This post is dedicated to the charming 20-something young man who crossed my path in the middle of Peterborough’s shopping centre today. Yes, you: you know who you are!

You’re the guy who, as you passed me, in broad daylight, turned to your friends and said (with no hint whatsoever of a whisper): “It’s a bloke”.

Oh my! I’m sure I didn’t need to hear that information. And probably most of your friends could work things out for themselves. As well, too, that we were walking in opposite directions, as otherwise, I might have succumbed to the thought that I was sorely tempted to utter. Namely: “It’s a twat!”

Instead, I carried on, my day briefly, slightly darkened – and as I did so, I wondered: does he do this to every minority that crosses his path.

Like, turn to his friends and go: “It’s a crip!” or “It’s a faggot!”. He is still alive, so I guess he hasn’t yet walked past a group belonging to any ethnic minority and gone “hey: it’s a person of colour” (or other euphemism, as appropriate).

Whether that is a measure of his bravery – insult the tranny, keep your voice down when insulting other races – or just that he finds the former exceptional, the latter not, I could not say.
Because, in the end, I’m not sure this was transphobia, proper. I doubt he gave me a second thought. I didn’t get the impression he was upset, phased or otherwise emotionally moved by my presence.

No. I was just some passing street curiosity, like a circus, and he couldn’t help but comment on it. The difference, of course, is that a circus is there expressly for his amusement: indeed, pays its way on the back of curious bods like him. But still…if not transphobia, then what?

I guess my answer would just be exceedingly bad manners. We all of us, from time to time, see stuff going down in our streets that causes us to respond in ways that are not exactly the model of political correctness. Most of us, even when we feel sufficiently driven to comment on what we’ve seen to our friends, do so sotto voce and under our breath.

It is definitely unusual to see a trans woman out and about in Peterborough. So I can’t entirely fault him for noticing me. The kind, the polite way to deal with me might have been to mention to his companions, a few seconds later and when I was safely out of earshot: “did you notice the trans woman who just walked past? You don’t see many of those about”.

Polite and…locating the topic in its real curiosity value: the fact that I am a rare bird, in every sense of the word.

“It’s a bloke”? Nah When you think about how he could have dealt with it, its just obvious how rude and obnoxious he was being. If he were to read this, I’d hope he’d learn something – though the chances of either seem to me to be vanishingly small.



3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Liz Church said,

    Definitely sounds like a twat to me, and had I been there, he’d have been a flat-twat. Hope you feel better soon.

  2. 2

    Jennie Kermode said,

    A friend of mine reports that several times as he has ridden through the south Glasgow housing estate where he lives he has been pointed at by teenagers who have announced, simply, “Bike!” I would hesitate to discount the possibility that the young man you encountered on this occasion was simply experiencing a childish pride in being able to label things (albeit, as it turns out, inaccurately).

  3. 3

    Sabine said,

    You may only have heard a part of their conversation. They may have seen you from further afar and been wondering: guy or lady. Once closer, one of them was able to answer the question to his own satisfaction.

    I’ve known it to happen a couple of times, usually with short haired, flat women. Long haired men are easy, for some reason. It’s probably something to do with proportions.

    Categorizing things fast is one of the main functions our brain is really good at so I don’t wonder his wasn’t at peace until it had sorted that out. It makes sense really, since our response to people is different depending on things like gender, age and relative social position which we usually have to make lightning guesses about when first encountering someone.

    In computer programming terms – he was hashing you to add you to his cache of persons in the immediate vicinity and his hash function hiccuped.

    Nothing to be upset about. Never mind that a 20 year old male can’t be expected to behave like an adult anyway and know when to be seen and not heard. You also have to deduct 2 years from his effective age for every male friend accompanying him and at least 4 years for every female in the group.

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