35 Truly Inspirational Ways You Described Your Gender Presentation On the Autostraddle Reader Survey

The 2016 Autostraddle Reader Survey is underway, and we are so excited to have already heard from over 3,000 of you regarding your wants, needs, desires, and demographics. One of the survey questions asked you which of a list of terms best described your gender presentation — of course, not everybody thinks about their gender presentation at all, let alone how to ascribe one of the various labels in our giant stew of labels to themselves. But a lot of you do, and boy is it interesting! If you’re keeping track at home, you should know that currently Tomboy Femme is in the lead, with over 30% of readers feeling a lil TF in their hearts.

You were also invited to write in an answer if none of the provided answers appealed to you. Here are some of the very best write-ins that really illustrate how wonderful and totally weird y’all are!

1. Stoner Femme, Gender Confused

2. Insufficiently organised to have a consistent presentation

3. Exhausted college chic/professional physics human

4. Uh. Librarian? What’s the one with no makeup and just regular clothes?

5. Whatever Brandi Carlile is

6. Glitter Queen

7. Fancy Pony Boi

8. Cozy femme

9. I just like docs and dresses ok

10. Hypermasculine camp

11. Softest of butches

12. Executive dysfunction closeted makeup-scared femme?

13. So uncomfortable

14. Femme in the Summer, Butch in the Winter: A Seasonal Fluidity

15. A small cluster of stars

16. 14-year-old boy

17. Leg hair don’t care but actually cares a lot

18. Sloth femme

19. Gay adjunct professor/goth librarian

20. Aunt Dad

21. Granola, self-sufficient, utilitarian, rural spinster

22. Laid-back lesbian farmer

23. DOIN MY OWN FUCKIN THING

24. Athleisure meets sea-witch

25. Comfortable baggy-clothed person

26. My girlfriend likes to (very accurately so) describe me as “pastel butch”

27. Bunny dyke

28. Muppet

29. Low Femme

30. Lab Chic

31. Geek? I don’t know, I’m wearing a Wonder Woman shirt and Mickey Mouse shoes, so make of that what you will

32. Exhausted

33. FUCK I HAVE NO IDEA? USUALLY PEOPLE DON’T RECOGNIZE ME AS GAY, SO FEMME?

34. Lesbarian

35. This whole labeling thing is very American, isn’t it. I’m a woman who owns pants, chucks, skirts and mascara. Now what?


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Profile gravatar of Riese

Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2444 articles for us.

149 Comments

    • Yes!

      Me too!

      There really is something about springtime that pushes me over from “how do I make clothes from the men’s section of the store look good on me with my extreme shortness, 34H boobs, and long hair?” to “flowy flowy dresses!” and “I can sew things that actually fit me! They are cute and skimpy and made of cool woven cotton and they actually fit me! Like, they are made for my actual body! And I can make them

      Wow. I sound a lot more enthusiastic about summer, and I hate summer. Clearly, I need to learn to sew butch winter things (with sleeves). I really think that is my takeaway here.

  1. I still haven’t got over ‘space crone,’ which is not so much my presentation as my ambition.

    What’s everyone currently wearing / presenting as RIGHT NOW??? I’m currently wearing: black leggings; black long-sleeved tshirt; black oversize jumper with white geodesic allover design, which I have worn every day for a fortnight; bare feet; red cushion. So – minimal allblack space sloth?

  2. i can’t believe i missed the write-in option!

    i’m very fluid but i think right now it’s like non-binary femme who presents femme like gay boys do/ lazy winter masculine-of-center.

    also <3 <3 to "so uncomfortable"- been there, i see you <3

  3. #1 and #4 describes me perfectly <3 also #2, brilliant! due to all those things mixed with "actually likes make-up but is too lazy" and "secret inner pin-up girl" I chose tomboy femme 😀

  4. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who had trouble with this question. Any of the answers sounded like I feel more strongly about this than I do. I feel like I can’t call myself femme if I don’t wear makeup, which is the one fashion decision I do feel strongly about, but I’m clearly not butch.

    Anyway, I put down tomboy femme, but that sounds like a style trend, not a gender presentation. Do tomboy femmes wear skirts?

    • I’m not the arbiter of this, but I do think tomboy femmes wear skirts. Well, I think that tomboy femmes, as a gender identity, can wear whatever the fuck they want and still be a tomboy femme. I also think that skirts are part of the generally accepted “tomboy femme” gender presentation. Gender presentation is pretty much just a style trend. It’s how people of a certain gender tend to dress/act/behave as a group because that’s how they feel most like themselves and/or that’s how they feel like they’re most likely to be perceived for who they are by society. I guess?

