What Does It Mean To Identify as Transmasculine?

Learn how to be an ally.

Whether you're in the process of figuring out your own gender identity or want to be a better ally for someone who doesn't identify with the sex they've been assigned at birth, it helps to familiarize yourself with different LGBTQ+ identities and expressions. Transmasculine (or transmasc) is a term used for those who were assigned female at birth and whose gender identity or expression (or both) is masculine but not necessarily male.

"This term includes non-binary people, gender fluid people, genderqueer people—anyone assigned female at birth whose gender falls in the more masculine range," Jo Eckler, PsyD, Texas-based licensed clinical psychologist and author of I Can't Fix You—Because You're Not Broken, told Health.

Trans men, gender nonconforming individuals (GNC), and non-binary people may also identify as transmasculine.

Transgender vs. Transmasculine

It's important to note the distinction between a trans man and being transmasculine. "The term transgender is often used as an umbrella term that encompasses anyone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth," said Eckler. "So trans men and transmasculine people are both transgender."

Further, transmasculinity is about an affiliation with the masculine side of the gender spectrum. In other words, you can be masculine but not identify as a male. Likewise, you can physically transition to a more masculine state without identifying as a male.

"What matters is how that person identifies, whether or not they choose to express it outwardly," said Eckler.

Societal Views of Transmasculinity

Transmasculine people are often overlooked in the discussion about the trans experience for assorted reasons, Kristen Martinez, an LGBTQ+ affirmative counselor at Pacific NorthWell in Seattle, told Health.

"Some of this probably stems from the fact that our society tends to be more tolerant and less policing of masculine expression than of feminine expression," said Martinez. "Think about it: It is much more alarming and subversive when an assigned male at birth child plays with stereotypically feminine objects than when an assigned female at birth child plays with stereotypically masculine objects. The word 'tomboy' speaks to this."

Then there's the fact that mainstream society in the U.S. is set up with a binary view of gender: male or female.

"It's taken a lot of time and effort to get recognition even for binary trans men and trans women (i.e., transgender people whose gender is fully male or fully female)," said Eckler. "As humans, we tend to like simple categories, and it takes more energy to recognize all the many, many ways gender can be experienced and expressed. Thus, anything outside the binary often gets overlooked." Transmasculine people can be outside that binary view of gender.

Another problem is that our culture mixes up and combines sexual orientation with gender identity and expression, meaning transmasculine people face erasure from the narrative of trans identities and liberation.

"They can be harmfully 'read' as butch lesbian women, thus rendering their actual identities invisible," said Martinez. "Transmasculine people may suffer emotional fallout from family, friends, and support systems who are not affirming and responsive to their needs."

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Issues That Transmasculine People Face

Transmasculine people face many of the same issues other transgender people do, such as discrimination, the risk of violence and hate crimes, and possible rejection by family. They can also face other challenges.

Access to Healthcare

Healthcare access is one issue transmasculine individuals routinely confront. "People still don't understand that transmasculine people may menstruate, may have ovaries, need Pap smears, ob-gyn visits, etc.," said Martinez. Gender-affirming health care—including hormone therapy, surgeries, and other treatments—are extremely expensive and often not covered by insurance companies. "And if they are, require a tremendous amount of structural gatekeeping by the medical and mental health communities," Martinez added.

Increased Risk of Mental Health Conditions

People who are transmasculine are at an increased risk of issues with their mental health, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation and behavior

One study found that 50% of transmasculine kids had attempted suicide. One of the causes of distress among transmasculine youth is chest dysphoria, the discomfort or distress caused by unwanted breast development. Another study found that masculinizing chest surgery can help alleviate dysphoria.

Lack of Legal Documentation for Their Gender Identity

Individuals outside the gender binary also have to deal with the lack of third-gender or non-binary options for gender on documents like driver's licenses. That means they frequently have to explain their pronouns or gender if they want to be viewed and addressed accurately and validly.

"Some people have an incorrect belief that non-binary people are indecisive or are binary trans people who haven't been brave enough to admit it yet—which is not true, of course," said Eckler.

How To Support the Transmasculine Community

Being an ally is one way to help those who identify as transmasculine. An ally is "someone who is actively supportive of LGBTQ+ people" and advocates on the community's behalf.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) provides a guide for people who want to become an ally for LGBTQ+ people. The guide includes information on how to start an open dialogue, ways to show support, and other resources.

Learn More

Educating yourself on LGBTQ+ identities can also be helpful. For example, one article discussed the creation of the Gender Embodiment Scale: Transmasculine Spectrum—a tool that would help clinicians have better knowledge of transmasculine individuals in relation to their:

  • Physical presentation
  • Personal mannerisms
  • The way they interact with others

Elevate Transmasculine Stories

Martinez and Eckler agreed that the narratives of transmasculine people need to be front and center to validate the non-binary community and foster healing. Elevating these stories also helps those struggling to identify role models and connect with people similar to themselves. But we can all benefit from taking the time to listen, acknowledge, and understand.

"The more we can celebrate the vast variety of gender expressions and identities that exist, the more interesting, diverse, and rich our culture becomes," said Eckler.

A Quick Review

Transmasculine people are people who were assigned female at birth and their gender identity and/or expression are masculine but not necessarily male. Transmasc people are often overlooked since our society tends to have a binary view of gender.

Transmasculine people face issues relating to accessing healthcare, negative mental health effects, and a lack of validation from legal documents. This makes it even more important to become an ally. If you want to support LGBTQ+ people, educate yourself and elevate LGBTQ+ stories.

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5 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Merriam-Webster. Transmasculine.

  2. Mehringer JE, Harrison JB, Quain KM, Shea JA, Hawkins LA, Dowshen NL. Experience of chest dysphoria and masculinizing chest surgery in transmasculine youth. Pediatrics. 2021;147(3):e2020013300. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-013300

  3. Toomey RB, Syvertsen AK, Shramko M. Transgender adolescent suicide behaviorPediatrics. 2018;142(4):e20174218 doi:10.1542/peds.2017-4218

  4. The Human Rights Campaign. Glossary of terms.

  5. DuBois LZ, Puckett JA, Langer SJ. Development of the gender embodiment scale: trans masculine spectrum. Transgender Health. 2022;7(4):287-291. doi:10.1089/trgh.2020.0088

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