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This question is inspired by How to politely notify in an online conversation that I am a woman?.

In my non-internet life, I identify nonambiguously as female. However, on the internet, it's important to me to be gender-unknown. I don't want people to assume either gender. Note that some of the places where I participate have 80 to 90% male participation. Occasionally there is an awkward moment, typically of two types:

a. Someone refers to me as male.

In making a correction, I feel afraid of being outed. (My posts may contain some subtle hints that an astute, intuitive reader could piece together.)

b. Someone refers to me as female.

In making a correction, I feel nervous that this will draw more attention to my gender status, with the result that more people will start scrutinizing my posts, and this increases the chances that someone might out me.

Some online moderators generally have little or no sympathy or interest in providing support around this issue, leaving me to fend for myself.

Questions:

  1. What's a good way of asserting myself in situations (a) and (b)? I believe any wrong guess is best corrected early on, before more people's perceptions and assumptions are created and ingrained. I would prefer a non-aggressive message, but assertive would be fine.

    Would this work?

    Please don't assume my gender.

  2. What's a succinct way of letting people know that I prefer to maintain an unknown gender? Or is this inherently risky? Because perhaps this stance is more prevalent online among women than men? (If so, that complicates Question 1....)


Edit 2/24

@sphennings Are you wanting to identify as explicitly agendered online, or are you just wanting to be ambiguous?

Sorry, what's the difference?

@peufeu - At least one SE site frequented by approximately 80% male participants. In fact I was outed at one point, fortunately it was in a rather buried comment that few people actually read. The moderators refused to help. I eventually managed to get the outer to delete his comment. He had researched me online, out of curiosity, I guess, and figured out my gender from a particular ancient post on another SE site (which I have since edited).


Edit 2/25, responding to questions in comments:

@sphennings - When you're online do you want for people to be unsure what your gender is or do you want to explicitly identify as neither male or female by saying something like "I'm agendered.", "I'm genderqueer." or any other nonbinary gender identity?

When I'm online I want people to be unsure what my gender is, and treat me as might-be male or might be female. I want them to go through the mental calculation that says, Hmm. If this user is female, then I read her post in such-and-so a way. But if this user is male, than I read his post in this-other way. So, in thinking about the post, I really need to keep an open mind, because there's no way of finding out for certain.

@peufeu - that's weird. Is it a geek/engineering SE? On my usual list of websites no-one would give a damn about your gender, unless discussing relationships or other stuff where it matters like choice of bicycle saddle!... is it about religion or something? or are you doing undercover infiltration among an angry bunch of MGTOW?

You can choose to believe me or not.

@Catija - I think that what may be confusing some is the connection to the other question.

No direct connection. I read the other question, and found it and the answers interesting. They helped me formulate this question. If you think it's better to remove the link at the top go ahead.

If you don't want them to know your gender, why does it matter if they use gendered pronouns for you?

There is sometimes a power balance based on gender. As long as I'm not identified as female on the site, other participants will not relegate me to that pigeonhole. On the other hand, it would feel dishonest to try to pass for male.

@maskedman Even after the OP's "clarification", things are not any more clear, are they?

What aspects are unclear? Please let me know what aspect(s) need to be clarified and I will do my best.

@stochastic - I think if I don't want to specify my gender, I just don't, and if someone assumes one or the other, I pretend I didn't notice. Does that not work?

No, unfortunately. Once people start to refer to a particular user with a gendered pronoun, the assumption spreads to other users.

@WitanapDanu I still remain unclear as to what the OP specifically would like to achieve under her normal account's activity. Keep everyone guessing while remaining mysterious? Be clear, in that context, that the gender is to remain unknown and actively discourage discovery? Just be considered a user and make gender immaterial? Or, some other specific result(s) that I have not identified. Different objectives require different methods.

When other participants read my posts, I want them to respond to the ideas in it, based on their intrinsic value and my reputation score, without being guided by gender-based internal scripts.

No matter how careful I am from here on out, there is always a chance I will be outed again. If there's more that I can do to prevent that from happening, great. If it happens again, I want to be prepared with an action plan.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Tinkeringbell, Witan ap Danu, NVZ, JAD, sphennings Feb 24 '18 at 22:33

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I don't understand. You feel a need to correct people but also don't want them to know your gender? Then what would you like to correct? What would be your goal? – Tinkeringbell Feb 24 '18 at 18:55
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    @Tinkeringbell It seems that their goal is to be gender-neutral or gender-unknown online. Looks pretty clear. – apaul Feb 24 '18 at 19:07
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    @MaskedMan perhaps it would be a good idea to have the OP clarify their position. – sphennings Feb 24 '18 at 22:23
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    I think that what may be confusing some is the connection to the other question. From what I'm reading, you're female and you don't consider yourself agender or genderqueer. What you want is to know how to respond when someone genders you regardless of whether they're correct or not... is that correct? If so, I think that ties back into the initial questions. If you don't want them to know your gender, why does it matter if they use gendered pronouns for you? – Catija Feb 25 '18 at 1:55
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    Voting to leave this closed, because after the edits I don't think you're struggling with an Interpersonal Skills problem, but are wanting to campaign a certain mindset with regard to gender online. That's not what this site is for. – Tinkeringbell Feb 25 '18 at 14:35
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I am not a woman but decline to use the words 'man' or 'male' to refer to myself online because these words have acquired distasteful connotations of aggressive 'manliness' due to centuries of patriarchal male domination of other men, women, children and Nature (that is my reason for not stating my gender in the profile section, and any other person may have any other reason.)