      I think it’s okay not to have an answer to this question. I personally enjoy the solidarity and shared experiences that come from finding people with gender/gender presentation labels similar to my own, but it’s also okay not to feel strongly about it.

      • Or because then you can look professional in something that feels like pajamas? (Is the main reason I wear skirts with leggings a lot)

        Thanks for the affirmation, both of you! I love that way of thinking about gender presentation vs. style trend.

  5. I can’t believe I missed the write-in option because my presentation (especially the 9 months of the year where rivers aren’t frozen) is “dirtbag kayaker”. And like, it is a definable presentation because multiple bartenders have called me out on being a boater this year.

  6. Mostly entirely made up of self-loathing, neuroses, with a dollop of colorful hair on top. Or the short version, femme in summer, butch in winter, cuz I get really hot and really cold.

  7. Fellow skirt+sneaker wearing, usually no makeup but why not sometimes, these are just clothes OK?!, girly but not THAT girly peeps: let’s make Low Femme happen! Because like, yes definitely femme… But not High Femme.

    I don’t remember if I filled this survey in and kindof hope I didn’t because I don’t want to be the only low femme! Come join me!

  8. I’ve never commented on this site despite lurking for three-ish years, but as the executive-dysfunctional closeted make-up scared femme in question this was literally the highest honour I’ve ever been given oh my gosh

    The best things about being dyspraxic are my inability to put itchy and confusing powders on my face without crying and ruining my wonky eyeliner, struggling to put on a bra, and only getting my haircut every 4 years because I honestly forget I have hair. Thank you

    • fellow dyspraxic here! I feel you! on bras: people kind of always think that being a lesbian, aka mostly sleeping with other bra-wearing people, I must know how to open them, but…I just can’t and everytime that this comes up I feel really un-sexy.

    • I got diagnosed with dyspraxia as a kid but I’m not sure if that got cancelled out by my later autism diagnosis? Either way, I totally relate to the whole “being femme requires fine motor skills that I just do not seem to possess”concept. As proven by my hair that I never do anything with other than sometimes stick in the most pathetic sloppiest ponytail you have ever seen. Also, I would probably never get my hair cut if my mother didn’t insist on making sure that I get one every year. At which point I get as much chopped off as I can tolerate (hair touching the top of my shoulders rather than sitting behind them), feel very strange for the next six weeks or so, and then gradually adjust.

      On the subject of bras, I’m sure you must have come across this tactic, but just in case, have you tried putting it on back to front (so with the clasp on the front) and then swivelling it around before putting your arms through the straps? That’s how my mom taught me, and I’m always surprised by how many people struggle through doing it the much trickier other way.

    • I have been doing the reverse bra technique since I was old enough to have one. So unnecessarily fiddly. Not (yet) a psychologist but one diagnosis shouldn’t cancel out another! I don’t think? Especially since (this is coming from a very personal not professional opinion) developmental disorders have almost the same core difficulties, just differences in how they ‘present’ (so for us dyspraxics, motor skills are more prominent). But, I feel your pain none the less.

      To be honest I have no fashion sense. I love florals (subtle But I’m A Cheerleader reference) but only wear dark clothes because I am messy as heck and, as unsexy as not knowing how to undo a bra may be, multiple food stains are even less sexy. Unless you are super into clumsiness and tomato sauce I guess.

      • Oh my god so much same. I really do try to not make a mess, but food just seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. As for fashion sense, I just blank out so much at the concept. It all seems so very complicated, and my life is complicated enough as it is, thanks! I haven’t got enough space in my brain to deal with everything that would go into attempting to actually have a Style.

        As for the diagnosis stuff…honestly I kinda dread filling out any disability related forms because I honestly don’t know at this point which things I’m meant to include/not include. Like, if all the traits that got me a dyspraxia diagnosis are covered by an autism diagnosis, do I still have dyspraxia? Or is it just autism including issues with motor skills? And that’s before you even look at any of the ADHD overlap. Developmental disorders really are just a case of grabbing a handful from the same bag of difficulties and then tuning the relative intensity of each issue. And nobody seems to be able to agree on which disorders can exist side by side (I had to fight for the ADHD diagnosis because the team I was with at the time were convinced that you couldn’t have both ADHD and autism). It’s all so very very messy (like me I guess!)

