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So I joined this online group roughly 2 years ago for a specific purpose that I thought would be short lived. It's centered primarily around a sports team and I came there from a social media site where I remain anonymous. I like to remain anonymous online especially when talking about sports, because men can be very obnoxious when talking to women about sports.

My intention was never to still be in this group 2 years later but I am and I'm closer with them than ever. We talk about a lot more than sports and I trust them and enjoy their (online) company.

However, they assumed that I was male from the start, and because of previously addressed concerns I never corrected them. It's been 2 years and now I feel like I'm in too deep to finally correct the record, but I want to because it's starting to really bother me.

There are now other females in the group and I feel stupid pretending. Also, they're talking about doing a voice chat and there is no way I can do that without revealing I'm actually female, but I want to talk to them. This is by far the stupidest problem I have ever created for myself, but I really don't know how to go about telling them the truth. I feel like they might feel betrayed (even though I never actually ever said I was a guy, I just never corrected their assumptions, which I know is still wrong) and I don't want to lose or damage the relationships.

How do I tell my internet friends I'm actually female without damaging/losing the relationship?

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Em C Jul 7 at 20:10
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    You mention men in general. In the 2 years with these men have there been sexist red flags that you ignored then forgot about? Are they overly flirtatious with the new women, or otherwise treat them differently? Have some of them told you personal guy-to-guy-only things? How much do you think your "lie" mattered in those 2 years? – Owen Reynolds Jul 8 at 4:12
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    Did you ever actually claim to be male? or did they just assume it? – RedSonja Jul 8 at 5:11
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    They seem pretty progressive based on our interactions and I trust them not to be harassing or misogynistic toward me, since they haven't been to any of the other women who are active and when one of the women reported harassment in one instance they banned the guy who did it very quickly. – anonymous idiot Jul 9 at 0:30
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    @anonymousidiot It sounds like they were joking when they mentioned you possibly "lying" to them, so it probably doesn't actually mean that they will feel lied to :) – Nacht Jul 10 at 3:12
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I had a similar situation when I was a teenager - an online friend who didn't give any indication to her gender, so we all assumed she was male, and she never bothered to correct us. One day, she said something about her personal life that indicated her gender, which surprised me in particular, and I incredulously asked "[username], are you a girl??"

She just laughed and was like "yeah" and the conversation moved on. My reaction became a bit of a running joke in that group, but it was more at my expense than at hers, and otherwise it didn't really matter what her gender was.

My suggestion is to just join the voice chat, and let people come to the conclusions they come to. Someone might have a reaction like mine, in which case you can just laugh and respond with a simple "yeah I'm a woman." If anyone asks why you never corrected anyone, just a simple "oh, it never really bugged me, so I just never bothered to correct anyone" is enough. Downplay the importance and let the conversation move on.

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This answer is predicated on some assumptions that you need to take into account for your situation. If some of these assumptions don't apply, then this is not the best answer for you.

  1. You actually aren't bothered by people using he/him pronouns for you, and would be okay with that going forward. There is entirely the possibility that, even after a voice chat, no one addresses it and everyone continues using male pronouns.

  2. You don't think anyone in the group will particularly have a problem with it. As in, like, they're giving out negative vibes rather than neutral ones, I guess. If you think someone's going to have a problem with it, making a bigger deal of it yourself beforehand, to avoid surprises, is probably a good idea.

  3. This isn't a particularly progressive space. This answer relies on using some cisnormative assumptions in your favor (higher vocal resonance = woman, in particular), but those assumptions aren't always true, and if you're in a crowd that is cognizant of trans issues, then they may not make those assumptions. For the record, nowadays, if I were in the same situation I was as a teenager, I would not come to the same conclusions I came to then. The evidence of "this person has never had a problem with male pronouns" would have overshadowed "this person is talking about an experience that men don't usually have" because now I know that men do have those experiences.

