Ugla is standing in front of a house, with their long brown hair over one side of their shoulder, wearing a white top, with a large colourful chest tattoo on show
It is misogyny and patriarchy at its core (Picture: Sharon Kilgannon)

I am perceived as a woman everywhere I go and by everyone I meet in real life.

Whether that’s by strangers on the street, the doctor, going through security at the airport, in clothing shops, grocery stores, or on the train. It’s especially so when I’m catcalled on the street by men, or sexually harassed at concerts or other public events.

So it’s laughable to me when people – almost exclusively keyboard warriors online – say that ‘you can always tell’ when someone is transgender, which is usually meant as an insult.

But often, that’s just not always the case, and it leans heavily on stereotypes about people’s looks and bodies. In fact, the idea that you can ‘always tell’ is rooted in transphobia, and it needs to be called out as such.

As a very public trans person, I quite regularly share positive experiences I’ve had and how my friends, family, and the people around me support me for who I am.

I also share thoughts about trans rights at large, as well as positive stories about the solidarity between inclusive organisations and women’s organisations in Iceland – where I’m from. 

As a result, I get my share of negative comments and abuse on social media

For the most part, it’s always the same things – people belittling my identity, discrediting my experiences of discrimination and prejudice, or even threatening me. While it might’ve once affected me and my mental health, I now just feel pity for those who do it.

But now, it feels like there’s an explosion of the tired ‘you can always tell’ jibes.

What it means, in short, is that these online trolls are convinced you can ‘always tell’ someone is trans by the way they look – that people are either too tall or too short, their hands are too big, or too small, or that their pelvic bone structure or Adam’s apple is prominent.

Obviously both trans people and cis people come in all shapes and sizes, so many of these ‘standards’ are quite arbitrary and end up including plenty of people who aren’t trans under the criteria. 

It seems to me that they are so consumed by their hatred and prejudice for trans people that they cannot fathom other people supporting and loving us

So whenever I, or other trans people, share positive stories of acceptance or experiences where it was obvious people don’t know we were trans, the trolls start commenting that that’s not possible because you can ‘always tell’.

On the few occasions that I do engage with these people, I just reiterate my point and tell them that their ‘opinion’ of a real life situation they have no insight into is irrelevant. I know my lived experience, and no amount of online abuse or theorising is going to change that.

Alongside this, apparently loved ones are ‘just being nice’ to trans people when they treat us with respect and use our correct pronouns.

According to these trolls, my ‘family is lying’ to me to ‘keep the peace’, and that everyone always knows I’m trans wherever I go – it’s only because of ‘make-up and filters’ that I can ‘pass as a woman’, and that I’d never leave the house with no make-up and joggers.

None of that is true, and I marvel at people’s confidence to make things up in order to try and hurt me. My family fully supports me, and my wardrobe is probably 90% made up of comfortable clothes and jumpsuits. In fact, I hate wearing make-up and certainly don’t use filters that change my physical appearance online. I have no need for it.

Thankfully, I’ve developed a tough exterior and I am able to brush it off. But this narrative still seems to permeate into just about every discussion about trans lives and their lived experiences.

Ugla sitting on steps in front of a yellow house door, wearing red lipstick, a black t-shirt and looking to camera
According to these trolls, my ‘family is lying’ to me (Picture: Sharon Kilgannon)

In my experience, those that resort to this sort of behaviour are people who are usually deeply transphobic and hold very hostile views towards people like me. It puzzles me what they get out of it, but I can’t help but feel these people must be so deeply sad and consumed by their bigotry that they don’t see how ridiculous they are.

My family and friends fully support who I am, and couldn’t be more delighted to call me their friend, sister, daughter, auntie and niece. 

To them, it couldn’t be more natural because they see that this is who I’ve always been, and how much happier I am now that I don’t have to suppress who I am.

So some random person online saying I ‘shouldn’t be allowed’ couldn’t mean less to me, as it’s my parents’ opinion that is the only one that matters. I am their daughter, and no one will take that away from us – regardless of what people think.

I often wonder what has driven these people to a place in their life where they spend their time online abusing complete strangers, as well as obsessively stalking them on social media.

It seems to me that they are so consumed by their hatred and prejudice for trans people that they cannot fathom other people supporting and loving us. So they come up with all sorts of things to say to try and cling onto their misguided views in their online echo chambers.

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Platform is the home of's first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.

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And finally, an anonymous bridesmaid recounts being subjected to constant demands by her bridezilla friend. She was left ghosted and with massive bills to pay.

It truly is a tragic state of being, and I have never been in such a miserable place in my life that I’ve felt the need to try and hurt other people. I truly hope they address whatever is causing them to behave in this way, because it’s so obvious to me that they are not happy in their lives. 

This idea that you can ‘always tell’ is inherently built on binary stereotypes about people’s bodies and expression, that doesn’t only affect trans people, but anyone that doesn’t fit into these arbitrary standards.

It means that anyone can become a target of abuse as a result, and leads us down a dangerous road. I personally know many butch lesbians that regularly get accosted by people who think they are trans, simply because they don’t look like a ‘typical woman’.

It’s harmful to all of us, and the clear hyper focus towards trans women in relation to it is quite frankly misogyny and patriarchy at its core, and anyone calling themselves a feminist or someone fighting for equality should denounce such ideologies.

But the question is also: So what? So what if you could tell? Trans people still deserve respect and safety regardless, and your unwanted and unsolicited opinions about their expressions are unwanted, rude and downright creepy.

My suggestion is therefore that people get some real hobbies, and leave trans people alone

The reality is that trans people will continue existing and living their lives as themselves. 

And no matter how much abuse they hurl at me, I will continue to live my life to the fullest – safe and supported by all my family and friends and society at large.

And nothing they say can ever change that. 

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