Enjoying summer safely

Summer is almost upon us which, if you live in a climate that has four seasons (five in you include road construction), means we’ll be shedding our bulky winter clothing. That also means keeping ourselves safe. I’m not an expert on personal safety, but having survived a stalker, I think I can offer some suggestions that may help.

One thing that can help you is your smartphone. It can be used for more than selfies or food photos. For example, if you are, or suspect you are, being followed by someone who may not have the best of intentions, take their picture. Now, I don’t mean when you’re walking down the street and someone is behind you, you should automatically snap a photo. They may have a legitimate reason for being there. But, if over the course of a couple or three days the same person seems to always be everywhere you are, then take a photo and don’t be subtle about it. You want them to know. If they have less than honourable designs upon you, that you have captured their image may discourage them.

Something else to consider, which works well in daylight. When you go out, you’re probably dressed attractively. Don’t be afraid to check out yourself in any window or reflective surface you pass. Not from any sense of vanity – girl, you know you’re lookin’ good – but it will give you a chance to see if there is someone creepy behind you. If you’re out at night, especially on a side street, pay attention to shadows. Try to walk on whichever side of the street is illuminated best by streetlights. Shadows can warn you if someone appears to be closing on you quickly and give you a chance to take whatever action you feel may be necessary. And where possible, walk facing traffic. Trust your instincts.

To borrow a line from “Hill Street Blues” – be careful out there.

Enjoy your summer.

Cat.

Be aware of your surroundings -always (addendum)

A friend who read “Beware of your surroundings – always” suggested this addition: You also have to be careful with whom you speak. What you may consider a casual
conversation could be given a deeper meaning by them.

Say you’re waiting in line somewhere and the person behind you makes a comment about the speed with which the line isn’t moving. You turn around to answer, but before you do, you quickly size them up. If they seem “odd” to you, trust your instincts and say nothing. They may impart a deeper meaning to that flippant comment you had ready. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to anyone, or smile at people, just be aware that your innocent actions could have unwanted consequences.

When dealing with strangers, trust you instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t because, let’s be honest here – not everyone is as mentally stable as you or I.

Be careful out there.

Cat.

Be aware of your surroundings – always

I haven’t posted this in a couple of years and with spring (in theory) upon us, I think it bears repeating, this time with a new title. This is the time of year we begin to shed our bulky winter clothing and by doing so, we may attract unwanted attention.

Over about the past six months I’ve twice posted “Don’t think you’re safe”, about being safe. A friend, who has read that piece, suggested I post it every four to six months just to remind people, not just women, to be aware of their surroundings. Like me, she is a photographer, so is constantly looking around for scenes to capture with her lens, but she has told me that after reading that posting, she feels she is now also more aware of things that may affect her personal safety. I like her idea but feel that posting the same thing over and over will cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Summer is fast approaching, which means we’ll all be spending more time outside, with our bulky winter coats but a memory. Keep in mind that no matter what you look like, there is bound to be someone who finds you attractive. I’m 5 11″, usually in heels which boost me well above six feet, and transgender. That did not stop someone who found me attractive from stalking me for at least two years. Keep in mind that if you see the same person twice in the same location you’re in, it could be coincidence. Three times or more could be stalking. And no, I don’t mean your usual cab driver – I mean strangers. If you think you’re being followed or stalked, take that person’s picture. As I wrote above, I’m a photographer so usually have a camera with me, but most cell phones have very good cameras as well. Don’t be afraid to use it. Often the fact you’ve photographed them will be enough to discourage them. If that doesn’t work, go to the police.

Something else to consider. If you think or feel you’re being followed, use reflections in car windows or mirrors or store windows to check behind you or watch your shadows. If the sun, or a streetlight, is behind you it will cast a shadow before you. Use that shadow to determine if someone is closing in on you.

To borrow what became the catchphrase from “Hill Street Blues”, “be careful out there.

Cat.

Caitlyn, cabs, caution

I’ve tried, but I find I just can’t watch “I am Cait”. Her life bears no relation to any other trans* person I know. Most of us do not come from privilege, instead we have to work and fight for everything we have or hope to have. Yet the media seems to have made her a spokesperson for the trans* community. Maybe if she would get out of that bubble she appears to live in I could take her more seriously. For example, she is reported to have said “lower income transwomen are lazy.” I honestly hope that was either misquoted or taken out of context. In my case, I had the good job, the paid-for house, the kids, the pets, the cars and I left it all behind. I spent 12 hours a day driving a taxi trying to make ends meet. I’d hardly call that “lazy”. In my opinion, the media have made her a spokesperson because they want someone with a recognizable name and right now Caitlyn Jenner is that person. A better person would be Jazz Jennings. She is young and the family support she receives is absolutely amazing. As she goes through this process, she is probably doing more for trans* awareness than Caitlin Jenner could ever hope to do.

 
There was a shooting at a night club in Toronto this week in which two people were shot and killed. One of them was a man “known to police” to use their phrase and apparently he shouldn’t have been anywhere near that club on the lakeshore, but rather at his home some 30 miles away under house arrest. The other victim was a young lady who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She and her friends were trying to get a taxi from the rank outside the club to escape the gunfire. Not one cab would take them because it was only a short run, about $8. The drop in a Toronto taxi is $4.25, so this was obviously only a couple of blocks. As I wrote above, I drove a cab for seven years and never once turned down a fare because it was a short run. The way I looked at it, the run was short, but it was money in my pocket and the fact it wouldn’t take long meant I’d be available again in no time at all. According to the Toronto taxi bylaw, drivers can refuse fares if they deem the destination to be dangerous; the person won’t give them a proper destination address; the person owes them money from a previous ride, or the person is “disruptive” (read “drunk”). I know from talking with friends that Toronto drivers have also been known to refuse fares because the destination is too far. A friend hailed a taxi outside her office one winter night to drive her home to Pickering, a trip of some 20 miles. About half-way there the driver realized how far it was, took her to a nearby coffee shop and left her there saying it was too far. Fortunately for her she had my number and called me. Despite the bad weather, I drove from Pickering and picked her up, so she got home safely. But, had she not had my number, or the number of another cab driver, she’d have been stranded. No, no. You can’t turn down a run because you don’t think it’s worth your while.

 
Aah, summer. Time we shed our winter clothing and wear as little as decently possible to stay cool. We walk out of the house, feeling cool and looking hot, taking in the admiring glances from men we pass. Keep in mind however that not all those looks may be admiration. Some of them could be from men assessing you for other reasons. I’m talking stalkers here. Just because you couldn’t be Beyonce’s body double doesn’t mean someone hasn’t taken an interest in you. I was stalked for over a year. Yeah, me – 5 foot 11, about 185 at the time and trans*. Yet someone decided to make me prey and stalk me. It was frightening and in my case was made worse by the fact my stalker was an EMS supervisor and would use his work vehicle to stalk me. This vehicle carried the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, so whenever I saw an ambulance coming, I’d search for a place to hide not knowing if it was him or an ambulance.

If you see someone who appears to be following you and it isn’t in a place such as a local shopping area, be careful. If you see them twice, it could be coincidence, but three times is probably stalking. My suggestion if this happens, is take their picture. Don’t try to be subtle about it – just hold that phone or camera up in plain sight and snap that shot. If they are indeed stalking you, that action may deter them. Always, always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you. To borrow a line from “Hill Street Blues” – “be careful out there”.

Cat.

Be aware, be safe

Over about the past six months I’ve twice posted “Don’t think you’re safe”, about being safe.  A friend, who has read that piece, suggested I post it every four to six months just to remind people, not just women, to be aware of their surroundings.  Like me, she is a photographer, so is constantly looking around for scenes to capture with her lens, but she has told me that after reading that posting, she feels she is now also more aware of things that may affect her personal safety.  I like her idea but feel that posting the same thing over and over will cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Summer is fast approaching, which means we’ll all be spending more time outside, with our bulky winter coats but a memory.  Keep in mind that no matter what you look like, there is bound to be someone who finds you attractive.  I’m 5′ 11″, usually in heels which boost me well above six feet, and transgendered.  That did not stop someone who found me attractive from stalking me for at least two years.  Keep in mind that if you see the same person twice in the same location you’re in, it could be coincidence.  Three times or more could be stalking.  And no, I don’t mean your usual cab driver – I mean strangers.

To repeat a suggestion from “Don’t think you’re safe”, if you think you’re being followed or stalked, take that person’s picture.  As I wrote above, I’m a photographer so usually have a camera with me, but most cell phones have very good cameras as well.  Don’t be afraid to use it.  Often the fact you’ve photographed them will be enough to discourage them.  If that doesn’t work, go to the police.

