Yesterday I was at a bar with a female friend. Some dude pointed in our direction and said “do you know her?” Other dude replied “yeah she’s a whore”. Neither my friend nor I had ever seen either dude. We didn’t know whom they were talking to. We ignored them because there was nothing we could do but I wanted to kill the guy. I am sick of feeling ineffectual around males, who enjoy freely saying bitch and whore as I would say girl or woman. For the record I am a trans man who has never been penetrated by a straight male in my life but it wouldn’t have mattered what my gender identity or sexual behavior was. To straight cis males, anyone they see as female is ripe for their attack. Had I confronted them, I would have gotten that smug smirky smile while called an ugly bitch or worse. I know this, yet I still am angry that I didn’t fight back, and still feel ashamed at being targeted. I wish I had been born male. If I had, I would spend my life fighting this shit. Instead I spend my life being an angry yet defenseless victim of it. And of course my friend was in denial: “I’m sure that they are nice guys and wasn’t talking about us. If they were, they probably were trying to get our attention. I’m sorry you didn’t pass.” Then for the rest of the night she cried to me about how she just wants a boyfriend but they all just use her for sex and what if she seems too much like a feminist because she feels used? This society is getting even more gender obsessed and misogynistic. Sometimes I don’t even want to leave my house.
When a financial institution asks me my “mother’s maiden name” as a security question. Because it’s assumed that I have at least one and no more than one mother in my life AND that she married AND that she gave up her own name AND that that part of her identity was erased enough from my public history so as to be a password to access my private information.
When somebody tries to make a joke based on negative male stereotypes a lot of people will go: “Not all men are like that” and start defending men.
When somebody tries to make a joke based on negative female stereotypes and somebody says the same “Not all women are like that” phrase a lot of people will go: “You should just learn to take a joke, geez, what a killjoy” and start shaming women.
When I was seventeen and preparing to leave for university, my mother’s only brother saw fit to give me some advice.
“Just don’t be an idiot, kid,” he told me, “and don’t ever forget that boys and girls can never just be friends.”
I laughed and answered, “I’m not too worried. And I don’t really think all guys are like that.”
When I was eighteen and the third annual advent of the common cold was rolling through residence like a pestilent fog, a friend texted me asking if there was anything he could do to help.
I told him that if he could bring me up some vitamin water that would be great, if it wasn’t too much trouble.
That semester I learned that human skin cells replace themselves every three to five weeks. I hoped that in a month, maybe I’d stop feeling the echoes of his touch; maybe my new skin would feel cleaner.
It didn’t. But I stood by what I said. Not all guys are like that.
When I was nineteen and my roommate decided the only way to celebrate the end of midterms was to get wasted at a club, I humoured her.
Four drinks, countless leers and five hands up my skirt later, I informed her I was ready to leave.
“I get why you’re upset,” she told me on the walk home, “but you have to tolerate that sort of thing if you want to have any fun. And really, not all guys are like that.”
(Age nineteen also saw me propositioned for casual sex by no fewer than three different male friends, and while I still believe that guys and girls can indeed be just friends, I was beginning to see my uncle’s point.)
When I was twenty and a stranger that started chatting to me in my usual cafe asked if he could walk with me (since we were going the same way and all), I accepted.
Before we’d even made it three blocks he was pulling me into an alleyway and trying to put his hands up my shirt. “You were staring,” he laughed when I asked what the fuck he was doing (I wasn’t), “I’m just taking pity.”
But not all guys are like that.
I am twenty one and a few days ago a friend and I were walking down the street. A car drove by with the windows down, and a young man stuck his head out and whistled as they passed. I ignored it, carrying on with the conversation.
My friend did not. “Did you know those people?” He asked.
“Not at all,” I answered.
Later when we sat down to eat he got this thoughtful look on his face. When I asked what was wrong he said, “You know not all guys do that kind of thing, right? We’re not all like that.”
As if he were imparting some great profound truth I’d never realized before. My entire life has been turned around, because now I’ve been enlightened: not all guys are like that.
No. Not all guys are. But enough are. Enough that I am uncomfortable when a man sits next to me on the bus. Enough that I will cross to the other side of the street if I see a pack of guys coming my way. Enough that even fleeting eye contact with a male stranger makes my insides crawl with unease. Enough that I cannot feel safe alone in a room with some of my male friends, even ones I’ve known for years. Enough that when I go out past dark for chips or milk or toilet paper, I carry a knife, I wear a coat that obscures my figure, I mimic a man’s gait. Enough that three years later I keep the story of that day to myself, when the only thing that saved me from being raped was a right hook to the jaw and a threat to scream in a crowded dorm, because I know what the response will be.
I live my life with the everburning anxiety that someone is going to put their hands on me regardless of my feelings on the matter, and I’m not going to be able to stop them. I live with the knowledge that statistically one in three women have experienced a sexual assault, but even a number like that can’t be trusted when we are harassed into silence. I live with the learned instinct, the ingrained compulsion to keep my mouth shut to jeers and catcalls, to swallow my anger at lewd suggestions and crude gestures, to put up my walls against insults and threats. I live in an environment that necessitates armouring myself against it just to get through a day peacefully, and I now view that as normal. I have adapted to extreme circumstances and am told to treat it as baseline. I carry this fear close to my heart, rooted into my bones, and I do so to keep myself unharmed.
So you can tell me that not all guys are like that, and you’d even be right, but that isn’t the issue anymore. My problem is not that I’m unaware of the fact that some guys are perfectly civil, decent, kind—my problem is simply this:
In a world where this cynical overcaution is the only thing that ensures my safety, I’m no longer willing to take the risk."
Male privilege is oversexualizing a normal part of a woman’s body to the point where she is punished for wearing a pair of shorts at school. They are legs and they get me where I need to go. I don’t “display” them for your enjoyment, I just made a mistake by assuming that partially exposing an appropriate part of my body on an 80 degree day wouldn’t land me in detention.