I have recently returned from a holiday in London with my girlfriend – which I absolutely loved every minute of. But I did notice something that drove me nuts every single day – people love to stare at me when I go out in public. I noticed this especially on public transport, but also in queues, shops and public seating areas. My tactic for dealing with people who stare was to just stare back and then, almost instantly, the vast majority would look away, because they realise that I am aware of their staring. I also noticed a pattern of staring. (A little bit of back story here: I cannot bind every day as I have chest pains unrelated to binding, and London was extremely hot so the opportunities to bind were limited). People would first look at my face, then down at my chest, then back to my face before realising I was watching them and so looking away. People would also stare at my girlfriend whenever she went to hold my hand or kissed my cheek or whatever. They then stared at her with faces of confusion – although she never noticed anyone staring as she was usually reading a book.
So why is staring at me in public such an issue?
For starters, it makes me, and other trans* people, highly uncomfortable. I never want to be the main attraction for the public to gawp at, I really don’t appreciate the added attention. I think that to a certain degree it is a violation of my privacy. This is because they are analysing my every feature, which I believe they have no right to do. If nothing else, its really annoying. Catching someone looking at you and judging you is so irritating; it makes me just want to scream in their faces “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT”. Constantly having to ask my girlfriend or look into my phone to see if I had a mark on my face, or stains on my shirt, only to realise its my face and my body that they find so odd; it gets really deflating after a while.
I know that my appearance is mismatched, and I don’t look like what you’d expect me to look like, but that does not warrant ogling at me every five seconds. I think the worst part was that there were genuinely odd things happening around us, especially on public transport, that no one seemed to notice, they just focused on me.
The self-consciousness is something that I already struggle with, I don’t need an extra heap of worry because some strangers treated me like a zoo attraction.
So how can we move forward to a solution?
Just stop staring at me.