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Too Girly to be Trans?

Too Girly to be Trans?

Man with yellow bow in long brown hair posing against a rainbow painting

Update: I was still in the closet when I wrote this — I came out as a transgender man, changed my name from “Mimi” to “Marty,” and started using he/him pronouns in June of 2019. 

Note: All incidents and conversations were recalled from memory, so the exact words used are paraphrased. I was as accurate as possible with my account. This is what happened as best as I recall.

A few days ago, I really needed to use the restroom.

I was in a store that I’d never set foot in before. There were three floors, and after scouting each one for a bathroom, I resigned myself to asking the nearest employee I could find.

“The women’s room is this way,” they said, nodding over to an out-of-the-way corner that my untrained eyes had totally skipped over the first time. “Come with me. I know it can be a little hard to find.”

I immediately felt a sense of conflict. By now, I was officially one-hundred-percent out of the trans [1] and gender-nonconforming closet — my once-conservative Chinese mom, my friends, my partner, my boss, my coworkers, and everyone on the Internet (yes, that means you!) knew that I didn’t identify as a woman.

So I was supposed to say something, right? Every single cell in my body screamed yes.

But I also felt a tinge of guilt. My hair, now a good amount past my shoulders, was in a half-up, half-down style I wore whenever I wanted to emphasize the more feminine features of my face. I was wearing a full-skirted dress with a huge bow on the back. [2] The tiny purse-backpack-thing I had with me was a light pink color, and I had been holding my cis straight male partner’s hand.

In other words, I I looked like the most stereotypical straight, cisgender, gender-conforming girl in the world.

Of course my first non-theoretical encounter with the bathroom issue had to come at this exact moment. Goddammit, I wore pants 85% of the time in the Bay Area! Just my luck. I winced inwardly as I reluctantly followed the person to the corner of the store.

For better or for worse, though, I’ve got this assertive anger that kind of takes over whenever my boundaries have been seriously crossed. It’s surprisingly calm and articulate, but has been known to do some serious roasts, and it does not hold back.

“What do you say to non-binary or gender-nonconforming people who ask you where the bathroom is?” I asked. “Which one do you direct them to?”

The salesclerk looked confused. “I’m not sure,” they admitted. “I’ve never been asked by a gender-nonconforming person before.”

We had reached the door of the womens’ room. I pushed open the door with both of my hands and turned to casually face them.

“Well, I’m a gender-nonconforming person.”

Immediately their eyes widened. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” they exclaimed. “I had no idea.”

“It’s okay. I just wanted to ask to make sure.”

“You can use whatever restroom you want. It’s really up to you,” they continued, flustered.

I told them not to worry about it, and thanked them after I came back out, then quickly left to go to a different store to avoid further awkward eye contact. [3]

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t

Situations like these have been happening a lot since I came out, fully committing to a lifestyle of openness and transparency. The other day at an influencer event, I’d met a fellow queer girl who seemed really cool, but as soon as she pulled up my Instagram account, she burst out laughing.

“Yeah, masculine-of-center my ass! This is the girliest Instagram I’ve ever seen.”

I did not confront her at the time, because I’d been drinking at the open bar and had made it a policy not to start shit while under the influence. I did, however, feel deeply insulted at this invalidation from another member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Wouldn’t she, of all people, know what it felt like to constantly be told that they were the wrong so-and-so by others?

Whenever I go to stores, I’m referred to as “miss,” “ma’am”, or “she.” People I regularly interact with continue to casually refer to me as female, even though they know I’m out. And while one part of me is righteously peeved, the other feels downright awful about speaking up, ever.

Because I do use she/her pronouns, and I do have an appearance that’s so girly that I look more femme than most cis women. Can I really blame a well-meaning person for not knowing? Am I too girly to consider myself trans? Can I not use this word to identify myself if I have no intentions of changing my appearance, surgically or otherwise, in the future? Is constant invalidation and invisibility simply the price I have to pay for passing (whether I want to or not) as a straight, thin, conventionally attractive cisgender female — and thus reaping all the benefits?

Whatever the answer to that may be, I’m going to continue speaking up.

Taking action for a more aware, inclusive society

Unless I’m legitimately concerned about acting out and unintentionally hurting someone with my words, I will always, always say something about these issues. Even if I’m with people who would deem it inappropriate. Even if I “cause a scene.” I believe in consciously creating a world where I don’t have to constantly be seen by strangers as someone I’m not, so I will open my mouth and let them know every time.“Hey, I wanted to let you know that I’m gender-nonconforming, and would have appreciated it if you’d asked my pronouns before referring to me as ‘she.’”

