Making Transmen Feel Welcome at M2F Meetings
10 Ground Rules for Making Transmen Feel Welcome at M2F
by Jessica Xavier & Gary Bowen
Originally appeared in the Pinnacle, TransGender Education
Association, Washington, DC. Copyright by Gary Bowen and Jessica
Xavier. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce, provided the
material is not altered or abridged in any way, and that this notice
is included with it.
(Note: Janet Laylor spoke up at a meeting last fall and commented on
the paucity of F2Ms attending our meetings. She's right - we don't see
many F2Ms, at either TGEA or MAGIC. Gary Bowen wrote most of these
rules for posting on his web page, and I have edited them for M2F
groups who want to become more welcoming of our F2M brothers. Reading
this may open many a mascara'ed eye - writing it sure opened mine!
I've committed many of the following errors myself.--Jessica Xavier)
- Do not assume all men attending meetings are M2Fs. Perhaps the most
common error we M2Fs make. Often a post-transition transman attending
a M2F meeting will be mistaken by well-meaning M2Fs to be another M2F
who is there for the first time. The transman will explain the error,
only to be answered by, "I never would have guessed you were a woman!"
a comment that does not please most transmen, since they were never
women, regardless of what was on their birth certificate. Many
transmen will simply leave such a group without correcting the error.
These are known in the F2M community as invisible men. Remember we
have brothers as well as sisters in our transgender family.
- Listen to them when they speak. They may be shy initially, but you
can make them feel welcome by being open to them and listening. When
they do speak, do not cut them off, nor invalidate their very
different experience by rattling on with your own. Do not talk down to
them, nor make fun of them. Just because they are trying to grasp what
you have disowned doesn't give you permission to discount them.
Respect them and their experience. Shut up and listen to men, for a
- Do not ask a transman a lot of personal questions. Overall, the
transmen tend to be more private about their bodies, and most feel
that their medical status is nobody's business but their own. Asking
them about it is invasive and rude. If they want to share, they will.
Give these guys their privacy.
- Do not hit on a transman. Unfortunately, this is a common
complaint. A transman said it best: "One reason why many F2Ms do not
come to M2F meetings is because if you have 30 guys in skirts in a
room, at least one of them is going to look at a transman and think,
'She's a woman, and she understands me!' then glom him." Such unwanted
attention can be more than just rude, when viewed in the light of some
studies which have shown that the F2M community suffers a much higher
incidence of violence, sexual assault and incest. Our support group
meetings must create safe space for all transgendered people who
attend. Be sensitive and respectful. If a transman is interested in
you, he will let you know.
- Do not assume that a transman is straight. Transmen can be bisexual
or gay (yes, g-a-y, as in male homosexual, as in attracted to other
men, transsexual or nontranssexual). The late Lou Sullivan, founder of
FTM International, identified himself as a gay man and died from AIDS.
Have you ever seen that button that reads, "How Dare You Presume I'm
Straight?" Remember how you feel when some unknowing person thinks
you're gay because you crossdress? Avoid making this insensitive and
- Allow for bathroom parity. Don't allow both the men's room and the
women's room to be totally taken over by M2Fs who are changing into
their dresses. Transmen occasionally need to use the rest room and
can't do it if three M2Fs are clustered around the mirror putting on
makeup. An F2M crossdresser may want separate changing facilities of
his own as well. For a female crossdresser or anyone not living as a
man, the trip to the men's room may not be something they are ready to
handle, especially in the context of a new situation, such as a
attending an M2F meeting for a first time. Allow them their own space
- Avoid use of female-centric language. Whether addressing a group or
speaking one-on- one, don't use "girls", "sisters", "ladies", etc.
Rather: "ladies and gentlemen", "sisters and brothers", "girls and
boys", or better yet, use gender-neutral language such as "friends",
"folks", "people" or "colleagues". Many people on the F2M spectrum opt
out of the whole binary gender thing, and refusing to be identified as
either a man or woman is fairly common. Consider how difficult it has
been for transactivists to get gay and lesbian activists to add
"bisexual and transgendered" to "gay and lesbian". Verbal inclusion is
a necessary first step.
- Use inclusive language at all times. The passability of many
transmen is good enough that you will never know when a stealth
transman is attending a meeting. Many of them do - as one transman
puts it, "there are more of us than you think". It is fairly common
for passing transmen to surf M2F support groups, showing up
unannounced to check them out. But usually, he is not satisfied with
any of these groups, and he doesn't come back. He has his own needs
for support, and most often he is unwilling to be the token out F2M.
Assuming that role for a group would require him to work his butt off
educating its M2F membership. He also may come as an ally to the
meetings of an M2F-lead organization whose mission he believes in. But
in either situation, he usually will not out himself. Thus we always
should try to be aware of and to use inclusive language, even when we
don't seem to have any F2Ms in attendance. Making a habit of using
inclusive language will raise the consciousness and sensitivity of all
our M2F members.
- Attempt to schedule educational programming of interest to both
M2Fs and F2Ms. Allow for discussion of shared issues and presentations
of mutual interest. Topics may include family and relationship issues,
access to and dealing with health care providers and other helping
professionals, legal matters and redocumentation, violence and
self-defense, political concerns, etc. Focusing on these practical
matters will help those just starting to come out overcome their
fears, and help all of us to learn how to deal with these situations.
These issues and concerns are the common denominators of everyone in
- Ask the guys if they are interested in working together on common
issues and concerns. A real community not only plays together, but
works together. Support and social activities are easily intermixed
with educational and political activities, and are often synergistic.
These combined activities lead to the establishment of smoother
interpersonal relationships and even friendships between M2Fs and
F2Ms. Much can be accomplished if we can find ways to work together
toward a common transgender vision. And there are more than a few F2Ms
who, if given the opportunity, would be wonderful leaders of
transgendered groups with agendas filled with common concerns. Ask the
men to join our groups and become contributing members and leaders.
Remember that Inclusion is more than saying, "We're so glad you could
This information provided courtesy of the American Boyz organization for
f2ms and soffas. The American Boyz can be reached at: P O Box 1118,
Elkton, MD, 21922-1118; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; on the web:
www.netgsi.com/~listwrangler; or send email to: email@example.com with
the command 'info amboyz' in the body of the message.
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