Question: How to not get mistaken for a boy?

K.C asks…

I get mistaken for a boy all the time and it bothers me a bit because I identify as female, but at the same time I don’t want to change my style. What would be a subtle way to pass more as female?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 13th, 2011 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 18 comments »

18 Responses to “Question: How to not get mistaken for a boy?”

  1. Jessica

    The obvious answer is to conform to the stereotypical stereotypes of the people around you. Without being overt, smile more. Keep quiet and let other people speak.

    But my nagging question is: as long as you’re perceived as a living person, there isn’t much wrong here, so why do you care?


    Anonymous replied:

    I get what you mean by saying “why do you care?” but I also have exactly the same thing as K.C., as in being mistaken for a boy. I feel like I oughtn’t care – because in myself I don’t – and actually I quite like my natural androgyny and would be in a way be troubled if I weren’t often mistaken for a boy, and I’m not sure why.

    So, maybe it’s just my wanting to have my cake and eat it, but I also feel pretty awkward about being mistaken for a boy; it feels a bit isolating because if, say, I’m out and a stranger thinks I’m male, I won’t correct them (unless I think I may see them again) because that gets a bit tiresome, and so it sort of automatically puts up a barrier of accidental deception so I just shy away from them as soon as possible. It’s tricky because I’m not ‘presenting’ as anything, and if I’m not how I am them I feel uncomfortable with myself, but when I am how I am sometimes it all gets a bit frustrating and consistently makes me ridiculously conscious of my gender and the way I’m perceived, which I dislike. So, that’s why it’s matters. Oh, and plus, people tend to patronise me when they think I’m a boy, because they think I’m younger than I am, which is irritating.

    K.C. – Not sure what to suggest – I’d say don’t change to try to fit in: stick with the way you are if you’re happy with it yourself, doing stuff that is put-on or doesn’t fit you probably won’t help. Maybe you’ll be best off developing some sort of tactic of dealing with being mistaken so that you don’t feel so bothered about it. Such as saying straight out that you’re a girl, in the knowledge that it’s not some sort of fault on your part that they were so quick to jump to the wrong conclusion, then not dwelling on it. Sort of feels a bit like it shouldn’t be so important to correct people, but if it’s making you uncomfortable, then go for it. Maybe you already do this – or if not, how do you usually react to people’s misgendering of you?


    Sean replied:

    If you don’t want to say straight out that you’re a girl, you could go with “I’m not a guy.”


    Anonymous replied:

    I often try that. “I´m not a girl.” But it seems like no one ever listen
    :( They just go on pretending that the words never were outspoken.

    But I hope other people are more open to take in new thoughts. I will continue to claim that I am who I choose to be. The most important thing is that I am proud over myself.

    Anonymous replied:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of “worrying what others think”. I believe it’s possible for even cis people to have social dysphoria depending on how they are read. Trans* or cis, everyone wants their identity to be upheld.


  2. Poet

    Lipstick– If you don’t dig it that much choose a more natural shade like a light plum, but making your lips pop a bit is a great way to appear femme


  3. Anonymous

    You’ll either have to change your presentation – talk with your hands more, stand at a 45% angle instead of directly in front of someone, periodically break eye contact to look away, cross your legs at the knees, etc (reversing what I do, face directly, talk with my hands less, maintain eye contact)…or your style. Haircut, jewelry – not clothes though. I wouldn’t foist the womens department on my worst enemy. Most people subconsciously gather hundreds of gender cues and then, even if its a 60/40 split, they’ll shoehorn it into the binary system. So you have leeway.


  4. Anonymous

    If you don’t want to change your style, don’t change it.

    I guess that if you don’t change your style people will continue to mistake you for a boy. People make assumptions at first glances all the time. At least I do. You could be a pre-everything transman or a young boy who has some androgyne features or a butch lesbian or a girl dressing up as a boy or a genderqueer person or a woman who just prefers a certain style commonly read as masculine. Seriously, without getting to know you noone can tell what’s true, but most people will assume something. I guess it’s important that you tell people that you’re female as often as possible, so that they stop assuming that everyone who prefers your style identifies male.

    So I apologize if this was not much help, but I don’t think artificially changing your reprasentation in a way you don’t like will make you feel any better.


  5. Thomas

    There was a quote a read somewhere along the way that I think might help you (it may have even been on Genderfork)….
    I’m totally paraphrasing, and can’t tell you who the original poster was, but-
    “I don’t ‘look like a boy.’ I’m a girl, so this is what a girl looks like.”

