The fear of being stared at

Via Glinner’s post, Eddie Izzard’s heart-rending story of being persecuted by three teenage girls when he joined them in the women’s toilet on his first day going out dressed in “women’s clothes.”

Most of what I remember about my first day walking around outside in makeup and a dress was fear. The fear of being stared at, which I knew I would be. This was partly because I wasn’t that good at applying makeup.

Ah the fear of being stared at. A little different from the fear of being assaulted.

I had a little bag I’d brought with me with my other clothing to change back into. So at the end of the afternoon, I came back on the Underground to Highbury Corner in Islington and went to the ladies’ loos as planned. I’d expected to go in, quickly change my clothes, wipe off my makeup, then slip back out in boy mode so I could go home with no one the wiser.

What I wasn’t expecting in the ladies’ loos at about three o’clock in the afternoon were three teenage girls smoking cigarettes. They were probably just skipping school. So there they were, smoking cigarettes, while I was just trying to find a stall, change clothes, and get out of there.

Or to put it another way, while he was just trying to invade their loo to take his clothes off and golly gee there they were having the audacity to be in the women’s loo when he wanted to use it. The entitlement is breathtaking.

I could hear the whispering going on. In the third cubicle there was a lock. So I locked the door and quickly managed to change my clothes and wipe the makeup off my face, not using the handy makeup wipes that you can buy today, but probably with liquid makeup remover or something else incredibly inconvenient.

Finally, the dress was off, the heels were off, the makeup was off, and jeans and flat shoes were back on. Now I had to make it out quickly before the girls could react.

But that was impossible.

The girls were ready to act. They were just waiting for me. And when I finally came out of the cubicle, they shouted, “Hey, mate! Hey, mister! Why are you wearing makeup? Why are you dressed as a woman?”

Why are you in the wrong loo?

So I was heading away from home, walking and walking and walking, around Highbury Corner, down Canonbury Road, while they continued to shout at me. Finally, I thought: Screw this. They’re just going to shout at me forever. Let’s confront this. So I stopped and I turned around to face my teenage inquisitors.

I shouted back, “You want to know why I’m wearing a dress? I’ll tell you why.”

But before I could say anything else, the girls just screamed and ran off in the other direction. I was stunned. Wow. That wasn’t as hard as I thought.

No shit, Sherlock: that’s because you’re a man.

I think that was the first time I was overtly intimidated because of my sexuality.

You assume older people intimidate younger people, but those three thirteen-year-old girls had power over a twenty-three-year-old man.

He, an adult man, goes into their toilet and takes his clothes off, and then he shouts at them and then he claims that they are the ones who have power over him. You couldn’t make it up.

I learned something that day when those girls ran off: If you confront aggression—Sometimes just standing your ground or even with cheeriness and politeness—sometimes you can shut it down. It’s not a perfect science, but it feels better than being scared. I also learned that you could feel empowered by facing people down. They were only thirteen or fourteen, but the turning around and saying, “All right, I’ll tell you,” felt almost like a second coming out because I had to say, “Okay, you want to put me in a corner? I’ll face this down as opposed to screaming and running.” Which I always thought I might do. But I didn’t scream and run—in the end, they did.

Yes, an adult man scared off three 13-year-old girls after he perved on them in the women’s toilets. He didn’t molest them, assuming his story is true, but he did do a thing that girls and women know to be afraid of. If it had been just one girl in there she would have been fucking terrified.

And all this callous behavior and interpretation is because he likes to dress up in clothes coded female. His kink is brave and stunning, while their self-preservation is “aggression.” It takes my breath away.

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