The Male Gaze
(wearing my mirror sunglasses)
I sat having lunch alone on Pier 15 . I started thinking about the Male Gaze. You see, I've been working in downtown Manhattan for 19 years, but I only started "transitioning" in 2017. It wasn't until 2019 that my hair got long enough to be considered "feminine." Shortly after, as we all know, we were hit with a pandemic. This forced me and many of us to work from home for the past two years. These days we are slowly returning to the office, which means revisiting our old stomping grounds during daylight. Now that I am back on public display more frequently how is life different you ask? Two words: the Male Gaze.
If you see me walking around New York City you will probably see me sporting sunglasses. Not just any sunglasses, but mirror tinted sunglasses (above pic). This means as I make my way through the word I can see out, but spectators cannot see my eyes looking at them. This allows me to catch people staring at me without them knowing I'm watching them watching me. It is this tool that has made me aware of how many people, mostly MEN, stare at me in public. I'm not talking about a simple glance. Oh no. Men stare! Like, deeply. I noticed how they spot me from a distance. They stare and keep their eyes fixed on me as I look "straight ahead." My guess is that their internal monologue is as follows "she's tall...pretty...wait...is that a dude?...well...I'd still hit that." Women on the other hand, I feel, stare at me A LOT less.
As I mentioned on my social media profiles men have hit on me on the streets of New York City even when I'm dressed down which only started happening once I began "transitioning." It really throws me off every time. I mean, I'm not walking around thinking of bagging a man. Mostly, I'm thinking about life's deeper questions, and if I left the iron on when I walked out the apt. Yet, these men always bring me back to the reality that if you look somewhat feminine you will be objectified. I'm not complaining really. Some folks would love to be objectified in public, to finally be seen as a piece of meat. Trust me, I get it...it is still disconcerting every time it happens to me.
Recently SNL did a digital skit called Can I talk to You, where two men relentlessly hit on two women at a gas station. And just a few years back SNL made a classic digital skit called Girl at a Bar, where men lash out at a woman at a bar when she doesn't welcome their advances. At the root of these skits is the truth of the Male Gaze. This idea that women, or feminine individuals for that matter, exist for the pleasure of men.
We may be living in 2022 but some men are still in search of their own personal Trophy Wife. The term is often used in a derogatory or disparaging way, implying that the wife in question has little personal merit besides her physical attractiveness. For some men Trophy Wife is a bit of a stretch, they are simply looking to add a notch on their belt of female conquests. And for those of us who fall somewhere outside the Gender norms, "getting with" a "trans" person is seen as novelty and something to check off the male bucket list.
With this in mind how is it that I handle all this unwanted attention you ask? What do I have to say to those poor starving men looking for me to throw them a few crumbs? I say "Let them eat cake." Is it insensitive on my part or simply reclaiming my power so I can peacefully eat my lunch on a wonderfully sunny day on Pier 15? The ship has sailed for many men with the prospect of 'bagging" a wonderfully attractive individual, not because they are undeserving of attention and love themselves but because their approach is all wrong.
Fellas, let me talk to you. We know you deserve to be loved-on-oh-so-hard day and night but how about a little finesse? After all, don't ever assume a female presenting individual is into men to begin with. If you dare to test the waters simply start by asking "beautiful day for lunch outdoors isn't it?" Maybe then we'll invite you to pull up a chair and share with us how it is you see the world and the beauty in it ;-)