After a productive outing to see my therapist as Gabrielle, I wasn’t quite ready to call it a day. I decided to take a stroll through a local mall. I’d driven to this mall a few times en femme, only to remain in the car out of fear of being harmed.
This is part of my personal growth process. I need to become more comfortable being Gabrielle in public and interacting with others as such. My primary objective for this mission (it’s more fun to think of it as a mission *grin*) was to make at least one purchase before leaving the mall. My secondary objective was to walk the entire mall before leaving, but it’s a rather large mall and I wasn’t sure about the feasibility of that in my high-heel boots.
Before my mall-trek was over, I received a rather unsettling reminder of the very real potential for danger in public crossdressing.
Enter the mall
I used the Macy’s entrance. There were several available close parking spots there, and that location was less likely to have groups of teens hanging out inside or near the exits. I walked slowly around Macy’s sales floor, trying to find my stride. It took a while for me to hit it – shoulders back, chest out, wiggle my hips (my wife always tells me to wiggle my hips more). Eventually I got it down… more or less. I’m growing and learning… mainly learning to walk like a woman at this point. It’s very different in large, open areas than it is in the confines of my home.
From Macy’s, I entered the mall’s main hallway. There were more people than I was expecting at that time of day (not that you can tell from the misleading photo), but it wasn’t crowded by any means. My focus remained on trying to walk with proper feminine movement.
Trouble dead ahead
Continuing down the mall’s main corridor, I entered the “dead” part of the mall. There are several vacant stores in this area, and usually fewer customers browsing. One of many kiosks was directly ahead. From several meters away, I noticed the 20-something looking men working behind the counter staring me down. The look on their faces was that of anger, disgust, and dare I say – hatred. Still several meters away, I clearly heard one of the employees make a rather derogatory comment about me to the other guys, one of which appeared to be a male customer. It was spoken loud enough for me to hear it from meters away – indicative of the intent to send me a clear message.
The encounter was chilling. Never before had I actually been looked at with such an obvious display of disgust and hatred. I feared these guys may attempt to harm me as there were very few other eyes in the immediate area and I was an easy target dressed as I was.
In an upcoming post, I’ll share what business these guys work for and what was said. I wrote a letter to the CEO and explained how representatives of his company chose to send me a very clear message of intimidation, and so openly in public. You’ll probably want to check back for this one. Chances are, many of you regularly do business with this company.
Catastrophe averted, moving forward
Once sufficient distance was between myself and the bullies, I tried to ease up and work back into a more natural stride. Determined not to let these small-minded thugs scare me away from my right to be out in public, I tried to concentrate on my personal growth again.
The large display windows of the stores offered a good way to observe how I walked in their reflection. They also allowed me to keep an eye on my back side, should anyone decide to approach with bad intentions.
Mission objective – engage
I made my way to a store called Hot Topic. For those unfamiliar with the chain, it’s known for its generally gothic and alternative styles. It is frequented by people with generally non-mainstream appearances and run by easy-going, open-minded people.
Two young women who appeared to be in their 20’s were on duty. They greeted me as I entered and I smiled and said hi back. Running low on black nail polish (my personal favorite) I looked around for some. I asked one of the women if they had any, and she pointed out that they had a single unit left. I spoke to her about how easily my black nail polish chipped off and she said she has the same problem. After offering me some helpful advice on application methods (what works best for her), I purchased the black nail polish and was on my way.
Mission objective accomplished
The experience was a pleasant one and my first purchase as Gabrielle went without a hitch. Although I felt awkward the whole time, the store employees were cool to me and treated me with respect. They both read me immediately as I entered – their eyes widened momentarily in surprise. It is a telling look I’m getting used to seeing on people, and an understandable reaction – especially in an area where it is very uncommon to see (noticeably) transgendered people in public. I think it’s important to point out that the women were aware that I’m a t-girl (emphasis on the “t”), did not laugh or act uncomfortable around me, and treated me very well.
Continuing mall exploration
As I walked down toward the other end of the mall (opposite where I encountered the haters), I noticed an increase in teenagers hanging out in groups. School had just let out and this is a popular place for teens to meet up. It made me a little more nervous, but I decided to keep moving forward (away from my entrance point).
