The weather was sunny and warm, but not hot—at least it didn’t feel hot until I put my entire weekend’s worth of luggage into a backpack weighing 30 pounds and hiked across San Francisco. The small park tucked next to an alley was a Godsend. I settled into the grass and pulled out my book to read for a while. I was already beginning to pack when he showed up.
“Excuse me, do you have the time?”
I don’t even recall how he slipped his thank you into an invitation. “I’m actually a shaman. I do free healing, palm reading, and massage.”
Inwardly, I sighed. It was almost certain he was more sham than shaman; that the “spirituality” he claimed was the kind cobbled together from the mystical practices of cultures about which he had no true understanding. It was also pretty obvious he really didn’t give a damn what time it was.
However, with my sore muscles, the offer of a free massage was tantalizing. “Sounds nice,” I said, “but I’ve got to get going. I’m meeting someone soon.”
“So, do you live around here?” he asked.
“No, I’m actually from Oregon,” I told him. “I’m in town for a board meeting for COLAGE, a non-profit I work for.” Fresh from a communications training session the previous day, I launched into my elevator pitch: “It’s the only national youth-driven network for people with gay, lesbian…”
He cut me off with, “Oh, cool! We need more stuff like that.”
“…bisexual, transgender, or queer parents,” I tried to continue, but he interrupted again.
He was talking over me, so I didn’t catch everything was saying. He spoke quickly and with a lot of filler words like “um,” “yeah,” and “cool,” and then wrapped it up by asking point blank: “So, are you trans?”
It’s really not very polite to ask so directly, but I didn’t think educating him in trans etiquette would be fruitful. Instead, I gave him a direct answer in an attempt to discourage him. “Yes.”
“Yeah, well you’re really beautiful,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied, even though his true motivation was becoming clear: He was a chaser.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having an attraction to trans people in and of itself, but it’s common for minority communities to deal with “admirers” and “devotees” who don’t know how to pursue the objects of their attractions appropriately.
Unlike the gender-conforming tranny chasers I was used to, this guy was very femme, and that caught me off-guard. I suppose San Francisco is queer enough that some of its chasers would be queer, too.
“Come with me,” he offered. “I can give you a healing and a massage.”
“Come with you where?” I said, looking around at the grassy field, wondering what was wrong with right where we were.
“Over there,” he said, pointing to the other side of the field.
“Where? On the grass over there?”
“No, over there,” he said, indicating the same place.
“You mean by the building?”
My guard was up as I gathered my things and followed him. There was no reason the concrete wheelchair ramp would be a better spot than where we were. Later, I realized that he was probably testing my boundaries to see how far he could push me. If I’d just followed without question, who knows where he would have taken me? I followed him cautiously to the wheelchair ramp, where he pulled out some sort of spray bottle and gestured for me to stand next to him.
“What’s that?” I asked.
He muttered something about “the healing power of scent.”
I didn’t think the scent was all that good, but at least it was inoffensive—that is until he went overboard with three or four sprays on each side of my neck, and the mild aroma began to overwhelm me.
He turned me around and started to massage my shoulders, saying, “Wow, you’re really strong…I can sense you’re dealing with some really hard stuff.” That vague statement could probably apply to most people, and if I had been having a hard time, perhaps I would have seen him as more mystical, and been encouraged to open up to him—but I wasn’t.
“Actually, no, my life is really good right now,” I told him.
He was silent for another moment and then asked, “So, do you wear skirts and stuff?”
“Well, you’re very beautiful,” he repeated. “You’re really coming along. You’re almost there.”
What kind of a compliment was that? He probably thought he was encouraging me in my transition, but as far as I’m concerned, I am there. I guess he saw me as a newly out trans woman, but I choose to cut my hair short and don’t wear skirts because I’m butch. I’m strong because I like to lift weights.
After rubbing my shoulders for barely 90 seconds, he stopped. “I’m going to give you an energy and sound healing now,” and stated, and started chanting the word “heal” over and over again. I can only assume he made that whole routine up. I’ve experienced actual energy work, and he was clearly pretending at something he didn’t understand.
“Does that feel better?” he crooned. “I was sending you some really good energy.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled, but honestly, if he was sending anything good I couldn’t sense it over the predatory energy he was radiating.
“So, have you had the surgery?”
I gave him my standard conflict avoidance answer: “I’m not comfortable discussing that.”
He decided to discuss it anyway. “Because you know, in Cuba it’s free—and I’ve got a friend. He can take you. So if you want it for free, I can get if for you.”
First a free massage and now he was offering free surgery? It was clearly the bait of an elaborate trap, but it was a significant one. Surgery can be a life or death issue, and even knowing his less-than-altruistic motives, some might have been tempted to go with him.
“I heard,” I said, moving to leave. “It’s a part of their socialized medicine.”
“So when can I see you again?” he asked.
“I’m leaving town tomorrow.”
“Where are you going?”
“Back home, to Oregon.” Obviously, he hadn’t been paying attention to our earlier conversation.
“Cool, so when can I see you again?” he repeated.
I explained it to him again. Leaving. For. Oregon. And then he asked me a third time! He was probably trying to wear me down with repetition. Maybe he had something, because in my urgency to get away, I gave up my email address so he’d let me go.
This is why chasers have such a bad reputation. He was manipulative and disingenuous from the first words out of his mouth. A fake request for help followed by an offer for a massage he didn’t know how to give, and mysticism he didn’t possess. He tested what he could get away with before trying to flatter me with compliments, then refused to take no for an answer.
On top of that, he didn’t listen or couldn’t remember things I’d told him that were clearly important to me, and couldn’t appreciate my butchness. He assumed I was early in my transition probably because he wished I was early in my transition. (It’s a vulnerable place to be in, and if you don’t have much validation in your life it is easy to excuse inappropriate behavior from those who can give it to you.) Clearly, he wasn’t interested in me, but a fantasy that he thought I could be for him—or possibly, something much worse.
I’m glad I got away with only giving up my email. If he contacts me, I can always block him—or perhaps I’ll send him a link to this story.