Self Defense

In case anyone’s managed to not notice, the GLBT related hate crime rate is going up in the US.  We’re not the only ones, Muslims have a higher rate and it’s going up faster, but it’s something to be aware of.

Different people have different ways of handling their new (or increased) target status after coming out.  Me?  I re-enrolled myself in martial arts.  I’m not really a fighting person by nature, I’m small and fairly weak and the sight of my own blood makes me pass out.  However, I prefer my face in its current arrangement and that wasn’t happening with me doing punching bag impressions.  So I went and signed up for a kung fu refresher at my old school and threw in some judo and kick-boxing just in case.

Now, martial arts aren’t magic.  They’re not going to make you capable of taking on six guys twice your size after one lesson or anything.  At first the biggest boost was the added stamina needed to run fast until people got bored or tired.  Actually, that’s probably still my most useful skill.  Like I said, I’m not really a fighter.  It took about a month for me to get back into it enough to be able to put my old memories to any use and then another month or so before I’d developed the strength to do it well.  After that it was at least another two months before I could use the new stuff I was learning.  It’s not a quick fix, even for those of us who’ve been taking lessons since we were kids.

Even if it was, there’s more to self defense than beating up your attacker.  Legally speaking there are all kinds of rules about what you can get away with before facing criminal charges yourself.  If a guy punches you once and you beat him until he’s hospitalised, that’s no longer self defense.  As much as I like the idea of going around beating the shit out of bashers, it’s still not exactly the brightest thing to do if you want to keep yourself out of jail.  Look up laws in your state, ask a lawyer friend, whatever, just make sure you’re not going from victim to attacker.  General rule of thumb is to only inflict as much damage as necessary to escape, anything more and you’re getting into grey areas.

A few of my friends have taken to getting concealed weapons permits.  I like guns, grew up shooting rifles and I’m pretty good with a pistol.  I’m not so comfortable with the idea of carrying one around though.  First of all, guns aren’t really defensive weapons.  You pull a gun on someone and you’re looking to seriously injure them, not just get away before you get hurt.  Even if you don’t mean to, there’s no such thing as a minor gunshot wound, especially not from the distances bashers are usually at.  Second, guns are pretty easily taken away from you if there’s more than one attacker or the attacker has a big enough size advantage.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not so cool with the idea of my own gun being turned on me.  If this is something you’re considering I suggest taking a long look at the advantages and drawbacks before making a decision.

There’s also pepper spray, mace, modified weapons from every day objects, and a host of other options.  Honestly, I don’t know much beyond “try not to say anything stupid and run really fucking fast.”  I can defend myself, but it’s not something I like to do.  It’s something we should all think about though.  We can talk all we want about how any assault is wrong and how no one should have to worry about it, but the reality is that it does happen and we do have to worry about it.  We need to be prepared just in case.  It won’t make what happens to us any better, but at least we’ll stand a better chance of getting out alive.

13 Replies to “Self Defense”

  1. I’m not sure if attacks are on the rise over here or if they get reported more. At least for gay guys, I have seen quite a bunch of friends seriously bashed, and gotten away myself only so-so, all more than 20 years ago. But these occurences never got reportet back then.
    Maybe there was a short time window from mid 1990 to ealry 2000 when the bashing got less?

    I agree about taking running lessons and not carry weapons. it’s the first thing our teacher told us. Carry around everyday items like an umbrella that you can use instead. Also, I got out of some tight spots by talking alone. But it’s very difficult to explain how to do that, I learned it when I lived in a very dangerous area for some years and got harrassed almost daily.
    The best way to stay save it to smell dangerous situations very early on and go away. Be very clear headed and alert, never go out sleepy at night if you can avoid it and so on.

    • I spent quite a bit of my early transition time running as fast as I possibly could. It slowed down for a while after I started looking more like a 12 year old boy and less like a lesbian, but got exponentially worse as I started being recognise as a gay man. (Honestly, the next lesbian who tells me they have it worse in terms of harassment is getting decked. It seems worse when you have no other experience, but once you do…sorry, gay men get harassed far more and in more dangerous ways.)