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    A variant of this would be to just open the voice chat, with "hey, it's me StupidR, just to clear that up before anyone gets confused: I'm actually a girl/female - as you might perhaps guess. Sooo how's everyone?!" – Frank Hopkins Jul 8 at 0:30
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    I second the sentiment of "don't make a big deal out of it." If you make a big deal out of it, they are guaranteed to make a big deal out of it. If you don't make a big deal out of it, there's a good change chance everyone just corrects their assumption in their head and moves on. – The Guy with The Hat Jul 8 at 5:48
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    I agree with this answer, I think this is the best way to go. If you don't want to risk a bad reaction while on voice chat, you could also just correct the next person who uses male pronouns in text. "Actually, I'm a 'she'," and if they ask why you never said anything before, as above just say it wasn't a big deal in your mind, but btw, girl. – Steve-O Jul 8 at 13:50
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    Since you mentioned trans people, I should say that the "I'm actually a woman" conversation is not limited to anonymous online chats and can also happen with in-person friends :P – Kyle Delaney Jul 9 at 16:50
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    @KyleDelaney: Right, but from experience, an in-person "actually I'm a woman" conversation is really different :P I mean, would that it were as simple as "oh, his voice changed, guess we misinterpreted and she's actually a girl" lol – Tesset Jul 9 at 18:56
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There is no way of knowing for sure how they'll react to it, but being upfront and honest about it, while stating your reasons and apologizing for keeping it a secret for this long is probably the best way to go.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand, initially you were unsure of how they would treat you knowing you're female. Then as time went on, you just "went along with it" and didn't really know what to do. But now, knowing them much better and with other females in the group, you know that there are not the kind of people you were worried about and feel comfortable revealing your secret.

Telling your friends these reasons will help them understand your motivation (or lack thereof to tell them). Stating these reasons, while apologizing and highlighting that you genuinely enjoy their company, you probably have a good chance of them accepting your true identity. Without other females in the group I'd be a lot more worried about a negative reaction, seeing how common online misogyny and harassment are, but it seems that they are completely fine with it.

A few years ago I was in a similar situation, where a group of online friends thought I was a lot older than I actually was and this strategy worked out well.

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    I wouldn't even say it's necessary to apologize, as opposed to simply explaining. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Jul 7 at 15:25
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    @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- it depends on the reaction. Some people might be quite upset because they feel it was a deception, so an apology would help in that case. It's possible nobody will be mad and an apology won't be necessary, though. – Kat Jul 7 at 15:39
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    I definitely wouldn't apologise, leading with an apology implies you did something wrong and can push people towards feeling betrayed even if they would have had no objection to it initially. – DBS Jul 7 at 16:30
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    I agree with the comment about apologizing - if you didn't intend to mislead, then no apology is necessary. I would, however, if someone complains, then take that step. And an upvote for being honest... that alone gets an upvote from me. – baldPrussian Jul 7 at 17:38
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    I say you could keep a carefully worded apology on the cards. There shouldn't be one needed, but an apology can explain not that you're in the wrong but that nevertheless they feel deceived, and you don't want any hard feelings. – Pureferret Jul 8 at 10:52
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While I wasn't in a similar situation myself directly, I had an (online) friend that found himself in a similar situation. I tended to present much more aggressively ("male", some would say), but I was also quite outspoken so if somebody I expected to stick around assumed wrong (or even worse, expressed utter surprise that a "girl is playing videogames"), I'd have no problem correcting them (occasionally accompanied by a mild profanity to hammer in the point) right off the bat.

However, I had a very gentle and introverted friend that, especially next to me, presented very much like a female. I'm not sure if he was quite sure where he stands on his gender and sexuality at the time, and I think a somewhat gender-less world of online gaming suited him because of that. His natural way of expressing himself was also very gender-neutral, he would join the voice chats required to coordinate gameplay, but never actually talk (only the leader really needs to talk, the rest just need to listen and written acknowledgements are fine).

So he found himself in a situation very similar to yours -- he simply didn't correct a lot of his casual acquaintances. Which was fine until he became a close friend with another player and felt this got in the way of their friendship. He eventually went for the direct approach suggested in the other answers. They simply had a conversation.

I think what made it easier was realising that if his friend didn't want to continue this platonic relationship after he told him he was male or couldn't sympathise with why he didn't correct him straight away, then this is probably a friendship he doesn't want to continue himself either. So it might help you to think about what you are really worried would happen: damaging your relationship because you lied, the relationship changing once they find out you are female, or just drawing attention to yourself, all of the above or something completely different.

Still, in his situation it was only one person that he really cared about correcting, and for you it's a whole group. It takes a lot of courage to announce something big like that in front of a group -- and it's normal that not everybody can muster the same courage in all situations. But maybe dividing the task into telling individual people might be less intimidating. It also seems you are talking about a forum-type site, so the communication is mostly asynchronous. You can write a message while you feel good and comfortable, and check for the answer only when you feel prepared. I would suggest starting slowly, with a member that you feel the closest with. Considering the nature of online communication, I'd go for something short like:

Hi, I actually wanted to tell you something pretty big. A couple of years ago when I started posting here, you all assumed I was a guy, and since I was insecure about how you would react, I didn't correct anybody. Now, two years later, I am really enjoying my time with all of you and I know nobody would've cared if I told you from the start, but it feels a bit intimidating to announce to everybody at once that I'm female. I'm telling you first so I could have some support if needed, but I'm figuring out a way to share this with everybody in the next few weeks. Hope you're okay with this?

