It happened to me for the first time when I went out this week. A bouncer began to get angry about my gender when he saw my ID. I’d heard of it happening, I’d heard how horrific it is, I wasn’t prepared. (Side note: without intending to be sexist, women bouncers never ever make me feel uncomfortable. In fact, last time I encountered a female bouncer, she told me that I looked like Cara Delevingne. Yes, I did have to include that).
He kept asking “how is your name David when you look like that?” I do not get intimidated easily but I felt exposed and vulnerable. Now I must admit that when this occurred I was in quite a wine haze and so, was able to deal with this a lot better than I usually would. I snatched my ID off the bouncer while he (over-dramatically and unnecessarily) looked from me to the ID numerous times. I held my head high and strutted past both him and the table where you paid your entry fee. It’s amazing how much you can get away with when you look like you know what you’re doing. I was not going to pay after such treatment. If any of you overly moral people think that this was wrong, you’ll be glad to know that I was robbed later that night.
The most disturbing thing that I seem to encounter an awful lot is an aggressive behaviour towards my femininity. I go into shops and the salesperson will look me up and down (usually resting their eyes on my protruding Adam’s Apple) and proceed to call me “man” or “sir” with a fierce look in their eyes. It’s as if they think that my dressing feminine or growing out my hair is all to trick them. They seem to say “you can’t fool me; I see the masculine features on you.”
It’s difficult to feel as though people are scrutinising you every time you enter a shop or go to an event. At Halloween I wore an elaborate, gothic, black costume that included a dress. The two bouncers looked me up and down and proceeded to repeatedly call me sir while laughing. This isn’t really an issue for me as I’m in the early stages of my transition and I still identify as a male. But every time someone does something like this, it’s an act of aggression towards the gender non-conforming community.
This isn’t actually my fight. Pretty soon I will become a woman and these issues will (hopefully) be behind me. But every time I experience aggressive gendering, my heart breaks for those who are gender non-binary, or who don’t “pass” as their true gender. It must be excruciating to have to experience this on a daily basis for most of your life.
When you meet me, it is not obvious that I identify as male. I don’t expect everyone to refer to me as female. But when they force male pronouns on me before they have asked about my preferences, it is not right. People need to understand that gender is no longer just male and female. People need to understand that there are people who don’t fit into these labels, but not because they are being unreasonable, because they can’t help it. People need to understand that these people are just trying their hardest to live a “normal” life while being true to themselves.
We could all do with having a little more tolerance towards people who don’t “fit in.” But especially towards those who are gender non-conforming. It’s not an easy road to walk and it’s certainly not made easier by those around them.
Watch How I Deal With Street Harassment below:
Read about my experience of gender expectations here.