Respond to “I Can’t Tell if You’re Male or Female” with These Two Words

The Transgender Therapist
5 min readNov 27, 2020

Being told that one cannot tell if you’re a girl/woman or a boy/man is certainly not a universal experience. For those of us who do endure it more than once, or even regularly, it can bring up reactions and emotions including but not limited to:

  • neutrality
  • frustration
  • disgust
  • amusement
  • shame
  • confusion
  • exasperation
  • excitement

If you couldn’t tell, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are countless ways to react when someone makes this ignorant statement, all depending on one’s gender identity, expression, the way they want to be perceived, and more.
It also depends on context — in certain situations and places, it can be downright dangerous to have someone question your gender. Other times, someone who may not fall into a binary gender category might be a bit pleased.

While I have had a range of reactions when faced with this unsolicited observation, one of the most flippant and jarring times happened to me while I was at a gas station. An attendant approached me and said, “I’m curious about something.” Oh, no. Here we go.

“Are you a man, or a woman? Because you sound like a man, but you look like a woman.”

Astounded, I mumbled something along the lines of “I don’t care.” He went on to say how his best friend “chopped her boobs off” and started calling “herself” ‘X’ name when “she” used to be called ‘Z’ name, and how it was really weird because he had known “her” since they were kids, but he had nothing against transgender people.

I was just there to put gas in my car.

Photo by Sam Epodoi on Unsplash

In a past job, I worked with children as their therapist. I will never forget the moment that I spontaneously found a response that, to this day, I keep in my back pocket if my gender ambiguity is brought up without invitation. I had just met an elementary school aged boy for the first time, and at the end of his appointment, we walked up to the reception desk so his mother could schedule again. “Alright, Romulus*,” I said. “It was…

The Transgender Therapist

Queer, white trans man living in the Pacific Northwest with a grudge and a sharp tongue.