It was supposed to be my sanctuary: two women get into a British-made taxi in New York, 1960. Photo: Getty
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“You’re a lesbian, then?” asks the cabbie. I’m not in the mood

This is supposed to be my tiny bit of luxury, a protective bubble sparing me, this once, the stultifying, sexist harassment of traversing London in the wee hours. 

“You’re a lesbian, then?” I’m not in the mood. Not that there’s any particular malice in the cabbie’s voice: I know that tone well. It’s unadulterated male curiosity.

“Yeah, I am,” I say, fighting my end-of-heavy-night torpor and attempting to sound enthusiastic about it. I know I need to do my best to make sure he doesn’t think I’m sad about being a lesbian. I’m representing. God, I hate representing.

“Why, though – why would you be a lesbian?”

It’s an unholy hour and I am, in fact, on my way home from the Lesbian Prom, an almighty dyke convention at the Scala in King’s Cross. I’ve given up on trying to get the standard 17 buses and a canoe back to south-west London, so I’ve decided to splash out on a taxi. This is supposed to be my tiny bit of luxury, a protective bubble sparing me, this once, the stultifying, sexist harassment of traversing London in the wee hours. But it turns out that I might as well have kept my coat on and faced the troglodytes. My cab driver, having picked me up straight from the venue, knows that some kind of unholy woman-love festival is going on there, and he is quizzing me.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I mean, there isn’t really a ‘why’ – I just am.”

When you’re part of a minority, you must be prepared to don a mortarboard and turn educator at any given moment. It can be exhausting on a night out, when all you want to do is collapse in a cushiony pile somewhere and land face first in a Styrofoam container of culinary compost.

“An attractive girl like you . . .” the cabbie begins.

Uh-oh. I’m sure most women have, at some point, suffered that “shit, I’m at this guy’s mercy” feeling in a cab. My irritation turns to nagging fear and my fist tightens around my house keys.

“What has attractiveness got to do with it?” I say, trying to sound unfazed.

“I don’t have anything against lesbians,” he shoots, starting to get defensive.

This has gone from tedious to unsettling and back again. I’m done. I put my earphones in. But apparently I don’t get to decide when the conversation is over.

“What if you want to have kids?” he asks, loud enough so I can hear him over my Grrr! playlist.

“If I want kids, I’ll have them,” I say. “There’s more than one way to start a family.”

The cabbie looks genuinely flummoxed.

“I dunno,” he says, “it just seems strange to me . . .”

Earphones back in.

Fortunately, the cab soon stops outside my house.

“You know,” I say, as I get out, “it really isn’t strange.”

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

This article first appeared in the 09 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Anxiety nation

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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs


The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.


For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming


With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.


On the Middle East:


To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 


We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.


America will start winning again, winning like never before.


On trade


This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  


We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland