I’m uncomfortable around men. I don’t know I always have been. As a cisgendered lesbian, who parents are very feminine, my experiences with men are limited and typically awkward. I usually get questions or statements from men I don’t know stating that I don’t look gay or I’m too pretty to be gay. Sometimes men take my sexuality as an opportunity to bother me and harass me more than they normally would. It has conditioned me to avoid looking at, talking to, and interacting with men I don’t know because that is the only way I feel like I can protect myself.
One day, in the cafe, I was sitting with some students I knew from class — one man and two women. Before they left, a group of four men I don’t know came and sat with us. My friends left, leaving me alone with four strange men. I was nervous. I felt uncomfortable. My guard was up. One of the men said I looked up tight because I was sitting up way straight with my hands folded. Another, after I was pushed who my favorite figure from history was, asked if I was some crazy feminist because I said Cleopatra. He said I only picked her because I am a woman. I felt trapped and totally disrespected.
I left as soon as I could. Now I avoid the cafe at busy times and only sit at small tables.