Question: Still considered female

Sean asks…

I bind, wear boy’s clothing, and introduce myself with a male name, but everyone calls me “she” by default — sometimes even after I tell them that I’m transgender! What can I do?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on October 3rd, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 30 comments »

30 Responses to “Question: Still considered female”

  1. Sam

    Being in the mood I’m in, my advice would be to call them by the wrong pronouns as well, then when they correct you, correct them, and they won’t forget. But that’s kind of spiteful.

    If a friend’s around, have them call you by a male pronoun to set the trend.

    All in all, you just have to be patient with people (which sucks so hard) because they are conditioned, and it doesn’t mean you can’t or aren’t pulling it off, it just means people are set in their ways, and you have to push a little bit.

    I guess I’m having the same problem. I dress like a boy, bind and all that, but I go to a boarding school and can’t use my trans name here, which is such a shot through the heart.


    Carter replied:

    Ditto, ditto, ditto, and…ditto, in fact. It’s so disappointing. Everyone knows, and they use a gender-neutral nickname that fits both my Given and Chosen names, and yet people still call me “she…”


    Sam replied:

    Same here! I use a nickname as well, and I try to live my life the way I want- but if I hear that one little “she” it just sucks the confidence right out of me.


    Carter replied:

    I’ve had the same problem, everyone called me she or her and it drove me crazy. All you have to do if they keep calling you by the wrong pronoun don’t respond or react to it at all. They will eventually catch on


  2. Simon

    Right?! If you figure this one out let me know :(
    I assumed the unambiguously male name would clue people in but CLEARLY it doesn’t. Grr.


    Joel replied:

    I know what you mean. I thought my name would make it obvious but no.


  3. Mym

    I want to be equally fine with either set of pronouns, if they can’t manage neutrality, but for the most part people calling me by the ‘old’ ones means I’m still in that box for them, and I HATE THAT BOX.

    The best is when someone uses a pronoun, stops, and corrects to just ‘Mym’. Then I know I’ve broken the box.


    Simon replied:

    Yeah, I know what you mean, I think. I feel like since everyone perceives me as female I have to present myself as like UNAMBIGUOUSLY MALE in order to get them to see me as anything other than female … when in reality i’m more like “vaguely maleish” or “androgynous-tilting-male-sorta” or something to that effect, you know? Like I’d be fine with either set of pronouns if people switched them up, but getting “she”‘d all.the.time is not okay.


    Mym replied:

    I’m on hormones for pretty much this reason, and I’m hoping that maybe that will be ‘female’ enough that when I start binding too people just get confused and the boxes fall apart.


    Sean replied:

    “I feel like since everyone perceives me as female I have to present myself as like UNAMBIGUOUSLY MALE in order to get them to see me as anything other than female.”

    THIS. I feel like a fraud whenever I wear less masculine clothing, because then I end up looking like a girl, but I’m not I’m not I’m not! I’m just not a 100% manly man.

    I like some of the snarky solutions here. :]


    Jessica replied:

    Why do we let “them” define who we ought to be??? It’s not like being a woman is a disgrace and being a man is better. Nor is it that being a man is a disgrace and being a woman is better. Aren’t we all a complex jumble of jigsaw pieces – some are in our time and our place male and others are female.

    But I am being sanctimonious and intellectual.

    I know it isn’t how it feels. It hurts when you have to use that restroom – when they refer to you as that man you’re not or that woman you used to be. Catch up with me! I have moved on. What’s the matter with you, why can’t you keep up? Stop punishing me with pronouns.

    You want something so much and it’s there, always just a little out of reach… and in every crowd there’s someone with a cattle prod waiting to get you.

    Guess I’m in a mood. Take your pick… raw feeling or intelligent reality.

  4. raphael

    uh have you considered just saying, “hey i use male pronouns”?


  5. James

    I have this problem. People just can’t seem to use masculine or neuter pronouns! If you’ve tried time and time again to get the point across, get angry. Not really, really angry, not violently angry, you don’t even have to yell – But show your teeth a little. Tell them that it hurts you and makes you angry to hear yourself called by the wrong gender. Ask them if they’d like to be called by the wrong pronoun. And if you still have no luck… get some better associates.


  6. Philip

    Keep reminding them gently, that you prefer male pronouns. If they can’t manage that, they’re not being respectful of you. Find people who will be. Sorry if I oversimplified your situation :/


  7. Nomi

    Hugs to all you guys out there who are still in high school. I’m at a college where people are really informed about gender, places like it exist! Hang in there and keep talking to people about your identity. We’re shifting the paradigm, even if it’s slow going.


    Riam replied:

    I’m in high school. And I am very, very jealous of you.


  8. Alex

    UGH! This happens all the time! In fact, a guy who I’m sort of friends with (and who I thought got it… apparently not) just suggested I be “Flo” from the insurance commercials. >< It's really sort of pissed me off.

    I get this ALL the time. My friends generally use male pronouns and my male name AND my male name is used WIDELY amongst my school. Still, female pronouns are always and issue for me. They always have. Ever since I started identifying as male. Hell, even my old therapist (she specified in gender problems) forgot to use male pronouns sometimes.

    Hang in there… I've heard that if you stop worrying about it quite so much, that you'll give off a more masculine vibe or something. Someone I know said that after he stopped caring about whether people saw him as male or female, people started recognising that he's male more and more.

    I do quite like the spiteful responses, actually… and I might use them one of these days…


  9. Anonymous

    Just be patient, keep politely reminding people you’d prefer male pronouns, and keep doing what you’re doing.
    Transitioning is tricky and it takes people a while to catch on. I know when a friend of mine started transitioning in high school there was a lot of “she…he?” when we talked about him for a while.

