It's not uncommon for me to be mistaken as a boy. During my high school years, it mostly happened on the weekends and summers, when I wasn't forced to wear a skirt for school. Now, it happens a little less often, which can probably be attributed to my new glasses being a little more feminine than my old pair.
Humans are nosy, and we all have implicit biases — if that person is wearing a skirt, they must be a girl, for example — which is a combination that can lead to some awkward situations. I often see people assume a baby or a dog's gender, and then get apologetic when corrected. I don't usually see people get apologetic when they misgender a teenager or adult. Instead, they always just look uncomfortable and gloss over it with a quick subject change.
I believe this is because when people look at a teenager or adult, they have ideas that reign true in their minds about what that gender should look like. Girls have long hair and delicate features, wide hips, nail polish. Boys have short hair and rugged faces, buff arms, reek of cologne. When these ideas that they see as fact are tested, or even proved wrong altogether — this boy is wearing nail polish, that girl wears cologne — people are uncomfortable.
This doesn't usually happen for dogs and babies I find, probably because they usually look genderless. People usually decide on a baby's gender based on the colors of the clothes it's wearing. For dogs, the color of the collar is usually a giveaway. But if the baby or dog is wearing a neutral color, people are more likely to be accepting that they were wrong.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand what someone's gender is just by looking at them. They might have long hair and a delicate face, but a typically masculine body and "boy clothes." In cases like these, where you want to avoid offending someone, it's best to tell them your pronouns. That way, they know you're okay with knowing theirs. It's also less rude than just asking what gender they are.
But sometimes, the question of what gender they are can have an answer that you don't understand.
Gender is a spectrum, and there are many gender identities; however, there are also many cases where people don't have a gender at all. This is called being agender.
The way it works is this: Transgender is an umbrella term meaning that your gender is different from your sex assigned at birth. Nonbinary falls under transgender of course, and it means that your gender does not fall on the standard binary of "boy" or "girl." Nonbinary houses many other gender identities, including agender.
Agender, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means "denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a particular gender." Often, instead of identifying with agender, people will simply use nonbinary as their identity. It can feel easier to explain to some, and others just like the safety of not having a label that's too specific.
Being agender can be a challenge. Many agender people feel the need to dress androgynously so that they don't have their identity questioned by people who try to force them into one box. Others do enjoy wearing dresses or dressing in a more masculine style, but that doesn't take away their identity of being agender. Gender presentation is different from gender itself, and if an agender person wants to wear makeup, more power to them. I definitely can't. Makeup is one art I haven't learned yet.
There’s a stereotype that agender people are all androgynous, thin, white people, probably with dyed and shaved hair. Obviously, not every agender person will fit into that mold.
Agender people are also often asked about their “real gender.” Questions asking about their genitals often come up, which is rude and gross. You shouldn’t ask anybody about that; the fact that you want to know in order to make yourself feel better by connecting them to a gender they aren’t doesn’t matter.
May 19 is agender pride day, so if you know an agender person, maybe get them candy or a hug on that day and celebrate with them.
And if you know me, my favorite candy is anything chocolate.