Question: Safety?

Ella asks…

How do you deal with narrow-minded people and do you fear for your safety when traveling through less open-minded and liberal areas?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on January 12th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 20 comments »

20 Responses to “Question: Safety?”

  1. K

    My ex manipulated and pressured me to be feminine. She claimed that it was a safety issue since she lived in a very conservative, rural area. It was easy to see through that, she was more masculine than most of the cismen and that scared her when she saw it in me.

    I’m not afraid of places anymore since it’s people who manipulate.


  2. ElegantAndrogyne

    I live in Poland and sometimes it can be tough, so I try to spot potential enemies and go alternative route. I also bought myself a can of pepper gel a week or two ago [that’s important: avoid buying gas! Use gel as it’ll fly where you direct the spray, not where the wind will carry it with possible harm to you or others].


  3. Chris

    Oh, naturally, it’s a worry anywhere in America, and I live in a VERY liberal city. I don’t do much feminine presentation/ drag/ makeup due to fear of hostile straight men in general (and let’s face it, that’s who would be the threat, straight men).


  4. Anonymous

    I do a lot of martial arts training. Not only does it keep me safe, it gives me the self esteem to do what I like.


  5. Lanthir

    I’m quite obviously bio-female to look at but typically present very masculinely, and I live in rural Virginia.
    I hadn’t ever thought about gender presentation as a safety issue for myself before. I guess I’ve just always associated femininity with vulnerablity (though I know that isn’t always true!), and felt very safe and comfortable dressing as a man. That said, I always have several knives concealed on my person.


  6. P

    I live in Alabama and I definitely feel uncomfortable a lot. I only know one person who is trans, and nobody else genderqueer.


  7. B-Rae

    I haven’t purposefully tried to present as a male, but I have acted fearless with a fierce undercurrent to deter provocation. Nothing too overt that would prompt anyone to challenge me, but nothing too subtle that would make people feel inclined to mess with me. I didn’t necessarily associate it with a “male” gender. I guess I felt weirdly confident in my genderqueerness and not acting like a potential victim has [in my mind] kept me out of trouble. If someone said something that made me think they were trying to mess with me, I just kept cool and unflappable.

    The most dangerous people in action movies are the quiet ones who don’t puff out their chests and trash talk, but rather just sit back and smile or remain calm, knowing that they could pick off anyone without raising their voice. I guess that’s always stuck with me. It’s worked so far, even with groups of 4-8 men who were playing off each other’s provocations. That’s not to say I won’t eventually run into people who will mess me up, but I have a perfect track record to this day.


  8. JMK

    i think it’s good to keep something on you – like pepper spray [NOT a gun or anything deadly] – but i also think, the more afraid you are of being hurt, the more likely you will be. Because if you walk around afraid, people will sense that you’re an easier target.
    So the best defense, really, is self confidence.


  9. Nicholas

    Most people tend to assume I’m a woman based on looks, so I’m generally treated kindly. I worry more about the people who try to overpower you because they assume you’re a woman and therefore, an “easy” target. But then again, I do have my stature, nearing 6′ tall (and people still think I’m a woman, I know, even in a suit/tie, it’s weird.) But while I don’t have the strongest upper body, my legs are like whoa and strong naturally (contending with athlete/jock-type guys in squats/calf-presses? with little effort, sweet genetics!)

    I’ve never had a problem with the questioning, because I’m just honest with people who have a misunderstanding. My clothing choices revolve around what looks nice on the body that I have, and I just dress it in men’s clothing. It might look like a blouse, but it was surely purchased in the men’s section and the breasts are mine. I got them the same time everyone else did, and that my body is different than theirs. I guess I easily disarm people with the combination of unusual characteristics done in a very gender-“appropriate” way. People can’t complain when I’m wearing men’s clothes that make my breasts/waist/butt look nice, and I never introduce myself as a woman or use female pronouns or use a female/ambiguous name.

