A harassment story. 18


As I sometimes do, I dress up to work. It’s not a big deal. This day didn’t start off any different than most others. I set my alarm half an hour earlier than usual to make sure I had enough time to get ready. The night before I’d pre-trimmed body hair down so that shaving in the morning would be quicker. I was opting for a jeans + tunic look, and was going to experiment with a lighter make-up look (and let me tell you, those few minutes saved by not having to shave my legs or do my eye-liner VERY CAREFULLY really came in handy when I was trying to figure out what shoes to wear).

So yeah. A day like any other. I didn’t look particularly different than I usually do when I dress up, apart from the fact I was wearing jeans (my usual outfits involve dresses, I suppose).

Photo on 6-11-14 at 3.24 PM

Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Disregard the derp-face. A few hours before this was taken, I really, *really* was not happy.

So. Dressed up. Thought I looked pretty good, despite the mini-hangover I managed to get from the night before while hanging out with friends. I stepped out my front door, and did the usual walk to the train station.

I still remember how difficult it used to be to do this. It’s a lot easier now, but I still get that odd twinge in my gut. People look, and honestly, that’s fine. I know I’m an anomaly. I can deal with that, and I can deal with them. Just stare back, and they usually avert their eyes, realizing that they are invading your privacy – it’s almost routine now.

So I get to the train station. It’s a little busier than usual. I remember thinking that now I’d have to walk past all these people lining the platform, looking in my direction – simply because they’re looking down the platform. I walk all the day down the line to my usual spot. No big deal. There’s a small line of maybe four or five people ahead of me, waiting at one of the spots where the train doors open – the one I usually wait at, creature of habit and all that. We stand there, biding our time until the train arrives. I think I’ve got it timed pretty well that by the time I get to my spot on the platform, there’s only a two or three minute wait.

A dude in the line sees me. He smiles.

The train arrives, and we all file on.

I spot a couple of empty seats. I take one. The seat next to me is empty. Just how I like it. I scan around the car a bit. Smiling dude is sitting a few seats in front of me. He sees me again, and smiles. I smile back. Seems like the polite thing to do.

Clearly, this was my first mistake.

He gets up from the seat he had, walks over to the empty seat next to me, sits down, and introduces himself.

“Hi, I’m Mike.” he says, still smiling. He’s tall, white – wearing glasses, I’d say mid 40s? Thin. Looks professional.

“Oh shit,” I think – “A chaser.”

This is a new experience. And I’m basically terrified.

When I’m out and about when dressed, I don’t want people to notice me, let alone enthusiastically try to get into my world. I don’t know who this guy is, but he *came over* to talk to me. And let’s be honest here – he can see right through me – I know I’m not *that* good.

So he’s introduced himself. I smile, and try to read my book, kind of scared. It seems ridiculous now, but it was really jarring at the time. I’m sweating, which is annoying because I thought my makeup looked pretty good. I pull out my matte-ifying powder compact and do my best to mop up.

Nothing really happened for a good thirty minutes. I knew he was looking over at me every so often, in between checking his phone and highlighting whatever important lines happened to be in the papers he was carrying. In my furtive glances, I could tell he was wearing a wedding band. He’d been checking his email on his phone a little bit too, as you do, except that towards the end of the journey, he was checking his phone a little more aggressively. His elbow was rubbing up against mine. This was beginning to get invasive, and I felt my heart rate go up even more, but at least I know I’m getting off in a minute or so. I withdrew my elbow, but he persisted.

Sigh.

The train approaches my station. His elbow recedes. He’s getting off too! He stands up, and walks to the left. I stand up and walk to the right. I step out of the train and walk toward the exit. I’m free – but I don’t feel relieved just yet.

And then I see a shadow to my left.

I don’t hear what he says – some innocuous comment about the day or something, but I’m suitably disturbed. He’s followed me off the train. I keep walking.

“Where do you work?” he asks.

“I’m not interested.” I say. It was surprisingly difficult to get the words out, for reasons I can’t quite explain. I felt like I shouldn’t feel so scared, shouldn’t have felt so….gross, like I’d invited this. I didn’t do anything!

“Coffee?” He says. “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?”

Looking down at the ground I shake my head. It feels meek and timid. I can’t get any words out – managing to say that I wasn’t interested felt like a force of will, and that seemed exhausted at this point. I keep walking, slightly faster. I check my peripheral vision for shadows. I get to the stairs. I walk up. I get to the top and turn around, to see if he’s still following me, but I don’t see anything. I go out of the station, and now I’m on the street. I get to the intersection, and wait impatiently for the lights to turn. I’m checking the reflections in buildings around me to see if he’s there. I keep walking. I text my friends to see if they’re at work yet. I get one block from work and I feel brave enough, while waiting for the lights to change, to turn around and take a good look around all the intersecting streets to see if he’s followed me at a distance. I don’t see him.

