She’s the man – getting ‘read’ in public.

It’s been said[1] that trying to ‘pass’ as other than your birth gender is like playing a game where the moment someone becomes aware that you are succeeding, then you have just failed.

On Saturday I played just such a game, as I do every time I go out in public in girl mode.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always feel like there is a fine line to be walked when going out shopping in girl mode. If you dress up too much then you will stick out like a sore thumb as many women don’t bother when just going shopping. Some appear to make no effort whatsoever, in fact. But at the other end of the extreme, if you emulate them and also dress down then you won’t have a hope of passing. You often have to over-feminise to compensate, which means paying particular attention to your makeup and wardrobe.

On Saturday, I didn’t heed my own advice and went out in jeans, unisex Merrell sandals, and a top. On reflection, although very comfortable, the sandals were a bad idea. I find that wearing a heel encourages me, and constantly reminds me, to walk in a feminine way. Flat shoes do not and you often forget. I also have bad posture in guy mode, and again heels encourage me into better posture as they affect the way you stand as well as the way you walk – in short, it’s much harder to slouch when you’re in heels.

Saturday's outfit
Saturday’s outfit

Anyway, that all said, into Camberley I went like this.

I parked up in the multi-storey car park and even in my little super-mini class car, I found the parking bay very tight indeed. I had to reposition several times so as to leave enough space for the driver of the car next to me to get in, whilst leaving enough space on my side to get out. It was very tight indeed. (There is a reason for me telling you this and I will come back to it later).

I was primarily shopping for a short sleeve office or school uniform type white blouse for an upcoming photo shoot. After trying BHS, Primark, several charity shops, and (earlier in the week) M&S, I found what I wanted in New Look. And best of all it was in the sale, reduced from £12.99 to £7. Bargain.

Obligatory selfie
Obligatory selfie

Things had been going well, and nobody had given me so much as a second glance (which is what usually happens) apart from one point where an older man accidentally bumped into me and said “oh, I’m so sorry my dear”. However, all that was about to change as I headed back to the car to leave.

I joined the queue to pay for my parking at the pay station. In front of me was a lady and her friend, and the lady was having trouble with the machine. On these ones there is no ticket – you have to type your car registration number in, and the lady had several failed attempts and her friend explained to everyone that it was a new car and her friend couldn’t remember the number. Or, rather, she thought she could but evidently couldn’t.

The lady started rummaged in her handbag saying she had it written down, but then half turned and said “Oh, I’ll let this gentleman… lady… go first”.

Oh dear.

I had hoped that I was doing an ok job of passing but clearly not. But it was said without rancour or making a big deal about it. It was all very matter-of-fact, and that’s probably the best way to handle a situation like this, I think. I know some people might have apologised or something, which would have ironically drawn far more attention to it and made things worse. So credit to her for this.

After I had paid and returned to the car, I was faced with the owner of the car parked next to mine, on the driver’s side. He had a small boy who was trying to let himself into the passenger side, and I just stood and watched, sure that I was about to witness a massive car park ding happen to my car. The father must have had the same idea and said to the boy “Wait. Let the man into… um… their car first”. The little boy, in keeping with a lot of kids that age adopted an “I can do it” stubborn determination and, to his credit, did get in without dinging my car. Amazingly.

So, again, it was just a little slip up and no big deal was made of it. Although it was also clear that I had failed to pass again. In fairness, the car park was dimly lit so it’s possible that the bloke didn’t notice my female top, makeup and, indeed, tits. After all, some blokes do wear their hair long. And he did have other things to think about – like the owner of a car his son showed every likelihood of damaging standing right there watching.

It has, however, made me ponder as to what are the key indicators to gender that these people were picking up on? In neither case was it my voice as I hadn’t spoken. It wasn’t necessarily height as although 5’8″ is reasonably tall for a woman, it’s not excessively so. It might be build. Or could have been the way I was standing – as I mentioned previously, flat shoes don’t encourage me to pay attention to my posture.

In both cases, the person didn’t make a big deal of it and for that I should be grateful. Although it would have been even nicer if they hadn’t noticed at all.

6 thoughts on “She’s the man – getting ‘read’ in public.

  1. Reading the fuller version of your experience here, I’m convinced that the mis-gendering, in both case was accidental and caused by pre-occupation with other issues by those responsible, (car park machines and children can be highly stressful). I guess we ascribe gender by all sorts of things – dress, height, attitude, physical attributes, etc and it only takes a couple of pieces of the jigsaw to not quite fit for us to be momentarily confused. Maybe it’s because I’m tall, (6’2″), but the sight of a woman of similar height throws my thought processes out for a nanosecond or two – if she’s wearing masculine clothing, another link shorts out, but eventually the information does match up. Fascinating stuff.

    1. Oh, I agree. I don’t think there was any malice in either instance.
      I’m just intrigued as to where I fell down, that’s all.

      I think you put your finger on it quite succinctly though – pieces of a jigsaw.

  2. Just to say, very well handled. Great point about the shoes, you need enough heel to walk and move in a feminine way, but you don’t want them so high that you can’t walk or look ridiculously tall. Creating the right level of feminine invisibility is very difficult. What a wonderful challenge it is! I have to say, from your pictures you pass extremely well, keep up the great work. Andrea Xx

  3. You look perfectly fem to me! I’ve only been out in public once (very late at night close to where I live) and was quite easily read. I did have on 3 inch heels which made me almost 6 feet tall though! Moving like a female seems the hardest thing for me.

  4. I think your over analyzing/thinking; at the same time, hind sight is 20/20. If they both saw you out of the corner of their eye, you may have been standing less favorably than you may have liked.
    I think the same sometimes when I have stopped at a store on the way home from work. Being tall, and Latino, and wearing a uniform, I get served/gawked at less favorably. They stare at me, my uniform, the contents of my shopping cart etc. On the way home, I am thinking the same as you: “what did I do?”

    Younger women nowadays are more aggressive, and dress more masculine. I find myself staring to determine gender as well.

    You present yourself as a woman. A very beautiful woman. Woman are horrible to other woman. Your at their level now where as they will completely deconstruct you and find fault whether you were born genetic or not. They will do this in less than a second. 🙂

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