Cat.

Don’t think you’re making sense

Recently (March 9) I reposted a piece called “Don’t think you’re safe” which was based upon the fact I was the victim of a stalker not all that long ago.  Here’s an excerpt from that piece that explains the situation:  About five years ago I had to deal with a stalker.  Yeah – late sixties, trans, 5 foot 11 and (at the time) about 180 lbs and being stalked by some wacko.  If any of my readers have had the experience of being stalked, you understand the terror at knowing someone out there considers you prey and is actively hunting you. If you haven’t read it, please do.  The advice is aimed mainly at women, but men do get stalked as well and some of my advice may prove useful to them too.

There’s the background and a brief plug for that posting.  In that post, I mention using a camera to photograph anyone you consider suspicious, which is how the following, sent from some camera company, ended up in my WordPress spam folder today.

ethangreenlee
Submitted on 2013/04/02 at 12:13 pm

Ridiculous story there. What occurred after? Take
care!

First, the most sensible thing in this is the “Take care!”, which effectively boiled my post down to two words.

Can anyone explain how a brief essay on being aware of your surroundings to ensure you aren’t in someone’s sights can be considered a ridiculous story?  Having lived through the experience, I can tell you firsthand there is nothing ridiculous about it.

“What occurred after?”?  Well Ethan, or whatever your name is, I’ll tell you.  I wrote this blog deliberately titled “Don’t think you’re making sense” and posted it so people can see just how little you actually do think.

To my followers and readers, enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and intelligent comments) too.

Cat.

Don’t think you’re safe

I’ve posted this before, but now that spring is upon us and we shed our bulky winter clothes, I think it needs repeating.

As I have written previously I’m transgendered, which for the most part is a non-issue.  It does however play a role in the piece which follows.  What I didn’t mention, and also has a bearing on this essay, is that I’m in my late ‘60s.

If you have access to Facebook, you can look at my photos and judge my appearance for yourself.  Just  search for the email address “gcathoward@gmail.com”.  And, if you send me a friend request and mention WordPress, I’ll accept.  Now that I have that out of the way, I’ll continue.

About five years ago I had to deal with a stalker.  Yeah – late sixties, trans, 5 foot 11 and (at the time) about 180 lbs and being stalked by some wacko.  If any of my readers have had the experience of being stalked, you understand the terror at knowing someone out there considers you prey and is actively hunting you.  In my case, this sense of panic was heightened by the fact my stalker was an Emergency Services Supervisor and he would frequently use his supervisor’s vehicle.  As it was painted with the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, every time I saw a vehicle in those colours, I’d look for a place to hide, in case it was him and not an ambulance.  For all those years I was his target, I prayed I wouldn’t need EMS services, knowing he’d probably show up.  Fortunately I’m reasonably healthy for 60 something; not prone to falling down and am careful when crossing streets.

Being trans, when I reported this to the police, they were less than sympathetic; in fact they did nothing.  I suspect part of the reason no action was taken is because they saw the EMS supervisor as being “one of their own” and part was the discrimination I face daily.  My problem was eventually solved by a friend.  She contacted some of her former classmates who ride motorcycles and are considered anti-social by most people and these friends had a “chat” with this stalker.  Interesting thing: these men had seen me about town and told my friend that while they didn’t really understand, they did admire my courage.

So, dear readers, just because you may not be a doppelganger for Angelina Jolie or any other male epitome of female beauty, don’t think it can’t happen to you.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  My advice is simple: If the same person shows up wherever you happen to be twice, it could be coincidence, if they show up three times or more, this person may have targeted you.  Tell someone, preferably someone you trust, as soon as you can.  And always be aware of your surroundings – not just the physical surroundings, but the people as well.  Just an idea, but I got into digital photography after these incidents, so usually have a camera with me and am always looking around for things to photograph.  If I see someone suspicious, or who just makes me nervous, I take their  photo and record date, time and location.  If they keep appearing, I take more photos, but I’ve found that usually one photo is enough because I make no effort to conceal the fact I am photographing them. You don’t have to be a photographer and carry a camera, for  most cell phones these days have cameras.  Don’t be afraid to use it for things like this.  And if the person persists, go to the police with those photos and, if possible, a written report.

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.  And always be aware of what’s happening around you.  It could save you a lot of stress or worse.

Cat.