January 23, 2015

It’s Not Easy Being Trans: Why Addressing Assigned Birth Gender Matters.


I first came across the terms AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth) and AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) a year or two ago.

I’ve never been one for overt politeness. I prefer raw truth, and therefore always had an internal resistance to the whole concept of political correctness. The age that I am, I saw this phenomenon in my mid-teens and how it galvanized people into groups that stood either for or against something.

Recently, I heard/read something which stated that political correctness isn’t about whitewashing ideas or words—it’s about accuracy, an accuracy that many people can’t see, or don’t want to. After all, it’s easier to use language that we were raised with, and be damned those who have problems with it.

First time I heard it, I admit, I rolled my eyes thinking: Sheesh, why do we trans people have to be so picky about everything? C’mon. If you were born male, you were born male. Yes transitioning into female is true, and accurate, but fuck, admit it, you were born a boy.

I see it in a different light now.

The longer that I spend as myself, I come to realize that I was never actually a boy—never a man, never male.

This knowledge has been gleaned from becoming closer to women, being allowed deeper into their circles of trust, hearing their stories, drawing parallels to my own feelings.

Yes I was socialized male, but I never took that socialization to heart, it never stuck.

As I started dating men as my new true self, I also came to realize more and more that I was never one of them.

I have a lot of insider information that cisgender (not trans) women don’t have, but it doesn’t mean that I was ever one of them.

My old name was used the other day and it cut me to the bone. After telling a friend about this later that evening, she commented on how even though that is no longer me, it still is part of my past, part of my reality…and while it may hurt, I should acknowledge that.

The thing is—it was never was part of my reality. I know this now. I’ve always been Dawn, whether or not the world has seen or accepted that.

My old name was part of the assignment I received at birth. A child was born, the child had a penis of appropriate size for a newborn infant, and simply because of that birth trait, she was assigned male.

Along with that assignment came a male name, a male upbringing, male socialization, and a constant hammering from the world that I was male.

But it was never true, it was never me, never who I was meant to be.

No wonder the suicide rate for trans people is so terrifyingly high.

My old name is a vestige of that mistake that society forced upon me, as is my bone structure which was allowed to develop through a testosterone-fuelled puberty, my lower voice and my larger hands which give me trouble buying nice bracelets.

It fills me with joy now that children who were malassigned have the chance (and still only if they’re lucky) to not be forced to go through that, the false puberty, the wrong path.

If only I had been born 25 years later…but that was not my path. I was born female, but assigned male, and it took me 35 years to shed that stigma.

AMAB/AFAB are not terms for whitewashing things or ignore a person’s present reality. They are, in fact, the most accurate descriptions of a trans person’s history. This isn’t political correctness, this is truth—confusing yes, unusual perhaps, but truth.

Absolute, undeniable, truth.



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Author: Dawn Foran 

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Bridget Coila at Flickr 



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