Transmale Nation

Remaking manhood in the genderqueer generation

It remains to be seen whether gay men can respect a tranny boy in the morning. But there are same-sex couples who weren't born that way. Some transmales call themselves transfags because they express femininity in a very gay-male way. And some of them are open to dating women. "I don't define fagginess by who I fuck, because I've dated all over the place," says Bran Fenner, 22. "I define it by how I demonstrate femininity."

Bran has a crew of transfags of color that he met through a Yahoo group he started with a friend. Most of its members, like Bran, would call themselves pansexual. Riley, on the other hand, wants to date biological men (called bioguys), a hopeless prospect, he says, because of "male ignorance" about transmen. But those walls are coming down. The Center has started a new group for LGB trans people, and there's now trannyfag porn featuring trans and bioguys, surprise, getting it on.

Whatever their sexual orientation, most transmales remain in queer women's spaces because they feel safe there. Acceptance is growing in this community, but there still are dykes who gripe that all butch women are turning into boys, and feminists who label transmen misogynists out to gain male privilege. It's true that some transmen ridicule women, but no more than "real" men do—and there are feminists and lesbians who ridicule femininity. So what's the difference?

From left: Shey Hurlbut, Bran Fenner, Jules Rosskam
all photos: Robin Holland
From left: Shey Hurlbut, Bran Fenner, Jules Rosskam

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    We live in a time when the attributes of manhood reign supreme, and not just for men. Women are appropriating the power and aesthetic of masculinity to redefine themselves, to the point where even our heroines—Uma Thurman comes to mind—kick ass harder than your average dude. Masculinity is no longer an exclusively male endowment, but it's still a very desirable one. This explains why the stakes are higher for transwomen (MTFs) in the world at large than they are for transmen. It also explains why the new generation of genderqueers accords more status to the male-identified. And perhaps why there are so many queer women, as opposed to queer men, ridding themselves of their female identity.

    Yes, the status of transmen is enjoying a boost thanks to our macho obsession. But the way this scene understands itself and the world challenges that hierarchy. Feminism and gay liberation made it OK to feel comfortable with yourself as the world labeled you. But the genderqueer generation proposes a new reality in which the world doesn't label our identities and our bodies; we do. If you spot these transmales at the Pride parade, or in your local bar, you have seen the future—and it's very queer indeed.

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