I had to travel to a large city for a work meeting, after taking a detour to drop my son off my total driving time just to get here was 8 hours. I felt that justified an overnight stop, and so I booked myself into some cheap lodgings within easy walk of the city centre.
My meeting is only one day but I took my large case on the off chance that I would be brave enough to venture out as DeeDee. I put no pressure on myself because the last few times I have taken a case to change and go out my plans have changed or been changed for me and the frustration and disappointment is worse with each failed attempt.
I was worried about booking into my room as a man and then wandering past the desk staff as DeeDee, but when I arrived I discovered that there is a self check in system in the evenings and that reception was unmanned.
I was not brave enough to go and sit in a restaurant and order some dinner and after that much travel my stomach was not hungry, but then I remembered that a big city also meant big cinemas and the Harley Quinn film might still be playing.. now that is a film I really want to see and it is not showing anymore where I am.
If it is not on Little Women is out too and both of them are films I would like to see but have not gone to because single parents do not get to go to the cinema very often.
In my head I reasoned that it was roughly a 15-20 minute walk, pretty much down the same street and so I could not get lost, but it would be busy enough for me to blend in and dark enough for people not to look too closely as long as I did not draw attention to myself.
I could even buy my tickets from the machine so I would not have to speak to someone as I have never attempted to use a feminine voice outside of practising with my phone app. Worst case scenario I could just walk down the street and back and consider going out on my own somewhere public a win.
I spent over an hour shaving, and applying as little makeup as possible so that at a glance it would look like I was not wearing anything other than lippy, I took time with my eyebrows and even attempted some light eyeliner to go with the mascara on my natural lashes, I put on a dark blond hombre bob wig that was cheap but had a fringe and was shoulder length and I felt it looked natural; and then I dressed in a nice red top and jeans and sat and painted my nails.
It felt like a proper pampering session, but even after a quick selfie or two I was still sitting in my room. I berated myself that I had not dragged my case all that way and up 3 flights of stairs just to sit and watch Netflix so I put on the black ankle boots with kitten heels and spent another few minutes just sitting and building up my courage, listening to footsteps in the hallway coming and going and waited until I thought all was quiet before putting on my red jacket and the Christmas scarf my sister had bought me and opened up the door…
I was terrified, as I crossed reception I noticed the massive cctv screen and almost went back to my room, but I quickly reasoned that even if someone watched the footage back it would be too late as DeeDee was on the screens, I took a breathe and continued forwards, down the 3 flights of stairs, I was a little unsure of myself as it was last May when I went out and had to negotiate stairs in heels, even small ones. I made it out onto the street without incident and started my walk.
I passed a man chatting to his friends as they stood smoking beside their taxis, I passed groups of people sitting and drinking at outside tables at bars, I had buses and cars stop so that I could use the crossings and no one stared, what laughter I heard was from people engaged in talking to each other and with each step further and further away from my lodgings I felt more and more at ease, after 10 minutes I was actually just enjoying myself, I did not have to think about my steps and my walking style and I was a perfect 10 or so paces behind two women walking in front of me, the click of my heels on the pavement did not make them turn around, because in a city other people is common.(where I am in my rural location at 9pm at night it would be a very noticeable sound)
At one point I crossed over as I had to skirt around a small park and there were a couple of guys sat on a bench watching the world go by, male me would have walked right past them, but I did not want to risk having to speak.
It took me just over half an hour but I made it to the cinema about an hour before my film was due to start, I waited until the group crowding the ticket machine seemed occupied before I went and stood beside them and ordered my ticket – only to discover someone had left their debit card in the machine, at that time of night the kiosk was not staffed, do I leave it and hope they come back?
I couldn’t, so I bought my ticket, went to the refreshment stand and waited my turn, then asked for a medium coke zero, this was the first time I have ever spoken to a stranger as DeeDee on my own, last year I had my sister and my niece to look after me and this felt like a big deal. The girl smiled and offered me the large for 50p extra which I accepted before giving her the card I had found in the machines. I paid for my ticket and then waited until 30 minutes before the film started before trying to go in – the person checking tickets said they weren’t open yet, obviously another country/city difference is how early they let you into films before the scheduled start, I wandered off and took a picture of my ticket and another subtle selfie, at 15 minutes to the start time I went back and he explained that they were still cleaning and so I stood around waiting, it was 5 minutes after the start time that he called me over and tore my ticket so that I could go in.
