As If I Needed A Reason
Black, lesbian, transgender and “with a troublesome, gender expression” to boot! As if anyone needed to give a reason for being to anyone but themselves. If nobody else did, why ask it of me to do so? I don’t know what it is but I have been put upon more times than I care to revisit here. However I will share a few incidents.
I’m not sure why gay men constantly hit on me but if straight men are anything to go by I’d say it must be down to their errant concealed pythons and the thinking stops there. For the gay men apart from friendship I said, “stop!” For straight men, short of outing myself with regard sexual orientation every single day I am faced with their propositioning eyes, I might be risking more than I bargained on.
I’ve found recently that some of the women involved in my case were either confused, possessive, self centered -like my ex or outrightly tactile as I found at KU bar a couple of weeks ago. I was partying hard when I felt a wondering hand on my pudendum. I knew it wasn’t mistaken but since the woman apologised I thought nothing of it. I carried on dancing. She came round again only this time pushing me and spiriting herself away before I could even draw breathe. Initially, getting my first proper look at her, she seemed like she was whipping up support to have me thrown out of the club. I could have been the transwoman in, “better than chocolate” the way she behaved towards me. This was the second acquaintance who tried to get me thrown out of a club with that film in mind. The third encounter between me and Ms. Separatism happened in the ladies toilet. She didn’t even say anything short of whispering to a woman who stood there watching when out of nowhere she lounged at me reaching for my breasts. It was the same woman, beautiful except when she was angry as she was now. I thought.
“Get your hands off, now!” I said markedly. “Look, they don’t come off and you’re hurting me, GET OFF!”
When she didn’t I grabbed hold of her in the same manner.
“Yours are not real!” she yelled trying to scare me into silence.
“They are as real as any I’ve touched; even yours!” I said as she let go of me and fumed off out of the place.
The sole watcher there with us came towards me.
“You can touch mine any day,” she said gesturing towards my breasts. “May I?”
I nodded yes without thinking but I didn’t have to worry. She touched me softly, caressingly dropping one hand, “there!” I felt I’d died and gone to heaven. We swapped numbers.
Waiting for a Bus 53 on my way home all those years ago. I felt exposed to the elements when I was groped by a man. Immediately, proud of what he planned to do he walked by me noncommittally towards me. As he approached something took me back to waiting watching wondering when my bus would arrived. It was running late already. My eyes told me, “you are being watched!” Anyone could have been watching me. Being objectified in that way was getting on my nerves. “You are being watched?” came the voice again. If I had to turn round that very action would have warned any voyeurs off. I did not ask for it but it happened anyway. I had been groped. It took a split second. Although I almost missed the act, it happened. Before it did I had just spotted another man staring at me. No warning. No reaction. No inkling except for that suspect look on his face. Just there; listless somewhat resigned to the sort of person he went out with. Groper and watcher walked away while for the longest time I remained frozen in shock.
If the multicultural passengers waiting for a bus saw what happened they put up a damn good performance suggesting otherwise. Had I said, “get your hands off me!” Yes, or at least I thought I had. If I had wouldn’t he have said something? Perhaps a fight would have broken out or something? I forgot the touch though just feeling a sort of absence, a sort of loss. The first thing was my boundary. Someone, through excessive closeness, had breached my boundary, my sense of my own body, of my, “self.” Eventually it came back to me, “get your hand off my body,” at the time there was no penis or vagina except for an enduring response to touch and the raw material somewhere where the light of day never shined.
That was my first physical experience or a transphobic hate crime. It was so silent you would have heard a pin make contact with the floor. However, it wasn’t the last. The point is, why do I have to explain myself away in front of my abusers every time? Why should I have to explain my very existence? A question I still ask myself on a basis.
Things rarely stopped there. And then there was all the audial gropers. Perhaps, as long as you are not expecting me to explain the cause of transgenderism? That mystery is embedded so deep inside me that it will be life threatening for me to explain. That didn’t stop Lafenwa asking his partner to go ask me. Apparently, because he had a friend who transitioned years ago back home, he thought that gave him a sense of entitlement.
“Does it pain?” he asked with the undisguised revulsion mixed with an unhealthy dose of curiosity.
I took a gulp rather than the sip I had intended and felt a surge of unexpected confidence.
“Did what hurt?” I said leaving him to squirm.
“You know, when they cut it off?” he offered still looking out of sorts.
“It’s irresponsible of Steve to tell you my business in the first place,” I said. “Allow me to apologise. Sorry, it’s only, that I asked him about you and he told me to ask you.” Not that his excuse made any difference but Il told him what happens. “The surgeon doesn’t slice the penile tissue and use it for dog food. Rather he or she (the surgeon) takes a bit of the penile crown for the construction of a clitoris, the shaft skin is inverted for the vagina lining and..” Steve’s partner looked wasted from the impact of the information I’d given him. “My, friend, said, ‘it hurt!'” he said looking as if his face had been used for a punching bag. “Funny that, isn’t it? Of course any operative procedure would hurt but the pain is bearable with pain killers and a bonus, they heal. Honestly, you get drugged to the eyeballs so much so if you I like me, I begged to come off it. If I were like you that would have been life threatening but I’m not. For me, it felt like a huge release.” I was about to continue but he rushed off. Something told me that was the last time he would ask anyone about sex reassignment surgery.
Just short of the week in which Stephen Lawrence’s racist murderers were brought to book it is strange that these days, in terms of gender identity or sexuality the new aggressors, bullies or “shank bearers” are multicultural this time around. What happened if a black transwoman was being abused, harassed, beaten up or worse, murdered because of her gender identity? At times, white and black at others, black or just white or even yellow as happened on a few occasions. The polices’ attitude was nothing to write home about. Men, especially the ones who fancied me turned nasty when they heard the ongoing gossip. Immediately they took a position. One day while reading in my sitting room, I heard a familiar voice shouting: “I’m not gay, I’m not gay, honest I’m not!” The voice sounded like my immediate neighbour’s who gave me his phone number asking me out to a new wine bar he knew. I couldn’t help laughing at the humour of it.
“Yes, I am all those things: black, lesbian, trans queer, ‘with a troublesome gender expression’,” your words.
Mia Nikasimo (c) January 2012