Footsteps

I was leaving a store today around 9:30 a.m.  It is located in a suburban shopping center.  Today is a bright spring day.

I opened the door to the store and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  I tucked my brown leather wallet into my back pocket as I walked.  During this tucking process, I became aware of a person walking behind me.

My entire body tensed as I continued down the sidewalk, bracing for something.  A comment.  A sharp blow.

I have never been assaulted because I am gay (or for any other reason).

I have had people call me names from the safety of their moving cars.

Dyke.

Faggot.

I have had someone scratch my car through my rainbow sticker.

I think the fact that I was tucking my wallet into my back pocket when I noticed someone behind me heightened my anxiety.  I had been caught in an act of gender nonconformity.  Imagine, a girl who carries a wallet in her back pocket!

This is the price of looking gay.  Or at least it is one of them.

I walked to my car without incident.

I never turned my head to take a look at the person walking behind me.

* * *

Does this ever happen to you? Are you ever afraid of being out and about?

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28 responses to “Footsteps

  1. I’ve had similar experiences like you mention in the past. Occasionally I get a strange look from a stranger. It’s unnerving and a bit scary to be honest. So far no one has caused me physical harm. I actually felt less safe when I was younger and more femme looking. I live in a rural area and most people just leave others alone. I think walking with confidence even if you’re not feeling it goes a long.

    • Glad to know I am not the only one. I agree that walking with confidence helps, even when you don’t have any. Usually, I navigate my day without any worries. I think it was a timing thing. Being aware of being butch and not knowing who was walking right behind me. That unknown.

  2. In the small town Julie lives in I’ve garnered my fair share of looks and whispered remarks. Which is sad, considering that Illinois just passed same sex marriage laws. I’ve had scary moments and some that were awkward. Had someone smear fecal matter on my car (why they’d subject themselves to handling it shows pure ignorance), had my tires slashed and my kids banned from participating in school activities. All these hardships beg the question… If it really were a choice, why would any sane person choose it?? Glad you are ok.

    • Sorry to hear about what you have endured all because of being different and being you. It certainly is not a choice. I have gotten used to looks and awkwardness. I wonder if I will always be looking over my shoulder or if there will be a time that we can walk down any street in the country without an ounce of fear.

  3. Large groups of loud men always makes me brace myself, especially when I’m with my girlfriend or my other butch friends. I hate that I feel like that, but i’m almost always alert on the street… I was really scared only once in the subway in Vienna. I was travelling with my girlfriend. Then a group of neo-nazi’s got in. We just both looked down and I hoped they thought we were a straight couple… Awful that you have to hide in heterosexuality to feel safe 😦

  4. Yep, been there done that. And a couple of times I found the courage (if that’s what it was) to stop, turn around, (not too slow, not too fast) and see what it was that I sensed.

    • Funny, but I’ve never even thought about doing that.

      • My childhood instilled in me a ‘run and hide from the big bad’ that I had to battle through as an adult. Do you remember when ‘Reclaim the Night’ became a big deal in the feminist movement in the 80’s/90’s? (I don’t know how big the movement got in the US and Canada, but in Australia it raised the roof!) Thousands of women would march through the city streets one night every year. The self empowerment that comes from participating in something like that is the true definition of priceless. Anyway, those times were the catalyst for my personal reclamation of my night.

      • It was called “Take Back the Night” here. I was off at college at the time and preoccupied with other things so I knew about it but wasn’t involved. It is a gift to be able to walk down a street without fear.

  5. I haven’t felt like that since , oh gosh well over a decade, I am fortunate to live in Canada though where rednecks are a dying breed, yes we still have a-holes , but for the most part it’s pretty laid back and liberal, I actually got into a brawl around 1999 with a loud mouth who felt the need to prove his manliness by calling me a Big Bull Dyke, I pretty much ignored him until he got up in my face, long story short he wasn’t such a tough guy like he thought, I dummied his ass in front of his friends and strangers alike, then laughed at him … I was raised with 5 brothers on a farm, I hate violence, but won’t let others use violence against me or those I care for either.

  6. urbanmythcafe

    The thing is to be alert to who is around you, without being nervous.
    When I was in my 20’s I was brazenly confident about myself. In retrospect, I realize all of the close calls that I had. Places where people are drinking can be real dangerous.
    My wife and I have been together more than 20 years. About 5 years ago, she really started noticing how aggressively people act towards me in public. Now, she worries about me more than she used to.

  7. Not since the 80s. I live in a college town now and I am fairly certain I am common knowledge among the locals I deal with. I make references to my significant other; no one seems to notice.

  8. I have a black belt friend that I spar with. Except for a black eye she gave me, I’ve never had to use the skill. I guess knowing you’ve got it in your bag of tricks helps…

  9. Like you im used to the odd stares and occasional pointing and the odd name calling. If im out with my wife, most of the time people assume im a guy so its a not an issue – other than we are, as the earlier commenter so very well put it, ‘hiding in hetrosexuality’. If anyone approached us I can honestly say my wife, who is smaller than me and more feminine would be having none of it. She is like the tazmanian devil when roused so better just stand back. I probably wouldn’t even get a look in!
    But none of that makes it right that we have to feel afraid at all just because we are different.
    Butchdar truly exists – we recognise one another at 100yds.

  10. I grew up in a gay neighborhood and remained there until the age of 50, so I never really experienced being afraid that someone might take issue at my non-conformity until 4 years ago when I moved to a semi-rural, semi-suburban area. It was a sudden, sharp learning curve!

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