Question: Clues

Nikola asks…

when people encounter someone who is presenting as ambiguously gendered, what clues do you think they look for to try and gender them?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on January 6th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 15 comments »

15 Responses to “Question: Clues”

  1. Beth

    I usually check out height, relative curviness (hips, breasts, butt), and their face if I can see it. Those are a few things that can be clues, but it’s not always easy to figure out. I don’t get all hung up if I can’t get a lock on their bio-status, though. I enjoy a little bafflement.


  2. J

    Physical cues don’t tell you that much, anyways. I had a guy friend who constantly had to come out as cis as trans get-togethers, because everybody assumed he was a trans guy.

    But going by the social training most people receive, I think people first look for cues to maleness. Absent any “clear” markers of maleness, femaleness is then assumed. At least, that’s “stage 1” of gendering. After that, people begin to take in the mix of traits on a person, subconsciously label them masculine or feminine, and then based on the balance of traits will come to a conclusion. So much of it is subconscious that it’s hard to know for sure why any one person will gender you a certain way.


  3. Bond

    Clues to their assigned sex. Breasts, facial hair, etc. Voice is a big one.


  4. genderkid

    Earrings. Sometimes I overhear my mom and grandma discussing someone’s gender: “That has to be a guy, look at his haircut” “No, she has pearl earrings!”


  5. Alex

    Ya, I agree with earrings. I changed mine from hollow tunnels to rings. Which doesn’t seem like it would be more masculine, but it actualy helped, especially considering that my face is fairly feminine.

    I also try to scowl as much as possible, hahaha. I try not to have a soft, sensitive look, and I find that if you sort of make your eyebrows look angry and harden your jaw by sticking it out a little you look a lot less feminine.


  6. Mym

    I’ve been trying, with mixed success, not to.


  7. Nicholas

    Normal-bodied people are easy to “figure out.” Height, build, and bone structure are very clear indicators. Hairline, nose, and skin kind of seal the deal. I’m very comfortable seeing the biological differences between normal-bodied men and women. The only people who have any “success” at leaving me befuddled are intersex (or other-bodied) folks. They (we) come in more combinations (flavors :D) than average people. Hiding a feature or overcompensating somewhere else make people pay more attention to detail in the end anyway.


  8. the raven

    the only things i could look at when trying to sex people was their necks and their arms/hands. everything else was deemed to malleable to give me a good idea. eventually, tho, i decided that i was more in love with the androgyny than i was with trying to “figure them out.” now i just note pieces as masculine/feminine and enjoy how it all works together in the whole.


  9. Anonymous

    One intersex person I know, even though they are male bodied, seems to me that their body is neither feminine or masculine, but something completely and beautifully else. Something in the way they carry themselves sets them apart.


  10. acey

    chest, crotch, hips, shoulders, posture, face structure, hairline, hands, arms, neck, clothes.


  11. V

    My mom zooms in on an adam’s apple, or lack thereof, faster than I thought possible. It’s probably the most reliable method, as build and features can be misleading.


  12. BamBam

    I too, immediately look for a protruding Adam’s apple. I’m from a country where I’m taller than the average height of men, and the cute genderqueer girls end up looking like cis-men too, so to avoid following an actual guy around, I check first if they have an Adam’s apple. If I’m still confused, I normally see if they’ve wider hips, or at their gait. If that doesn’t work, then I slyly walk by, eavesdropping, to hear their voice.

    These factors, I thought, would make it pretty easy to distinguish what sex a person is, because they are biological. I know it’s not always the case, but they are pretty accurate. I’m always surprised when someone calls me ‘sir’, because I have wide hips, no protruding Adam’s apple, and a feminine voice. Maybe I come across as a very femme man, instead of a very butch female!


  13. Gene

    In my experience, the most important single feature has been hair. I had long hair throughout my childhood, and people always thought I was a girl. I cut it when I was twelve, and even though I was growing hips and breasts, people started to take me for a boy sometimes.


  14. Keanan

    Gene- hair is really important. When I got my hair cut it changed how my face looked. Also, most people are going to think guys are going to have short hair. Baggy sweatshirts really help too.


  15. Sands

    It’s hard, but I’m trying to unlearn gender markers that suggest a binary, like breasts making a female, and facial hair making a male. Since I dont really know other genderqueer folks, I usually gender people unconciously, and have the hypotheses proved because they are all cis.


Leave a Reply

Can I show your picture? If you have a Gravatar associated with this email address, it will be displayed as your photo. If not, I'll just put a picture of a fork next to your comment. Everybody likes forks.

Be nice. Judgmental comments will be quietly deleted and blacklisted. There's plenty of room for those elsewhere on the web.

For legal reasons, you must be age 13 or older to post a comment on Genderfork.

You can use some HTML tags for formatting, e.g. <em>...</em> for emphasis (italics) or <strong>...</strong> for strong emphasis (bold) or <a href="http://(url)">...</a> for links.

Back to top