Ever since I came out as Sophie back in December, I’ve been going out more often in feminine clothing. Whenever I present as female I don’t refer to it as going out “as Sophie”, I refer to it as going out “as myself”. “Sophie” isn’t a character that I play, Sophie is who I am. Since coming out as Sophie, I’ve been growing in confidence in going out as myself.
But, yesterday, I had my first experience of receiving transphobic abuse.
I was walking along a street in Wealdstone, in Harrow, north London, where I live. I was minding my own business, as I made my way to the shops in Harrow Town Centre. I wasn’t wearing anything outrageous or provocative, just clothes that felt right and comfortable for me.
I then walked past a man who started shouting at me. He repeatedly shouted, “Oi! Why are you dressed like a batty boy?!” (For the benefit of anyone who’s unaware – as I’m not sure how widespread the use of this term is – “batty boy” is a derogatory term for a gay man.) I didn’t look at him. I kept my eyes down, face forward, and carried on walking along the street – quickly. He appeared to be shouting at me louder, and following me, getting closer. I hazarded a look back, and he had abandoned his pursuit of me, turning to cross the road – although, at this point, I believe he may have used the term “******* pussy”.
This was a busy road during rush hour, so there was plenty of traffic about. There were also a couple of other pedestrians nearby who could hear this man’s abuse. Therefore the risk of any sort of physical assault was hopefully low – although what this man might have done if there hadn’t been so many witnesses about I dread to think…
Whilst I was a bit shaken up, I carried on to Harrow Town Centre, did my shopping, and got home in one piece. Thankfully, not everyone in Harrow is like this man – whenever I’ve gone shopping as myself the people who’ve served me in shops have just treated me like anyone else, without making any issue about my gender identity.
And that is what I want. I just want to be treated as normal, just like anyone else going about their business.
Why do some people feel the need to act in a threatening and abusive manner towards someone, just because they are different? I wasn’t doing anything to bother this man. I wasn’t talking to him, following him, interacting with him in any way. In what way does my choice to wear a skirt in any way affect him? If it somehow offended him (and there’s no reason why it should), what does shouting obscenities at me achieve? If someone dressing in accordance with their gender identity, which may be different to what they were assigned at birth, in any way offends you, just look away and ignore them if they walk past you. Making them feel insecure achieves no purpose.
Admittedly, I will now be a little scared to go out as myself. There is every possibility that I may encounter this man again, or others like him. Some people might say that, in order to stay safe, I should only were masculine clothes when I go out, at least if I go out alone.
But I don’t want to do that, and I don’t see why I should. I should feel free to wear whatever I feel comfortable wearing when I go out. If I want to wear a skirt when I go out, I have the freedom to choose to do so, and I shouldn’t feel threatened into doing otherwise.
I briefly described this episode on Twitter yesterday, and, fortunately, I have many friends who are supportive of me, and accepting of who I am. Hopefully, the man I encountered yesterday is in the minority, and that this was an isolated incident. Admittedly, I will be careful about where I go when I go out as myself, but I’m not going to change how I dress because of other people’s prejudices.
I am free to be who I am…