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My public trans sport with a flirty stranger on the bus

I was cool, I was convivial. And then he opened his coat and showed me his tits

9 January 2016

9:00 AM

9 January 2016

9:00 AM

I had just sat down on the top deck of a number 38 London bus when I saw him looking at me. He was black and wore a fake-fur coat and orange leggings. There were glittering rings on his fingers, fake diamonds around his neck and bright red lipstick on his lips. In his large hands, a mauve purse. He looked like the kind of Andy Warhol drag-queen who wiggled on the wild side of life back in the 1970s.

He made strange chirping sounds and he batted his heavy eyelashes my way. I couldn’t tell if he was a touch crazy or just over-the-top camp. Then he smiled at me. Uh-oh, I thought. But I decided to be brave, so I gave him one of my big, anxious chimp smiles back. He then came over and plopped himself next to me.

‘Hi,’ he said, with a soft, low American purr. ‘My name is Melissa.’

Gulp. What do I do now? I could just stare out of the window until my stop arrived. But no, I told myself, I will not take the coward’s way out. As an open-minded liberal who celebrates diversity and pluralism, especially in sexuality and gender, I should take the chance to engage with my fellow traveller. After all, there’s a brave new world of trans-this and bi-that emerging and we uptight straight men must learn to deal with it. So I will stay calm. I will be cool. I will be convivial.

And then he opened his coat and showed me his tits. My first reaction? Oh! My! God! My second reaction? Help!

So much for liberal tolerance.


Look, I must make this clear. These were not man boobs. These were woman boobs. Big woman boobs, jutting out of a man. I’ve seen this sort of thing in films and documentaries and I have known cross-dressers and drag queens. But I’ve never had the up-close, in-your-face experience before.

Naturally, as a good liberal I will defend to the death any man’s right to bear women’s boobs, but I have to admit I found it freaky.

And then I realised: I was having my first encounter with a transgendered person. These days the transgendered are every-where in the media, in soaps, films, fiction and conversations But despite their cultural ubiquity, you rarely meet one. That’s not surprising considering that such people make up a tiny percentage of the UK population. One estimate puts the figure as low as 5,000.

Now back to those boobs. It was the way he flashed them, with his big ‘Ooh naughty me’ smile, that made me wonder: was he just having some fun with me? Here was his chance to make the guy in the suit sweat a little. And then I felt his leg move and snuggle up to mine. We were now joined at the knee.

No doubt he expected to have me dashing and screaming for the exit. But some modicum of pride inside me wanted to fight back. I felt like saying to him: Madam, I have news for you — this is one uptight straight guy who doesn’t scare so easily! After all, in the 1970s I lived for a short time in the gay district of San Francisco, where every form of sexual lifestyle known to man or beast coexisted. This was the pre-Aids era when gays were fearless, flamboyant, in-your-face and up-your-arse American ‘faggots’, as they called themselves; not your domesticated, bourgeois gays of today. You’re going to have to try a lot harder to freak out this heterosexual!

Then he put his hand on mine. OK, that did it. Off went my internal alarm: Mayday! Mayday! I was about to get up and get off the bus and walk the next three stops in the rain when I thought: it’s just a hand. Stay calm.

But what do you say to a black transgender stranger in such a situation without causing offence? ‘Excuse me, sir… err, I mean madam, can I please have my hand back?’ Would he think I was a racist? Or trans-phobic? Or maybe both?

I started to babble on about how white my hand was and what an interesting collection of rings he had. There followed a competition to see who would remove their hand last. I’m proud to say I won.

The funny thing is that earlier that evening I had been on a date with a woman I had never met before but had been fixed up with by an expensive dating agency. She spent the time talking to me about the horrors of her ex-husband and showing me pictures of her children, her home and her horse. It was dull.

My new friend spent the rest of journey showing me pictures of himself in various wigs and outfits and then pics of Angelina Jolie, Rihanna and Madonna while providing funny comments on each one. We discussed favourite films and singers. And he told me his mother never speaks to him: ‘But that’s OK, I have many nice friends.’ I had more in common with him than my earlier date.

Then he stood up and said, ‘It was a pleasure to have met you’, and off he went into the rainy night. I was sorry to see him go.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Cosmo Landesman was one of the founders of Modern Review and is the author of a memoir, Starstruck.

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Show comments
  • justejudexultionis

    The writer seems positively to have enjoyed the experience.

    • polidorisghost

      And he got an article out of it.

  • polidorisghost

    You can’t get this kind of fun in my village. Flirting with a churchwarden is the best I’ve managed

    • Sue Smith

      Are you the Vicar of Dibley?

      • polidorisghost

        Private joke but I don’t mind sharing
        My woman has just been made a churchwarden

  • davidshort10

    To say he was one of the founders of a magazine that went out of business 20 years ago I suppose is fitting in a publication whose managing director is often described as the former editor of the Sunday Times, when he left there some thirty years ago for a failed TV career under Rupert Murdoch.

    • Sue Smith

      Hasn’t nearly everybody been under Rupert Murdoch before? Now there’s Jerry Hall.

  • Copyright101

    Does this tranny count as a step up or down from Julie Burchill?

    • jim

      She wasn’t half bad when she was younger…….Julie I mean.

      • mumble

        She would have been better, had she been quieter.

  • Jesus Christ!

    • bb101

      You sound very prescriptive about what the author ought to have done; “should have” this, “should have” that.

      You do realize not everyone who identifies as conservative is as bigoted as you?

      • RWJetzt

        Anyone who identifies as conservative who considers the above common sense advice to be ‘bigoted’, as the ((((liberal)))) cultural masters would like them to, should stop identifying as conservative.

