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In 2005 I flew to Sydney, Australia with a friend to hit up a year of sunshine. In a wonderful twist of fate, we arrived as Pride was kicking off. It was the first time I’d been to a Pride Parade and Sydney’s was an amazing first. I remember the drag queens in their finest and most fantastic, and the parents in plain clothes marching for their kids. To me, it was revelry at its best.
The crowd was a tight throng of people, thousands of them, cheering and clapping. I didn’t realize I had been separated from my friend until I looked behind me to find the person rammed up against me was in a strange man, not my friend. I was alone.
There wasn’t room to move, nevermind look around, so I stayed put. I felt something against my back and tried to tell myself I was imagining it, but after some time, I couldn’t ignore that the man was grinding himself into me. I was incensed and humiliated. Trapped. I had no idea what to do.
The wall of people kept me from running. I filled with rage—frustrated that my euphoria was syphoned away by a pervert who thought he could get away with it. Would he have tried this if I’d hadn’t lost my fucking male ‘chaperone’? I doubted it.
These days, I wouldn’t have the same internal struggle over what to do in a situation like this. But at 23, I was relatively new to the harassment game. I came from a small town where everyone knew everyone. Harassment existed, to be sure, but it had a different face, never as overt.
I turned to push the man off me and yelled that he was a pervert. Doing this made me feel more humiliated than standing and being violated in silence. As the man disappeared into the crowd, no one asked if I was ok, though it was clear I was not. Their expressions, burned into my brain, told me “you’re embarrassing all of us, stop it.”
Even my friend, once we reconnected, thought I made a big deal out of nothing. The stranger hadn’t really ‘done’ anything to me, after all.
It was a summer evening and I was walking to meet friends out for a few social drinks and an evening of music for a fundraiser. Once I hit Broadway, a man started talking to me and walking along side me. At first his conversation was non threatening and I wasn’t bothered by his presence as there were people out everywhere. He asked if I just finished work, where I work and started guessing my profession. Nurse was his first guess, by this time I was no longer carrying a conversation and had spotted a friend ahead. By the time I got to my friend, the street harasser was into a detailed description of me being a stripper for a living….WOW…talk about awkward! Still to this day I am reluctant to walk by myself, even with people lining the street.
My apartment is right next a hotel, with a restaurant downstairs. One night I was walking home around midnight and I heard a man talking loudly. As they were outside of the restaurant I assumed that he was talking to friends and possibly a bit drunk. As I got a bit closer, he got louder and I could understand he was talking to me.
He started yelling, “Hey, I’m saying hi to you. I’m trying to ask how your night is. To tell you look nice. Why are you ignoring me? Don’t you know it’s not polite to not answer? Canadians are supposed to be nice. Why won’t you just talk to me?” The entire time getting louder and walking closer to me. His friends in the parking lot just stood and laughed.
It all happened so fast and I was so surprised that I said nothing at all. I kept walking as fast as I could towards my house. I was grateful when he decided to stop walking at the edge of the parking lot and return to his friends. The thing that still strikes me most about this is how much detail I remember about it even a couple years later, how anxious it still makes me feel, and how entitled he felt to my time, attention and space.
Watch for news of our launch party in the new year. The Vancouver team can’t wait to meet you and share our excitement.