Only now I needed the loo because I had been holding onto and sipping from a cold cup of soft drink for like 40 minutes. I went into the ladies and took a stall a few away from the only other one occupied and someone came in and used the one right next to me, I waited until I heard the hand driers before leaving the cubicle and after checking my hair was still okay, I went and found my seat. I took of my handbag, my scarf and my jacket and folded them neatly onto the empty seat beside me and took a deep breathe.
I had done it!
The film was deserted, me, one person sat at the back and a young couple that came in after me that were laughing and chatting to each other. I have know idea if they had spotted me as trans or not as I do not sprawl, but my seat was right at the front so they had to walk right past me. The film itself was amazing, I love the character of Harley as she is so flawed and knows it, but this film just kept moving along, the fight scenes were totally amazing and actually realistically done for the gymnastics/brawler fighting style that Harley has (believable for an action film, there were no totally beyond belief wall runs or anything) the strong female leads were great and it did not feel like they were being over shadowed by Ewan Macgregor’s sufficiently creepy bad guy.
When the film finished I loosely put my jacket on and visited the little girls room before finding my way outside. After turning my phone back on I realised that it was now 00:30 – very late for a woman to be walking around on her own. I didn’t want to talk to anyone again, but reasoned that getting into a taxi would be a whole lot safer than having to walk back past the park and I could see a rank close by so I headed towards it…
As I took out the phone I use as DeeDee because I can take photos on it without it linking to any of my other accounts I realised that while I had taken a photo of the code instructions to get back in I had not actually taken a note of the address! What do I do? I tried googling but could not remember the name of the guesthouse, nor the long winded street name it was at. Without an address how could I take a taxi?
Cursing my own stupidity I set out on the way back. I quickly took to walking beside the kerb because the dark shadows beside the shops and houses were just too much for my overactive imagination. In my head I had visions of being grabbed and pulled into the darkness. Every time I passed a drunk guy I kept my head down and kept going, clack, clack, clack, clack… Each footfall felt like an announcement of where I was. I was so tense! Three times a group of four or more guys walked close enough to touch me and I tensed up every time determined to just keep moving – every horror story I have ever heard about women being attacked at night, and about transphobic attacks in the street kept rolling around in my thoughts, if I was hospitalised there would be no change of clothes – if someone wanted my purse they could have it!
I was so grateful for choosing something close to the city centre because at least I could count on light regular traffic, if I needed to scream someone would notice.
Twice I had empty taxis pull into the kerb just in front of me only to pull away again as I kept walking – I have to say my heart was thankful for those drivers who were silently offering their services to the lone woman in a bright red coat walking out at night.
I reached my lodgings without incident and almost ran back up the stairs and into my room. I have never been so happy to lock my door and sit on my bed. All the tension left as I removed my makeup and took my nail polish off. I feel vulnerable enough walking through late night streets dressed as a guy, but I have never experienced paranoia on that level before.
I had a rotten nights sleep, between the adrenaline in my system and the noises that carried through my room, but I have gone out by myself, I have spoken to people as myself and I even did a good deed, for when the owner of that debit card realises he has lost it I have no doubts the cinema will be his first port of call.
It is a lovely sunny morning and I am enjoying my morning coffee while I wait for my meeting to start.
I feel lighter than I have in weeks, it will take me a few days to process my thoughts but I am so glad I took my things and went out.
I have learnt that single women do not frequent the late showings at the cinemas, and if they do they take a note of their address so that they can catch taxis home safely.
I know nothing happened other than in my own over active imagination, but I am very grateful to be able to learn from my own experiences. That I plucked up the courage to open the door and that overall I had a fantastic evening 🙂
Late night cities are the domain of men, and I do not belong no matter how I am dressed!