28 July 2023

Am I trans or just a tomboy?

I hate being seen as a “woman” and want to as masculine as I can be. I don’t want to be treated like a girl or people telling me to act like a girl. I hate being associated with girls and I don’t know why. But, every time I see a pretty dress, I want to wear it and confuses me. Am I trans or just a tomboy?


Dear Alex,


There’s a lot to explore here and I’m happy you chose to reach out and explore it with someone. You’re looking for how to identify yourself; I can only hope to introduce you to some tools that could make this more of an adventure instead of a dilemma for you. 

From what I understand, you’re having trouble being who you believe people want you to be—a girl. This makes you hate everything about being a girl in general, so you’re confused whenever you like certain “girly” things. Was it correct to assume this all feels like a dilemma to you? Does it seem like you’re stuck between two choices, masculine and feminine, and that you’re not allowed to mess with how they’re defined? 

The good news is gender is not a binary. The world is not divided into different shades of men and women, nor cis and trans. There isn’t a spectrum of masculine to feminine that we need to locate ourselves on, or to exchange one for the other. Gender binary is the idea that people will be born with one of only two kinds of sexes, and that nature intended for people to behave and appear a certain kind of way, depending on which one of the two bodies you were born with. Most of us still have these beliefs deeply ingrained, and would rather not question how we’re conditioned to treat others based on how we categorize their gender. 

Everybody (and every body 😉 has their own, unique relationship with gender as an idea and an identity. There is no right way to fit into a gender box because no two boxes are alike, if the boxes are even real at all. I can’t imagine having to fit into any kind of box is ever a comfortable experience. That said, our gender is connected to our skin colour, culture, mental/ physical health, age, etc. These markers are all interrelated and they shape our social experiences, now more than ever. The way people treat you represents how they interpret you, and how they interpret you is based on everything they’ve learned to associate with dresses and higher pitched voices and even hygiene. Can we really control or change the way people treat us? To a certain extent. We can try to direct their attitude and expectations by changing our own appearance and self-expression. 

Gender expression is a multifaceted aspect of our identity that encompasses how we present ourselves to the world through clothing, grooming, behaviour, and other forms of self-expression. It goes beyond societal expectations and stereotypes, allowing individuals to embrace their authentic selves and challenge the confines of gender norms.”

Your gender identity is not necessarily tied to your gender expression. Gender identity is about our internal sense of our gender and how we interpret our experiences of it. You want to be as masculine as you can be, or, understandably, as far away from feminine as possible. Your question is about being trans or being a tomboy, your gender identity vs your gender expression. The fun part is that you get to create your own answer! The label does not equal permission to change your presentation and/ or your identity, because you don’t/ shouldn’t ever need permission to practice autonomy. You get to explore and experiment with yourself to find what works. It’s okay to be masculine and hate sports and like being pretty, because things are only as gendered as we believe they are. 

How we are perceived and understood by others has a big impact on our wellbeing. This is where dysphoria comes into play. Gender dysphoria is the distress we experience when the way others gender us conflicts with the way we see ourselves, physically, mentally, and/ or socially. This conflict can grow severe for some, usually trans people. 

Keep in mind, not all cis people are comfortable with their gender and not all trans people are dysphoric about the gender they were assigned at birth. You seem to be describing a social gender dysphoria, where you don’t like when people read and refer to you as female. If you’re feeling dysphoric and you can already pinpoint a few of the causes, such as someone feminizing you as a compliment or who keeps calling you miss or ma’am, then trying to find the solution can be the first step in making your life easier. 

Now for the less good news: womanhood is not enjoyable by design. There’s a lot of misogyny to deal with (from everyone of any gender), being underestimated physically and intellectually, being considered irrational and too emotional, needing to meet harmful beauty standards or have reproductive capacity to be valued, people not taking your passions and interests or your pain seriously (or even making fun of you for it), not having access to certain resources and fields and careers, and the list goes on. 

It’s not easy to go against being who the world keeps trying to mold you into. We don’t like to be seen and treated in a way that tells us who to be and what to do. Maybe sometimes it also feels contradictory how the people who love you don’t care about what you like or who you want to be.

Are we responsible for how people treat us? I can’t say, but probably not. Are we not responsible for how we make others feel?

As you try out new ways to express your style and your sense of gender, I encourage you to communicate with the people close to you and those you see regularly about this open-ended journey you’re on and how you would like them to recognize you. You can bring up how instead of expecting you to “act like a girl,” they can just trust how you feel about something and support the decisions you make about your body and your life. If they are more concerned about you failing your gender assignment, please don’t feel pressured and always prioritize your own safety and wellbeing. There are many LGBTQ+ organizations and spaces for youth, online and in-person, that you can turn to for support or just to talk. Let yourself be curious and kind to your heart, body and mind.

Don’t forget to check out other responses in our Gender Identity category.


Thank you for stopping by and you’re welcome back anytime. 🙂

Zed from AlterHéros