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Lone Female by a Motorway


On 17th May 2006 we decided to tackle this with TransPol-UK, and this text is based closely on that from the TransPol-UK website (no longer available).

Lone female by a motorway

This is more a problem for male to female transsexuals. When your car breaks down on the motorway, you are vulnerable. One the one hand, no one should sit in a car on the hard shoulder while waiting for a rescue vehicle: stationary vehicles on the hard shoulder are often hit. On the other hand, if you are visible as a woman as you peer under the bonnet, you are likely to receive unwanted attention. This puts you in a potentially very difficult position if a couple of lusty young mechanics stop to help a leggy blond female but find someone with a broken voice who is very much on the defensive.

The problem is how to call the police from the motorway phones. Telephones by a motorway are surrounded by traffic noise and you have to shout to be heard. So it doesn't matter how often you repeat your female name, the operator hears the broken voice, and assumes you are male.

If the operator believes it is a woman calling, then a car will be called with a high priority. This is because of the common fear women have of being raped if they stop on the motorway. This fear leads to dangerous behaviour, like sitting in the car on the hard shoulder, with all the doors and windows locked. A transwoman is in more serious danger than any birth-woman, yet she can't get the telephone operator to act appropriately.

As part of the Safety project between Aurora and TransPol-UK we are writing to the Highways Authority to see if we can't get a solution to this that is applied nationally. The solution is probably along the lines of declaring that you are a male-to-female transsexual, and just hoping that the operator has the good sense to act appropriately. But this needs a nationwide policy and some elementary training of the telephonists.

Until then transpeople have found more reliable solutions. One suggestion, with many variations, is to call the police from your mobile, tell them that your girl friend has just broken down at point X on motorway Y, northbound. In the last moments before the battery on her mobile ran out, she asked you to call the police. She's terrified and is, probably sitting locked in her car, with doors and windows locked, on the hard shoulder. This has worked in the past. This is a minority risk situation but we want to work with the Highways Authority to reduce the diatress and danger that it causes.


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