Apologies for letting more than an entire week slip by without a post: I did have some things I wanted to write about but I really struggled to find the time.
There’s an annual festival currently underway in Melbourne which I’ve been busy helping out with, not as an attendee per se but as a person with specialised expertise and experience. I’ve attended nearly a dozen of these festivals over the last twenty years. And as I mentioned last week, some people were aware of my gender status when I turned up for the opening social event, and the range of support I’ve received from old friends and some new ones has been wonderful in almost all cases.
Now, when I say almost all… some reactions were of the kind where the person who came to offer their congratulations thought they were being supportive in providing their anecdotes about friends and relatives who are trans, which sometimes revealed a faulty grasp of understanding why it hurts to be misgendered – referring to a transgender son or nephew who now goes by a masculine name and wants to be referred to with male pronouns, say, it’s not at all confusing to me that they were most likely given a feminine name at birth… so why do you have to continually keep referring to him as “she”? I understand what this is like.
I also touched on a related issue in the comments for that thread I linked to just before. The most recent comment is by one of the festival attendees and she has been one of the helpful people correcting others when I am referred to by my birth name. I can totally understand, given that I’ve been to ten of these events before, how people might want to refer to my previous participation and/or contributions which I’ve made to the running of these festivals, by invoking the name I was using at the time. However, a lot of the time it isn’t actually needful for people to bring up my birth name and gender in reference to the past: even if I wasn’t called Xanthë at the time, referring to something I did in the year 2005 say, isn’t actually ambiguous with the name retrospectively altered: I am still the same person. With a few positive changes!
It’s an obvious and well-entrenched habit of mind to refer to the past exactly as it was, and for people to thus refer to my previous persona without thinking of the related issues of disclosure, but it does have the very real effect of outing me as trans to anyone who happens to be in earshot. When it happened in that group, it was not really a risk for me. Lots of people have my back there. In other company it might not be a good thing.
Anyway, I wanted to underline that those sorts of little things are the sorts of niggling minutiæ that were almost certainly not intended as hurtful or aggressive towards me, and which I filed away under the mental heading of ‘something which I will raise as a small issue in the future, if this establishes itself as a pattern of behaviour’. So now I will draw a clear dividing line between those behaviours and something else which occurred over the weekend.
I received several instances of unwanted sexual attention! There was only one offender involved, but he was persistent. On Friday I was dressed rather smartly and femininely, so upon passing directly by one another, he asked aloud why I was kitted out like so. I decided not to beat around the bush and simply stated that since we had last met, I had come out as being transgender. The next time we were in close proximity he asked whether this meant I would like to be fucked by him, and I answered with a curt (and unequivocal) “No, thanks,” and walked away. I could have killed myself afterwards for having added the word ‘thanks’ out of my usual politeness (sigh, old habits die hard).
This unfortunately wasn’t the end of matters. Standing in an entrance corridor later the same day I didn’t see the guy approach and he offered up a sort of “hey, you’re so sexy!” comment as he was going out, which I could have done without everyone else hearing who happened to be there. Okay, now I know who to avoid. This all happened, by the way, at one of the official events of the festival – not a social event (people who’ve been following the discussion on sexual harassment at conferences, please note).
So, I did my best to avoid this guy thereafter, which is not too difficult, when there are two hundred others you can mingle with and get away from by turns. Last night though there had been one of the major festival events and afterwards there was the inevitable partying at a hotel bar – the sort of quasi-connected social event where all of the people in the public bar actually tend to be the festival attendees (or conference audience, for parity) and their friends. Early on in the evening I was standing with a glass of wine in hand and felt my bottom being groped, and so spun around relatively slowly (so as not to spill my glass) to see the retreating back of the same guy. Fondling my arse without my consent is not wanted!
So for the rest of the time in that space I was keeping an eye out for where that guy was, and if he looked like he was approaching the people I was with I tried to position myself so that there was someone else in between us, or just backing out and going to find someone else at the party to talk to. Not the best way of dealing with the problem, but I didn’t want to make a fuss either.
Today, unfortunately the consequences of having half a bottle of wine and staying out to about 2 am have caught up with me. Further posts will probably surface sometime soonish on the semi-regular pattern of before June (sustaining one post a day was occasionally more trouble than it was worth).