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103. When you can’t tell if someone is male or female

Some people just look neutral.

And that’s awkward.

I was thinking about looking up some pictures to show you guys what I mean, but then I decided that doing so would be a little mean. I can’t remember how many times this has happened to me and my friends.. but every single time it happens, we all share a “look”. It is a little like the look two friends share when someone attractive walks into the room. Except the I-don’t-know-if-that’s-a-girl look is more of a confused/I’m-about-to-laugh look.

It is understandable if we can’t tell the gender of babies, but as an adult its just weird.

I was sitting in my dorm room in college when a friend and a group of random people stepped in to hang out. One of those random people looked, err.. confusing and that person was standing by the door next to a definite girl. As another friend arrived and worked his way through both of them, he said:

Excuse me ladies,”

That’s when me and someone shared “The Look”.

To make it a little more awkward, another friend (yes, it got a little crowded), stepped in and he turned the definite girl and said “Hey, how are you?” and then turned to the confusing person and said..

Hey dude, how’s it going?”

Whoa! There is no way I was the only one to catch that.

Well in the end, we didn’t figure it out because we assumed it would be a little too rude to ask anybody and to top it off, his or her name was neutral (Jamie) and so was his or her voice! I never saw Jamie again.. but if any of you college people are reading this (if you’re Jamie.. uhh, oops.) and remember this, please settle this for me.

Awkward indeed.



  1. I know what you mean. Sometimes I have a very difficult time telling the difference. It’s not like all girls wear only dresseandre only dudes wear pants.

    December 7, 2011
  2. Even more awkward: Knowing someone is a girl, seeing them again four years after college and thinking they’re a boy.

    December 8, 2011
  3. Exodus #

    how about when you can’t tell if someone is male or female on the phone?

    when i was a teaching assistant for a language centre, i had to call the parents every month to report their children’s progress. there was this parent who i couldn’t tell if he/she was my student’s dad or mum. i had their names but it was a genderless name. i thought it was the mother. also based on the voice on the phone, i was absolutely sure i was talking to her mum all the time. 8 months later, i found out it was the father i had been talking to all along. the awkwardness was unbearable when i found out that, as i had been addressing him as Mrs. and ma’am.


    December 8, 2011
    • Haha!! Yes, this happens to me too! I’m the worst at trying to figure out if neutral people are male or female. In fact, one day at work a couple of months ago, I was speaking to someone for quite a while and said, “Okay, as soon as we have the complete amount of information, I’ll let you know, Ma’am”…only to hear on the other end, “Uh…I’m a man.”

      So awkward.

      Another great post, Edwin! 🙂

      December 8, 2011
  4. Yeah. I even have to know if it’s a “he” or “she” when I meet a dog or cat! Gender is THAT important. Crazy but true. Good observation and great post!

    December 8, 2011
  5. LMAO I don’t think that this has ever happened to me that I remember, but talk about awkward! Kind of reminds me of the thinking someone is pregnant and they’re not situation!

    December 8, 2011
  6. I see you are still alive .

    December 13, 2011
  7. I have done that! WITH TEENAGERS! Ack! Like they need another complex!

    December 14, 2011
  8. critters and crayons #

    Oops! That last comment from Katie’s Fighters was actually from Critters and Crayons- Wrong log-in…. ugh.

    December 14, 2011
  9. critters and crayons #

    Hilarious, by the way. I can’t believe I did that to teenagers! Poor boys.

    December 14, 2011
  10. This happens to me a lot with babies. I’m screwed if they’re not wearing blue or pink.

    December 15, 2011
  11. Woman #

    And then you live in China when women don’t have tata’s and look like teenaged boys and the men look like teenagers…. You’ve no idea if they are a man or a woman. Leads to embarrassing situations!!!

    December 20, 2011
  12. Some individuals, themselves, are struggling with their gender identity.

    In today’s world, I’ve had to work with someone I just knew was male at birth, but was living their life as a woman. Of course, I couldn’t be certain of this. Maybe she was really a very robust, unattractive woman…very tall, with wide shoulders, and huge boots she wore every day, big hands, adams apple, and I’m guessing breast implants. I could never be certain of her identity and it made trips to the ladies room a tad awkward. Not necessarily for me, but for her. She’d always walk out if someone was in there. I overheard her complaining to a buddy about other ladies that went frequently. (me being one of them- damn kids ruin ya) “There’s always someone in there.” Further solidifying my suspicions…or maybe she was a freak over privacy. Let’s just put it this way, I’d never ask her for a spare woman’s product. THAT would be really awkward “Um…I don’t have that issue. Sorry.” and I’d probably get a weird look as if to say “dontcha know?”

    December 21, 2011
  13. Anonymous #

    ok well not everyone identifies as either male or female. there are people who identify as neither, somewhere in between, etc. so therefore you can’t just assume that they fall into the gender binary.

    March 5, 2013
  14. Anonymous #

    Once at Boy Scout camp there was a boy with super long blond flowing hair and a not so masculine face. There were also Girl Scouts at this camp so that just made our quest more difficult. You couldn’t tell his grinder what so ever, so we followed him around all week trying to figure out what he was. On the last day of camp one of the scouts from our troop went up and asked him ” Are you a boy or girl because I really can’t tell?” The boy had a break down screaming things like ” I’m a boy, damnit. ” in the end we felt so bad for asking him but we just had to, being the dumb 12 year olds we were.

    April 15, 2014

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