Threats, bluster…and being scared

Oh well, it had to happen.

Lulled into something of a false sense of secuerity by the almost universally positive response to my transition, I have got used to not being challenged and, apart from the occasional look, not being the focus of other peoples’ rage.

ALl change this morning – and I am left feeling shaken, upset and…yes…wary about going out. For which reson I WILL go out later today, and no doubt will get over it in half an hour.

The one place where I have been concerned about my living in role has been at the local Leisure Centre. There, you may recall, I took our son to go swimming a few weeks…months…back and, for the first time in a long time was wary.

Because, of course, I’d be using the female changing rooms and…worse, in the eyes of some people, I’d be entering a space that contained female children.

In the end, though, I crossed the threshold and, despite a few initial nerves, the sky didn’t fall in. It helped, too, that no-one – apart from the boy – seemed to strip off in front of anyone else. Gone are the days when changing rooms mean dozens of naked kids charging round flicking one another with towels.

So far, so good. I’d got into routine and all seemed well.

Until this morning.

A bloke stopped me at the entrance to the changing room. I wasn’t going in, he told me. What? Nope. I was making some of the women, some of the children uncomfortable.

They’d been talking about me. And if I did try to go in, he’d lay me out.

Lots of highly offensive stuff about “blokes” not going into the female changing room. But at least no overt violence then and there.

We decamped to speak to the management. The boy, luckily, appeared not terribly affected by this exchange and went in to change by himself. An assistant from the Centre followed to check him out.

In front of management, the same scenario, more or less, played itself out again.

People had been talking. Women were uncomfortable. I should “grow up”: that, apparently, was the solution every time I asserted and dared to contradict Mr pink shirt. Oh, yes…he was wearing a pink shirt. That and angry hair are about the two main features I remember.

I asserted because he started off with a tirade of mis-gendering. I wasn’t having that. No way! I asked him to stop calling me “him”.

(Oh, grow up!).

He said that he had no problems with me. He didn’t think I was likely to do anything to the kids (liar!). And I could wear whatever I wanted on my own time. Ah. So he equates transsexual with transvestite.

Luckily (?) he repeated his threat in front of the manager. I explained that I was happy to meet with all and sundry, especially the mums…though with police present.

I asked him not to threaten me. He seemed almost oblivious to the fact he had. When it finally sunk through, he backtracked ever so slightly. Oh. He didn’t mean it.


So if I had ignored him he wouldn’t have hit me? I doubt it.

It is awful. I’m typing now as I await the arrival of the police. I’m also now on course for a series of fairly unpleasant meets with mums and the local council, because I’m certainly not going to aim to compromise.

I’m no threat to anyone. How could I be?

“Discomfort”, therefore, is no reason at all – other than covert language for they think I am a threat but haven’t the guts to say it… or something else.

But this leaves me very worried. Because, in the way of the world, there is no resolution possible here except full resolution. I can’t – mustn’t – “win”…because if I get my way over the bluster of this bloke, I will spend the rest of my days in this area in fear that he or some anonymous friend will take their revenge by catching me when next I am out late at night.

It changes things.





11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Liz Church said,

    Do go out later on. Take a Penang lawyer with you if you feel uneasy. Meanwhile I hope the police do their job.

  2. 2

    Faith said,

    Jane, it is a hurdle, you HAVE been expecting it and it WAS going to happen at some point due to societies lack of understanding to the nth degree… You ARE a strong gal who CAN cope with this! If you need me to come over to attend the meeting I am free Thursday and Friday. YOU should not be made to feel in fear for other’s misconceptions.

  3. 3

    Rebecca said,

    Why doesn’t this pool have a family changing space for dads and daughters, mums and sons? I thought that they all did. Which would, at least, give you somewhere to use while the bigots get their knickers out of those knots.

    I’m sorry, Jane. It’s shit behaviour. I hope you fight it all the way.

  4. 4

    Martha D said,

    yes they made this artificial problem by not having parents and childrens changing facility. I really so hate how they made it your fault and threatened violence. Love to you and more power against the bigots.

  5. 5

    spirifer said,

    Yes, Rebecca, I though so too re: family changing rooms. If this pool hasn’t got a family changing area, then they should pronto. And this bloke was just a member of the public, nothing to do with the actual management of the centre? How dare he try to decide who can and who can’t use the centre’s facilities?

    What did the manager do? Did s/he give in to this bloke’s demands, or let you get on, change and get into the pool with the boy?

    • 6

      andrea said,

      the leisure centre is contracted out to a private comany and hasn’t had any money spent on it in decades… its a continually raised point at many meetings locally and is generally considered a disgrace. The chances of something as outre as a family changing area is way off.
      (jane wasn’t swimming she was just taking the boy in to change for his lesson…she had to send him in on his own to get him away from the confrontation as fast as she could..but then a member or staff went through to check he was ok)

  6. 7

    […] with the transphobe bloke from Hell (or possibly Peterborough: the similarities are marked), the local Leisure Centre has been a difficult place for […]

  7. 8

    […] I have had one nasty incident in the last 12 months, when a guy decided to do his public bit and “protect” women by barring […]

  8. 9

    Katie said,

    I found this post through your comment on the Bilerico story on the recent assault on a trans woman in Baltimore. I’m trans, I regularly swim and wanted to share my experiences.

