Boy Mode

2021/5/10 Update

Wow. Much cringe. I had this idea that presenting femme would help people remember to gender me female. I felt like it was my responsibility to look the part for them.

Yeaaaaahhh… no.

Early in my transition, strangers weren't going to use female gender terms for me unless I specifically requested them. I even got the "sir" treatment while wearing a dress, a stuffed bra, a purse, long hair in a pony-tail, and a face mask to cover my still-masculine face! My presentation basically didn't matter, and so I just got in the habit of instantly correcting people when they messed up. After that, it stopped being a problem. Quickly injecting the word "she" when someone used "he" was a LOT easier and more practical than trying to meet the appearance standards of strangers. Instead of slinking away feeling shitty after being misgendered, I would be proud of myself for standing up for myself. As my transition progressed and I started to look more naturally feminine, people seemed to get more embarrassed when I'd correct them.

So, yeah. Don't think you owe a specific gender presentation to people. Wear what makes you comfortable and insist on the respect you deserve.

Also, don't out people. That's still super rude.

Original Entry

Trans people sometimes talk about being in "boy mode" or "girl mode". This is a really interesting phenomenon that you may not get if you're cisgender. Why would someone would ever prefer presenting as their non-preferred gender? Isn't the whole point that they want to present as their preferred gender? I won't claim to know why other trans people do what they do, but I can tell you why I use boy mode when I could be in girl mode.

The end goal for me is to "pass". That is, the goal is for people to not see any difference between me and a cisgender woman. Getting there requires a great deal of practice. Of course, hormones help, but if your mannerisms or voice are wrong then people will notice something is off.

When I am presenting as a woman, I am hyper aware of everything I say and do. I'm studying myself and making notes about what I should be working on. Is my role in the social situation right? Are my body movements sufficiently feminine? Am I using the right intonation when I speak? How's my voice? What are other women doing? There's also prep work that goes into entering girl mode. What am I wearing? Should I practice doing makeup? Have I shaved recently? Is this a setting where I can wear my silicon breastforms?

At this point in my transition, it doesn't come naturally. Its a lot of work. Since I only started taking estrogen recently, there are no visible differences in my body. If I don't want to put in the effort today, I don't need to. If I'm going to be around people who don't know I'm trans, I can take the day off. I can just do what comes naturally without analyzing it. Worst case, I come off as an effeminate man. Ohhh nooo! For me, boy mode isn't about trying to look like a man. Its about not trying to look like a woman. Naturally, the longer I'm on estrogen the harder it will be to pass as a cisgender man!

Based on the experiences I've read, many trans people one day find that they are passing without trying. They're in not-preferred-gender mode (i.e. doing what comes naturally without putting in effort), but people see them as their preferred gender. At that point, presenting as their preferred gender is just their natural state. It would take effort to present as their birth gender!

Recently, I visited my extended family. Unbeknownst to me, they all knew I was transgender. They were all supportive, but I felt extremely uncomfortable. First off, I wasn't sure what they had heard. I hadn't gotten to tell my story in my own way to them. Secondly, and more importantly, I was in boy mode. I hadn't prepared mentally or physically. That first impression I made just makes me feel awful. I hadn't shaved in almost a week, I was wearing whatever I found, and my hair was probably a mess. I didn't get a chance to introduce myself as the person I want to be. Who knows what they had heard before hand, and who knows what they concluded after they saw me? My family was trying to be helpful by bringing some other supportive people in, but they ended up subjecting me to a great deal of anxiety. The whole experience made me feel very dysphoric. I was constantly reminded of how wrong my body was because I was constantly thinking about how they were seeing me.

There are some people that, when I come out to them, I don't intend for them to ever see me in boy mode again. I don't expect everyone to understand why I might choose to use boy mode on a given day. Being trans is really weird. If they haven't gone through it or watched someone very close go through it, they probably won't understand. Its easier for me if I just make a hard switch with those people. Hi! From now on, I'm a woman. Thanks! For people very close to me, I am okay with them knowing I'm trans and still presenting as a man around them. With them, I can feel comfortable whether I'm in girl mode or boy mode.

Obviously, everyone is different and they'll all have their own preferences, but I think its safe to say that you shouldn't out someone without their permission. People care about how others perceive them, and if you out someone before they're ready then you might be doing more harm than good… even if you only told supportive people.