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Trans Masc

Feb 23, 2024

Why I Identify as Transmasc

Finnegan Shepard Founder of Both&

Here’s the thing about language. It’s slippery. It matters, but also it can’t be the only thing that matters, because if you get too caught up in it, it can end up missing the point. Something I frequently say to friends is that with language, we run the risk of winning the battles and losing the war.

But on the other hand, the difference between how I felt in my identity as a child, who didn’t have the language to describe how I was thinking about myself, and how I feel now, as an adult who identifies as transmac, is night and day. Language can create a kind of home. It creates a community, provides guideposts, enables you to feel that you are not alone, but a part of a larger whole. These are all incredibly important emotional and mental affirmations that lead to a healthy grounding in the self.

So today, let’s talk about transmasc, and why I love it as a term. If you’ve googled it, looking for a definition, then you will have found a general throughline: transmasc is a term that can apply to anyone who was assigned female at birth (afab) and identifies somewhere on the masc spectrum. This includes trans men, non binary and gender queer folk–really anyone who resonates with their own version of masculinity. As a side note, we have a number of other articles on transmasculinity that you might find useful if you are still wanting to explore the term, including What is transmasc?, ‘Three empowering definitions of transmasculinity’, and ‘What is transmasc fashion?’

This personal essay is a reflection on my own gender journey, and why I find transmasc to be such a useful term. I’d like to start by painting a picture of how I think about identity more broadly.

I like to think of identity as large stepping stones in a river.

I like to think of identity as large stepping stones in a river. You know, when you are trying to cross a river and there are those kind of wobbly rocks that you put your foot on, and it feels not entirely stable, but stable enough that you can use it for a moment, as a springboard to the next rock? That’s how I conceptualize identity: something that can hold me, support me even, but only for a moment, only while I am in motion. It isn’t everything. If I were to stand on the rock I would get stuck and likely end up falling into the river. I have to keep moving.

Photo of a reflection in the river, of a person jumping on stepping stones

Transmasc, to me, is a beautiful umbrella term encapsulating that whole journey. It provides just enough structure (that I was assigned female at birth, but have always resonated with masculinity), while not being constricting (what masculinity looks and feels like to me has varied wildly over the course of my life).

It is also a term that welcomes a both and worldview (which we obviously are big fans of). At this stage in my life, I identify both as a trans man and as transmasc. They are not mutually exclusive terms. I have always resisted any terminology or identity that is either/or, that pretends it is able to draw a clean binary between two mutually exclusive things. Why I gave Both& it’s name was because of my belief that both-and is the philosophy that we should be aiming towards as a culture. I wanted to create a brand that represented that world view, and served people who resonate with it.

To go full circle back to my journey towards the term transmasc, in overly simplistic terms I could define the stages I’ve gone through as follows:

Boy. When I was very young, I simply identified as a boy. There was no friction in this, I just knew it to be true.

Boy, but? By late elementary school/early middle school, I still identified as a boy but I didn’t understand or have an explanation for why my body was different than my male friends.

Other. For a long stretch of my life, roughly late middle school until mid-twenties, no term (that I knew of) seemed to fit. I thought of myself simply as other, as one of a kind, as a gender unto myself.

Trans man. When I began to transition–first socially, then legally and medically–I swung hard into identifying firmly as a trans man.

Transmasc +. Now, four years into my transition, I still identify as a trans man, but I also have loosened my hold on that as the singular category to which I belong. I love the flexibility and DIY aspect to transmasc.

Boy, Boy but?, Other, Trans man, Transmasc

This is all specific to my journey, and everyone’s journey is different. But as you’ll know if you’ve read other articles, I strongly believe in the power of narrative storytelling as a way to open up our understanding and relationship to gender. The process can be daunting, scary, and isolating, but it can also be joyful, inspiring, and exciting. The more we share the diversity of our experiences openly and transparently, the more we will be able to shift the calcified narratives around gender queer identity that are so popular in mainstream media today.

If you identify as transmasc, we would love to hear (and potentially feature) your story. Join our Discord and pop into the community spotlight channel if you’d like to get involved!