    I think you need to take that to heart. Don’t feel pressured into changing your style just to be accepted as a female. Instead, be sure to re-affirm to those who mis-gender you that you ARE female, regardless if your style presents as masculin.

    That being said, if you’re open to small, subtle changes to how you dress/act/make-up/hair style, pick ONE aspect you’d be ok with altering slightly and start there. Don’t try to jump in all at once. If you normally don’t wear any make up, try doing some subtle make up (or insert any example into the above categories). Start small, test what you are and aren’t comfortable changing, and don’t feel pressured that once you start you need to keep going. Consider it an experiment.


  6. j

    I really like what thomas wrote above:

    “I don’t ‘look like a boy.’ I’m a girl, so this is what a girl looks like.”

    I used to often get comments from people who were confused about my gender. I also found it kind of stressful/unpleasant, and it spurred a long period of gender questioning/confusion. Since then I’ve girled it up a bit — worn not-too-girly jeans from the women’s section, shirts that aren’t super baggy, grown my hair out some. Sometimes I feel inclined to stress out about “oh, girls are supposed to shave their legs. Do I have to shave my legs? Ack!”, but then I remind myself “I AM a girl. Whatever I do IS what girls do!”. I have some internalized social gendering pressure that I need to get over, I guess.

    so, I changed my style a bit. Now I don’t get comments/confusion _nearly_ as much. I’m happier with it, but some days I still dress pretty androgynously, or even maybe wear a binder. That is how girls dress!

    Also from talking to people about it I’ve realized that all this stuff is not nearly as big of a deal to anyone else as it is to me.


  7. Nick

    You could try t-shirts with a wider neck, and tighter at the shoulders.
    or you could correct people every time and challenge people’s ideas of what a girl or a boy can be.


  8. Lee

    This happens to me too. On the days I want to present as male it’s awesome, but not so much when I feel more feminine.

    While I hate using terms to identify what I am, it helps most people figure out how to address you. I teach karate to kids, and half of them addressed me as male, and half female. It actually got pretty awkward because some of them would argue about my gender! Instead of picking one or the other, I use the term Birl or Tomboy. I like these because they encompass both of my genders. The great part is that I can wear a skirt (not that I ever do, but I could) and still be a birl or a tomboy. I can also wear my wide leg jeans and baggy t-shirt and still be a birl or tomboy. Most people will figure from these terms that your bio gender is female and will address you as such.

    There are tons of really insightful comments on here, but I hope my 2 cents helps out too!!


    Jessica replied:

    You should separate the arguing students and organize a series of bouts to determine who is right – winner gets to say what your gender is (today).


    Demian Y. replied:

    This is the best idea.


    Lee replied:

    Awesome! Excellent idea.

    Usually it isn’t a problem because “Sensei” translated means “One who has gone before.” So it is totally gender neutral.

  9. ibster

    Earrings. It’s amazing how a small pair of hoops can change everything.


  10. Amanda chan

    People always assume the fact that I’m a guy, and that is not funny. Well, maybe with little kids who are like five years old so just let them be curious. But for those who already know the difference, why are you asking me? Everyone should be questioning themselves about their words and/or actions! Everyone who asks me that are considered by me Baka because this is one of my pet peeves. I have really short hair and I wear mostly athletic shorts, jeans, T-shirts, high tops, and any form of Japanese anime cosplay as long as I’m not showing off too much skin. I won’t wear any short shorts, crop tops, high heels, short skirts or any skirts to be correct, basically anything girly unless it’s hello kitty or mlp or a Japanese kimono. I have anger issues.


  11. Kenisha

    Same!! I get mistaken for a boy everywhere i go in public or even at my school it makes me self-conscious and i feel like crying. I get things like “did you come out of the girls bathroom?” Or something like “mom are we in the boys bathroom?” Its like really i wouldnt go in there if i knew i wasnt a girl but they say it loud enough for me to hear and it hurts i even almost got kicked out of ross for being in the girls dressingroom with a friend. On lady een looked at the sign before walking back in. Sadly it even happens in the girls locker room at school. I dress like a boy im a lesbian so my hair is short but i have purple stud earings. I hate girl clothing and there weird tomboy style and i hate having long hair frankly idk what to do if anyone has ideas please help me..? ?


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