What I Have Learned about Dealing with Difficult People at Straight BarsI want to share some of my thoughts and experiences about the small minority of individuals who pose a possible threat or at least a nuisance to transgendered individuals. I will start with the least aggressive and proceed to the worst, the bully. But first, here is a little background and some cautions.
When I started going to straight bars, I was afraid everyone was going to be hostile toward me. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect. My first venture was to a restaurant, and we had such a good time that I thought we might as well try a nearby bar. Being with a small group helped allay my fears. My experience went so well, it set the stage for continual returns to straight bars.
It has been several years since that first nightclub experience, and I have met hundreds of very nice individuals. Women are by far the majority of those who have been friendly to my friends and me. Don't for one second think that we are passing as women--most everyone knows. Occasionally a man will come up to me and start a conversation. Once in a while the guy will not know that I am transgendered. I can put money on it that, if left alone for a few minutes, some woman will clue him in. Sometimes a guy will ask me to dance, at which point I usually tell him I'm transgendered. This gives him the opportunity, if he wants, to back off gracefully and possibly avoid some embarrassment.
There are bars in St. Louis that I would not have any hesitation in going into, there are bars where I need a little edge, and there are bars that I would just as soon stay away from. I like trying new ones and seeing if they are safe and fun, but there again, I like to have a little edge. For me, that edge is either knowing ahead of time what type of individuals patronize the bar or being acquainted with someone in the band. Of the bars that I go to or am willing to try, the safest place is inside. The parking lot is no place to linger. Get out of the car and into the building. Unless I am very familiar with a neighborhood and the patrons, when leaving, I get out of the building, directly into the car and leave. This is good advice any woman or TG should follow.
Why are some individuals negative toward us? Well, there are several reasons. Many think we are doing something against their religious beliefs or something socially unacceptable. Some men think that by our dressing en fem, we somehow weaken the status of male superiority that exists in our society. Many men are afraid of us, thinking we are somehow a threat to their manhood. Some are attracted to us, and fear that might indicate they are gay. Some people don't like gay individuals and think that we are gay. And the list goes on. With the exception of a few women who are just jealous of the attention we might get, there is one common link: bigotry. Different reasons cause these individuals to react differently toward transgendered. The tone of their reactions will evoke different responses from me.
Unless you are incredibly passable or go to very conservative places, sooner or later, a narrow-minded individual will confront you. Good news is: chances are rare that this person is looking for a physical confrontation. Time for some basic ground rules. Never show anger. Remain calm. Be friendly. Present yourself in a positive light mentally and physically. Keep breathing. Know you are in the right. If you are not comfortable with verbal confrontations, just avoid the individual who is a problem. Most if not all of my confrontations have been at nightclubs or bars. I suppose it could happen anywhere, but the chances away from nightspots seem very slim, at least in St Louis.
Dress appropriately. All right, on this point, do what I say, not what I do. Those of you who know me or have seen my photos, know that I push the limits on this one. I have been doing this a while and know how far I can go with my type of dress. I like to think that it is tasteful, although definitely not blending in.
The conniving nice guy
Ever hear this? "My friend really wants to meet you." Or "My friend is fascinated by you. Come meet him." NO NO NO. Don't fall for this. If his friend really wants to meet you, he will come to you. This is just one individual trying to start trouble. You might be the punch line of a joke or, if the situation is more serious, you might end up being the punching bag.
The Religious Hypocrite
They have their beliefs and think that I am doing something against God's will. Religious do-gooders can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes these self-righteous individuals will try to convince me of the error of my ways. They are often calm and seem convincing. Usually they have strong religious convictions. Unless you are very confident in your convictions, any discussion with them will be futile. If you are not prepared, it's best to keep any conversations short, because you won't be convincing them and will most likely go away with less self-esteem. However, this can be a winnable argument.
I have on occasion taken on such individuals, and although my in-depth knowledge of the Bible is incomplete, God and I have discussed my transgenderism, and I am certain that this is part of what He wants of me. He wants me to not hide what I feel I am. He wants me to let others know this is not an evil thing. So I feel I have an edge on the narrow-minded. For those who would like some information regarding interpretations of the verse from the bible that the self righteous sometimes use against us, the following links may answer some questions.
