily enough I already knew of Ana Maddock. I knew she was well educated, had a career she kept private from her online life, she was friends with a semi-famous crowd. I already wanted to be like her before she saved me. She saved a complete stranger from being harassed and went on with her day to day life and I think that’s astonishing.
Thank you Ana Karina Maddock.
You did what I could only dream of doing.
I was with a group of friends and this girl referred to my other friend using “it”. It turned out this friend might be trans and the friend knew that when she said what she said.
Hi. I am a pre-op transsexual woman living in West Hartford, Connecticut. I shared my story in 2011 and shared a follow up story this year (2013).
I was reading Hollaback’s #HarassmentIs and felt inspired to share more experiences.
I was pumping gas at a local gas station when a young man pumping gas in front of me read that I looked like I didn’t work. He turned to another young man, whom he did not know, who was at a different pump and said, loudly, “How was work?” To which the other young man replied, sarcastically, “Oh, It was great.”
I was at the local post office and accidentally, momentarily, messed my transaction up while there were several people waiting. While my transaction resolved itself, two men, at least one of them younger, who were behind me in line, were able to finish before me. When I got back to my car, someone had put an additional 4 quarters in my parking meter. Evidently, they somehow knew which car was mine, which felt creepy, because they had to be watching or keeping track of me getting out of my car, which is bizarre, because who does that?
In #HarassmentIs only one page was devoted to street harassment based on class, and it only talked about people who are, or are perceived to be wealthy, harassing people who are, or who are perceived to be poor.
I look like I have money and I have received a tremendous amount of verbal abuse (in a predominantly wealthy area), for being perceived to have wealth.
Two weeks ago, I made a trip to West Hartford center on a Monday mid-afternoon. It is a place where wealthy appearing women will occasionally walk around. I got out of my car, put a couple of quarters in my meter and began walking toward Starbucks. I had not planned to go inside and was going to walk by and, eventually, cross the street. Less than halfway to Starbucks I came upon a man who was already harassing a woman because she had a nice car (black Lexus? SUV). She was responding to him, it seemed she was trying to comfort him. When I encountered him he was saying to her in a very loud and angry tone of voice “thousand dollar a month car!” Then he saw me and his eyes went to my shoes, which were nice booties and he became even more angry the moment he looked at my shoes. He turned back to her and said, even louder. “Thousand dollar a month car payment, thousand dollar a month (unintelligible)! You’ve got car insurance, health insurance, while the rest of us are eating popcorn. By this time I was pretty distant, and he called after me – “Yeah, keep walking!” Needless to say my trip to West Hartford center was very short. Just before I got into my car I saw him sitting himself down angrily outside Starbucks.
In 2010 I was at the cafe at Barnes and Noble and I sat down in the back of the cafe to read. As soon as I sat down, a man who was seated diagonally across from me, who was talking with a woman, bristled. He was looking at me and he said, loudly, “Spain. Yeah Spain’s got problems. My mother in law is from Spain.” He kept talking and getting louder and I had to leave the cafe.
Also in 2010 I had three separate experiences which were so similar they were shocking. In May, I was in West Hartford center and a young man who was with another man said loudly to me “That’s not real!” In August I was at the DMV in a neighboring town and a young woman who was with her male partner said, as she passed me, “That’s unreal.” Lastly, sometime later in the fall, a young man working at Whole Foods, said to me as he saw me “Is that real?”
– to clarify – Yes. It’s real.
I was in Blue Back Square on a Sunday recently and I sat down on an out of the way bench. A car of young boys drove by and I heard one of them shout “It looks like you have a secret life!” And then drive on.
Earlier this year I was at the Barnes and Noble cafe (which I do not go to any longer) and an unstable woman had an outburst. She perceived me to be gay (which I’m not), and started asking an employee if he was going to be a “Boy Scout troop leader?” He played along with her and offered “Did I tell you that I’m rich?”