        • Fashion is so complicated? Why is everything a different size but also allegedly the same size? Why can I never remember to return items that clearly don’t fit me? Why can I never find the only pair of leggings without holes in it in my floordrobe? WHY ARE LABELS SO UNCOMFORTABLE (I meant literal labels that are sewn into clothes but I guess it can also apply to identity)

          On top of dyspraxia I’ve also been diagnosed with a handful of personality disorders (a whole other cluster f***) but there was a movement a few years ago to scrap all the individual diagnoses and to instead diagnose someone with a personality disorder with xyz features. For instance, personality disorder with borderline features. It sort of makes sense that something similar could apply to developmental disorders- developmental disorder with dyspraxic/autistic/ADHD features. Part of me thinks this is sensible, particularly because it would mean each person would have to be treated with regard to their specific needs and issues. But the other part of me loves having specific diagnoses because a) I fought hard enough to get them, b) I actually do like labels because they make sense of the chaos and c) I know other people feel their diagnoses are particularly meaningful and wouldn’t want that taken away. So… what the heck does it all meeean

          • What the heck does it all mean indeed! I think the recent merging of asperger’s/autism/pervasive developmental disorder into one autism spectrum diagnosis is probably a step in that direction, but it’ll be interesting to see how far that kind of merging will go. And like with so many things, it’s that tug of war between logical systems and human emotional needs. (Actually now that I think about it, a switch to that kind of diagnostic model could potentially be hugely beneficial in reducing gender bias in diagnosing! ADHD and autism are both significantly underdiagnosed in girls, because diagnostic criteria has historically failed to recognise the differences in how girls tend to present compared to boys. If the focus was on identifying strengths and weaknesses rather than trying to figure out which name (and accompanying stereotypes) was the best match, girls might have a better chance at being properly assessed? Maybe?)

            And yes to everything you said about fashion, but also if you are buying clothes with the intention of using them in specific combinations, rather than a mostly interchangeable mass of jeans and tshirts, then how on earth are you supposed to stay organised enough to ensure that the correct groups of items are all clean at the same time?

    • oh my god. I do the hair thing. It confuses the heck out of everyone I know. “You only get your hair cut once a year? “Well…yeah, thats mostly because I make plans to, forget for several months, realize a few months have passed, shrug it off–repeat”. Most of the time its someone else who makes sure I go.

      /shrug there is hair on my head?

      • So. I used to have long hair and I would get it cut or trimmed maybe once a year, sometimes even less depending on how I felt. I just wore it in a ponytail every day and I didn’t even need a mirror to do it. Just a couple months ago I got it cut short-short. And everyone now everyone keeps saying “oh I bet your hair is so much less work!” It’s less emotional work because I don’t have people pressuring me to wear it not in a ponytail and because people judge my gender a little more accurately now I guess maybe I hope. But I need haircuts more often now to keep it in this cut, which is SO MUCH WORK! I don’t have a relationship with a hair-cutting person or a routine there yet, so it’s not an easy-peasy thing. It’s stressful enough that I haven’t gone back yet but really should soon. And the current cut I have it in doesn’t stay where I want it to without hair product, which is goopy and requires a mirror. (I’m hoping that in time this can be remedied but I honestly don’t know how to convince a hairstylist that I don’t want to use product, because they are biased because they do hair for a living and because of course a female-appearing person would be okay with using product and I also don’t know if I can achieve the look *I* want without product because I don’t know how to do short hair!) So everyone who lightheartedly tells me that my short hair must be less work is SO WRONG. They’re also wrong when they make jokes about how it’s cheaper, because more frequent haircuts+having to buy product does not offset the cost of slightly less shampoo that I now use. Not directly related, but I have a lot of feelings about my hair right now. Thank you for listening.

        • Um I have no idea how long your hair was, but my hair is unusually long and I feel pressure to keep it up in a bun because of how people react when it’s down in public (rude question and touching or attempting touching) in way shape or form as well as pressure from some people who know it’s true length to have it down. They’re like “it’s always up, why not cut it” and when I say “no” then they go on the offensive telling me how pretty my hair is and how “it’s a shame you hide you pretty you are, don’t you want people to see the real you” at which point my responses boil down to fuck the hell off.

          So I empathize.

          Also I cut a lock off the underside to the scalp for funerary reasons and have suffered the lack of control one hair with short hairs.

          The short hair = less expensive(b/c less shampoo) is ridiculous and cannot be evenly applied to all the variations of human hair.
          Unless the short hair in question is an induction cut buzz.