      As for staying alert…I’m always hesitant to tell people that because if you’re not used to it you end up sticking out even more. The number of times I’ve been walking around semi-dangerous areas with suburban guys who practically scream “beat me” because they’re so paranoid is truly disturbing. Being able to be alert without also becoming a walking target is something that takes time to learn.

  2. “Honestly, the next lesbian who tells me they have it worse in terms of harassment is getting decked. It seems worse when you have no other experience, but once you do…sorry, gay men get harassed far more and in more dangerous ways.”
    absolutely. Lesbians ahve that whole violence against women thing (so do straight women), as as for the gay bashing, it isn’t called gay bashing without a reason.

    “As for staying alert…I’m always hesitant to tell people that because if you’re not used to it you end up sticking out even more.”
    good point. I never really thought about it. It’s probably being alert as opposed to being paranoid- being alert is more about being level-headed.
    I imagine I’m out in the country, hunting. That gives me an alert feeling while staying relaxed.

    I’m more used to people visiting from the country who are so naive that they sit down next to some thugs on the tube and start chatting, or leave their baggage standing in some train station and go away 20 mtr. to check something out *lol* They could do with a bit of paranoia .

    • Yeah, I think conflating violence against women in general with violence against lesbians specifically is rather intellectually dishonest. Violence against women is almost always perpetrated by people they know, it’s personal. Violence against GLBT people is generally random (particularly with gay men), it’s against the group rather than the person.

      Haha, we have the naive country types out here too, but they tend to take the opposite approach. You can always tell who they are because they clutch their bags for dear life and look around like scared deer. They also think that run down = dangerous so they’ll be hyper-vigilant in relatively safe areas and then leave their expensive cameras out in the open in tourist traps where there are far more thieves. People don’t seem to realise that it’s best to be fairly alert everywhere instead of extra-alert in just a few places.

  3. Your posting is very good again, Not Another Aiden.

    A good idea for being alert without seeming visibly paranoid or fearful is if you don’t just concentrate on who might harm you, but concentrate more on observing your surrounding in general and on other people. Like:

    – Is there anybody around who might want to hurt another person?

    – Has anybody just fallen down, has fainted or something like that?

    – Is anybody else around who might get attacked, and if yes, by whom else around?

    – A disabled person having trouble with barriers, picking up stuff etc.?

    – A small kid or physically non-fit person in the tram who needs a seat as otherwise they have trouble being safe there?

    By switching the perspective, you stay alert to potential threats without seeming too fearful. You become the actor instead of feeling like the victim/object, and you are a useful citizen and gentleman as well. And you can help other people as well, like old ladies or gents fainting or stumbling 100-500 feet away.

    • I seem somewhat gay, but apparently not that much, so some people’s gaydars ping with me, other people think I’m straight. Though I know that I have a somewhat gay way of speaking, gestures etc. Maybe cause I often dress in unstylish, straight-looking, absolutely boring clothes.

      And I also know two good excuses if people want to harrass me for being “gay” (though this has not happened yet so I don’t know how well they work):

      – “I’m not gay, I’m French” (with strong, authentical French accent). French straight guys are known here for behaving a bit like gay guys, so this might work. Adding to it that this gets confused sometimes and this happens to you sometimes.

      – “I’m not gay, I’m on extasy” (a mostly straight friend of mine was almost gay-bashed but could prevent being beaten up with that, and he indeed was on extasy at that moment.) People on extasy tend to behave in a way which can be misinterpreted as being gay by people whose gaydar is not great. At least it confuses people.

  4. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were some kind of gay bashing version of “Life Alert” product to help GLBT people in a crisis?

  5. In terms of fight or flight, I’d rather run as fast as I can. I may be wicked short, but I can beat most people in a short sprint, so I’m going to go with this option.

    • Yeah, I tend to prefer running myself. I figure even if I can hold my own in a fight, it’s really not worth the pain and effort.

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