The night of New Year’s Eve into New Years Day was a night I won’t soon forget.
I had the chance to hang with some close friends, have a few drinks, nom on some pizza, and then by random happenstance got a chance to see the Penn’s Landing fireworks from a rooftop. It nearly made me cry because the view was so beautiful. After that, one of the friends on the roof with us was like, LET’S GO TO IHOP! So we continued the adventure downtown, shenanigans ensued, pancakes were devoured, and we spent a solid hour attempting to find a cab. It was a near perfect night.
Until the chauvanistic/transphobic Douchenozzle on Locust Street came along.
Basically, as my friends and I walked along the street, trying to find a cab that would stop for us at almost 2am, there was a guy walking behind me with his phone out, who I overheard making a rude comment to a girl walking by with another guy. Douchenozzle, as we shall refer to him, decided to say to this girl, “Your dress is too short honey, put on some fuckin pants!”
As anyone who knows me is aware, I cannot stand guys like this, who are the reason so many women are afraid to walk out their door for fear of being harassed. Even though she was walking with someone else and the pair of them brushed off the comment to keep walking, it really annoyed me, and I turned around, shooting a venomous look at Douchenozzle. I didn’t say anything though, because of something that bothers me just as much as his comment did.
I’ve witnessed scenarios like this, many of them worse, on countless occasions, but I always keep my mouth shut. Its safer to stay quiet, especially for women. But if you do decide to stay silent, society will tell you, “If you don’t speak up, that’s just as bad! Why didn’t you call him out? Maybe he doesn’t know its offensive until you tell him!” This leaves me stuck in a place where I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. But what happened next made me pick damned if I do, because Douchenozzle stepped over the line.
Douchenozzle noticed the group made up of several men and women who were walking ahead of me and my group of friends, and at this point the guy makes his way around me to be closer to them. This was when I noticed the camera of his phone was turned on, and he tried to take a picture of one of the women in front of us. Then, laughing, he proceeds to say something to my guy friends, completely disregarding my existence.
He proclaimed, “Dude, look at this!” He holds up his phone for my friend to see, “That fags a man! That’s a he/she!” pointing to the one woman walking in front of us with her friends, who proceeded to cross the street to get away from him.
As my friend looked back at me confused, and as Douchenozzle continued to laugh, I said to him, “How about you shut the fuck up?”
In retrospect, me swearing was probably not the best course of action, but given the fact that this all went down not even three days after Leelah Alcorn committed suicide, I found it impossible to keep my cool and stay silent about this guy’s completely uncalled for commentary. Then, Douchenozzle, who happens to be white like me, turns to some random person on the side of the street, who happens to be black and says, “Yo man, that girl just called you a filthy n****r.” and points at me.
THAT is why so many women stay silent rather than call out injustices. Because people like Douchenozzle will do whatever they can to try and hurt us should we open our mouths.
Thankfully, and because I’d like to believe God was on my side, the man that Douchenozzle said this too had not seemed to be paying full attention and ignored the rude and racist comment that this guy had been trying to pin on me. Seeing he had failed, Douchenozzle chose to walk away in the other direction, but he was still. fucking. laughing.
So what’s the point of me regaling you all with this encounter which shows how sexism, racism, and transphobia are alive and well in 2015? This isn’t news to anyone. The point is that while Douchenozzle tried to hurt people with his comments, and tried to hurt me for calling him out on them, no one got hurt. My saying something derailed his hatred, and led him away from the people he was trying to harm. If nothing else, my speaking up helped the person he was mocking from receiving any further torment.
I understand that not every situation is safe enough to speak up, and I will be the first person to recognize that. Maybe had I not been with three male friends, I might not have been as bold. But at the end of the day, talking about changing the way men treat women (and how pretty much everyone and their mother treats the trans* community) is not going to do any good unless we stick up for each other and call out sexism and prejudice when we see it happening.
I encourage you to consider this a challenge for the year. Add it to your list of resolutions, because while feminism and trans issues are finally gaining national attention, we have a long way to go to. It’s my hope that people realize how important their voice can be. Standing up for someone can make all the difference.