    I began transition in 2001, and changed my name in 2006. I am still awaiting SRS. I swam a lot when I was young, and it was something I really enjoyed doing. When I started hormonal treatment, swimming was the first thing I had to compromise on. There was a period of four years between beginning transition, and finally feeling confident enough to swim. I first returned to the pool in 2005.

    Ponds Forge pool in Sheffield, in 2005, had a changing village that was primarily for the leisure pool, but was also accessible to people using the large competition pool. This made access on my first visit very easy, I was able to use the facility entirely discretely. I strongly believe changing villages are the best way to cater for all swimmers.

    I then didn’t go again for a long time, and I heard in 2007 that Ponds Forge was overhauling its changing facilities, in part to make way for a larger gym and members’ changing rooms. Part of this plan involved the removal of the changing village, and the construction of two single-sex, communal changing rooms to service the leisure pool. In my opinion, this represented a huge step back in accessibility for all, and I wrote them an email to explain what the plans meant for me if I continued to use the pool in the future.

    They were very polite in their reply, but one thing that concerned me is that they justified removing the changing facilities by citing feedback from parents that children are vulnerable in changing villages. I was dismayed that they had cited this claim, and that they were using it as a justification for removing the changing village. It seemed to me to be conciliatory to a misguided group of people, entirely without fact, and added to my trepidation in using the facility. I pressed them to cite a specific incident that this may have been based on, but from that point, they were more keen to speak to me in person than continue by email.

    It took me a long time to go swimming again after that. Their response seemed friendly, but forced. I didn’t really feel wholly welcome.

    In 2009, I had not been involved in routine exercise for a long time, and I really needed to start again. I decided to go swimming and just try to scope out the new changing area. I’d heard that it wasn’t that there were some spaces that I could possibly use to change.

    I did go along, and while there are two single-sex communal changing rooms, there are six family changing cubicles available in the same manner as the changing village. These are accessible to all, en route to the leisure pool or the competition pool. Inevitably, these rooms are very busy at times, although I tend to visit Ponds Forge after the leisure pool closes, and I am seldom in contact with many people. I later had the opportunity to tour the female competition pool facilities, which offers both communal and cubicle changing areas. The best thing about the design of this area is that the cubicles and lockers are arranged in a way that they can be used without ever entering the communal area.

    I’ve never had a problem at Ponds Forge. People are usually polite and it tends to be a very diverse place. It naturally gets a bit imposing when it’s busy, but otherwise it’s okay. The only problems I’ve ever had are from their staff being very awkward over the use of gym changing rooms.

    When I visit the gym, I usually just change and shower at home, as I live ten minute’s walk from Ponds Forge. When I was using the gym on a pay-as-you-go basis, I found their staff extremely protective of the member’s changing facilities. So much so that when I approached the kiosk to go to the gym, I was directed to the single-sex competition pool facilities, which I had already declared that I had no interest in using. It hadn’t occurred to them that I wouldn’t be getting changed at all, that I was just going to dump my stuff in a locker, use the gym, and shower at home.

    After this happened a few times, I finally had an opportunity to talk to the general manager, who took me on a tour of the entire centre, as well as a discrete tour of the female changing facilities. It was this occasion that I found out that you could indeed use the competition pool cubicles without entering the communal area. I told her that it is these details immensely that mattered to me – I wanted the confidence to use the facility without having to enter a communal area.

    I still use Ponds Forge, and I still love it immensely. Having the opportunity to meet the general manager and walk around the entire centre and talk about what mattered to me gave me a lot of confidence in using it. I do feel more welcome than I had, and the changing facilities are more accessible than I had thought. Their principle problem was more a case of giving the information I needed, and their issues with protecting their members changing areas made them unapproachable.

    I hope your meetings go well, and that your experiences improve. I’ve not actually read any of your more recent entries, so I probably should go an do that now 🙂 Good luck 🙂

  9. 10

    Jonny Punk said,

    Hey there

    As with the last poster, I found your blog through the Bilerico story on the recent assault on a trans woman in Baltimore.

    I know two hugely strong TG women that I respect greatly, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to go through day to day life with the sort of unthinking prejudice that is directed at people within the TG community. Walking through town with one of my friends recently, as she pushed her daughter in a pram, she warned me that I might not want to walk next to her in case people judged me. Bugger that.

    Please stay strong, and carry on being who you are. We all need to be more ready to accept that we are all different. God bless.

  10. 11

    […] of months back for reasons that were far less good then than eventually was the case. Following my upset at the local Leisure Centre ( a guy threatened to hit me for going into the women’s changing area…the Leisure Centre […]

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