If you made it through half of those links, you're doing better than most. If you made it through all and read a bit in the Bible, the whole discussion becomes meaningless unless you are Jewish. But it is still good background material. If confronted and if all else fails, quote James 5:9: Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
OK--enough Bible lessons for one day. What about the hecklers? Usually they are with a small group. They can be very annoying and sometimes embarrassing. Most are homophobic. They are just trying to draw attention to me, but want to keep their distance. They are expecting me to run away crying and think they will get a big laugh out of it. They would like nothing better than for everyone else to join in with them and heckle me. Fortunately for me and other transgendered, this will not happen, at least not anywhere I have been so far.
Recently three guys were heckling my friends and me. I casually walked up to one of them and asked him for a light. He immediately backed off and said to see his friend. So I asked his friend, then after the same reaction, I asked the third individual. Well, after that, they knew they couldn't shake me and departed. A heckler is just trying to embarrass, draw attention to, and expose us. When they discover I am not intimidated by their attempts, they back off and shut up.
Sometimes when I approach them, the hecklers back down and ask why I am dressed the way I am. Then I have them! They have opened up enough to gain a bit of knowledge.* Sometimes they go away a little more educated and a little less likely to heckle in the future. Well, that is my hope anyway.
Being a familiar face at a nightclub can take care of similar problems without any effort. For example, at the Phoenix, a nightclub in South County, I had an encounter in which someone across the room was shouting something. There was music playing, and I could not hear him, but noted he was facing our direction. Several minutes later, one of the security staff came up, greeted us "ladies" and said the guy in the blue shirt wouldn't be bothering us anymore. A bit later, another member of the staff came over and said the guy was told to stop bothering us or they would beat the s… out of him. I know the bouncer's motives are to keep the peace in a bar, but would also like to think they like me and want me to keep coming back because I bring a bit of extra flavor to the club.
This wasn't the first time security came to my rescue. I sometimes feel that it is unnecessary, but if the person "in the blue shirt" was not a heckler but a bully, then I'm extra thankful that they did.
Don't confuse a heckler with a bully!
The bully can be boisterous just like the heckler, but he is much more volatile. He wants me to leave, hates what I stand for, and is looking for a fight. If I mistakenly confront a bully, I don't get too close. He will have a lot of anger in his voice. If he threatens, I will ignore him or casually warn him of the consequences he will suffer if he takes action, such as getting kicked out or, worse, spending the night in jail. Note I say "casually," and only warn if you are willing to follow through.
Once, four women and one guy invited me over to their table. When I got to the table, the guy realized I was not a genetic female. He started ranting and raving. He stood up and poked me with his finger, saying he ought to punch me. Well, I was a little shaken, but calmly replied that if he touched me again, he would be spending the night in jail. He backed off and did not say another word to me. Shortly afterward, he left. Needless to say, I was extra careful when I left that evening.
I don't run away if someone threatens or heckles me. Sometimes I just ignore and avoid that person; it is better than running away. If I feel I must leave, I wait at least 15 minutes. I never show any anger at anyone, even when leaving. I always believe I am in the right and have as much right to be somewhere as anyone else. I might want to come back someday or go somewhere else where someone saw me at the other place, so I don't say or gesture anything negative. Don't go flipping people off.
If some individuals show hostility, I leave a bar before closing time. I don't linger in the parking lot even if I am with friends. I get directly to and in my car, lock it, and leave. Remember safety is inside, not out on the parking lot.
That said . . . . Not everyone is difficult! But since that's the title of this article, that's the focus, folks. However, I'd like to mention the other side, because these people may approach you, and they deserve your consideration.
Inquisitive Males & Females
While some people are suspicious of our presence, many more are just inquisitive and truly want to know more about us. These are the easiest and best to meet. I have a chance to educate them a bit about transgenderism.
Females are more likely to just be curious. They will ask many of the questions that I received from family members when I first came out.
Males more often ask questions of a sexual nature. Don't be surprised if they ask how large you are. Why is it that men all too often just want to have a pissing contest? I just keep my conversations short with these males, because I think they can quickly turn into the heckler or the bully. This is especially true if the individual is with other males.
I have found in dealing with people, it is all about attitude. Be friendly to everyone. Always remain cool, calm, and collected. Don't drink too much or become distasteful. If you are out to have fun and a nice time with friends, the vast majority will respect that and not bother you.
I just want to say a few words about police officers. They are human and many carry with them a macho attitude, so don't expect them to be looking too favorably upon you. However, most I have met have been very professional, and if they had an attitude, they kept it to themselves. If a business is involved, they will most likely side with the owner unless the owner is way out of line. I find it best not to get into a confrontation with an officer, they will most certainly win, at least for the night. On the other hand, I will not meekly back down without first stating my case. If they are professional, they will listen and try to help with a solution.
Top of Page