Are "transfeminine"/"transmasculine" the best terms to use?

-Dee Newcum     31 Mar 2012

First, what do people mean exactly by the terms "transfeminine" and "transmasculine"?

People could misinterpret "transfeminine" to mean "feminine of center", i.e. that a transfeminine person is never interested in masculine of center things. Usually that's not what people mean when people self-identify as transfeminine, but it's possible that listeners could conflate it with that.

People usually mean "transfeminine" to mean something similar to "MTF" or "AFAB" — the "feminine" part usually means "the direction I'm heading" or "this is where my identity is relative to the assumptions that people typically make about me".

But in some ways "transfeminine" could be considered just a euphemism for the terms "MTF" and "AFAB". A lot of folks don't want to use the terms "FTM"/"MTF" because they don't want to frame their identity in terms of the assumptions that other people make about them. Yet "transfeminine"/"transmasculine" are relatively more accepted. This means that people might get a pass if they use the right words, even if their intentions behind the words are to cling to their assumptions.

An alternative is to use terms that describe only what you are, terms that ignore what people used to assume you were, or that other people currently assume you are. People who identify as androgynous should describe themselves as just that, regardless of whether they were AFAB or AMAB. Other terms that ignore people's birth assignment:

In reality, we do sometimes need to talk about our birth assignment — AFAB people have some things in common with other AFAB folks that AMAB folks don't know as much about (if someone decides to transition, for instance, they likely want to get advice from people similar to them). But I think we should be more explicit and careful about using these words, to make sure we're thoughtful about them and don't overuse them. If we make it too easy to talk about what we assume other people were assigned as, then we won't be as thoughtful as we should be.