“Transfeminine” is an umbrella term that refers to people who were assigned male at birth but identify with femininity. It’s often abbreviated as “transfem.”
Transfeminine people are people who were assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identify more with a feminine identity.
Being assigned male at birth means that, when you were born, someone declared you a male based on your genitals. It’s a more respectful alternative to saying that you were “born a man” or “biologically male.”
Transfeminine is often used to refer to:
- transgender women
- AMAB nonbinary people who identify with femininity
- AMAB demigirls (which is someone who partially identifies as a girl, woman, or feminine)
- AMAB gender-fluid people who identify with femininity, whether it’s all, most, or some of the time
- other AMAB people who identify with femininity
In other words, transfeminine is a broad term that includes a few different groups of people.
It’s not clear where the term originated, but the earliest known use of it was in a 1985 article in an issue of The TV-TS Tapestry, a magazine “for persons interested in crossdressing & transsexualism.”
In the article, Jane Nance wrote that she was uncomfortable identifying as a “transvestite” or “transexual.”
She proposed the word “transfeminine” to refer to “a male who feels like a female, strictly undefined in relation to any issue of an operation.”
Since then, the term has evolved to refer to any AMAB people who identify with femininity.
Gender roles include the behaviors, attitudes, and values that a culture expects you to have based on your gender. Gender roles vary among cultures.
In many American cultures, for example, gender roles determine:
- which gender is expected to pursue another romantically
- which gender is expected to be the breadwinner or sole provider of a household
- which gender is expected to take care of domestic duties
However, the majority of us don’t entirely conform to these gender roles.
Being transfeminine doesn’t dictate which gender roles someone does or doesn’t follow. Transfeminine people don’t always follow what’s considered “feminine” or “womanly” in their culture.
It’s really up to each person to choose what actions they take. If a transfeminine person doesn’t follow traditional female gender roles, that doesn’t mean that their gender is invalid.
No. The term is broad, and it includes both trans women and nonbinary people who identify with femininity.
In other words, you don’t have to fully identify as a woman to use the word “transfeminine.”
The word “transfeminine” is meant to be used for people who were assigned male at birth.
If someone was assigned female at birth (AFAB), they can’t be transfeminine.
Any AMAB people who identify with femininity, however, might use the term “transfeminine.”
There isn’t a “right” way to be transfeminine.
One transfeminine person might express their gender through their clothing, makeup, hairstyles, and accessories — but they don’t have to.
Transfeminine people don’t have to look or act a certain way in order for their gender to be valid. Ultimately, it’s up to them to decide what they’re comfortable with.
Some transfeminine people medically transition using hormone therapy or surgery, but not all transfeminine people do.
Somebody can be both transfeminine and nonbinary. They can also be transfeminine and gender-fluid.
However, not all nonbinary and gender-fluid people are transfeminine. Nonbinary and gender-fluid people may identify with femininity, masculinity, both, or neither.
If you’d like to learn more about possible gender identities, we have a list of 64 terms used to describe different forms of gender identity and expression.
“Transfeminine” is a broad term that applies to any AMAB person who identifies with femininity.
The term is helpful because it’s an umbrella term that describes a few different groups of people, including transgender women, feminine nonbinary people, and more.
It can be a helpful term for someone who’s exploring their identity and isn’t sure whether they’re a transgender woman or a nonbinary person who strongly identifies with femininity.
It can also be useful for those who simply identify as feminine but not specifically as a woman.
There’s no test to figure out whether you’re transfeminine. The only prerequisite is that you identify as transfeminine. But, of course, it can be difficult to figure out your identity at first.
If you’d like to explore and consider whether or not the term fits you, consider doing the following:
- Talk to transfeminine people on online forums or groups, or in person, to hear what being transfeminine means to them.
- Read about the experiences of transfeminine people and ask yourself whether you relate. Bear in mind that everyone’s experience is different.
- Consider which aspects of your gender expression or identity you consider to be transfeminine.
- Try the term out by referring to yourself as transfeminine, either out loud or in written words. You don’t need to share this with anyone if you don’t want to. Just try it and see how it feels.
- Journal about your gender. Sometimes, writing it out helps you understand it better.
This helpful article might help you figure out whether you’re transfeminine. But remember, there’s no “right” way to be transfeminine. If you identify as transfeminine, you are transfeminine.
Many people’s gender identities change and shift over time. This is OK and happens to many people. It doesn’t make your gender any less valid.
There are a few ways you can support transfeminine people:
- Educate yourself about transgender identities. This will help you understand and support them better. Reading this article is a great first step!
- Give them space to talk about their gender to you, but don’t pressure them to do so, and don’t ask prying questions. Gender can be a very personal thing. It’s important to respect boundaries when it comes to this.
- If they’ve changed their name and ask you to use different pronouns, respect this change. Don’t refer to someone as a woman if they don’t identify as such. You can learn more about this here.
- Don’t “out” them without permission. We live in a transphobic world. They might not feel safe disclosing their gender to everyone.
Above all else, ask them directly if there are any specific ways you can support them. It’s always important to come from a place of respect and kindness, and offer to support them on their own terms.
If you want to learn more about gender, there are many online resources.
- Nonbinary Wiki and Gender Wiki are wiki-type sites that include a lot of information relating to gender identities.
- Genderqueer.me has a thorough list of resources on gender identity and related topics.
- Book Riot has a great list of books about gender identity, including both fiction and nonfiction books.
- Places like TSER (Trans Student Education Resources), the National Center for Transgender Equality, and The Trevor Project all offer resources and support to transgender people.
You can also check out our list of 64 terms used to describe gender identity and expression, or our list of transgender resources, which includes links relating to identity, language, support resources, surgery, and more.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.