Catcalling and safety: negotiating spaces as a transgender woman

Let me be clear: I don’t like catcalling, I don’t like it at all. I’m a transgender woman who hates catcalling, and I’m sure there are plenty of others out there like me. (Note to cisgender feminists: please read last sentence at least three times over) I get catcalled on a regular basis, usually when I’m out and about on a Friday or Saturday on long street, painting the town in a variety of colours – my preference being something in the ultra violet spectrum.

I’ve had feminists go off on me about the fact that transgender women (on occassion) get flattered by catcalling, and respond to it in a “non-negative way”. Well duh! Our harassment usually comes in forms of “hey guy with tits, are you a hooker” or “fucking tranny I’m gonna fuck you up”, having it come in the form of “hey sweetieeeeee [insert whistle]” is a bit of an improvement – lets just call it, less violent. And yes, in a society where one’s gender is constantly questioned and disregarded, having anyone acknowledge it is something at least. Personally I don’t like it, but I can’t blame any transgender woman who has a different point of view.

But there is this thing, catcalling is a sign of safety for me; as odd as it sounds, being catcalled usually gives me some relief when it happens. Now I don’t wanna generalise, and surely I don’t speak for all transgender women, this is just my experience. When I get catcalled, I least I know that they didn’t notice that I am transgender; meaning that as long as I shut my mouth (voice issues), the risk of transphobic harassment is a lot less. Kinda makes sense, most of the guys that catcall aren’t the most sensitive (or intelligent? I’m not sure; they should do a poll) and wouldn’t catcall someone they knew wasn’t cisgender. Also – and again, I’m probably generalising here – the type that’s transphobic and the type that catcalls seem to overlap quite considerably.

The hitch is, of course, that if catcalling goes beyond catcalling, it turns into harassment; such harassment doesn’t stay just sexual harassment, it then turns into transphobic violence ’cause I know I’m just not the gal to “pass” beyond a preliminary inspection, so to speak. But this is just that, being transgender means constantly negotiating places in terms of safety, and it means doing that very different from how a cisgender woman would. In this I don’t mean that there are different spaces that are safe for cisgender women than transgender women, but that we have all the safety issues of cisgender women with on top of that all the safety issues of being transgender.

This morning I got followed ten metres by a guy shouting “that guy has tits” to a bunch of other guys while making gestures that were “suggestive”… I knew the drill: walk confidently forward, don’t look at him or the others, don’t confront him, don’t make any sign that you noticed, stay confident, walk forward, be prepared to run. Honestly, catcalling would have been less of an issue. Any cisgender feminist telling me that I – as a transgender woman – have privilege, or perpetuates violence again women, go f*ck yourselves.

Kitty calling, it's when a kitty calls you ^_^
Kitty calling, it’s when a kitty calls you ^_^

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