    Oddly, I’m most unusual-looking while wearing traditional men’s clothing. Less so when wearing more ambiguous clothing, and I really have no desire to wear women’s clothing (men’s clothing in men’s sizes but women’s cuts is a different story, things need to fit :P). I do wear a little jewelry though, small, nondescript earrings, a plain silver ring, and a small, plain, silver bracelet. But any “normal” man could wear those things. It’s like OTHER people don’t know their own “gender rules.” I do the whole “you could wear this too, but it would look different on you than it would on me” deal, that always works.


  10. Anonymous

    Yeah I do worry about this, when traveling on public transport (alone at bus stops and stations especially) or walking around the city area. I don’t think it has anything to do with acting like a victim, trans/genderqueer people get attacked and killed every year all over the world whatever we do, if you look at stats on violence against trans/queer people they are a shock.

    I’m just about to enroll in martial arts and my uni this year, and i do my best to avoid being in places that i think are likely to be especially dangerous. i reckon it’s best to take it as a pretty serious issue


  11. Anonymous

    Gender variant people can never be too careful when traveling because you may land in an area where people are none too welcoming. The most important thing is to stick together. People are much less likely to mess with you if you’re in a group.

    I learned aikido; this martial art is especially good for those of us on the small side because it’s all about using gravity to your advantage, not so much on your size or strength. Using only your good balance and a little bit of agility you can take down a 250lb person(s) with ease.

    I also carry some kind of pepper gel for emergencies. A knife of some sort is also a good idea (especially if you’re traveling by bus/hitching; not only can it be used for protection, but also for cutting things of the non-human kind that need cutting.) Another good trick to get you out of a tight spot is to keep a bobby pin in your back pocket for picking locks/handcuffs. The back pocket is especially important because often handcuffs are put on behind your back, and you would not have access to any other pocket in that situation. Ideally you should pre-fold the bobby pin for picking. (If you don’t know how to pick a lock, there are YouTube videos to show you how. Practice on a cheap lock yourself before you go traveling!)

    Bathrooms are a big problem for me, being a masculine presenting FTM with a girlish face. Niether bathroom is welcoming, and sometimes I get harassed. I usually have a male-bodied queer friend take me to use the mens restroom. Buddy system = win


  12. Anonymous

    where do you live in alabama?
    Im genderqueer and know more people who are genderqueer than trans and my bestfriend is trans.


  13. Lilybean

    I’m taking kickboxing.
    I try to always have useful things on my person, and I’m resourceful.
    I keep my wits about me, looking at my surroundings – who is where, and if something were to happen what could I do.
    If I’m forced into a questionnable area or situation, I have my phone flipped open in my pocket, a button-press away from calling somebody.
    Plus I’m fantastically good with words, and apparently I’m loveable as anything, so… I never fear very much fr my safety.


  14. BamBam

    I live in a conservative country (oh Singapore, how I long for the day when I will never have to suffer your streets again), and while people do stare and mutter to each other, ‘is THAT a boy or girl?’, I’ve never experienced any threat of physical harm. Even in Melbourne, where the people are admittedly more outspoken and passionate in their endeavours and beliefs than Singaporeans, I’ve not encountered any buffoons that I can recollect.

    That said, it is always good to know self-defense. In the case of your attackers being male, I suggest just going for the area toward which men pay a disturbing amount of attention to – the crotch. A well-aimed, hard kick is sure to bring them to their knees.

    Other areas of weakness – the nose (a sharp upward motion with the base of your palm against the bulb of the nose, or just a karate chop to the bridge), kneecaps, ribs, eyes (the eyes are the groin of the head), the Adam’s apple, or bending fingers backward. This is only in the event that you are being physically threatened. NEVER make the first move.

    Of course, it would be more prudent to avoid such situations altogether. Always go out with somebody, do not travel in seedy areas, areas well known for their intolerance or poor moral standards, or dimly lit areas. If you need to go out alone to a questionable place, inform someone before leaving, and tell them what time you think you will reach your destination – that way they will know to call.

