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Non-Binary, Other, Trans*

What Does Transmasculine and Transfeminine Mean?

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With an expanding vocabulary of gender labels, it’s tough to know what each of them means.

However, labels give names to things we might be experiencing, but not necessarily aware of. So if you’re questioning your gender, it’s nice to put a label to what you’re feeling to put those feelings to rest.

That’s where the terms transmasculine and transfeminine come in. These labels build nuance on the transgender identity, but what do they mean? And how do they differ from being a transman and transwoman?

We’ve got the answers.

Definitions

(I’ll give the standard caveat before we begin: the following definitions are one-size-fits-most, not all. These labels help build someone’s gender vocabulary and knowledge of how people can identify. These labels are not set in stone. They’re subjective to the user’s personal experience.)

Let’s start with the words “transmasculine” and “transfeminine” themselves. The prefix, “trans-,” means “across” or “on the other side of.”

So with the original term “transgender” means someone who identifies on the other side of the gender binary. The individual moved “across” genders. Sounds good so far? 

Transgender woman

Cool. So if you’re born a man (re: assigned male at birth, or AMAB), and you identify as a woman, you are a transgender woman, or transwoman.

Transgender man

Same thing goes if you were assigned female at birth (AFAB) and identify as a man. You’re a transgender man. Transman.

But sometimes transmen and women don’t see themselves on the gender binary. They can like presenting physically as male or female but not identify as either. 

Transmasculine

So let’s say an AFAB person wants to take testosterone, change their name, do some gender-confirming surgery, but they still feel uncomfortable being called “sir,” “dude,” or “bro.

This person would be transmasculine, since they identify with masculinity more than femininity, but do not want to be perceived as wholly male.

Transfeminine

A transfeminine person is the feminine equivalent of this. An AMAB person who identifies more with femininity than masculinity, but does not wish to be seen as totally female or “woman.”

Thus, transmasculine and transfeminine people are transgender folks (re: don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth) who exist outside the gender binary. They’re in that gray non-binary space between man and woman. They do not identify as their assigned gender at birth (male or female), and may seek physical or social transition without identifying as solely male/female. 

Okay, but doesn’t this sound like another gender label?

You’re right! Being transmasculine/transfeminine sounds a lot like being a demiboy/demigirl.

These identities fall under the demigender umbrella. Going back to the word itself, “demi” means half. You’re half of a gender, half something else. Or nothing else.

So a demiboy is an individual who feels mostly male. They can identify as another gender, or as no other gender at all. An example of someone saying this is that they’re “mostly a guy.”

A demigirl is someone who feels mostly female, identifying as another gender or no gender at all. So a demigirl can be female sometimes, agender another time, and feel “mostly like a girl.”  

This article from the nonbinary wikia describes the types of demigenders. 

What’s the difference between transmasc/transfem and demiboy/demigirl?

Honestly, there’s not a huge difference between the two, since demiboy/demigirl and transmasc/transfem signify which direction you’re pointing to on the gender spectrum. They are for people who feel uncomfortable calling themselves a “woman” or “man,” but don’t consider themselves the opposite gender either. They’re more non-binary than binary, but still gravitate towards a gender. 

However, the “trans” in transmasc and transfem implies that the individual may do something to masculize or feminize themself, such as changing their name or pronouns. A demigender, conversely, is an intrinsic feeling one has and may not lead to masculinization or feminization.

Sometimes it can, though. People can pair their demigender identity with transfeminine one, undergoing HRT and gender-confirming surgery. 

At the end of the day, it all goes down to individual choice as to how you identify. 

What’s the difference between transmasc/transfem, demigirl/demiguy, and identifying as a transgender man or transgender woman?

There are some distinctions:

    • Transmasculinity and transfemininity is about an affiliation with a certain side of the gender spectrum. You can be masculine but not male, feminine without female. You can physically transition to a more feminine/masculine state without identify as that gender.
  • Transgender folk, however, will mostly transition as another gender in the binary. So you’ll hear the narrative, “man transitions to woman,” “woman transitions to man,” “MtF,” “FtM.” So there’s more of an adherence to the gender binary.

It’s like rectangles and squares. All squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares. Transgender women are transfeminine, but not all transfeminine folk are transgender, in that they identify as a woman.

Again, these aren’t strict definitions.

Other ways you can be transmasculine or transfeminine

Pulling from this gender wikia, you can be transmasculine if you identify as:

  • Trans male / a transman
  • Demiguys
  • Multigender with a masculine identity being the strongest one
  • Gender fluid people who are masculine most often
  • Any other non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly masculine
  • Someone born female but feel detached to their feminine parts (bodily, social, mental), opting to present more masculinely without identifying as straight up male.

Transfemininity can refer to:

    • Trans women
    • Demigirls
    • Multigender people who identify as female more than other genders
    • Genderfluid and demifluid people who are feminine more often than other genders.
  • Any other non-binary person who identify as feminine more often than other genders. 

Summary:

Transmasculine describes people who were assigned female at birth but identify with masculinity more than femininity. Transmasculine people may try to appear stereotypically masculine to induce social recognition of their masculinity, but may not identify as male.

Transfeminine describes people who were assigned male at birth but identify with femininity more so than masculinity. They may try to appear stereotypically feminine to induce social recognition of their femininity, but may not identify as female. 

Other great sources to check out:

Stacy Fatemi

Stacy describes her experience discovering that they’re not female but non-binary.

A great quote (paraphrased)

  • “I don’t know. I guess I had to be in this body to come to terms with it, cause I knew what I wanted to look like, but I guess it just took me longer to realize what my gender was. I’ve been struggling with this issue [for a while], and I’ve been really reluctant to show any confusion or doubt on any of my social media, because I know that the second I do I know I’m going to get a bunch of TERFs or transphobes just jumping at me and saying, ‘Aha! We knew it! You’re just a confused man!’ […] I actually always tell people who are transfeminine that it will take them a long time, usually, to figure out the kind of woman they are. I guess, in my case, I realized I wasn’t a woman at all.”

I love Stacy’s content because she explains what it’s like being a butch transfeminine non-binary. I feel like the standard narrative for trans AMAB folks is to become super super feminine, so it’s refreshing to see someone say, “No, I’m not a hyperfeminine person but I am still just as valid.” Check out their channel for more stuff!

Raffi Marhaba

Raffi offers a great video defining transmasculinity and how they personally identify as a transmasculine person.

A great quote they said:

  • “When it comes to my gender expression, I want to bring it towards the male side of the gender spectrum. That’s why I’m scheduled for top surgery and hormone therapy. But my gender identity, how I identify inside…is non-binary, meaning I don’t identify [as male or female]. But in my soul, I am definitely a woman. So I completely identify with the struggles of being a woman, my identity politics is woman, and so on.”

So Raffi wants to be present as and be regarded as male, but still identifies with feminity and female issues. They show how complex gender expression and identities can be!

Cool sites to learn more about transmasculinity/transfemininity:

    • This article on Kate Bornstein, a self-described “nonbinary, transfeminine, BDSM diesel dyke tranny.” The attached video describes their childhood and realizing they were neither male or female. Kate’s (amazing) personal website is here.
  • Sabah Choudrey’s experience as a transmasculine person going to a barbershop. It’s a quick, insightful read.

Thanks for reading! As always, I hope this helped.

I love you. So much. 

– MK

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