New submission : Kelsey’s story!
After work today I was sitting in the Rideau Centre reading a book (Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote) when a young man came up to me, started touching my book, asking me what I was reading etc. I stopped him to explain I have a boyfriend because it was obvious he was attempting to pick me up. However, he dodged this and continued on. At first he started by just asking why I was reading the book and when I answered prompted me to explain what “transgender” was. At this point I began to feel extremely nervous and trapped. I was thinking of how to exit this situation but felt held back by some warped feeling of “not wanting to be rude” even though he was clearly the one being invasive. I tuned him out while I started desperately to think of excuses I could make to leave. I half heard him offer his own explanation of what being trans* is (completely disrespectful, transphobic, rude) but my mind was elsewhere and I just hurriedly said “yes” without thinking and looked for my escape.
A response I now regret, but at the time for me to dispute would be to engage further in a conversation that I did not want to elongate and I was not fully present in. I feel like this was his goal: to make me uncomfortable and to trap me into saying or agreeing to things. I’m usually a very strong person but I wanted to cry in this moment. Every time I went to make an exit or change the subject he would jump to another question and like a knee-jerk reaction I would reply. When he asked me to explain what feminism is I should have told him it isn’t my job to school him in the subject, but I answered a generic answer and when he asked me to provide examples I said “well for one, would a woman do to you what you’re doing to me right now?”. He smirked and said he would like that. As if I should appreciate it. But that wasn’t enough for him so I stumbled over an answer (I think I said something along the lines of pay inequality as an example). He didn’t stop pressing me until he’d seemed to have enough out of me. Sometimes he’d look down the hall and eventually I got the feeling I was being recorded or taped. When he finally made the move to leave I was so relieved I shook his hand. But the moment he was gone I was left feeling so uncomfortable I wanted to cry. I questioned my answers, felt ashamed for engaging with him in the first place on sensitive topics that cannot possibly be explained in a single sentence to someone who doesn’t care. To agreeing to statements I don’t believe. For letting him get the best of me like he did and for not being the girl I thought I was: the girl that could tell him to fuck off like I so desperately wanted to. There were tons of times during the conversation I thought “leave now” but I couldn’t move. There was a way about it. I’m afraid I’ve been recorded or videotaped like other women in Ottawa have been recently. If a young man approaches you like this I want other women to know they aren’t obliged to engage with him and you can walk away. I wish I had.