A trans man is a man who was assigned the female gender at birth, but who does not mentally identify with this gender. Clinics have reported an increase in people seeking medical gender transitions in recent years, and research suggests the number of people identifying as transgender has risen in the past decade. Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, the bathroom controversy, and the Amazon series “Transparent” have also made the topic a bigger part of the political and cultural conversation.
Gender is separate from sexuality, so although research has shown that most trans men identify as heterosexual, meaning they are sexually attracted to women, trans men can also have any sexual orientation or sexual identity, such as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual or asexual, whilst some other trans men do not feel that conventional sexual orientation labels apply to them.
It is not always obvious when someone has undergone a transition, especially if they are trans men. This process is relatively straightforward as testosterone shifts the body within six months to have facial hair, a ruddier complexion, a change in body odour and a deeper voice. Before long the new friends and colleagues will not know they are transgender.
In contrast, transgender women have more difficulty “passing” (the ability to appear as the gender they identify with), since they tend to be bigger-boned and more masculine-looking, which are hard to reverse with hormone treatments, Safer said. “But the transgender men will go get jobs, and the new boss doesn’t even know they’re trans.”
Not all transgender men undergo medical testosterone hormone therapy and/or surgery to make their bodies more in line with their gender presentation. Some will bind their breasts with sports bras or special binders. Some may also decide to pack, to create a phallic bulge in the crotch of clothing. Some use rolled up socks or buy a specially made packer which looks like a penis, created for trans men to be able to urinate through them or for sexual activity.
Initially, the transition begins with the social transition with the change by family, friends and colleagues in the pronouns and name they use towards you. It is also the time for wearing gender-appropriate clothing.
The next stage is gender reassignment therapy including testosterone hormone replacement and possibly surgery.
Legal confirmation of the transition to identified gender allows for a modified birth certificate to be issued so that all other legal documents can be lawfully amended, including a marriage certificate if the marriage is to continue after the transition.
Being socially accepted as male without medical intervention can be difficult, and some trans men may choose to present as female in a certain social situation, such as at work. Some trans men choose to use limit medical interventions so that they can become pregnant, give birth and feed the baby.
The ratio of trans men within the general population is unclear but could be around 1 in every 100,000 who can identify as gay, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual and any other sexual label any man might wish to use.
Being a trans man has made many more successful in their career, not because they were identified as a man, but because finally being comfortable in their own skin makes them more confident. For some, the change to “passing” as a man has added new challenges in identity in their community. Radical feminists before the transition can now be accused of mansplaining. Cultural norms have to be learned and transitioning as an African American to a trans man flags up significant issues in keeping yourself safe, by necessity becoming hyper-aware of making sudden or abrupt movements, especially in airports, train stations and other public places.
Trans men also experience the impact of their work being treated differently even it has nothing to do with gender. In the 1990s, the late Stanford neuroscientist Ben Barres transitioned from female to male when he was in his 40s and mid-career. When a male, he found that his ideas were taken more seriously. He was interrupted less often. A colleague who didn’t know he was transgender praised his work as being better than his sister’s.