      • King Kibbutz

        So, self respect and dignity are the new bigotry?

    • Copyright101

      I’m afraid thats (((Cosmo Landesman))).

    • jim

      Well said….Vomiting:another healthy reaction …

  • Pimpernel23

    I believe Jeremy Corbyn had a very similar experience many years ago.

    • Dagenhamboy

      Now that is funny! Made my day, thank you.

  • Aethelflaed

    What you experienced was sexual abuse; and yet you put up with it for the sake of your ‘political correctness’. That man will go on and do it to others now !! Shame on you for letting him get away with it !! Racist, transphobic, indeed !! Don’t you have a human right to go about your business unmolested???

  • UnionPacificRX

    I generally smile at those who smile at me, but I am also in control. I know the limitations of proper social behavior in any place be it in public or private. Had my smile led to what I would consider inappropriate behavior I would clearly and with good manners, tell that person that is the limit of our connection. Any further action from such people would result in me demanding help from those who have the power to do so.
    A smile is always welcome but everyone should know that is all it is.

    • Headstrong

      I seriously doubt you know any sort of limit, Bernie. Your comments reveal a lot about your mental frame of mind. For example – one of your many illuminating comments (this one taken from Asia Times) :
      “Oh one more thing. Sooner than later there will be bomb attacks in your Hindu India. WHEN (and not if) that happens and HINDU women, children babies and adults are BLOWN UP I am going to celebrate. DIE DIE DIE YOU FILTHY HINDUS I HOPE ISIS GETS TO YOUR INDIA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I WANT TO SEE THOUSANDS OF YOU HINDUS BLOWN UP”
      http://atimes.com/2015/10/after-dodging-war-crimes-probe-lanka-focuses-on-truth-reconciliation/

      • UnionPacificRX

        Moderator Headstrong is labeling me as some other person and targeting me. Please take action against Headstrong.

        • Headstrong

          At least I’m speaking the truth, Bernie. You, on the other hand, have posted this on http://atimes.com/2016/01/pakistan-walks-fine-line-on-saudi-iran-spat/

          Quote – “YOU CANNOT HIDE HUSSEIN MOHAMMED AKA HEADSTRONG. YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND OUT FOR WHAT YOU ARE. YOU ARE AN ISIS MURDEROUS CON ARTIST OUT TO INSTIGATE THE KILLING OF HINDUS, BUDDHISTS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY AMERICAN CHRISTIANS AND EUROPEAN CHRISTIANS
          YOU ADMITTED TO WANTING TO KILL CHRISTIAN CHILDREN, WOMEN AND MEN AND DO THE SAME TO HINDUS AND BUDDHISTS. YOU HAVE MANAGED TO DECEIVE OTHER INDIAN COMMENTERS YOU TRAITOR HUSSEIN MOHAMMED. YOU CANNOT WIN THIS GAME ANYMORE. YOU ARE ARE DOUBLE AGENT FOR ISIS”

          • UnionPacificRX

            When you call me “Bernie” and accuse me of things I have never done then it makes sense that you be called “HUSSEIN MOHAMMED” THE IS AGENT. Does that make sense to you? Back off you have lost this stupid double game you are playing with me.

          • Headstrong

            All readers here have to do is click the links I have posted, Bernie. Changing your username does not delete your history, unfortunately

          • UnionPacificRX

            Moderator Headstrong is labeling me by another user name and accusing me of what that person may have said. Please stop Headstrong. He has now being doing this to me for days.

  • Catherine Courte

    Me and my trans friends never, ever, touch or flash! We are British after all. But we are great company, and many times we’ve been told we’ve made some stranger’s evening – French tourists in Soho, gay couple in Brick Lane, Stratford housewives in Shaftesbury Avenue. We are the magic dust that dull and conservative society needs; doesn’t quite accept from the off, but soon we bring them round! Take to a trans – you’ll be in great company!

    • Marvin

      Make a trip of a lifetime and visit ISIS and give them a bit of your fantastic personality. See you back soon.

      • Ani Kailash

        What a ridiculous comment.

    • Sue Smith

      Stepford Trannies.

  • mumble

    She spent the time talking to me about the horrors of her ex-husband and showing me pictures of her children, her home and her horse.

    It sounds to me that you were onto a winner there: the ex-husband, the home and the horse were bonuses; usually the single topic of conversation is her children, yea, even unto the screaming-for-mercy stage.

  • mumble

    But despite their cultural ubiquity, you rarely meet one. That’s not surprising considering that such people make up a tiny percentage of the UK population. One estimate puts the figure as low as 5,000.

    There’s also the factor that they delight in passing for their target gender, and many do it very well, so one may not even clock that one’s been had. I’ve cottoned on three times, days later, that I’d missed a trick, and can only guess how many times I’ve not realised ever.

    I’ve only ever spent time with a woman who I knew from the start was a transsexual person (although it had taken me years to tumble to it) and I fell in love with her, but she was already twice-taken.

    Being a gentleman, I did not pursue the question of the state of her squidgy bits, which I understand to be a stereotypical behaviour that is, quite understandably, annoying to the TG/TS community. After all, it’s not a topic touched on early in a new acquaintance generally.

    However, in an age where delicate campus flowers require the trigger warnings in advance of possibly upsetting topics in lectures – such as the patriarchy – I read that it is specifically a policy among TGs not to warn hook-ups and one-night stands that they may not be getting the type of squidgy bits they have been led to expect.

    I’d rather have my hand held on a bus.

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