Based on my extensive participation at Stack Exchange websites over the last 10.5 months I found that many users unambiguously state or reveal their gender, but many don't. No member is obliged to reveal their gender on most places online. The standard accepted etiquette is to use "they/them" as pronouns whenever a person has not specified their gender.

When a user's gender is not stated or implied, there is a tendency among at least a few members to assume a gender (usually male but sometimes female) and if the assumption is incorrect, the person will usually correct them. Since you don't want to reveal your gender in the process, your simple yet ambiguous suggestion indeed works best, while neither confirming nor denying their assumption:

Please don't assume my gender.

Nobody can actually prevent someone assuming a gender online when it is not specified but you can make your wishes clear. If despite your clear message not to assume a gender, they choose to assume the other gender in response, then they are repeating the error and it is not something you can influence. For the sake of consistency, you might consider saying this even when someone has rightly assumed your gender and not just when their assumption was wrong, to make it clear that you prefer they not make an assumption in the first place. You also use this statement ("please don't assume my gender") to signal your conscious choice not to reveal your gender online. If you want to make that explicit you can even say

I prefer not to reveal my gender online.

Remember that it is your right and privilege as a user not to reveal your gender in most internet interactions and you need not allow anybody to debate the issue unless the website specifically requires gender to be stated.

For extreme clarity I have seen users state flatly on their profile page:

"my pronouns are they/them."

This is a very clear statement of intent in reply to anyone assuming your gender. Some users write "my pronouns are he/him" or "my pronouns are "she/her." This is a standard accepted format to clearly specify our preferred pronouns online. This method is both recommended and used by the young yet very experienced member who wrote the best answer to the recent question that you referenced here.

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    If I'd be told 'please don't assume my gender' I'd infer that that would be because my initial assumption was wrong, and so I'll just start assuming the opposite... How will this prevent people from assuming the OPs gender online? – Tinkeringbell Feb 24 '18 at 21:58
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    Nobody can prevent someone assuming a gender online @Tinkeringbell but please see the clarification I added at the end of my answer: "for the sake of consistency, you might consider saying this even when someone has rightly assumed your gender and not just when their assumption was wrong, to make it clear that you prefer they not make sn assumption in the first place. For extreme clarity I have seen users state flatly on their profile page: "my pronouns are they/them." – English Student Feb 24 '18 at 22:05
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    Tinkeringbell has raised an interesting point. I wonder if it would work to write "My pronouns are they/them" in response to a user's unwarranted assumption. – gender unknown Feb 25 '18 at 1:17
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    What most people would assume when OP uses that statement is that the OP is female, because they would think, "If the OP were male, the masculine pronouns wouldn't have drawn her attention, since she would be used to being called that way all the time." Using the same statement regardless of whether OP is assumed to be male or female is effectively the same as keeping the gender ambiguous by confusing the audience, but OP says she doesn't like playing such games. – Masked Man Feb 25 '18 at 2:11
  • "My pronouns are they/them" is a very clear statement of intent in reply to anyone assuming your gender @gender unknown. Some users write "my pronouns are he/him" or "my pronouns are "she/her." This is a standard accepted format to clearly specify our preferred pronouns online. This method is both used and recommended by the young yet very experienced member who wrote the best answer to the question that you linked. – English Student Feb 25 '18 at 6:30
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What if I told you that despite the "Man" in my username, I am actually a woman? That's all you need to do: keep your gender ambiguous.

What's a good way of asserting myself in situations (a) and (b)?

Don't draw any attention to your gender regardless of whether they assume you are male or female. If someone "suspects" you to be one or the other, just make more ambiguous statements to throw them off the track.

Drop hints once in a while suggesting one gender, then the other if you visit the forum frequently. Keep switching randomly back and forth.

What's a succinct way of letting people know that I prefer to maintain an unknown gender?

You don't. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. Nobody cares about your gender if you don't draw attention to it.

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    I don't like playing games like this -- it's just not me. Plus, it could backfire. / Note that I don't draw attention to it but I have had one very bad experience (see above comment). / Thanks for sharing your thoughts. – gender unknown Feb 25 '18 at 1:20
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    @gender unknown But you are playing a different game here. First you said you don't want your gender to be known, then you say if someone calls you "he" (or "she"), you want to "correct" them. Then you say you want to be gender-neutral or gender-unknown online, while also drawing attention to it with "please don't assume my gender". If you use that statement regardless of whether people think you are "he" or "she", it is effectively the same "game" that I am playing in my answer. – Masked Man Feb 25 '18 at 2:00
  • Then you say you want to be gender-neutral or gender-unknown online, while also drawing attention to it with "please don't assume my gender". That wasn't a constraint (i.e. requirement) -- that was a true question. I was wondering whether that would be a solution. – gender unknown Feb 25 '18 at 13:20

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