Shaken (I): the invisible bobby…

The good news is that i spent last night up in london partying and catching up with friends.

The bad news is Kings Cross station, first thing on a sunday morning: not a policeman in sight; and a bunch of foul-mouthed and drunken youths with little better to do than intimidate, harass and threaten violence.

For the best part of half an hour, that meant me. 😦

It began at half five. That’s when Kings Cross opens on a sunday morning, and i made my way on to the main concourse and sat down. A few minutes later, i was joined by half a dozen young types. Then a few more…and a few more after that.

They were loud, jolly in an aggressive drunk sort of way, and looking for targets. Strike one: an old guy passed out and very much the worse for booze on the floor at the back of the benches: presumably NOT swept out of the station the night before.

The transphobic chat-up line

Strike two: me. A woman of trans history, on her own: so an ideal target…

It started with one bright young guy sitting next to me and declaring loudly he’d like to marry me…moved on to loud speculation about my gender…and then various offers of sex. Given the apparent obsession with the anal variety that the guys demonstrated, one does wonder if some homophobes do protest too much. They certainly knew a lot about it….

Some very minor touching – arm, shoulder, my overnight bag – and a stream of oh so unoriginal unwitty witticisms.

I stayed mum. I figured early on that any form of response would only invite worse. Move? But where: it was tipping it down outside…and the mob, which was pretty much what it looked like, was roaming far and wide across the station.

Walk away and…chances were someone would follow: but there was nowhere to go to. No single figure of authority, station staff or PC i could walk towards for assistance.

In the space of half an hour they managed to commit a string of minor violations. A couple of guys leapt the barrier into the ladies loo: smoking and roll-ups all round. The musk smell of mary-jane filled the air.

Given time, i suspect they’d have moved on to spitting and frightening the horses.

Still, the focus eventually shifted away from me as four of the girls broke away from the main crowd and started a vicious, no-holds-barred brawl. Much cheering by the rest: strike three!

Slightly detached from it all, i was intrigued by the crowd dynamics. Most times that i have faced this sort of nastiness, its the girls who calm things down: who suggest that the guys leave me alone. Not today: feral femininity seemed much in evidence, both from the lack of support and the brutality of their fighting.

Indifferent officialdom

About now, a few station staff turned up. At last! I spoke with someone who appeared nominally in charge. He was very uninterested. Where were the police, i asked?

I mean: not wishing to be TOO political about this sort of thing. But this is one of the largest stations in the UK’s capital city…and we’re talking an hour of the day when it is very likely that this sort of thing might go down. Because for those who have been drinking til three, four in the morning, half five most definitely is not the morning after.

What ho! We can afford misile launchers to protect the olympics from terrorists. The police are happy to make the time to clear “vice” off the streets, in case visitors to London get the “wrong idea”. But upholding the peace at five in the morning? Nah.

Though the stupid thing is that had they had just two officers wandering the concourse at half five,most of this would not have kicked off.

As it was, crowd rowdiness had reached a pitch such that when the British Transport Police DID eventually arrive at about half six (about sisteen of them just strode through on their way to somewhere else), a fair few arrests and cautions were needed, presumably leading to loads of time-consuming paperwork and possibly, even, the odd crim record for young persons who, no matter how foul, probably do not deserve to have the next decade of their job prospects blighted by an incident like this.

Keystone (Transport) Cops

At the time, i wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. One helmeted policeman was trying to deal with an incident behind a low wall. Twenty yards away, three officers stood chatting and taking little notice. The lone officer kept looking over at the three…he mouthed, into his radio, “assistance needed”. And still the gaggle chatted on.

I wandered over to suggest,politely, that an officer might need assistance. “What evidence do you have of that?”, one of their number asked.

“Er: he’s stood over there and he’s gesturing to you to come and help him?”

Nah! Not interested…until about half a minute later an official request came thru on the radio.

Later, when things had calmed down, i tried to talk to another officer. Would there be police on the station just to keep an eye.

“Absolutely”, he re-assured me. Before wandering off and leaving the station once more empty of police presence.