    Like I said just gotta be patient and keep reminding people where you stand. I know it’s frustrating though when you just wish people would GET IT.


  10. anta

    What probably I hate most about these situations is how people refuse to get what went wrong even if it’s spelled out for them.

    I don’t have an issue with pronouns since my primary language is neutral in the pronoun section, but I remember feeling pretty silly when my family already knew about my transmale identity and still called me by a girl’s name (with my permission), and introduced me by this name to a new neighbour. After she had left my mother was like “OMG she called you my son, she TOTALLY gets you!” and for some reason could not understand that I was feeling pretty weirded out since by all indicators I should have registered as a female to the neighbour, but she still considered me male… and my mother refused to understand that this might bring up some unpleasant memories from my school years when I was often completely invalidated as a girl because I considered was too “masculine”.

    I don’t really have any decent advice for those situations, though. Polite is always a good guess, but some people just wont get it.


  11. Samson

    Not everyone understands our vocabulary, even the words we consider most basic. Maybe it’s wasting a teachable moment on what it is to be trans or whatever, but maybe just a straight-up correction, like, “Actually, it’s ‘he'” will get what you want–which is to have someone use the right pronoun for you, not have an educational conversation. Not everyone actually knows what a “pronoun” is, or what “transgender” means and entails.

    And if you assumed best intentions–if you assumed that they’re not deliberately trying to disrespect or spite you–it might also be that people are trying to be respectful in their own way by acknowledging someone’s right to look however they want and identify in a way that doesn’t “match” according to the gender binary. Or they’ve had little experience with trans people and they read you as female because they have no idea to do otherwise.

    We can be kind of confusing to people who don’t know anything other than the binary. And even non-trans folks who have been steeped in trans culture get it wrong sometimes. Maybe it’s overly optimistic but I like to think it’s not spite. I know it sometimes is.


  12. Destry

    One solution I heard that really stuck with me was to just say “Banana” or something every time someone says the wrong pronoun. Its a simple way to gently remind them to pay attention to what they say.


  13. Jessica

    I find myself getting lost in conversations sometimes when they refer to me by the “wrong” pronoun. It makes em feel like there’s someone sitting behind me that they’re referring to. It is disconcerting.

    You know men accept you a male when they cease to censor their jokes. You know women accept you as a woman when they cease to hesitate before saying something personal or when they dumb down what they’re saying because you’re there.


    epinards replied:

    Do you mean what you said, or do you mean *stop* dumbing down what they’re saying because you’re there?


    Jessica replied:

    Yes, of course, I did mean:

    You know women accept you as a woman when they cease to hesitate before saying something personal or when they do not dumb down what they’re saying because you’re there.

    I should proof read more closely…. thanks


  14. Anonymous

    i have the same problem, only with androgyny. i prefer just being called “they” (i don’t like hir or whatever the other ones are), but i feel like asking people to call me that is just revealing everything about my gender identity in a really obvious way, and would just bring up conversations and awkwardness (and possibly discrimination) with people that i don’t want to deal with. i just have told people who know my identity to call me “she” because of this, but… living like this is ridiculously painful. i don’t know what to do.


  15. shey

    i too, like many others, have this same problem.
    and there’s nothing ‘simple’ that you can do.

    i try to not place value on what others think of me/perceive me as, although at times it can be very difficult. i always try to remember that my main focus is myself – my happiness, my preferred presentation – that this is my journey and no one else’s…and it’s just their bad if they read me the wrong way.

    an old therapist of mine also recommended to maybe have a mantra, so that when situations like that happen, that you can take a breath, say your mantra, and calm yourself down. just remember that you dont have to change anything about yourself in order to be outwardly associated with one box or the other. just do whatever makes you feel comfortable…whatever gender that may or not be…


  16. Anonymous

    Ugh, I know. I am astonished, every time, that I can introduce myself as Elijah and still be called “she” without ANY hesitation whatsoever. I am going out of my mind waiting for testosterone.

    The people I go to school with happen to be extremely cool. Usually, I only have to correct the straight cisgendered people once. They get very embarrassed and don’t do it again. I still haven’t figured out what to do about queer people who should know better, but do it anyway.


    Jessica replied:

    It used to be (1960’s) that if your hair touched your collar, you got called honey, sweety, dear by shopkeepers and people who didn’t know you. Roles were less blurred then, especially for children.

    For a girl to be called sonny or boy, she had to be decked out in the full Roy Rogers outfit with shiny cap pistols and black cowboy boots. Even then she’d have to stuff her air into her hat so it didn’t show at all.


    Levi replied:

    I feel a bit bad, ’cause I introduce myself to people as Levi and I look pretty masculine but I prefer female pronouns. (I’m not ready to insist on the neutral ones… maybe never will be.)

    One or two people have asked whether I would rather have male pronouns. I always thank them for asking—it’s so damn awkward. I’ve never asked anyone for their pronouns since I would want to do it for everyone, not just people who I can’t figure out. I really should try to start, but it’s scary… it also outs me as genderqueer/someone who thinks about gender too much. :P


  17. Anonymous

    When I wear my large coat, men’s clothing, beanie, and hold my head high to show off my facial hair… random people still refer to me as “she.” Yeah, most guys I run into see me as “one o’ the guys,” but my mom will ruin it by obsessively referring to me as “she” in front of strangers. I don’t even pass for a “she” in the first place (not that I’d try to anyway). The more masculine I look, the more she emphasizes that pronoun. Before, when I just looked like a masculine chick, she would use my neutral name instead- keeping in mind, of course, that nobody knows what sex I’m supposed to be… the doctors were never “smart” enough to figure it out.


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