Beating Up Bullies! Tactics for dealing with aggressive males

| Apr 29, 2019
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By Gianna E. Israel

This article deals with the subject of the non-violent responses to heterosexual male on transgender female harassment and violence. In other words, men who harass or attack women. New transgender women in particular should find this subject an interesting read because it discusses complex male-female social dynamics.

Every so often I speak with a client or receive an email from a transgender woman who has been involved in a physical altercation with a man or group of men. After hearing about hundreds of such incidents over the years I have noticed the story line is often very predictable. Typically the setting for the incident is in a bar or public place, and someone has been drinking. Frequently, the new transgender woman is looking her finest. In all her glory she is out on the town flirting with potential conquests. In some cases we are talking about too hot to touch!

In the preceding picture at some point a man or group of men enters. Whether a man recognizes it or will even admit it, nature has created an amazed fascination. The man sees a beautiful female in front of him as a temptress or tender sweetheart that needs loving and holding. Oh, what a vision of loveliness! Then something interrupts this picture. Things are not quite as the man believed them to be. Either through his own observation or through another’s telling he discovers the beauty in front of him creates a deep internal confusion. A transsexual? A homosexual? A man dressed as a woman? Does he, she, it really got a dick? Who is this pretender?

You’re upsetting me!

Believing himself to be fooled or shamed, perhaps even in front of others, the preceding situation can often leave the man struggling to regain his composure. Finding oneself attracted to a transgender woman can be unsettling for even the securest of men. An extremely secure or mature man may completely ignore the situation or amiably laugh it off. The possibility even exists that if the man does not feel threatened by a transsexual woman he will continue interacting with her. However, the vast majority of the time, even a secure man will want to step back and contemplate the situation before becoming further involved. However, a considerably less-secure or immature man will believe that some type of reaction is necessary to restore his damaged ego or perceived sense of masculinity.

The latter dynamic is often where trouble may begin for both the insecure man and the transgender woman. The insecure man will become verbally and even physically confrontational. While the preceding transpires the woman often will have difficulty telling the difference between a man who is simply trying to preserve his shocked sense of self-identity and a man who is acting out of proportion with the situation. For instance, a large number of men will laugh at any situation which challenges their sense of masculinity, and even laugh at supposedly socially-unacceptable women they find attractive. The man may even make a rude or really stupid comment.

Isolated situations such as the preceding, where the comment or laughter was a one-time occurrence, can generally be ignored. The first time! Far too frequently new transgender women do not recognize that a single incident means its time to laugh back carefully, react with an air of indifference, or just walk away. If a man’s words or laughter was particularly abrasive, he can be told to back off, however generally this isn’t necessary. Ignoring a man is usually enough, but may not be preferable. The fact is, street wise women know that laughter can be a play thing. A man who laughs too loudly usually has a secret admiration for the transgender woman, but wouldn’t dare say that. In my own life when I encounter men who wisecrack or laugh like that, I tell them to be careful not to laugh too hard or they might strain a muscle and hurt their silly selves. If it’s a single male I might even shock him by telling him to please be gentle, because it may be a long time before he gets to see something as lovely as me, again!

There are other times however when a man’s behavior can become insulting, derisive or abusive. This is not a man protecting his ego! This is a man who is out of control and genuinely feels insulted, fearful and angry. He may demand to know if you are a man or woman! He may wish to embarrass and shame you, which is the feeling he’s trying to cover up. He may use loud, bad, hurtful words to scare you, which is how he feels himself. The possibility exists that at first nobody will come to your rescue, instead others may be drawn into watching the man’s display of bad behavior. Your response to his reaction will greatly predict how inflamed the situation will become. Should you shout and scream back at his insults? If he places his hands on you, is stomping him into the ground a good plan? Is it necessary to threaten to kill him and his entire family? Do you throw a drink in his face? In all likelihood the preceding responses would not be helpful, unless beating up men is something you enjoy.

Transgender women need to realize that the preceding describes the behavior of a man who is truly hurting. “So, what,” I know some people will say. This is especially true for women who think reacting to violence with violence is an admirable thing. The fact is however many transgender women do not have combat training or even necessarily want to stomp a man in the groin for the humor it might evoke. The best way to contain a bad behavioral problem is to emotionally place the man in the penalty box. He is a hurting person who needs to be told his behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. How does one give a man this message? As simply as possible. The easiest and best recourse is to walk away, perhaps with several words chosen specifically to inform the man his bad behavior isn’t necessary. “your behavior is hurtful, get lost,” or, “That kind of chaos isn’t necessary,” or “keep that chaos away from me,” or “that kind of disrespect is on you, fella,” are each phrases that state the message clearly.