    • Pretty sure the Hair Dilemma has been plaguing executive-dysfunction folks forever. Am planning to go to my brothers barbers to get my hair cut short-short (we all have our parents sort of wavy sort of ringlet sort of straight hair) because I can’t stand having long hair. It’s currently past my shoulders (the last time I had it cut I got a bob, for some perspective on how long it takes me to organise appointments). If it isn’t tied up, it irritates the ever loving crap out of me!

      Why do hairdressers keep underestimating how little I am realistically going to be able to do with my hair? I never blow dry it, or brush it, or put product in, or really do anything but put it up in a bun far away from my face. There must be a cut (short of a buzz) where you literally don’t have to do anything for maintenance

      • Yes, they call it a pixie and it helps to have a few photos of basic pixies without variations. And you have to cultivate a person who understands your desire to never do anything. And get it cut every 6 weeks or so. 8 is shaggy and 12 means it’s in my eyes too much.

        But yes, if you have agreeable hair, you can then wash, rub with towel and leave. Styling product over-rated.

        It’s cheaper because people who care about long hair get it trimmed often too. And then they do things like blow it out, or color it, or…??? And those are more expensive. You also don’t need hair do-dads. But if you did nothing with long hair, doing nothing with short hair is more expensive if you have to pay for haircuts.

    • I’m not femme [or rather I’m not a woman but non-binary] but I’m here for fellow dyspraxics. I used to avoid getting my hair cut because getting all those hairs all over me gives me sensory problems. I used to avoid showering as a kid for the same reason. I do also frequently spill food down myself, how are other people so clean?!

  9. Well damn. Now I regret not taking more time with that question. I went with Tomboy Femme, but really “less femme than I’m willing to admit” is probably more accurate. Or alternatively, “the only actually femme thing about me is the length of my hair, and the rare special occasion dress that I debate and stress over incessantly before giving in despite not actually disliking it when I’m wearing it”. Or perhaps just “exhausted nerd living in executive dysfunction central” ??

  10. so initially i had written in “softest of butches” but looking at this now i realize i am also “4. Uh. Librarian? What’s the one with no makeup and just regular clothes?” and “21. Granola, self-sufficient, utilitarian, rural spinster” and “6. Glitter Queen.” gender is amazing. and i love all of yall

  11. Is there a term for being kind of femme for a woman who dates women at the same as being kind of butch for a woman who dates men?*

    I mean, I present more or less the same no matter who I’m dating (comfy shoes, layered bob haircut, no make-up, sun dresses, cargo shorts / pants, fitted tops), but I feel like I sort of straddle the center in a way that’s hard to describe.

    *If there’s not a term, I need one:

    Bi-lateral?
    Bi of center?
    Bi-moderate?
    Bi and not bothered
    Tom-bi femme?

  12. I don’t remember if I saw an option…but now that I think about it, mine would be “Tshirt and underwear” whilst not out in public…and “comfy clothes, always” otherwise. I own an impressive amount of sweat pants, but more fashionable than the sweatpants in the 90s, so I feel less guilty about it. Hoodies and sweat pants would be my life if I lived in a climate that was 65 year round.

    Also the fact that I wear a uniform to work, and have for the past 13 years means I never need to buy “real” clothes.

    And derby. No “real” clothes for that either!

  13. I tend to be a Lazy Femme. In that I’m all “omg look at that cute dress I want to wear at some point” but also “I would rather gouge my eyes out than wear heels except to the fanciest of fancy occasions” and “I guess I’ll shave my legs for that dress I’m wearing to Hamilton but then not again for 4-5 months probably” and also “ties are rad, I like ties,” when really most days I’m like “jeans and t-shirts are comfy and low stress, let’s do that again” and I’ll also wear eyeliner and mascara but no lipstick because let’s not get carried away here.

  14. Oh god. “19. Gay adjunct professor/goth librarian” – can I just say that I am in love with that description? It sounds exactly like someone I have been waiting my whole life for. And probably die before I meet them.

  15. #23 OR

    #⚒ non-binary, bicycle loving, hipster-trash, with philosophy minor, psychology major who will psycho-analyze you in the 1st hour of meeting you. object undefined. floating in the eternal ephemeral universe without a liferaft.

    Too specific?

  16. those butch coded video game characters that you can’t romance as a female character (or unconfirmed gay) but like travelsized and slightly more femme and you can only romance me as a female/nb character

    That’s my gender representation.

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