Leah’s Story: Harassment Steeped in Transphobia

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.