As pitiful as it may seem, a bully harasses people because his bad behavior usually causes a negative response, which is how he feels about himself. What can be done if a person can’t simply walk away or is followed by someone out of control? Quite a lot if you remind yourself that you are the person in control. The simplest phrase is also really easy for out-of-control bullies to understand. “Leave me alone.” Readers, ponder for a moment how to properly use it.

I suggest using the phrase repeatedly, while placing your hand, palm out, like a stop sign. Under no circumstance are you obligated to discuss a bully’s confrontations, demands or retorts. People who cannot behave themselves do not deserve your time or respect. Thus, place your hand out like a stop sign, at face level, and command the bully to leave you alone. Do so just as if you are ordering a dog to sit down.

If the little boyish-looking man persists in his tirade, continue commanding him away, each time more loudly, while firmly standing your ground slightly out of his physical reach. Assertively state, “leave me alone,” and “Leave Me Alone,” and “LEAVE ME ALONE!” Predictably, each time you raise your voice, he will step back while yelling more and more loudly. Granted, from across the room he will be yelling insults, at which point you can simply turn and walk away. He might threaten to kill you, or even point out that you’re a man dressed as a woman. Big Deal. You will have actually won because he’s the one who kept backing away.

If a man ever inappropriately touches, pushes or bumps you, I generally don’t recommend getting into the habit of pushing back except to remove his hand from your person. This is especially so in the general public. Your job is to make it clear that he has no right to touch you. His opinion about your gender is not even relevant. State in clear words, “you have no business touching me.” Then, proceed to tell the man to leave you alone. In a public setting this is probably your best defense. I don’t recommend engaging with a man physically. After all, he already felt entitled to touch you once. Engaging with a man physically gives him permission to treat you like a man, and increase his physical attacks on you.

Please be advised that males, who are out of control, often remain out of control, and may seek to physically attack you, even if you won the first fight. This is particularly so if the man decides to seek revenge for being physically humiliated in front of others. At best, pushing his arm off you, and exponentially telling him to leave you alone, will leave the misguided soul believing he won. After all, he had the last word, as you turned and walked away, while he was standing in his little dog-house corner, ranting and raving like a lunatic. When you encounter this person in the future, ignore him without attitude or slight indifference. This leaves the door open for him to walk up and apologize, which does happen occasionally. However, should the man start his misbehavior, again you may have to tell him to leave you alone.

Climbing up the ladder of physical assaults, is the direct attack inflicted upon you. This absolutely calls for defensive maneuvers, as if you were fighting a crazed, rabid dog off your person. Your job is to create a mental and physical distraction that allows you to escape and seek help. Here it is acceptable to attack the eyes, throat, groin, lower leg bone, or any tender body part which will disable your attacker. Fight back viciously with all your might and begin planning your escape route. By all means call out for help, and file a police report after the incident. In principle, the vast majority of physical assaults on transgender persons start with verbal harassment. If a transgender woman learns how to effectively control such bad behavior in the early stages, the chances of the incident escalating are greatly minimized.

Fortunately, relations between males and females are rarely as combative as this article describes, this includes for transgender women. Albeit sadly random verbal abuse and physical assaults do happen to transgender women, an equal number of “escalating assaults” can be prevented.” Transgender women, like non-transgender women, need to be mindful that verbal and physical abuse can be prevented, by taking a pro-active response to life’s situations. Nobody need be a completely docile and helpless victim of predictable circumstances. Understanding men, their needs and responses, is often a great beginning. It also is helpful to discuss with other women how they deal with men. Finally, all women need to remember that all men aren’t bad just because one man might be a bully. Men generally respect a woman who knows how to deal with bad behavior, and does not allow another person’s chaos or disrespect to interrupt her life.

Before closing this article, entirely. I would like to share with you an e-mail I received from a friend. She had just come out full-time several months prior. After visiting her family, she encountered a confrontation at the airport. Here is what she said. Sometimes humor can be used right back. Enjoy!

Hi Gianna,

So, I’m in the Kansas City airport waiting for my flight to be called. The waiting area is packed with people. I spot a seat near the check-in counter so I walk over and sit down. As I sit, I notice that this fifty year old, unshaven, red flannel shirted, John Deere tractor hat wearing, construction worker type, redneck with brand new K-Mart work boots and a huge belly extending over his tarnished silver belt buckle is seated directly across the aisle from me.

