Community Conversation > Passing

Different people pick up on different gender cues


MtF here. In the three and a half years I’ve been out, I’ve noticed that different people pick up on different cues to determine the gender they think they see. Some may notice my jaw line, tracheal protrusion, and brow, or perhaps other cues, and decide I’m male. Others may notice my thin figure, pointed chin, and smile, or hear my somewhat trained & practiced voice, or some other cues, and judge that I am female. I mostly pass as female now, to the point where many trans women think I’m cis, whereas recently a four year old boy saw me walking and yelled, “you’re a guy!”  So you just never know what another person’s reaction will be.

I used to get really dysphoric and anxious about this.  I think this may have been related to the fact that in the past there was sometimes a critical voice in my head calling me a fake.  But somewhere along the way, as I lived more fully into my public and private life as a woman, I came to truly accept myself as a woman. It wasn’t like flipping a switch; it was gradual for me. But the critical voice disappeared, and with it much of my dysphoria. Now I have no doubt I’m a woman, it shows in my attitude, and I think most people pick up on that and it tends to outshine the rest. Most of the time. There are still exceptions, but I have learned that because people *do* pick up on different gender cues, some misgendering is bound to happen - and it happens to some cis women too. So I’ve finally reached a point where it doesn’t devastate me like it used to. It still feels weird and annoying, but not crippling.

We all start with different collections of traits that may be judged masculine & feminine, so we will all have different experiences in terms of when this acceptance happens, how much effort it takes, among whom are we accepted, and so on. But I’m lucky: my life has not been in danger because of not passing. I recognize that I have some privilege in this regard, so I try to be relatively out about being trans so that other trans folks feel safe around me. (I.e. I don’t usually draw attention to the fact that I am trans, but when I’m talking with trans people and they think I’m cis, I will state plainly that I am trans so they know they can talk to me.) I’m lucky to have both trans friends and good ally friends who are cis, so I feel relatively safe doing this. But I live in an area where we have support. This might all be very different if I lived in an anti-trans community.

Northern Star Girl:
Dear Sara:
Thank you for sharing your terrific post with a lot of good and valuable points
that you made regarding "gender cues" and living Full-Time that all of us here that are transitioning
or have transitioned can find helpful.

Again, thank you for posting your thoughts.


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