– I think what is interesting about the harassment based on classism is that a few years ago I blended right in, wearing some of the same clothes. Everyone here looked like they had money (whether they actually did or not) and no one ever bothered me for looking like I had money. Recently I’ve received a tremendous amount of flak for at least appearing to be wealthy. So it was understandable that when I read the #HarassmentIs booklet that Hollaback depicted examples of wealthy people harassing poorer people, however, it ran completely contrary to my experiences. I have never harassed someone verbally, for any reason.
Gender Identity Photo-Op –
As I said, I am a pre-op transsexual woman, so I dress the part. I have a wonderful wardrobe with lots of shoes, beautiful dresses, a fair amount of jewelry and plenty of color.
I have had my photo taken, with my knowledge (but without my consent), 5 different times.
One was a photo taken by a young teenage girl from a car that she asked her friend to slow down as I walked down the street.
A second was a young twenty-something taking my photo as I sat near a statue in West Hartford Center.
A third was another young twenty-something taking my picture as I sat on a bench in West Hartford center.
A fourth was, yet another young twenty-something, taking my photo at the same spot as the previous.
Lastly, this Sunday a grown, middle-aged woman snapped a photo with flash in Blue Back Square. She was with her family. (I hear it’s a great way to teach the kids).
– It is interesting to note that all of the people who took my photo (over the last 3 years) were women, and four of them were twenty-something or younger.
I must be a Facebook celebrity, but I don’t know it.
I wanted to write these things because that is what came to mind after reading #HarassmentIs. I think that our current culture is about punishment and critical judgement of others. When a person doesn’t fit in to generalized norms, they are immediately criticized, judged and then punished.
Speaking for myself, I am just trying to relax.
It does not matter where you are or what you are trying to do, you shouldn’t be punished for it, unless it causes avoidable harm to others.
I am very sorry for my length, and I hope you can include this on your website. Once again, thank you for providing a place to express these things.
Hi. My name is Melissa, I am a transsexual woman, and I wrote my story here to Hollaback! on April 16th, 2011.
I just wanted to share that my story is improving. Since I live in a large suburb, people have come to know me. I have socialized with alot of the neighbors where I walk and run, and I socialize at the places I go. I find that talking to people helps bring me out of the street harassment I was experiencing, and still experience. Yesterday I was finishing a walk and I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a vehicle was exiting its parking space very slowly. I knew it was not a conflict with me and I could tell that it was not in conflict with anyone else, so, immediately I looked inside, and there was a man driving and he was staring at me. He moved his car very slowly and watched me as I walked by. It was creepy and disappointing. So, the harassment is still there, but I feel more positive, and an experience like that, I just brush off. I have had far more scary experiences, like a man following me in his oversize, raised-wheel white pickup truck. He singled me out and followed me in my car for at least a mile to my destination, waiting in the parking lot of the place I was going, and then followed me back almost to my home. We got separated at a light, and I later used the separation to get away from him. I arrived home safely.
I experience these things less now than I did when I wrote in 2011. They are fewer and farther between. I am not sure if it is because I make smarter choices, or because I feel more positive, or if it is because the world around me has changed just enough that people don’t bother me as much. I really don’t know. I do feel better, though.
I cannot imagine living in a city. Reading some of the stories here, I would feel very uncomfortable and very vulnerable in a city. People say a place like New York City you can be whomever you want, but my guess is that the people would eat me alive.
I have had the experience, since writing, of a young man stopping me on the street and shouting at me. I just talked back. I have also had the experience of a very edgy, scary young man shouting at me from across the street. I shouted back. I never saw him again. I have also shared some of these experiences with people where I live and they have shared experiences with me that they have had over the years and so it goes..
I officially changed my name to Melissa about three weeks ago, and have completed every facet of transition that I am capable. I look better than I ever have looked, I feel better than I have felt over the past several years and I am very grateful for your website because I think it should be possible to (dare I say it) – walk down the street without getting harassed.
During student elections in 2011, an EPIC supporter tried to get me to vote for EPIC just outside the polling booth thingy in Z block. I said basically “lol fuck off”. He then yelled at me “why don’t YOU fuck off you fucking tranny faggot!”