It starts with a snigger and a laugh with several glances sideways in your direction and of course he wants you to know you’re being targeted and he doesn’t approve of you with his boorish bullying behaviour.
He attempts to implicate others into his judgemental scheme and they do laugh along, but not as heartily as he does.
You’re going about your business and keeping to yourself, but this one person has made it known for whatever reason you don’t belong, he doesn’t want you there and he’s going to pass judgement on you and make you feel as uncomfortable as he possibly can.
Maybe due to his own insecurity for whatever reason and because he doesn’t like what he sees looking back in the mirror? Or maybe he’s been bullied himself or his role models are bullies themselves and that’s all he knows?
Or possibly he’s been taught to believe others have less rights than himself?
You’re speculating here, as you don’t really know his mindset and the reason he’s targeted you, but you do know it’s more than likely driven by toxic masculinity and could be one or a combination of factors you mention above?
You’re about to find out how his friends around him, particularly the female ones, have a similar mindset and by what they say to you will confirm this.
You don’t hear what he said, as you’re not privy to it, but the sniggering, laughter and giggles are a dead giveaway, as it tells you you’re other than and in his eyes you simply have no right inhabiting a space nearby, although you’re pretty sure the gym you go to has policy and procedures in place that says you do.
You adjust the weight bench to the smith machine, so you can start your bench press and you hear the laughter and mutter under your breath, “oh no, not again!”
For whatever reason you see this fellow has taken a strong dislike to you and the ridicule has begun, as he attempts to have his mates getting in on the act of piling onto you.
You show your displeasure, as the laughing at you with the many sideways glances is a dead giveaway you’re there simply to be ridiculed.
You’re still adjusting that damn weight bench and nothing is going right, but you look over at him and after umpteen times in your life of being ridiculed by people like him, you display your displeasure at such boorish behaviour and attitudes.
Your body language starts calling him out and you stare directly at him with displeasure.
Like all bullies he retreats and he knows he’s been sprung.
The look on his face turns from one of mirth and laughter to one of horror and disdain as he knows the game is up.
He tries to turn it all around, as “he’s the victim and you’re the real bully after all”.
How dare you show your displeasure at his boorish tactics, as you have less rights due to “the choices you’ve made in your life” and therefore you’ve forfeited any rights to a fair go.
You’re “fair game” in his eyes!
Other days when you’re feeling good about yourself you’d turn a blind eye, but today you’re not feeling so good, so you act on his immature and boorish behaviour.
Possibly it’s been triggered by the post traumatic stress from past experience [such as when your rugby club-mates all piled on when they found out along the viral grapevine you were trans – a story for another day], but you decide “not today” as you say to yourself “enough is enough” and you’re not going to put up with it anymore.
You decide to film him, as you want to capture him going back to his mates making another disparaging comment.
As a qualified journalist you know the laws of the land and the MEAA guidelines: You can do this as long as you don’t publicly identify him in an article or story. It’s just a shame you didn’t film him in the act!
This is important for claims made against you further when dealing with them.
He doesn’t like you filming him and there are words said.
He comes out with the old chestnut, “I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, you did,” you reply.
From there the conversation becomes heated.
You turn it around and tell him if he doesn’t like the look of you that’s ok, but at least at his age you were in shape and you were an athlete and you might be fat too aged-53, but at least you’re old and have an excuse.
You ask him what’s his’ excuse?
He doesn’t like this exchange as you’ve put it back on him, so he retreats like all bullies do into his shell.
You’d like it made known you don’t have a problem with people who struggle with their weight. At your age you’re one of them and you were looking for a weakness to exploit.
How do you know he’s a bully and coward all rolled into one?
You know because you’ve sat in his bullying shoes many times when you were younger and all bullies deny they’re bullying once they’ve been caught out.
He’s on the other side of the gym and he comes back over to have another go with his mates.
You film him again and this time you have more heated words and it descends into chaos as his friends become involved.
You’re piled on, as you make it verbally known to those close by you don’t like his bullying tactics.
One of his female friends asks you why you are so upset and why are you filming him?
You tell him you’ve been bullied by him and you’re protecting yourself.
She glosses over that fact and tells you that you don’t have the right to film him without his permission and you refute her claims and as a journalist you know you can in Australia as long as you don’t publish it – identifying him in the process.
He pipes up with, “I’m calling the police.”
You tell him to “go for it” as you’ve done nothing wrong and you’ll wait for them to turn up, as you’re sure they’ll be interested in your side of the story.
She asks you why have you’ve “gone off” at him?
