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I was walking down the street, holding hands with my Dad. A driver in a passing car evidently mistook us for a couple, and shouted at my Dad “Hey mister, nice bird”. What really annoyed me was that he was complimenting my Dad on having a nice possession, in the same way one may say “Hey mister, nice car/ jeans/ dog”. He shouted this as he drove away, leaving us standing dumbfounded with no means of retaliation.
I was working one Friday night until close. Throughout my 5 hour shift, 4 men had stopped at my desk to talk to me. After a certain point (usually after 45 minutes of them standing there) I would kindly say that I needed to get back to work and EVERY SINGLE ONE stayed and kept talking to me. The conversations turned into asking when I would be off work, where I was from, and if they could have my phone number. After I explained to one that I had a boyfriend, he replied that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend… He was just “trying to get it in.” It is not right that I went to bed that night with fears that one of those men followed me home. Women should not be scared to go to work because MUCH older men don’t know how to keep it in their pants.
I was crossing the street at 10pm on my way home when two guys stopped at the stop sign said, “Hey baby, why don’t you put a smile on that pretty face!” I yelled, “Don’t ever tell me what to do!” Over and over and they drove away yelling, “Relax!”
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.
I worked retail in the inner harbor most of this past year and there was a man that came into the store just about every day. He was well dressed and always accompanied by the same taller man every time. When asked if he was local or just visiting while being cashed out, he refused to say. They bought women’s lingerie very often but sometimes just came in, walked around, and didn’t buy anything.
One day I was over in women’s activewear fixing a display and he came up behind me without his bodyguard guy and started hitting on me, asking for my phone number, asking for my weekly schedule and when I got off. He asked me to call him, and when I refused, he told me he would wait outside for me if I changed my mind.
I reported it to the store’s security but they can’t do anything unless he actually does something and there is no protection for me once I leave the store. He came back to the store frequently after this first incident and would ask other employees if I was there.
I became afraid to go to work, afraid to ride my bike home after work, and concerned that he would find me. To me, it sounded like he was running some sort of sex trade or prostitution ring and that was terrifying that a man could harass me at work and make me afraid for my life.
For a 15 yr old going to the mall is fun – but as I walked from my car to the entrance I noticed a white car following me, an older man said to me “hey sweetheart, you look like a girl I used to date. You’re gorgeous, what’s your name?” Alone and afraid all I said was “I’m not allowed to talk to strangers” he chuckled at me and followed me until I ran into the mall crying. I also reported it to mall security. 8 yrs later I still won’t go to that mall alone and am overly cautious in all parking lots!
Walking to UNM’s main campus down Yale, a man walked up to me, looked me straight up and down and said, “Damn girl, where you from?” all while trying to get close to me.
I avoided him, and walked past without saying a word, and at least was able to keep my head high. It was 10:00 am. On a busy street. With numerous onlookers.
Walking alone at night, trying to get home. Asshole loitering around with his friends whistles at me. A guy–don’t know if it was part of the group or just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time–starts following me. Managed to get into my house without him seeing me go into the building but feel shaken nevertheless.
This guy came up to me and was like he’s been checking me out from where he was. And he then asks me if I was Japanese or Chinese and I lied and said Japanese and he goes “oh I like doing things with Japanese women, do you wanna know what I do with them” which I completely ignore because of discomfort. Then, he had the guts to say “oh I like your breasts, I mean braces” and left with “you’re thick” along with a smirk!
I live on a busy street in San Jose and cars are always flying by at a fast pace. Across the street is the salon that I frequent, and it is literally a few steps away across four lanes. I normally do not cross the street without using the crosswalk, but there is one day that I felt that I needed to jolt across. I waited for a red convertible Mustang to go by before I crossed the street, but they slowed down and then pulled over. He said, “Hey, don’t you go anywhere with an ass like that!” He then started screaming, “Come back here!!”, over and over. I ran into the salon and told them the man was harassing me.
They called 911 to report the man, as he was still outside looking at the salon while in his car. He stayed there for about 15 minutes waiting. The salon locked all of the doors and everyone was looking at him through the window. He pretended to be looking for something in his car and then finally drove away. What was he planning to do to me? Did he think I was actually going to walk back? I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life.