Monday, March 8, 2010

Diversity Lesson 101: Transmen

Transmen or female-to-males (FTM) are men who were born biologically female but have taken steps to align their gender identity with their presentation. Some FTM's elect to have hormones or surgery to accomplish this, but not all choose this option.

The Difference Between Sex and Gender:

People often get these two terms confused because they are similar yet in reality they are entirely different. Sex is the biological genitalia we are born with, either male, female, or intersex(combination of male/female genitalia). Gender is how we identify and is a social/biological construct, so in the case of transmen, one may have the parts of a female yet their mind, body, and spirit identifies as a male. The genitalia one has or lacks does not define their gender identity.

Trans Males and Sexual Identity:

Like all people transmen can be of any sexual orientation. The majority of transmen like the majority of the population are heterosexual. However many identify as gay, bisexual, queer or asexual. Typically one's gender identity does not dictate their sexual identity.

The Silenced Voice of Trans Men:

Transmen suffer discrimination from all angles. Many transmen often first find community among lesbians but quickly get drowned out and/or ostracized when they begin to transition. They face an equal amount of discrimination from many gay and straight men who often do not view them as "real men"

FTM Privilege:

While all transmen face hardships for expressing their identity and have a difficult time finding their place in society there are also privileges associated with being trans. Transmen often report getting treated with more respect once they transition. They don't suffer as much with the stigma and inequalities that women face in job pay, life, and other arenas.

The Influence of Transitioning on Sexuality & Gender Identity

While most people do not find their sexual identity shifting during the transition process there is growing discussion among those who find that hormones may have some impact on sexual orientation.

Below is a guest post on the subject from Sinclar Sexsmith of the Sugarbutch Chronicles:

"One of the most challenging concepts gender theorists like myself work to introduce to the general population is the disruption of the Sex-Gender Assumption - the assumption that sexuality and gender identity are intrinsically linked, and therefore, for example, that all gay men are effeminate and all lesbians are mannish. Or, on the flip side, that all feminine women are straight and all masculine men are gay. This is simply not true - one's gender is not the same as one's sexual orientation, though they do influence each other. Think of it as an elaborate dance between the two: the orientation, the sexuality itself being the source of desire, and the gender as one of the physical languages in which to express it.

As different as these things are, however, there are some ways that they are inseparable, and interact with each other. As I came into my own gender identity in my late 20s, my sexuality began to grow and shift with newfound desires, and I figured out yet more traits that are now basically requirements for my sexual relationships. As my sexuality grew, so did my gender, and so did the ways that I played with gender in the bedroom, sexually.

Transitioning changes your physical presentation of gender, sure; great physical effects, finally matching the body to an 'internal' gender or “subconscious sex” (as Julia Serano calls it). And as those effects go deeper, as testosterone flows freely, transitioning can sometimes bring changes in sexual orientation or other aspects of sexuality. It has happened frequently enough that there are even some jokes about it - “testosterone makes you gay,” some queers joke, meaning, it makes you want to sleep with guys. I've seen trans guys become more fully liberated through this process, never before feeling so much like themselves; I've also seen trans guys struggle to maintain relationships because of their changing sexuality.

Is it possible that the sexual orientation of “queer” can somehow overrides one's gender identity? If one's gender changes, but one remains queer, will one's orientation switch too? Regardless of whether a certain person is a man or a woman, will some of us still be queer?

No one knows exactly how the interactions between sexuality and gender identity work - even these concepts barely existed just fifty years ago. And of course, this shift of sexual orientation isn't true for all of those who transition - though the effects of testosterone do deeply effect all sorts of physical things, like muscle mass, center of gravity, sex drive, desires, and stamina. As research, observation, and experience is more and more available and less stigmatized, the intertwined connections between sexual orientation and gender identity will, hopefully, become more understood"

How Can a Biological Female Change to Male Bodied?

Female to male sex reassignment surgery is a complicated and long journey and requires a host of procedures. FTM's who want a complete transformation can elect to remove their female organs and take testosterone to deepen their voice, develop muscles and facial hair. The breasts can be removed to create a male looking chest and the clitoris can be elongated to create a penis and scrotal implants can be inserted.

Transgender Female-to-Male Terminology:

FTM or F2M - Female to male transsexual.

Binding - The process of flattening ones breasts in order to have a more male appearing chest.

Packing - The process of creating a male looking bulge in the crotch.

Top surgery - Chest reconstruction surgery to remove the breasts to create a more male looking chest.

Bottom surgery - Genital reconstruction surgery for constructing a penis from ones own donor tissue and the possible addition of scrotal implants.

Drag King - A biological female who impersonates a male. Drag is usually done for entertainment purposes and does not necessarily reflect the persons desire to live as a male or female.

FTM Videos:

Links of Interest:

National Center for Transgender Equality

FTM International

International Foundation for Gender Education

Queer Transmen


FtM Mentors

Hudson's FTM Resource Guide

The Transitional Male

FTM Passing Tips

Trans Passions


Diane J Standiford said...

Yep, that's me.

Queers United said...

Diane I didn't know you Id'd as trans. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Great videos. I LOVE the first one.

Queers United said...

I really liked the videos too because there is nothing like hearing from first hand experience.

Anonymous said...

[...continued from "Anonymous" above]

By the way, I didn't mean to trivialize this post as a whole. It's great 101 info. It's just that the videos bring some rich nuances to life. For example, when was the last time you heard a transman of color tell his story, even if he's speaking generally about the community? The emotion involved with gender dysphoria is so palpable in the second video and I love the comment in the third video about increased confidence post-transition due to finally living as a whole person instead of living as the "right" or "wrong" gender.
Cheers all around!

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