Then wait for their response. If the community really is as open as you say, this will get you a small safe place of at least one person who knows, and then you can go from there. Find the next-closest person or a few of them, and send a message similar to above, replacing:

I'm telling you first so I could have some support if needed, but I'm figuring out a way to share this with everybody in the next few weeks.

with something like

I've only told SoccerFan64 for now, but am planning on telling the wider community in a few weeks. I hope you wouldn't mind keeping this between yourselves until I figure out how to do that?

After doing this a few times, it should become less stressful and you'll have explained the situation to the members you're closest with. At this point, you could continue contacting people personally, do something more community wide if you feel more comfortable, or just tell the people you already talked with that they don't have to feel like it's a secret any more, as you don't really want to draw attention to yourself by posting a new topic just to announce this, but will start correcting people from now on and let the information make the rounds naturally, or something along those lines. Or just joining the announced voice call and saying "surprise" while knowing there'll be a number of people there to confirm to everybody that you're not joking. Whatever you decide, I think it will be much easier to tell the "community" after you've told some individuals first.

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    If you lead with "I want to tell you something pretty big", it will be big. If you don't make it out to matter much, it may well stay very small. Both are valid strategies, as long as you realize that you are (likely) the one making it into something big by using phrasing like that. – Jasper Jul 8 at 15:03
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If you make the reveal about yourself, then it will be about yourself. Sorry, I love tautologies. Sometimes I find they reveal more than they ought. If the reveal stands on its own, a sort of "Hey guys (and now gals), by the way, I'm female," it will resonate as such.

You say you sought to stay anonymous because you don't like how men talk about sports around women. You want to talk about it "like the guys," if I may phrase it that way. I think that's your clearest road.

If you want the reveal to go over as silently as possible, make it happen in the context of the sports conversation. Choose a time where the voice you want to have in the group is strong and loud, and then, make a smaller comment suggesting your gender. The idea is to tie the gender to the voice you want, rather than tying the gender to you and risk that shaping the voice you are permitted to have.

After the shock of the reveal is over, the sports conversation is still going. Don't let it change. Demonstrate that you are still the same voice you always were, before and after the reveal.

Or do you have a different voice you wish you could bring to the table? This would be a solid time to do so. You can add to your persona at this time, if you find it suits you. This is something I had to do in an online roleplaying game I played. I played a cis-female character, and the culture on that server was to strive to present your character's gender identity rather than your own to make the game more immersive. This had its own politics, of course, as female gamers were highly "prized" at the time (some actually respected the female gamers for who they were, but more than I like to admit merely "prized" them). Eventually, my group, who I had been running with for months, reached a strategic combat that was causing us lots of trouble. I have a strategic mind, but my roleplaying skills were limited. Roleplaying a female strategic genius is something that's totally doable, but my skills were still too limited to deviate that far from the far simpler traditional stereotypes.

So I ate some crow, and admitted to my gender. Then we went to win the combat using my strategies. After? Of course there were a few hurt feelings for my clever omissions. But very quickly I found myself surrounded by a group of friends who helped me learn better how to roleplay a female strategic persona, supported by the reality that they could always drop character to talk to the male me to help me understand nuances in roleplaying a more real female character that I otherwise would not have caught.

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Whether you decide to have a specific conversation about it or just let the reveal happen naturally or never even reveal anything, there's something you should keep in mind.

You may be experiencing anxiety on your end about how you see your actions and how you're worried that others will see your actions, but you can try looking at this from your friends' perspective.

If you were them and you had a friend who you assumed to be one gender when actually they were a different gender, how would you feel? I suspect you would see it as your own mistake rather than an act of deception on their part.

I think that's likely how your friends will feel. If you can muster up the confidence to believe you did nothing wrong here then this whole situation could be more of a "silly me" on their part than an "oops I lied" on your part. This confidence could help calm and reassure you in whatever conversations you have moving forward.

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    Hi Kyle! The way I understand your post, you're suggesting OP not to worry about it because that is their mistake to have assumed their gender from the start. While frame challenges are welcome on this site, we still need answerers to provide personal experience or literature citations to back up their advice. Could you please edit your answer to include it? Thanks in advance! – avazula Jul 27 at 8:35

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