You tell her he’s a “phobe”.
She asks you, “what does that mean?”
You tell her you’d prefer not to say with five other people all standing nearby.
You grab your stuff, as your workout has become untenable and all you’ve managed to get in is four sets of bench press in an unfinished workout.
As you begin to walk towards the gym’s exit you’re confronted again by the female friend.
You ask her, “Why are you getting involved and what’s it to do with you anyway?”
She replies with, “He’s my mate and we look after our mates.”
She probes you again with what do you mean by “phobe”?
You tell her you’re transgender and you’ve copped this stuff before by people like him.
With no hesitation she tells you, “You’re a really poor role model carrying on like this for your [transgender] minority.”
“Wow”, is all you can muster as your stunned response.
Only days earlier you watched the Final Quarter about the Adam Goodes saga in the AFL and you’re like Goodesy and “other than” and open to ridicule like he was, as by your minority status, you’re seen as “lesser than” by these people.
It then became a pile-on, as now knowing you’re transgender when you walk towards her, another female friend of theirs steps in and it appears they fear for her safety.
Suddenly you have accumulated super human strength, via the transgender sports woman “advantage myth”, which you didn’t have before they knew you were trans, but they suddenly fear through their own self-construed prejudice that you’re going to become violent and use that “extra” strength.
You know your workout is untenable and you actually begin to fear for your own safety and you’ve seen it all before, as the victim becomes the perpetrator and no matter what you say or do, you are now seen as the bad person by all and sundry.
Another guy comes over saying he couldn’t help but overhear the conversation and was ready to give his two bobs’ worth, but you are over engaging or having any further conversations with anyone who is at the gym, so you cut him off.
You know as someone who belongs to “a [my] minority” and as “other” and “lesser than” and defined in their eyes by your “self-imposed station and lifestyle”, ie it’s all your own fault due to what they see as your “choices in life”.
Despite the fact you know your being trans is intrinsic to you, you’re aware you do not belong to their group or tribe.
Therefore you cannot be extended the same courtesies and niceties they give each other and to other people of their ilk.
You’re now on a hiding to nothing, so you tell them you’re taking a snap of their group.
For what it’s worth you give credit to the other two guys in this group, as other than saying he didn’t do anything wrong [of course which they’re going to say in sticking up for a friend] you sensed they felt really uncomfortable and awkward with his bullying tactics and they really didn’t want to become involved in his little game of bigotry.
As for the girl who gives you all the lip, she becomes silent and turns away from the camera, which is a little story in itself, as the penny finally appears to drop for her and she realised maybe she was in the wrong, when you said you would be presenting this photograph to management and she didn’t want to be aligned with her “mate”.
Your initial bully then tells you that you can’t photograph him again and he throws a final insult at you by calling you a “fucking idiot” as you walk towards the exit door.
You respond in kind back with similar words as you exit.
You head for your car and drive off, feeling totally deflated and can’t believe it’s happened again!
It took you 30 bloody years to have the guts to transition and aged-53 you’re still copping this shit after you did by kids who weren’t even born at that time!
It’s been a tough year, your closest childhood cousin is dead at 52 and your closest niece who had schizophrenia suicided at age 28.
On top of that you’re going to the anti-discrimination board, as you were discriminated as a sports journalist by an employee of a certain sporting organisation last year.
There have been many other incidents, but you don’t report them all and often you turn a blind eye.
You’ve become a virtual recluse due to other people: their attitudes and their policing of how they see people ‘should be’ and you’ve simply drawn a line in the sand as you say to yourself “enough is enough”, but hopefully you can make this a teachable moment like you did earlier this month when talking to the NRL about your own women’s rugby league career.
Please Note: The following day there’s a happy ending, as you send this account of how you were treated to the gym manager via email as a complaint and within two hours he gets back to you.
He tells you that, “you are one of the nice members: Always smiley and happy and we want you around.”
He also tells you after he viewed footage of the incident, that he told that fellow he has to show respect to other people’s personal space and not interfere with it. He also told him to give you a wide berth if he is to see you at the gym.
You tell the gym manager this could be a “teachable moment” for acceptance of all people no matter their background for those people to embrace and he agrees with you.
You haven’t been back to the gym as yet a week later, as it did knock your confidence around, but next week you’ll be back for sure. You aim for next week.
(The Photos – which have been blurred to protect their identity and also you against defamation, as you didn’t film him in the act of his bullying of you – in this story are the actual photos presented along with a video to management of who they were and then the manager viewed further through their own in-house footage of the 24-hour gym.)