Over the weekend, women who have experienced street harassment shared their experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #NoWomanEver.
The hashtag—a play on the sarcastic quip "said no one ever"—gave women a space to vent frustrations over ugly, aggressive catcalls presumably designed to win a woman's affections. "He blocked me from walking to the register when I was ignoring him in CVS and we been together since that day!" user @ImJustCeej, who started the online campaign, tweeted in one example.
The hashtag rang so true with women that it started trending over the weekend. But it also rang true with some who don't identify as women, like Sam Schooler. Schooler, a 23-year-old non-binary trans author who writes under the pen-name James Loke and uses the pronouns they/them, tweeted some thoughts on what it's like to have been born a woman, have experienced sexism through their teens as a woman, and now to have some of the privileges afforded cisgender men:
In a phone interview, I asked Schooler if they came across antagonism against AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) individuals often. They said no. "That had never happened to me," Schooler said, adding, "I don't remember how it crossed my timeline… [and] I don't remember how the person who posted it IDed, but they were definitely a trans person."
Schooler continued, "the core of their tweet was that they hate and distrust people who identify as Assigned Female At Birth, and it just really struck me as strange," Because, they said, "we're reflecting on experiences that we lived growing up."
Schooler has no problem with a space intended only for women. "I'm perfectly fine with it," they said, adding, "I don't identify as a woman and I don't identify as a man… I wouldn't step into a male-only space either, but especially for women." Schooler, who now lives with their wife in Canada, explained that "I was in an abusive relationship, so I know what it's like to want that women-only place," reiterating, "It doesn't make me uncomfortable or upset to see that women don't people who don't identify as women in those spaces."
That doesn't mean Schooler doesn't recognize the experiences shared through #NoWomanEver.
"Growing up, I went to Catholic school" Schooler told me. "I was always in skirts, and I was fairly curvy and busty. So I got a lot of attention, especially when I was working… I would get a lot of comments from male customers or people passing through."
Schooler told me that they are often mistaken for a cisgender man online. "It happens a lot more frequently now." That mistake affords Schooler a viewpoint into what it's like to have been born a man. At the time of our conversation, Schooler used their given name—Sam Schooler—on Twitter. "I have a gender neutral name," they explained, "and people, especially men, tend to mistake me or take me for another man."
Schooler explained that when male Twitter users mistake them for a man, they tend to avoid arguments—instead focusing on the women and trans individuals who follow and interact with Schooler online. "I have a lot of trans people and women who follow me, and will also jump in with me, and every time this has happened where I get mistaken for a man, I never get responded to," they said, adding, "The guy that I'm arguing with will never respond to me. Instead he will go after the women and trans people who retweeted my tweet, and argue with them like it's their point of view."
Schooler told me that they haven't seen online spaces comparable to #NoWomanEver specifically for people with their perspective. Sometimes, however, women open up the conversation to include those who were assigned female at birth—for that reason, Schooler participated in the online conversation that used the hashtag #YesAllWomen. They said, "If they let us into that conversation then I'm fine with having it."
Schooler's experience, though rare, is not wholly unique. Recently, Time's Charlotte Alter spoke to several trans men about how differently they were perceived as men."Over and over again, men who were raised and socialized as female described all the ways they were treated differently as soon as the world perceived them as male. They gained professional respect, but lost intimacy. They exuded authority, but caused fear," Alter wrote, adding, "experiences of trans men can provide a unique window into how gender functions in American society."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.