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SlutWalk: Where Are We?

2011 June 21

I went to SlutWalk on Saturday. It was a lovely thing; banners, posters, chanting, brilliant footwear and some truly magnificent outfits all around and about in the inspiring and fun atmosphere. I wore a tank top and spray-on jeans and cooked to death, but the BadRep banner was proudly borne aloft through the heat and the billions of photographs that were taken of it, and I think I did us justice.

Mostly, it was lovely to see so many people rallying to the cause of (primarily, but not exclusively) women being able to wear what they want in public without it being seen as consent to harassment and assault. It’s true. Consent to sexual activity is divorced from anything other than what we say. Nothing else consents for us.

Later, we went clubbing, and on the way home on the tube, some men used me as their paid-for amusement for the evening against my will.

I was wearing this: A cartoon drawing of a young pale-skinned man with bright orange hair in a crest, looking left. He is wearing a green clear plastic jacket and green striped trousers, black knee-boots and a black leather waistcoat. He has a blindfold on with long ruffled bits that dangle on either side of his head, black lipstick and has painted-on green tears. The whole image is very brightly coloured.

So I stood out, yes. Get in. I looked the fucking business, people. We’d just been to a club whereby anything went as far as costume went, and I’m a guy that will jump at any opportunity to tart up. Thus, tarted up I was.

I was hassled for photographs by some young men who only cursorily asked whether they could get a picture of me before pawing me and grabbing me and threatening me. But that’s fine, if awful – I could deal with that. I’ve dealt with that before. They were young and quite drunk, for what it’s worth, not that it’s an excuse.

I clocked a group of people, some men and some attached women, checking me out and talking amongst themselves further down the carriage. As I watched, one of them – a young man, approximately a few years older than me – stalked down towards me, looking at my body as he went. He looked at my face, my jawline, my throat, my chest, my waist and my hips. He continued past me, and continued his observation of my body from behind. He said nothing, and got out his phone and started fiddling with it.

Intimidated, I moved to put my back to the wall of the carriage, next to the door, and told him that if he wished to take my picture as well, he could ask.

He looked up. “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t want to take your picture. It’s just that my mates have a bet on as to whether you’re male or female.”

It couldn’t have hurt me more suddenly or sharply if he’d slapped me. He had been assessing my body to see whether I was of the female-assigned-at-birth or male-assigned-category. I bristled. “Firstly, I’m male,” I hissed, “and secondly, I’m not a fucking zoo exhibit. I am actually quite offended.”

“Hey, calm down,” he started, before my best friend Mim stepped in to ask him, in my defence, what sort of entitled arsehole he thought he was, and what gave him the right to use me as his amusement? Would he put bets on whether someone was gay or straight?

“I just wanted to know what she was dressed as,” he said.

Not only had I been gawped and ogled at like a caged animal, he didn’t even take my own word for my own gender. Apparently, his opinion based on his flawed assessment of my physicality over-rode my own identity. I had my identity casually erased before my eyes. Despite my protestations, I wasn’t human to him. I wasn’t a person. I was a freak, an indeterminate outsider, and therefore he found it acceptable to treat me like subhuman filth.

This may sound minor to some of you. He never touched me, he never hit me, raped me, spat at me, threw a beer can at me – none of the things he could have done. I got off lightly. I’m still intact, aren’t I? No swabs, police reports or bruises.

But he’ll have got home and laughed with his friends about how they hassled this weird girl on the tube who thought she was a man and forget all about it. I won’t. I’m not going to forget. Every time I wonder if there’s a place for me in society, it’ll be his face and words I remember. I’ll remember how he looked at my body – the very thing I fret about every morning to dress carefully around so that people won’t see my tiny waist and curvy bottom and think, “That’s a girl” – and how his cissexist assessment of my shape nullified my identity.

We had a march that very morning about this, didn’t we? Women marching, unified by their contempt for the assumption that they are somehow to blame for their own assault and victimisation. A Facebook event was made, and it ballooned! We had a whole march! And do you remember the John Snow Pub gay kissing incident and all the clictivism that happened for that? Hundreds of people kissed all over the pub in defence of those kicked-out guys.

And that’s brilliant. But where are we? Where is the mass anger and outrage for the trans* people? It’s still the Seventies for us in many respects. The internet-based feminist communities are slowly but surely opening their arms to us, but we’re still widely invisible. The beating of a trans woman in Baltimore earlier this year prompted the only bit of mass internet activism concerning a trans* person I have seen in years. We don’t get outraged marches or supportive column-space in newspapers. We’re still the circus freaks of popular culture, the strange deviant unicorns that get exoticised or demonised by turns. Look at the media shitfest over the gender-free baby Storm. Look at how many publications misgender Chaz Bono when they talk about him. Would have that entire carriage of silent passengers stood up in my defence if it was overt racism being displayed instead of transphobia? It’s just not taken as seriously, at all.

I appreciate that there aren’t many of us. If there was a march of trans* people in London tomorrow, there’d be about three people there. 2010’s Brighton TransDOR was woefully under-attended, and the only cisgender people there were friends and family – people who were directly in contact with a trans* person. We’re invisible. But we’re here. And as the social atmosphere changes from hostility to acceptance, more of us will have the courage to live openly and come out.

Bring that on, say I. And that all starts with basic visibility and people giving a shit. So here I am, being as visible as I can be (without blogging continually about living trans* as there’s people that do it better than me!) and I’m asking you to start giving a shit about trans* people right now. Please.

Here are some of my favourite read-think links:

7 Responses leave one →
  1. June 21, 2011

    I am really sorry to read that, on what should have been a brilliant and equalising day, once again some self-appropriated wanker decided his “fun” was above your right to self. More than that I’m sorry that I missed that outfit – from your picture I can only guess you looked completely awesome! Thank you for this post.

  2. June 21, 2011

    That’s really awful. I’m sorry that happens to you. All of you.

  3. Pet Jeffery permalink
    June 21, 2011

    I’m afraid that I would be one those failing to attend the trans march.

    Back in the 90s, I was a very visible trans person. Then, I was set upon by about eight thugs just round the corner from where I lived. After a few weeks, my face looked more or less human again. It took longer for my arm to mend. But the trauma continues to take its toll, even now. I don’t think it helped that it took about a year to be rehoused. (About a year, and a lot of effort on both our parts and that of a lovely caseworker from PACE.) I really wouldn’t wish to live through that year again… bricks through the window, shouted abuse on the street, and so on… My feeling is that I did my bit, and now it’s someone else’s turn (if they want it).

    • Miranda permalink*
      June 21, 2011

      My God, that’s horrible. Really horrible.

      The awfulness of this and experiences like it just takes my breath away. Appalling.

    • Markgraf permalink
      June 21, 2011

      It disgusts me on a very basic level, and I’m continually amazed at how ingrained and ignored transphobia is. I’m sorry you had to ever have a year like that, ever.

      • Pet Jeffery permalink
        June 21, 2011


        I don’t often talk about this stuff.

        Its being where I lived made it much worse than (say) the incident at Kennington station a few years before. (A gang bashed my head against the wall, then kicked me while I was unconscious.)

        And different strands connect. As a weird person, I had a lot of employment difficulty. Which meant that I was in low paid work in London. So, I couldn’t afford private rented accommodation. Nor could I afford to commute into London. And leaving my job and moving elsewhere would have meant that I couldn’t have claimed jobseeker’s for six (or was it eight?) weeks. Not an option. So I was stuck where I was until my social landlord rehoused me.

        Some of the pain (one way and another) has found its way into my books (especially “Tuerqui” and “Margaret Again”).

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