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What does AFAB mean?

Robyn Exton

Jun 18, 2020

What does AFAB mean?
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  • AFAB stands for “assigned female at birth”. It’s a way for transgender folk to identify the sex they were assigned at birth to distinguish it from their gender. The term can be used by transmasculine people or nonbinary folk and essentially works as a way to talk about biological sex without sidelining a person’s gender identity.

    To be AFAB means to be born with sex characteristics typically associated with females – a uterus, ovaries, breasts, etc. Some AFAB people undergo gender-confirming surgery to better align themselves with their actual gender but not all do. Those who don’t are no less trans than those who do undergo surgery.

    AMAB: A Definition

    AMAB is “assigned male at birth” meaning the person was born with typically male sex characteristics. It’s used by transfeminine and nonbinary people in much the same way AFAB is used by transmasculine and nonbinary people.

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    Why not say “female”?

    The labels of “male” and “female” come with gender connotations and are often used interchangeably with “man” and “woman”. Being called female can be incredibly damaging for a transmasculine or nonbinary person as a result. 

    AFAB is simply a more accurate way of describing the experience of a transmasculine or nonbinary person. They were “assigned” a gender at birth that did not match their actual gender. AFAB allows them to express that without the gender connotations attached to the term “biologically female”. 

    When is the term used?

    In short: when the trans or nonbinary person in question is comfortable with it. 

    In many cases, terms like “trans man” or “nonbinary person” will be more appropriate – there’s very little reason to bring up one’s assigned sex in everyday conversation. Where it would be more appropriate is in a medical setting – if a trans or nonbinary person is disclosing their biological status, for instance.

    AFAB as a label is also used for transmasculine and nonbinary people to identify themselves and socialize, either online or in person. As with any label, it allows its members to quickly and easily identify themselves and others.

    Some trans and nonbinary people don’t like the term AFAB (or AMAB) and choose not to use it to describe themselves at all. In such cases, their feelings should be respected and you should adjust your vocabulary to suit.

    Robyn Exton

    Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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