When learning about gender-affirming language, it’s important to embrace objectivity and openness. And though you may be looking for a super clean and concise definition of what it means to be transfeminine, it’s unfortunately not that easy.
That’s because being transfeminine means different things to different people, says Chris Bright (she / he / they), director of public training at The Trevor Project.
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“Depending on who you are and how you identify, you will use the term ‘transfeminity’ or ‘transfeminine’ in different ways,” they add. While some transfeminine people may consider themselves transwomen (aka someone assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman), others may consider themselves non-binary people, genderqueer people, or any other gender identity.
Generally speaking though, being transfeminine is used to describe someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) and identifies with femininity.
And for many transfeminine individuals, “it feels most authentic to express their gender in a more ‘feminine’ space,” says Bright. This means that they may express their gender more “femininely” based off of their hairstyle, clothes, and makeup preferences.
What does it mean to be transfeminine?
As stated previously, transfemininity is a term that describes someones assigned male at birth who identities with femininity or aspects of femininity. While they may be a transwoman, identifying with transfemininity doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a transwoman or wants to seek gender affirming treatments.
Non-binary people, intersex people, or anyone that identifies as transgender can identify as transfeminine too. And someone does not need to identify as 100 percent feminine or 100 percent woman to identify on the transfeminine spectrum.
It’s also helpful to note that “transfeminine” can be used as an adjective or descriptor and a noun. In other words, someone can be a transfeminine non-binary person and / or someone can be a transfemme.
A common misconception about transfeminine people — and really, transgender people in general — is that they all “transition” or choose to undergo gender affirming treatments. However, many trans people never choose gender affirming treatments, and navigate their gender on more of a spectrum than a binary.
Bright shares that because we do live in such a gendered world, trans people may embrace more commonplace terminology like “woman” or “feminine” to navigate the world a little easier. “While socially constructed concepts of gender do not apply to everybody, they still do exist in the world,” Bright says.
What does transfemininity look like?
As Bright shares, some people who identify as transfeminine may express their gender in more “stereotypically feminine” ways, like wearing dresses or makeup. However, Bright explains that’s imperative to remember that not all transfeminine people express themselves like this. Transfeminine people can present in whatever way makes them feel safe and comfortable, and can still enjoy more “stereotypically masculine” things.
In addition to things like clothes or makeup, some transfeminine people may use she / her pronouns and enjoy gendered language like “Hey lady!” However, not every transfeminine person uses she / her pronouns or feels comfortable with terms like “lady” or “girlie.” As always, it’s best to just ask for pronouns before assuming.
Signs that you are transfeminine
Because gender expression and identity is so individual, there are no tell-tale signs that you or someone you love is transfeminine.
But if you are someone that was assigned male at birth (or who otherwise didn’t get to embrace or express femininity), and you feel excited or drawn to it, it could mean you are transfeminine.
Again, Bright adds that there is no list of rules or requirements to identify a certain way because what it means to be a woman or to be “feminine” is constantly evolving. In this case, think about whether you feel comfort or identify with what femininity means to you.
The difference between transfemininity, sexual orientation, transmasculinity, non-binary, and demigirl
First off, let me remind you that transfemininity is a gender identity, which is different than someone’s sexual orientation. “A lot of times folks use sexual orientation and gender identity in interchangeable ways or think they mean the same thing, but that’s not how that works,” Bright says.
“Gender identity is specifically related to how you express your identity and how you identify at a core level. Sexual orientation is about romantic, physical, and emotional attraction. ” They are not contingent upon one another.
Transfeminine people can be gay, straight, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation.
Now that we’ve broken that down, let’s get into some of the differences between transfemininity and other gender identities.
As you could assume, transmasculinity is pretty much the opposite of transfemininity. It is used to describe someone assigned female at birth who identifies on the spectrum of masculinity, says Andy Duran, (he / him), educator director for Good Vibrations. While some transmasculine people may be transmen, (people assigned female at birth who identify as men), others may be non-binary, intersex, or genderqueer.
Non-binary people identify outside the male-female gender binary, meaning they don’t identify as men or women period, according to The Trevor Project. However, if a non-binary person identifies with femininity, they may identify as a transfeminine, non-binary person.
A demigirl is generally someone who identifies with some aspects of femininity, or who partially identifies as a woman, Katherin Winnick, sex coach at LetsTalkSex.net previously told Cosmo. While many demigirls are assigned female at birth people that don’t fully identify as women, there are assigned male at birth demigirls as well.
Like most LGBTQ + terms, demigirl means different things to different people. A female assigned at birth demigirl may use it to signal that they identify more with masculinity, while a male assigned at birth demigirl may use it to signal they identify with more femininity. Someone can identify as a transfeminine demigirl.
How to find community as a transfeminine person
If you’re starting to explore your own gender identity or if you’re looking for a more affirming community, Bright suggests looking for online resources like The Trevor Project or TrevorSpace. Additionally, there are a number of Facebook groups to look for trans fashion and support like Non-Binary / Trans Makeup and Fashion, Transfeminine Connection, or Trans Women & Transfeminine Folks Support.
“There are local community resources, things like LGBT centers, or your school may have a gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) – those are great places where hopefully you are able to connect in a safe environment, ”Bright says. “If you don’t have those resources in your community, that doesn’t mean you don’t have options, the online community is really accessible and really vibrant and affirming.”
On Instagram, hashtags like #transfemme, #transfeminine, and #transfeminsmo are all popular, and can connect you with other affirming people. The transfeminine flag is similar to the transgender flag of blue, pink, and white, though it’s seven lines instead of five, and a lighter pink where the white is.
How to be a better ally
To be a good ally — which really just means being a good person — remember to respect people’s pronouns and name changes. While you should be asking for someone’s pronouns (and it is encouraged to do so), do not ask someone what gender they are or how they identify.
When meeting someone new, you can simply ask, “What are your pronouns?” or you can share your pronouns when giving your name, making the space for others to do the same.
Bright also suggests being a good listener and making it clear that you support them unconditionally. “Unquestionably affirming someone’s gender identity is key to supporting them,” Bright says. “Send the message to them that you will always have their back and always be there for them.”
Also, because transwomen face the highest rates of violence against queer people, transfeminine people have to prioritize their safety. This means that a lot of transfeminine people may not be safe to express themselves in ways that feel authentic to them.
So to be an active ally, ask your favorite shops and bars about their bathroom and fitting room policies, and encourage them to be safer for trans people.
Lastly, if someone comes out to you as transfeminine, make sure not to “out” them or tell other people. Ask them directly what you can do to support them. Everyone has different needs and expectations from their allies.
Griffin Wynne Griffin is a queer writer and artist currently living in Philadelphia, PA.
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