I walk into my building, where I see a friend, and I tell her what happened. My glasses are fogging up because of how overheated I am, and the cool morning air isn’t cooling me down anymore. I get up to my desk, unload all my stuff, and then go to the bathroom and just…sit there for ten minutes, trying to compose myself.

It’s over.

Right?

Because, honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never seen this guy before, I’m pretty sure. But apparently he gets on at the same station I do, at my spot on the platform, and hopefully only by some stroke of coincidence, at around the same time I do. And it makes me wonder, had he seen me before? Had he watched me go there, hoping for his chance to speak to me? Or was it all just a giant cosmic coincidence?

There’s so much about this whole thing that bothers me:

  • If I wasn’t dressed up, I feel like this wouldn’t have bothered me so much.
  • I always thought that if and when I was harassed, I could deal with it.
  • Do people *really* try and pick up people this way? On a train?
  • He singled me out – he knew what he was looking for.
  • He made physical contact – and I know what he was thinking – “I’ll let her know I’m here, and see how she responds.”
  • He FOLLOWED me off a train.

I don’t know. On the one hand, I feel like maybe I’m over-reacting. Like I shouldn’t feel this way, because, really, what did he do? Try to get to know me? Was I justified in feeling so…icky? So fearful? But am I over-reacting? I talked to female friends about it all day and they told me their stories of abuse and harassment and unwanted attention, and each of them were equally invasive and scary, if not more-so.

This is the first time I’ve had a negative experience (ok, maybe that’s not entirely true).
I always felt like I would be able to handle it. Hell, this isn’t even an extreme case.

But I’m still rattled.

Read more about my experiences Being Out.


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18 thoughts on “A harassment story.

  • GothicEmily

    Yes, this guy was a creeper and yes, you’re 100% justified in feeling frightened/annoyed/angry or whatever else you felt. It’s a standard creeper MO: chat you up, make physical contact to see how you respond, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

    This is, unfortunately, the sort of crap women (both cis- and trans-) deal with on a daily basis. It is part of the downside of being female. I”ve heard a few stories from transwomen, about how the new-to-them experience of having to deal with this kind of unwanted attention sometimes comes as a pretty harsh and unpleasant awakening. It sucks and there are a lot of men out there who suck.

  • Susan King

    Welcome to the female world. We are going to have men make advances. As a female it is what happens. This will happen anytime and by any male, wanted or unwanted by us. You may feel unnerved, but you should look at it as part of your female experience.

    • Liz Post author

      but you should look at it as part of your female experience.

      No. Absolutely not. Never. Harassment of any kind should not be counted as part of the female experience, because it should not be part of the female experience.

  • Mireille

    Though I haven’t blogged about it I had more or less the same experience.maybe I was to upset at first and forgot about it later on.

    I was shopping useful stuff when I noticed some guy in another queue, bit latin/middle eastern looking, got really startled after seeing me when I was standing in queue to pay. After paying he caught up with me and whispered to get my attention. stuff like hey, how are you etc. Was not the first time something like that happens and I tend to go into full ignore mode as I feel non verbal communication is the best in those cases. But still the guy is on me. So I decide to enter an extremely busy drugstore and try to shake him off in the maze of aisles and people. Still I hear him trying to get attention. This was getting nuts. I had to take shelter into the “exclusive” domain of females, a woman only fashion store (in where I happen to know the staff too). For sure a man alone wouldn’t follow me there. So I was browsing there stuff for a couple of minutes, thought it was over and there he was right in front of me. I got really scared by now: vision narrowed, tremor in my voice etc I was telling this guy that he was already following me over three stores and that I did not appreciate that at all and that he should really go now. And he just kept uttering stuff like “but how are you?” “do you want to go for a drink?” Eventually he drooped off. Afterwards I talked with the sales staff about the incident. They said to me that if such things happen they can get security over here in 3 seconds. The most scary part was that none of them had actually seen the incident…

    • Liz Post author

      I’m sorry that happened to you :( It’s odd – when I think about what happened to me, I suppose from the outside perspective, everything looked fine/normal (maybe apart from my discomfort!).

      I can’t believe how these people thinks it’s ok to follow someone! It’s as if they feel entitled to your attention :/

  • Bostec

    Sorry to read about this, that really does sound like a crossdresser worst nightmare, well mine anyway. I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes(well ok I tell a lie, maybe a little bit, you look far more convincing then I do) but it really did sound like a horrible situation. I wouldn’t like to be chased/stalked even if I was dressed as a male! Bit of a taboo one here but how would you feel if a random stranger came up to you and just started to talk to you about crossdressing and stuff? Would you find that a invasion of your privacy or would you be happy to answer? I suppose its personal preference, I mean I don’t think I would want anyone talking to me.

    • Liz Post author

      Good question! I think, honestly, so long as they weren’t being creepy, I’d be happy to answer any questions – obviously, I can’t speak for everyone though, so maybe it wouldn’t be the best idea, lol, but yeah, I think I’d be up for it. I’m definitely very open about answering questions about it :D

  • Evie Leigh

    Hi Liz,

    I’m glad I stumbled across your blog! It’s well written and fun (except for harrassment stories of course)!

    I’m gonna put a totally different spin on this incident (and hopefully not come off as creepy) taking the closeted CD perspective.

    Maybe this guy was a CD also. Living here in the Bay area I’ve come across my share of ladies who either were TS or CD (mostly at Starbucks, go figure!) while I was in boymode. I’ve always wanted to say or do something to let them know I’m part of the soroity, but obviously that’s an awkward thing to try to pull off without looking like a psycho chaser or putting someone’s private business in the spotlight.

    Maybe he gave you the smile from a few seats away as the “in”. Following this logic (or lack thereof) maybe once he sat next to you he wanted to let you know he was one of us. You say he was checking his phone and got more furtive as the journey continued, is it possible maybe he had pulled up the Flickr page or Facebook of his femme self on his phone and was desparately (albeit, somewhat inappropriately) trying to get you to look over by giving you a nudge?

    Shoot, I should be a lawyer! On second thought, I’m not a big fan of lawyers (until I need one)

    Plus, most of the true creeps don’t pounce in the daytime going to work. He wouldn’t want to risk one of his co-workers seeing him pushing up on some chick if they knew he was married. Also, I’m not sure a cretin would have just invited you for coffee, they can’t help but say something totally inappropriate and/or overtly sexual.

    Anyway, just a different way to look at it. But yeah, carry some pepper spray just to be safe…

    Evie

    • Liz Post author

      Thanks for the compliments! :)

      Yeah… That was definitely something I’d considered – that he was a fellow CD who just wanted to talk to me. That kind of all went out the window when he started rubbing his elbow against me though :/

  • Melanie Collins

    Hi Liz,
    I stumbled onto your blog and love it. I’m looking forward to reading all your stories but this one jumped out at me to read first.
    As for your story, I’m miles older than you and have been dressing for lots longer, and I wouldn’t call it harassment, I’d only call it “trying to get to know you”. Some of your readers will say there’s no difference but I can see there is.
    If he yelled up and down the train, “You’re a goddam trannie. Hey everyone, this is a trannie we have here”, then I’d call that harassment. But he was evidently quiet and reasonable by the sound of it. Maybe he didn’t follow you but his place of work is in the same direction? Evie has the best explanation as to why he wanted to talk to you, it makes sense to me.
    I wish you the best of luck in life.
    Melanie [in Australia].

    • Liz Summers Post author

      I probably wouldn’t’ve considered it harrassment, until he clearly started rubbing his elbow on me. I moved so that he couldn’t, and boom, his elbow was back rubbing on me again. I don’t think harrassment has to necessarily be aggressive – this was definitely invasive though.

  • Marge Holmes

    This unfortunately sounds all too familiar..
    I often dress whilst out and at over 6′ am not fooling too many but i reckon I pass at a casual glance
    The thing that really scares and I would even say upsets me, is that I have been followed deliberately several times when all I want to do is have a quiet walk around the city I am visiting (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London). Given my size I have been lucky when i turn round and challenge them… and they leave me alone, but i felt so intimidated …
    Hasn’t put me off though… none has the right to do that when I am doing no harm :-)
    Heads up and onward !!
    x x

  • Becky

    When I started reading, I thought you were going to say that a guy touched you, or felt you up or similar.

    He smiled at you, you reciprocated, that’s a bit of an invite in a social cue kind of way that can be misinterpreted.

    The elbow thing, some guys do that inconsiderately.

    He will have been following you for a bit, but just to ask you for coffee? That’s a crime now?

    Whatever the reason for his interest, whether he was a ‘chaser’ or just thought you were attractive, wearing a ring is more likely to be a wedding ring I suppose but we don’t know if that’s from a divorce or just a ring.

    Your feelings are valid, though, you were concerned, worried, it was a new and scary situation; I just don’t think every guy can be dismissed as entirely creepy for behaving in what an be seen as a civil manner.

    • Liz Summers Post author

      I think I was pretty clear that I wasn’t interested after 30 minutes of not talking to him. Also, the elbow thing? No – that wasn’t just inconsiderate – it was deliberate and invasive. If I explicitly move away from it, and then he reaches even further with his elbow into my rib cage, that’s beyond uncool.