Public transport and gender expression

On Saturday, London celebrated Pride in London. The sun shone on the parade which was formed of grassroot LGBTQ charities and organisations, emergency services, public servants and numerous other organisations who are happy to attach a rainbow to their logo for at least one day. I was very happy to be able to march in the parade with the awesome Gendered Intelligence who had very kindly been placed at the front of the first section of the parade just behind the very long rainbow flag.

Whilst out and about I received a message in one of my friends WhatsApp groups saying about how it was great Uber were using a rainbow coloured line to indicate how far away their car is. This isn’t the first time Uber have updated their app during Pride season and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, this message was actually quite triggering and I quickly replied that I would rather see them do something that actually supports the community they are supposedly tying their affections to by offering gender non-conforming people free lifts home after dark.

I don’t know the ins and outs of Uber or any other big corporations that have found the rainbow hue and wouldn’t want to start to judge if they are genuine or not in their feelings towards the LGBTQ community. Each year more and more companies show their support and it is a good thing but please first take a look at the actions of your company. If you are doing anything that directly or indirectly negatively effects any LGBTQ person please invest money in to how you can change your ways of working for the better before you invest in some bunting and a float at Pride. If the lives of any members of our community are negatively effected by your organisation those people will not want to see you in the parade and it could make them no longer feel safe in what should be one of their greatest safe spaces in the year. Sometimes we will also fight back. Look at the No Justice No Pride movement against the involvement of Police in Pride parades.

Transport for London added the rainbow colours to a lot of station signs and carried Pride in London posters and adverts at what felt like all of their stations. Such public support on a system used by the majority of people living in or visiting London is fantastic and helps to get the message across that LGBTQ people are here, we’re not going anywhere and we are to be celebrated. However, using public transport can be a very difficult experience for gender non-conforming people. On Monday evening I used public transport across London for my return journey to talk at an event that was celebrating Pride. Naturally, I was looking fabulous. As usual, the journey consisted of many stares. People looking me up and down, people rolling their eyes at me, mutters of disgust to partners and people who get their phones out and pretend their hardest that they are not taking a photo of you. On my return journey this was repeated but one of the lines I was due to use was suspended so this involved additional time waiting for trains that would not appear and changing at a station that I’m not overly confident presenting as femme at yet. So the stares, nudges etc continued. It makes me wander what is the physical and mental expense of having this happen to you day after day?

Sadly, I don’t feel that there is going to be a day in the near future where travelling alone on public transport is going to be safe for gender non conforming people. I hope that you already ask female friends travelling alone how they are going to get home, do they need someone to travel with them, do they need a couple of quid to pay for a taxi? I implore that you also start to think the same of your gender non conforming friends. They have a right to not face trans phobia and the fear of trans violence on every occasion they leave the house. Will you pay for their next taxi home after dark?