Clearly i have been spoilt by L:incs police, who despite being under-resourced do seem to take transphobic and homophobic incidents seriously. This time round, i couldn’t help feeling that the officers i spoke to were at best indifferent – too busy catching up on last night’sgoss: at worse, less than bothered by what probably ticked the hate crime, had i been encouraged to report it.

London 2012 – not a very nice place to be at all

Just sunday morning? An anomaly? And after all, aren’tpolice and station staff allowed a lie-in?

No. Not really. The incident left me shaken and shaking. I wasn’t the only person left that way, as other individuals became, in turn, targets for the mob’s humour. Nothing serious, in the end, seems to have happened.

Though at the time, the possibilities were alarming. Two drunk guys in the women’s loo? That alone had potential to turn very nasty indeed.

A little later the station speaker system came on. In amongst the announcements, the jolly tones of Boris Johnson, extolling what a wonderful place London 2012 was for people to visit.

If he can’tsort the policing out a bit better, then he might be better offsaving the sound bite til later.

jane xx


9 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Theo Cuppier said,

    and there you have it.. thats how my kicking unconscious started.. a few words behind my back.. escalating to a load of supposition, then abouse.. then violence.. I don’t travel the rails alone these days after 6pm.. IF I ever need to in the future I think a nice handgun will be in order!!

  2. 2

    pollik said,

    Have you drafted your letter of complaint, yet?

  3. 3

    Lucy Melford said,

    A frightening experience. This is why I am so reluctant to use public transport, as it’s dangerous just waiting around, as well as while seated on the train or bus.


  4. 4

    Caroline said,

    Public transport at regular busy times feels fine but now that there is no fear of authority waiting about is no longer something I would contemplate.

    As you have pointed out the police behave in a third rate manner at the best of times! Innocent me often got harassed by the police when a long haired youth whilst thugs near by were given a wide berth…

  5. 5

    Natacha Kennedy said,

    (sending hugs…) Take care, be nice to yourself.

    When Boris/Cameron say they can cut police numbers without affecting front line services, they are obviously talking out of where the sun don’t shine. Seems almost impossible to spot a copper on the streets anywhere in London these days.

  6. 6

    Christabel said,

    I try to use public transport as little as possible and am finding it very constraining. I love being out and about in London but the thought of the journey always puts me off. Having abuse shouted in the street is one thing but within the confines of an unstaffed railway carriage it is terrifying.

    I have endured a tirade from a youth about the nature of my gender identity on platform 4 at London Bridge mainline station at the height of rush hour and in full view of station staff. It was continuous for about ten minutes until he got onto the train before mine. I’ve sat on trains with kids throwing abuse and chips at me. Been groped on buses… list goes on. It’s not just lack of staff/police but also the inaction of those who are there.

    I know plenty of this happens to “normal” women as well as transwomen. It makes me sick. I certainly won’t use the train or bus after about half seven when alcohol starts to be a factor. Why can’t people use a public service in comfort and safety? Glad I have a car!

  7. 7

    Transgenderist Egalitarian said,

    Gee. That is really terrible. Why do you think you are getting harrassed? Could it be the way you are dressed? Or is it just that not everybody is as enlightened and free thinking as you?

    • 8

      janefae said,

      er, on the off-chance that i am missing something here, would you like to explain why you would subscribe to what appeas mere thoughtless victim-shaming without dealing with what i posted or indeed, knowing anything about me.

      First up, why would my dress have any bearing on the matter at all? Part because apart from beinmg slightly on the colourful side, there is little in the way i drssd to distibguish me from any other middle-aged woman…part because…so what if there were? Are you suggesting women should dress “right” or risk violent abuse?Or if not, what point are you making?

      As for enlightenment…i suspect you may be right. So “enlightened” were this particular mob that maybe half a dozen of them were led away in handcuffs after the police turned up for a variety of offences quiteunconnected to anything they said or did in regard to myself. As i left to catch a train, one or two were continuing to engage police officers in free thinking dialogue, which mostly seemed to consist of abusive language uttered loudly and repetitively in the direction of the police.

      Otherwise, it is maybe six months or more since i endured anything remotely similar, which leaves you to decide whether the infrequency of this sort of behaviour suggests it is about the mob or me…

      jane xx

  8. 9

    Anonymous said,

    You really do not want to know.

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