The man is flanked, on his left, by his overly made-up wife and two kids and, on his right, by his brother-in-law who brought them all to the airport before going to work at his job installing headlight rims on the assembly line at the local Ford plant. After getting settled in my seat, I glance up and see that this guy (and his entire tribe) is staring at me, all with ear-to-ear shit-eating grins on their faces. At least everyone accept the sixteen year old daughter who seems to be completely absorbed with painting her press-on nails with a turquoise colored, iridescent, polish.

I felt stirrings of discomfort in my stomach. Obviously a very amusing comment had just been made. I can feel a confrontation about to unfold. I try to quickly get my book out of my carry-on, but it’s too late. With a voice resembling Andy Griffith with a chest cold, at a volume level sure to be heard by everyone within three rows in all directions, he said “I saw you coming this way from across the room and thought you were a girl, but now that you are closer, I see that you’re just a queer.”

All of his companions erupt into laughter and eyes lock onto me, probably expecting me to quickly gather my things and find another seat. Instead, I very deliberately close my book, check my right earring clip to make sure it hasn’t worked loose, cross my legs and raise my head so that I’m staring directly into his seriously weather-beaten face. In my best voice coach, and therapist tone, I responded to his comment in a way I was sure would make you proud.

“What a coincidence,” I very quietly said, “I saw you from across the waiting area as well and thought you were pregnant but, now that I am seated directly across from you, I see that you are just really fat, obviously the result of way too many Budweisers.” It just came out of my mouth and, within ten seconds, everyone on either side of us, even the thirty-year-old yuppie investment banker seated eight or ten spots to my left, who was previously playing alien attack on his laptop computer, stopped what they were doing and waited to see what would happen next.

I refused to look away, break my stare or even relax the huge grin I’d consciously insured was plastered across my face. The seconds ticked by and, after what seemed to be about ten minutes but in reality was probably closer to thirty seconds, the buffoon (and his entire in-bred entourage) picked up his stuff, rose out of his chair and exited the waiting area deciding he had better get a third plastic-wrapped cheese danish before boarding his flight to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Everyone within ear-shouting range, even the yuppie with the laptop, broke into huge smiles and either gave me thumbs-up signs or respectful nods of their heads. It was over as quickly as it had started. I had to force myself to wipe the grin off my face and just continue getting settled in my seat as if nothing had ever happened. My flight was called and I never saw my antagonist again.

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  1. Diananicoleb Diananicoleb says:

    One evening I was on a well-lit well-traveled street in a safe small neighboring town and pulled in for gasoline. After I finished fueling up and started driving away the foreign attendant called me back so I circled around thinking that there was a problem with the payment. I had my window down as it was summertime. As I pulled back in front of the pumps the foreign attendant grabbed my arm on the door. Remember my car was still in gear and my foot on the brake. He tells me he likes me (and not with an endearing sound to his voice) is motioning toward the station office. Again I tell him to release my arm. In those two minutes he grabs my breast and again grabs my arm as quick as you can blink. Again I tell him to release the arm or he will be dragged as I am releasing the brake. As as I release the brake he quickly released my arm. I drove home with mixed emotions and chatted with my neighbor a psychotherapist. We agreed I needed to report the incident. So I drove back to the neighboring little town and stopped at the police station and explained that I was transgender. And commented that I was wearing a very conservative outfit the same one I walked into the police station with. A dressy sweater with a nice wool skirt, leather blazer and nice dress boots. I explained the incident and said that I did not want to file charges but I wanted a report made. To the officers credit he said it did not matter whether I was transgender or if I were gay or if I were straight or anything else the attendant had no right to lay hands on me. And i filed the report. I wanted to make sure that it did not happen to a cisgender or anybody else that went into that station. The police sent a car around but by that time the station had closed. I knew I had closure simply by filing that report. A couple days later I was chatting with a cisgender young lady I know and she told me that the same thing happened to her while she was with her boyfriend in a different station with a foreign attendant. They reported it to the station owner and the attendant was fired. In my case the gas station closed shortly after and that was the end of the incident. But it certainly made me more aware of my surroundings and how vulnerable I was when dressed as a woman. I no longer roll my window fully down when paying for gas I only allowed enough room to slip the payment out the window. And I make sure that the driver’s door and other doors are locked when pulling into any station. As I said it has made me more aware of my surroundings and how vulnerable I am when dressed as a woman.

  2. Diananicoleb Diananicoleb says:

    I have experienced such a situation. I stopped for gas one evening in a small safe town on a well-lit street.