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Staying Safe Whilst Out

One of the biggest fears I first had when coming out was this vision that there would be this crowd with pitchforks and burning torches waiting there to lynch me the moment I stepped out! Oh, you know that one?!! It's a very common fantasy amongst transexuals, transvestites and crossdressers from what I understand by having asked hundreds of others.

Generally speaking, the world isn't that nasty however hate crime does still exist, against gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered people as well as blacks, asians, muslims and other minorities. What is a hate crime? Well, it can be physical violence, harassment and abuse, threats and intimidation, damage to property even rape or sexual violence. And perhaps the most shocking part is that by far the majority is committed by people who know the victim personally. So what can you do to help ensure that you don't become a target and what should you do if someone does something against you?

Although you can’t predict when violence may occur, and neither should you be in a state of fear when you go out, there are some strategies you can adopt to try to minimise the chances of being attacked or abused by a stranger.

Awareness on the streets
Take note of your surroundings, and of the people around you. If there are choices about where to walk, always choose well-lit, populated areas and stay near to main roads, avoiding lonely short-cuts at night. Move away from groups of people behaving in an erratic or provocative manner. Cross the street, change direction, grab a taxi cab if you think there is danger. Try not to draw attention to yourself.

Appear confident
Walk with your head up and in a determined manner, and look like you know where you are going, even if you don’t. If you feel nervous, or alone, tell yourself you can cope with any situation, and that you have as much right to be walking the streets as anyone else. Making eye contact with people as you go past them indicates you are not scared.

Stay with others
If you can, when traveling at night be with others for as much of your journey as possible. If you are left alone on top of a bus, or in an empty tube or train carriage, move as soon as you can to where there are other people, or get off if you feel it might be safer to do so. If you can afford it, get cabs for lonely journeys.

Alcohol or drugs make you more vulnerable
If you are out of it, you are more vulnerable to attack. Try to plan beforehand, if you know you will be drinking or taking drugs, to travel with friends or to avoid difficult or isolated journeys, either by staying with a friend or by booking a cab. Booking a minicab beforehand is safer than getting into one of the many cars that hang around nightclubs that might not be genuine cabs.

Avoid conflict
If a situation looks like it might turn violent, try not to engage or ‘fight your corner’ if you are outnumbered. Try to calm the situation down or look instead for ways of getting out of the situation. There is no shame in refusing to fight or trying to get away, especially if the odds are against you.

If you are attacked
Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if you are attacked, you may decide to fight back, but try to get help and attention. Shout to bring others to your assistance. Sometimes shouting ‘Fire!’ will bring people more quickly. If your attacker has a weapon, try to run. Get help as soon as you can.

Stay safe when trying to pull
When you meet a stranger you want to leave a club or bar with, try to introduce them to a friend before you leave, or let someone you know, maybe a barman or doorman, know you are leaving together. If you live alone and are taking them home, mention that you have a flat mate who is probably in (or a friend sleeping on your sofa) – even if you don’t. Someone who intends robbing or harming you may be deterred if they think you have company.

However much people call me an effeminate guy, I do make for a powerful looking woman, I won't deny it. I'm big in my heels and I've won martial arts trophies before. I walk around with my head held high and I look people in the eye. Yet once I encountered a bad situation and that was when I was walking to see a friend in Soho. A man whom I could best describe as around 5'7" and probably of MIddle Eastern or Mediterranean origin came up to me and tried to walk with me.

"Where have you been today, baby?" he asked sleazily.

"In prison" I stated flatly, hoping to scare him away.

"Oh, what for?" he continued

"Committing Grievous Bodily Harm" I replied

"Oh..." he said, almost as if his brain had half registered what I said then lost it.

I darted off into a newsagents and took a good ten minutes to choose an apple to buy. Thinking him well gone, you can imagine my frustration when I came out to see him waiting like a puppy dog for me.

"What are you doing tonight?" he asked

"I'm waiting for my boyfriend" I lied, knowing full well however that the friend I was visiting was a 6'2" main battle tank of a man who worked in security.

I started to walk off and he ran after me and put his arm around my hips. Perhaps he thought I was a street worker and anyone could be my boyfriend, but I assure you I wasn't provocatively dressed at all. Being treated as a piece of meat is fine when you are with your partner, but surprisingly unpleasant when it's by a random stranger - you just think to yourself "What the hell makes them think they've got the right to do that?!"

"My boyfriend will be just up the road here" I protested angrily at his violation of my space.

"Sure..." he said as he slipped his hand up the inside of my shirt until he touched the back of my bra.

The thought of taking him to the nearest dark alleyway and leaving with his wallet, cigarettes and front teeth flashed through my mind and I reacted, drawing away and in two minds of whether to lash out, shout and scream, run or just have a slagging match of words. It was exactly then I heard my friend call out from the other side of the road. You have never seen me run so fast and I gave him the biggest hug he's ever had from me! Naturally loverboy disappeared into the night quicker than a ten pound note in a nightclub...

All this took place on bright busy streets which really did teach me a thing or two. I was shocked that someone could invade my space so brazenly. Yes, he was just a sex pest and as you can tell from my lines about being in jail for GBH, I'm pretty good at fending people off most of the time, however I was glad he wasn't bigger or violent. It could have been so much worse.

One of the things that I also realised when I thought about it was how many people might not think they can call the police. They might be out dressed in secret, hiding their transvestitism from their spouse or family, and they might not want to make statements and so on. Certain parts of the UK are really pretty safe to be out in dressed, whilst others are hot spots of hate crime.

Fortunately there are organisations that can help. A good example of this is Galop. Galop is London's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community safety charity. They work to change the way our communities are policed and to improve service provision for those affected by homophobic and transphobic violence. If you are ever made a victim or a witness of hate crime in London, please do report it to them. There are important reasons to report to Galop, even if you don’t want to go to the Police:

  • They are independent of the police and do not share confidential details with them unless you want them to.

  • They can monitor the type and extent of homophobic and transphobic violence in London and use this information to work for more and better services for LGBT people

  • They can lobby the police, local and national government to develop strategies to tackle and prevent violence, such as education campaigns in schools

  • They can work for changes in the law to protect LGBT people from victimisation and for greater penalties for perpetrators

  • In order to address our communities’ needs, they need to know where violence happens.

  • They may be able to identify ‘violence hotspots’ and warn members of the communities to be vigilant

In short, remember that the world is on the whole a happy place, filled with nice people. There are however still people who are further down the mental evolutionary ladder than a chimpanzee, so try not to be to provocative in your dress or action and keep your head about you whilst out. If anything does happen, be sure to report it so that something can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Related Links
  • If you have been the victim of a hate crime or have witnessed one, you can report it - anonymously if you wish - through Galop's Reporting Form. Click here to access it


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