The question was direct and to the point, ‘Are you one of them blokes?’
With those six short words, I was the victim of blatant transphobia.
We have been advised to report such attacks. ‘We need the stats,’ explained one transgender campaigner in 2018. That was in response to ‘hateful’ stickers which read ‘Female is a biological reality’ appearing in Edinburgh. This attack was personal and in my face.
But if this was transphobia, I was in no danger. The woman who asked the question was in her 60s, laden down with groceries and she would have needed to stand on a box for it to be truly in my face. I towered over her.
I decided that the situation called for a straight answer, ‘Why yes, so I am!’
‘You’re very convincing,’ I was reassured.
‘Clearly not convincing enough’, I replied with a smile.
She smiled back and nodded. ‘Good on yer’, she added and carried on down the platform. The Circle Line train pulled in, and the crisis was over without a blood vessel being burst.
Transphobic hate crime has been on an upward trajectory according to Home Office figures published in October. In the year ending March 2021, police in England and Wales recorded 2,799 hate crimes relating to transgender identity, up from around 300 in 2011 to 2012.
What those numbers do not tell us, though, is the nature of the incidents themselves. The Edinburgh stickers might have caused a littering problem, but their message – female is a biological reality – was hardly transphobic. My interlocutor in London appeared to be motivated by curiosity rather than hate. How many more reports were sparked by hurt feelings or the taking of offence, we do not know.