It doesn’t even occur to anyone to question my gender…

Someone wrote…

It doesn’t even occur to anyone to question my gender because I wear girly clothing. I like cute things and I can never find pants that fit right. Since when did clothes denote gender? I don’t care if people call me “sir” or “ma’am,” but I wish that people thought “sir” was an option.

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?

Posted by on July 15th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 16 comments »

16 Responses to “It doesn’t even occur to anyone to question my gender…”

  1. Anonymous

    Clothes have always played a huge role in gender. People use visual cues when categorizing. They can’t read your mind. Clothing is a social choice, thus it is a part of your gender performance.

    That said, it is not the sum of your gender. I dress androgynously a lot of the time, because I identify as a mostly androgynous person who errs on the side of female. But when I do choose to wear a dress or something more overtly feminine, that does not make me a completely different person that day. However, you cannot reasonably expect other people to recognize a female-bodied person (which I am guessing you are from this complaint) in feminine clothes as masculine/”sir” unless you explicitly tell them to do so.


  2. Cydne

    I think the author means that it’d be nice if people understood that gender is an identity, not a simple case of skirt + boobies + Hello Kitty = female.


  3. A

    I got the same impression as Cydne, mostly because I’m in a similar situation as the author. I wish that clothing was less important when it comes to gender expression.


  4. Rhube

    This is exactly how I feel. People assume that because I present in a faily feminine way, that I am female and nothing else. And when I tell them I’m genderqueer, or tell them why I’d prefer they use my chosen name, they always just shrug it off all embarassed and don’t even listen to what I’ve told them.


  5. elfstar

    What Cydne said. Also, when you have a female body, it can be very difficult to be read androgynous unless you take great pains to look very butch, whereas a male-bodied person can just put on eye makeup and it will be obvious ze is trying to dress outside the binary. I feel the author’s frustration here – I want to wear glitter and makeup and still be read as an androgyne, even though I know that is not possible in my current body.


  6. Anonymous

    I don’t wish to press the issue too much here, but how could clothing be less important than it is? Appearance has always been one of most important gender markers. What would replace it if it went away, barring telepathy? Body language has also been shown in studies to affect gender perceptions, but that is, ultimately, another visual cue.

    It is true that a female body is more overtly gendered than a male body by our society, a fact that any female-bodied person of any gender or sexuality knows full well. But I do not think that “butch” is the only way to be androgynous as a female-bodied person. I do not own any clothes (except accessories like ties and hats) that were made for male-bodied people, and I make no attempt to disguise my female figure, but I think I manage androgyny in my own female-bodied way.

    I sympathize immensely, despite my pedantry. I by no means blame any of you for your despondency. Society’s devaluation of the feminine makes the female parts of us (our bodies, our clothing choices, the parts of our personalities perceived as feminine) stick out like a sore thumb. No man would [stoop to] look/act like that, thinks society, so even if you have masculine traits, you must be a woman. The possibility of something in between never crosses most people’s minds, of course.

    However, a word of encouragement, cliched though it may be: if you know who you are and are confident, observant people will notice, so just be yourself. And if you REALLY want people to know that there is more than meets the eye, why not just tell them?


  7. Kim

    It’s not that one-sided. Male physical traits (at least, facial form and characteristics) are deeply focused on, making a big difference in passing amongst binary transsexual people. It also creates the idea of MTF visibility and FTM invisibility. Yes, *some* female traits are difficult to eliminate, but so are *some* male traits. How, then, is it easier for some genderqueer people than others, based solely on physical sex?


  8. elfstar

    Okay, I think I may have worded my comment badly. I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s easier for one physical sex or another. I just meant that, in terms of a person’s signals being read as an intentional breaking of gender “rules”, putting anything feminine on a male body is much more likely to be read as such. Female-bodied people can put on “boy” clothes and may just be seen as playing around with fashion. I think that is both an advantage (easier access to the clothes, possibly less harassment) and a disadvantage (hard to pass as anything but female) to female-bodied people. There are tighter rules put on male-bodied people as to how they are supposed to dress, and a violation of those rules is going to stand out more. I didn’t mean to make it sound as if that somehow makes things easier for them; on the contrary, I’d say it is quite a hurdle.


  9. Rusty

    god I have the opposite problem. I look every inch a boy, but as soon as a teacher calls me “she” everyone follows suit. People love categories and its so freakin annoying.


  10. Anonymous


    I don’t think any one means to argue that is “easier” in terms of actual acceptance of genderqueer identity for male-bodied people, only that male-bodied persons’ gender deviance is more obvious because of the way modern fashion works (i.e. women wear men’s clothing and clothing inspired by men’s clothing routinely, but never the other way around). Indeed, it might easily be argued that male-bodied people are more likely to suffer societal consequences by adopting feminine traits than vice-versa because of the way society does not value traits considered feminine.


  11. katy

    i got called sir when wearing a floral dress once. (i am pretty obviously girly-shaped but have short hair) so it is possible?


  12. Beau

    i like this alot. i totally get what you mean. i wish i could have a male body, but i dont want to present myself as male.


  13. dchan

    I have the same problem. I wish I could be read more androgynously, but thanks to some skin sensitivities from being Asperger’s my clothing choices are pretty restricted. I generally wear black boot cut pants (not jeans, because I don’t like the feel of denim) and plain black slim cut T-shirts and people always read me as female, even when I’m binding. It’s frustrating.


  14. edi

    a desire to be pretty doesn’t make anyone any less of a man, regardless of whatever equipment you’ve got.


  15. Kami

    It doesn’t even occur to anyone to question my sexual preferences…


  16. V

    I completely understand. It’s worse if you speak Japanese, since speaking is also gendered. Agghh. My mum tells me all of the time that I speak too masculine, which comes across violent or rough if I’m perceived as female.


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