    If your attacker in question is simply assaulting you verbally, the best advice would be to ignore it. People say a lot of things, and hardly any of it is intelligent. Their beliefs and hatred consume them so wholely and devastatingly that their rationality, morality and better judgement is often compromised, so there is no need to subject yourself to the feeble and dim-wit taunts of cowards.

    Stay safe, and get involved in your community, because they will always be there for you.


  15. Rike

    I am a bio-female, but I look very androgynous. I live in a fairly small city in Germany and people are not always as liberal as I would like them to be.
    I get stopped by strangers in the streets a lot, because they can’t decide wether I’m male or female and they feel the need to put me in a box :)
    I have a job as a bartender and I often have to put up with drunk guys bothering me. I often get the “are you a dude or a chick” – question and people (especially older men) can get quite aggressive when I don’t want to discuss my gender-identity with them. I usually ignore them or tell them to fuck off. But I’ve been in the situation that I had to call the cops, because they wouldn’t let go of me.
    I don’t usually have to deal with discrimination in the streets. I think I am often mistaken for a teenage boy, because of my height and the way I dress and move. I’m feeling pretty save I guess.
    Once two teenage boys pursued me at a grocery store. When one of them called me “babe”, I turned around and said in a really dark voice: “What the fuck?? Are you a faggot or something?”. They actually apologized and said that they thought I was a girl. xD


  16. Nimoru

    I guess I’m pretty naive. I’m young and I’ve never had any experiences of assault or anything, regarding gender presentation or not. But I live in New York, so I guess that’s kind of why. I’ve walked down the street holding my (straight, female) friends’ hands, sat on their laps and vice versa, kissed my pseudo-girlfriend (long story) on the subway, and have never gotten any nasty comments. Maybe a few funny looks, but those don’t hurt and I don’t care about them. So cities are definitely more accepting. But it can work on a sort of flip side, too, because I live in an area where you can sort of hear gunshots every few months or so.

    In regards to self-defense, though, I have a black belt in TKD and could probably surprise any attackers (I’m a short teenage biofem with a baby face.) But I really hope I don’t get in confrontations or anything because that would kind of suck.


  17. QueerAsa3$BillinaDress

    Safety is a funny thing. You can never know how safe you are going to be in a particular place or time until you find yourself there. It’s just best to always have your wits about you, walk confident and be prepared. And draw community around you. When shit goes down (and unfortunately in lives like ours it often will), it’s important to have a safe place you can go to get support.

    Ex: I live in a city in the Northeast US and for a year I lived in the neighborhood that was deemed the most dangerous violent area in the entire city by crime statistics and general trash talk. Not once did I experience any unsafe or even uncomfortable situations that in anyway related to my gender presentation which is fairly androgynous and very visibly queer. During that same time traveling through other parts of the city I experienced homo- and trans- phobic verbal assaults on a regular basis. On one occasion, walking through a popular park in a very well-to-do and ‘safe’ neighborhood in the middle of the afternoon, a man sitting on a bench said to me “I’m gonna fuck you until you’re not a homo” as I walked past him.

    I don’t feel safe in that part of the city anymore and I won’t go there alone, but I don’t know that you can decide certain places are safer than others based on their external characteristics. It’s like people, those interactions are always more complex than the factors we can think of to factor into it to prepare ourselves. I just try to live my life how I want to, not let fear stop me from doing the things and going to the places that I want to, and staying alert to what’s going on around me.


  18. Treach

    Hey someone up there lives in Alabama! I live in Alabama and i’ve never actually had any problems. Well, I almost got my ass kicked last year cuz someone thought I was a guy trying to push up on his skanky girlfriend, but I dunno whether i’m just oblivious or used to it, but other than the occassional double-take, I haven’t really encountered any problems.


  19. Treach

    I’d also like to add that I work in a Faith-based organization in Alabama and I wear men’s clothes to work, and I haven’t had any complaints from coworkers or bosses or anything. Maybe I’m just lucky; even I find that kind of amazing.


  20. Anonymous

    carry a switchblade/pepper spray at all times


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