Checked out or scoffed at?
I approached a small kiosk with a young male employee working there. He was carrying on a conversation with what appeared to be a buddy. I got nervous approaching, thinking back to the “tough-guys” who gave me trouble earlier. One of the men said something odd as I walked by, but I couldn’t tell what. It may have been just a sound or something – perhaps he was checking me out and made some kind of sound to indicate that? It’s unknown if the sound was made in sarcasm or in approval… or if it was even intended for me. Without looking back to find out, I kept walking.
Obnoxious sales attendants
The next kiosk was larger and occupied by two male employees who appeared in their early 20’s. Both were well dressed and slightly more approachable looking than the jerks who gave me trouble earlier, though I did not want to interact with them. Unfortunately, they wanted to interact with me. One of them called out to me, “Excuse me, miss, what kind of phone do you have?” I was wearing my phone’s hands-free ear piece, it was visible, and this was a cell phone retailer and service provider kiosk. Attempting to ignore him, I kept walking. A few steps farther, now with my back to them, he called out again, “Excuse me miss, can you tell me what kind of phone you use?”. He was talking louder at this point as I was continuing to walk away and distance myself. “Miss, we’d like to talk to you.”. Now several meters away, I turned my head back over my shoulder toward them, smiled and politely waved so as not to appear rude. The young man called out one more time, “Miss, could you come back here, please?” These guys made me very uncomfortable. Maybe they didn’t read me. Maybe they simply saw what appeared to be an attractive woman and just wanted to talk (and sell me a cell phone)? If they happened to get a good look at my face, chances are they read me easily (like the others) and may have been trying to have some fun at my expense. I didn’t know for certain, but didn’t want to chance it. In order to get back to where my car was parked, I’d have to walk past them again in the other direction, which I did not want to do. Instead, I headed for the nearest exit to walk outside and get to my car that way.
Turning the corner to the nearby exit, a tall young man made eye contact with me and politely said “How you doing?”, as he walked by. I nodded my head to acknowledge his greeting… like I always do… as a MAN! Doh! Men nod their heads, a lady would have smiled and said hi back! A random and genuinely nice guy says hi to me and I screwed it up, probably giving myself away in the process. Yes, I’ve got a long way to go on the public front.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another
I exited the mall and was walking down the sidewalk, taking the long way back to my car. Straight ahead, teenagers were gathered. They do that after school – gather around some of the mall entrances and just hang out. The wind started wiping up and my long hair was blowing up and back, revealing additional signs of my genetic gender. As far as I could tell, none of the teens said anything to me or about me as I passed by. With the wind not letting up, I entered the next entrance and hoped it would be far enough down so I would not need to pass by the obnoxious cell-phone salesmen again. This store’s entrance into the main hallway of the mall was just a few meters past that location. Those guys would be able to easily see me as I walked back into the main hallway.
Had enough for one day
Walking at a faster pace than normal, I entered the main hallway, hoped for the best, and headed back to my entrance location in Macy’s. I was done with the mall for the day, although I did relish that final stroll through Macy’s at a nice, slow pace before exiting. Somehow I blend in better there and feel more at ease. Perhaps it is because of the slightly more up-scale (or at least better behaved) people generally found there.
Most people ignored me, or simply saw nothing out of the ordinary in my appearance. I was read a handful of times. The tough-guys working at the one kiosk, who made it very clear I was not welcome, reminded me of the very real dangers in simply going out into public en femme.
A long way to go
It was a bumpy ride at times, and almost disastrous, but another good learning experience. I accomplished another first as Gabrielle: my first purchase en femme. A small step perhaps, but progress nonetheless. This trek through the mall revealed that I am clearly not yet capable of effectively interacting with people randomly out in the wild. It is a skill that I’ll really need to work on as Gabrielle.
In regard to the sales employees who tried to intimidate me with their derogatory comment and dirty looks, I’ll share that account in full soon…
Update: Here’s the link to the story.
Related content: crossdressing in public