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A trans man is a man who was assigned female at birth. The label of transgender man is not always interchangeable with that of transsexual man, although the two labels are often used in this way. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes different types of gender variant people (including transsexual people). Many trans men choose to undergo surgical or hormonal transition, or both (see sex reassignment therapy), to alter their appearance in a way that aligns with their gender identity or alleviates gender dysphoria.
Although the literature indicates that most trans men identify as heterosexual (meaning they are sexually attracted to women), trans men, like cisgender men, can have any sexual orientation or sexual identity, and some trans men might consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them, in which case they may elect to use labels like queer.
The term trans man is used as a short form for either identity (transsexual man and transgender man). This is commonly referred to as female-to-male (FTM or F2M). Transgender man is an umbrella term that may include anybody who was assigned female at birth (AFAB), but identifies as male. For instance, some androgynous, bigender, and genderqueer people might identify as transgender. Because transgender is an umbrella term, it can be imprecise and does not always describe specific identities and experiences. Transmasculine is a general, broader term for individuals who were AFAB but identify closer to the masculine (or male) side of the gender spectrum.
The term transsexual originated in the medical and psychological communities. However, unlike the term transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as such. Transsexual is a term for AFAB and assigned male at birth (AMAB) people alike who feel their sex organs do not reflect their gender and have chosen to change some aspect of their body; it is an older term, with GLAAD stating that it is "still preferred by some people who have permanently changed – or seek to change – their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries)." The transgender community sometimes uses the term passing to describe a transgender person's ability to appear as the gender they identify with. The opposite meaning is conveyed by the terms "to be read" or "to be clocked", and means not passing.
Originally, the term trans men referred specifically to female-to-male transsexual people who underwent hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or sex reassignment surgery (SRS), or both. The definition of transition has broadened to include theories of psychological development or complementary methods of self-acceptance. Many of those who identify as transgender may face gender dysphoria.
Transsexual and transgender men may seek medical interventions such as hormones and surgery to make their bodies as congruent as possible with their gender presentation. However, many transgender and transsexual men cannot afford or choose not to undergo surgery or hormone replacement therapy.
Many who have not undergone top surgery choose to bind their breasts. There are a few different methods of binding, including using sports bras and specially made binders (which can be vest-type, or wrap-around style). Tape or bandages are often depicted in popular culture.
Some trans men might also decide to pack, to create a phallic bulge in the crotch of clothing. However, this is not universal. Trans men who decide to pack may use anything from rolled up socks to specially made packers, which resemble a penis. Some packers are also created for trans men to be able to urinate through them (stand-to-pee, or STP, devices), or for sexual penetration or other sexual activity (known as "pack-and-play").
Transitioning might involve some or all of the following steps:
- Social transition: using a preferred name and pronouns, wearing clothing seen as gender appropriate, disclosure to family, friends and usually at the workplace/school.
- Sex reassignment therapy: hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and/or surgery (SRS)
- Legal affirmation: name and (sometimes) sex marker correction in legal identification documents.
Being socially accepted as male (sometimes known as passing) may be challenging for trans men who have not undergone HRT and/or surgery. Some trans men may choose to present as female in certain social situations (e.g. at work). After physical transition, trans men usually live full-time as male. However, some transmasculine individuals might choose to use and engage their bodies to be pregnant, birth a baby, and breastfeed.
Prevalence, identity and relationships
In the United States, the ratio of trans men within the general population is unclear, but estimates range between 1:2,000 and 1:100,000. A U.S. Census Bureau study in 2015 suggests that there were around 58,000 name changes in census records consistent with female to male transitions although only 7,500 of these changed their sex coding as well.
In a study by Kara Devaney, entitled Transgender Research Literature Review, it is addressed that the term transgender encompasses a myriad of different and unique identities that do not follow the "normal" rules of gender. Miriam J. Abelson writes, "There is no question that trans men's experiences are men's experiences and give insight about men, masculinity, and gender inequality."
A trans man may have any sexual orientation or sexual identity, and some trans men consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The literature commonly indicates that sexual attraction to those of their same gender (e.g., trans men liking men and trans women liking women) is considerably less common among trans men than among trans women; the vast majority of trans men are reported as heterosexual. Surveys from the National Center for Transgender Equality show more variation in sexual orientation or sexual identity among trans men. In NCTE's 2015 Transgender Survey of respondents who identified as trans men, 23% identified as heterosexual or straight. The vast majority (65%) identified their sexual orientation or sexual identity as queer (24%), pansexual (17%), bisexual (12%), or gay/same-gender loving (12%).
Some trans men date heterosexual women, while other trans men date queer-identified women; the latter might be because queer-identified women are less invested in the gender and sexual anatomy of a person when it comes to selecting an intimate partner. It is also common for trans men to have histories with the lesbian community or to feel that they identify better with that community because of its wide acceptance of gender variance, with a number of trans men having identified as lesbian (often as a "butch lesbian") before realizing that they are instead transgender.
Trans men have less success integrating socially within cisgender gay men's communities, which tend to be more body-focused, especially in terms of being phallocentric. Yitzchak et al. state that, as a result, they more commonly see gay trans men partnering with each other than with cisgender gay men. There are, however, cases of women being likelier than men to thoroughly question trans men about their motivations for modifying their bodies.
Some scholars argue against assumptions that trans men are predominantly heterosexual and usually have lesbian histories. In scholars Ian Irving and Rupert Raj's book Trans Activism in Canada, researchers state, "There is still a common misperception that trans men are largely heterosexual amongst those who conflate gender identity and sexual orientation. It is frequently assumed that trans men are exclusively attracted to women and have lesbian histories prior to transition." They add, "Recent data from the Trans PULSE project (Bauer, Redman, Bradley, & Scheim, 2013) challenge this assumption, with 63 percent of female-to-male spectrum trans people in Ontario reporting non-heterosexual identities and/or past-year sex with trans or non-trans men." They also argue that, based on some research, "many non-trans gay men have welcomed trans men into gay communities and have increasingly recognized trans men as potential sexual and romantic partners."
This section relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (September 2021)
Trans men can be victims of sex crimes, and there are cases where rape has occurred, including with the intention of changing the sexual expressions and/or the sexuality of trans men; this is known as corrective rape. In a 2016 Bangkok Post article, a researcher stated, "Unlike in South Africa, where homophobic rape is rampant, with increasing trends as a large number of men still want to use violence to force trans people to abandon their sexual identity, there are no official surveys or studies about this problem in Thailand. [...] Recently some video clips emerged showing the rape of trans people." Furthermore, the article told about two cases of rape of trans men in Thailand, and a claim that "it seems that quite a few people [in Thailand] would say they have heard of, or known about, such cases in their communities".
Transgender men can face discrimination as a result of their status as trans men. Such discrimination may include sexual violence.
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- Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green
- Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience by Matt Kailey
- Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities by Jason Cromwell
- FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society. by Aaron H. Devor
- Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life by Ryan Sallans
- Transman at Curlie
- Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide For Health Care Providers free ebook, ISBN 0-9773250-0-8
- TransGuys.com A magazine for trans men
- FTM International An organization serving the female-to-male trans community.
- Original Plumbing magazine Quarterly magazine with online component focusing on culture and diversity in the trans male community.