“Hey, I’m not a woman, so please stop referring to me that way.”

“Hey, I don’t identify that way, so please ______.”

I’m careful to be polite and never accusatory, because let’s be real, this paradigm shift with gender has just started happening. Shaming people, no matter how right you think you are, will not connect them with your cause. I’ve learned that multiple times the hard way.

As a society, we like to signify that we’re oh-so accepting — hell, that store was located in downtown San Francisco, and had fucking rainbow flags hanging down the sides of its walls. But signifiers are essentially visual lip service. If we truly care, we have to take action and hold each other accountable, in Every. Single. Instance. If we don’t, we can’t complain when the world isn’t the way we want it to be.

I know that the social justice warrior-approved “right” answer — and the answer I intellectually champion — is that there is no such thing as “trans enough”, and that one has the right to not have their entire identity be represented by what they wear. Emotionally, however, I still feel a lot of guilt, and that’s a problem. It’s a sign that I have to do better in being an advocate for myself and other gender-nonconforming-but-maybe-aesthetically-conforming people who feel the same.

Though I’ve been out for quite some time now, the work is never-ending, and I have to learn to be okay with that. ♚


[1] I’m a masculine-of-center femme, but I will refer to myself intermittently as trans and gender-nonconforming.

[2] The dress was in the style of the picture above. I fucking love this cut and have no less than thirty dresses like it with different prints. No lie.

[3] Intended double entendre here ?

View Comments (3)
  • Appreciate your openness. I’m a little confused by a few things:

    You said this in a previous post: “Of course, this is totally normal behavior, and I shouldn’t expect anyone, least of all busy store employees, to ask about my gender identity, and I’m happy with she/her pronouns anyway. I’m not going to make a big deal out of someone calling me ‘Miss’ when virtually all of the other dress-wearing twenty-two-year-olds in that situation would identify as women.”

    But then you proceed to characterize someone leading you to the women’s restroom as “seriously overcrossing” your boundaries.

    You also say this: “Whenever I go to stores, I’m referred to as “miss,” “ma’am”, or “she.” People I regularly interact with continue to casually refer to me as female, even though they know I’m out. And while one part of me is righteously peeved…”

    But you also say that you use she/her pronouns for yourself.

    But you also will say to people, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I’m gender-nonconforming, and would have appreciated it if you’d asked my pronouns before referring to me as ‘she.’”

    I’m confused about where your outrage comes from. If you present yourself as conventionally very feminine/girly and you date cis-gendered men — but you identify as male, but you prefer she/her pronouns, I kinda think the onus is on you for telling people how you identify and how you’d like to be referred to. 0.5% of people identify as trans, and, I imagine, you are one of very few folks who is biologically female and presents as ultra-femme but who identifies as male. Almost nobody is going to even think to ask you if you’re gender non-conforming — and as soon as you told the sales clerk, I imagine they thought you meant M2F.

    I mean, honestly, the only way that it seems like you won’t be offended in any situation is if it becomes customary for EVERYONE to ask upon having any sort of interaction with ANYBODY “Are you gender non-conforming? What pronouns do you prefer?” And, unfortunately, with only .5% of the population identifying as gender non-conforming and a tiny percentage of that being bio females who present as overtly feminine but identify as male but prefer feminine pronouns … not only is it not going to happen, but it also isn’t practical.

    Your offense when the LBGTQ woman said “masculine of center my ass” IS warranted. That was incredibly disrespectful. Once you have told someone your preferences and your identity, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that they will respect it.

    But asking someone where the restroom is and being offended when they lead the long-haired person in a dress to the women’s room? Why not just avoid an uncomfortable situation for all involved and ask where whatever restroom you want to use is? If you want to use the men’s room, you can state your preference and avoid further confusion by stating that you’re gender non-confirming.

    I usually am right there, nodding my head and silently agreeing with the things you say. But this time, it feels like your rage is misplaced.

    • Hey P,

      Thank for your comment and for taking the time to write well thought-out questions. I’ve given them a lot of thought and my next article on gender will be addressing each one of your points.

      – Mimi

  • Hey P,

    Apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I’ve been thinking about your question a lot, and realized that it would be better to address it publicly in two separate posts. I wrote a post explaining why I’m writing two posts (I’m extra like that):

    Thank you so much for writing in! I really appreciate all the thought you put into your response, and hope to do it justice with my own.

    – Mimi

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