CW: potential transphobia

I'm a cisgender bi male, but I identify as broadly speaking gender non-conforming (GNC) and often dress in more effeminate men's or often outright femme-presenting outfits. I had gathered the courage to go out into bars and other social events (before Covid made those impossible) with some of my most femme outfits, mostly just to socialize and get more comfortable in that skin. I got approached by four separate men who clearly thought I was a women based on their use of "girl".

While I am flattered, this has brought up something that's been festering in me for a bit. I know this is an issue for trans people as well because it is a topic of debate on whether, when, and how someone should reveal they're trans in romantic and/or sexual situations. But I'm a cis male, so I feel like the issue is slightly different for me.

I dealt with those men by telling them upfront, in a single sentence saying "Thanks, but I just gotta say just to clear things up, I am a guy" while turning up the masculine voice a little bit. I couldn't think of anything else, but I feel like this just ruins the mood for everybody and doesn't really completely clarify that I'm not trans (given the common stereotype of "traps" or the feeling that I'm intentionally trying to bruise their masculinity), which runs the risk of creating high discomfort or even danger for trans people they might meet later on.

I'm wondering how and when I should clarify to these probably straight men that I am male without doing any of a) making the situation really awkward, b) diminishing my chances with them romantically if they turn out to be actually bi/pan men through interrupting a situation wrongly c) importantly, giving the wrong expectation to these men about actual trans people's preferences about revealing their gender identity in the future d) settling into an weirdly long or overly formal lecture. I find it difficult to decide on good way to bring it up that can fit into a casual flirty conversation, where the other party has a chance to both reject respectfully, switch to a less flirty mood or keep going without it being a permanent sticking point.

Am I overthinking this? Maybe. Might it be impossible for it not to be at least a little awkward in our society? Probably. But it is kind of lowering my confidence wrt femme clothing for when I get into social situations like this one again, so I figured it was worth asking.

  • 1
    Hey user! It'd be helpful if you could include in your question what you did to handle those 4 men, and how your response to them didn't meet the goals you line out here. Also note that our help center says that we're not here to tell you what to say, so right now your question is off-topic because it's asking us how to tell and specifically asking us for good phrasing. We can help with the behavior you use to interact with others (that's what interpersonal skills are), but we can't give you a script to follow.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 30, 2020 at 6:39
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    You seem to put a lot of emphasis on the “cisgender”, but to me, that means identifying with the gender identity that comes with your sex, so kind of contradicts the gender non-conforming part. Exactly what does it mean to you?
    – AsheraH
    Jul 30, 2020 at 8:36
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    @AsheraH I was AMAB and I still identity as one, but I like to change my gender expression, which is a different thing from identity. I usually use he/him or they/them pronouns. Some people describe this as genderqueer, I personally think that's too broad of a term, plus my gender identity still fits into the binary, so I don't feel like that's quite right. GNC feels more correct because I am not conforming to societal expectations regarding gender identity. You see how long it gets to try to explain it?
    – user30142
    Jul 30, 2020 at 13:22
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    It does sound like going into straight bars presenting as a woman and wondering about the attention of men. Any chance you'd want mix it up with an element of surprise like stubble (subtle hint there)? We used to call that genderf*cking. Jul 30, 2020 at 16:41
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    How do you feel about calling what you do cross-dressing? That's something most people are familiar with and know it's different from being trans.
    – Kat
    Aug 1, 2020 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


People get my gender wrong all the time. We're not flirting, so the dynamic is a little different, but I think you can do some of what I do: quickly and non apologetically correct them, broadcasting contentment in who you are. I think the use of "girl" is a great opportunity for you to clarify. Grin broadly (you like who you are and how you present) and say something like:

Oh, I'm no girl. I'm a guy. Always have been, always will be. This is how I like to dress.

If they ask "do you mean you're trans?" you can be clear that nope, you're not trans, you're a guy (a happy guy) in a dress. Similarly if they ask if you're nonbinary, you can be clear that you are definitely male, you just like to dress really femme. In this way you don't have to worry that your conversational partner is missing any information (and might be angry later when they gain that information) nor that you're mispresenting the trans community or setting expectations for them.

There's a huge difference between revealing that you're a woman who used to be thought of as a man, or that you're a woman with a penis, and revealing that you're a man. Trans women are women and their trans status is a detail that is often irrelevant. Delaying a reveal until that status is relevant is a safety technique. You are a man, and that's relevant the moment your new friend says "Girl, ..." so mention it then. This is also a safety technique, since men who will get angry when they learn your gender are likely to be angrier the longer they've been talking to you. Get it out quickly and happily and let the phobes turn away from you and leave fast - gives you more time to talk to decent people.

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    Hey Kate, could you add some relevent personal experience (or external source) to backup your answer?
    – Ael
    Aug 3, 2020 at 13:30
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    in what way do the first two sentences not work for you, @Ael? Aug 3, 2020 at 15:08
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    First of all, what is your gender? I do believe that it is safer for a woman to dress in a masculine way that the other way around. So, if you are a woman, I think you should add a warning about that. Also, did anyone ever asked you if you were trans? I am wondering why you are suggesting those kinds of answers to the question and why you think it will go well.
    – Ael
    Aug 3, 2020 at 19:51
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    you're not wrong about relative safety, but you'll notice that the question doesn't ask about feeling safe at all. So I didn't address that. Aug 3, 2020 at 20:21
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    This sounds like exactly what the OP does (I dealt with those men by telling them upfront, in a single sentence saying "Thanks, but I just gotta say just to clear things up, I am a guy") and they weren't comfortable with that, so it's not clear to me how this answers the question.
    – DaveG
    Aug 26, 2020 at 17:45

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