Word of the Week: AFAB/AMAB

By Emilia Marcyk

Assignment of gender refers to the way that we assume others’ genders based on their bodies. When a child is born, our culture slots it into one of two groups: male or female, avoiding all overlap. We “determine” the child’s “correct” identity based on a quick visual assessment of the appearance of its sexual organs, and we do so by following a specific dichotomy. (A vulva-bearing child is typically assigned female at birth, or AFAB, for short. A penis-bearing child is typically assigned male at birth, or AMAB.) Gender assignment mostly tends to work out for those involved, but many trans people are notable exceptions to this. – Definition of Assignment, transwhat.org

If you’re new to LGBTQIA spaces online, the acronyms AFAB or AMAB may be unfamiliar. They are most frequently used as a shorthand to designate a gender assigned at birth. The terms are used by a wide range of individuals, including those who are transgender, non-binary, or intersex. While AFAB or AMAB may be useful for describing different trans or non-binary experiences (like whether or not someone experiences/has experienced male privilege), they are generally not considered identities in and of themselves. Calling a transman “AFAB,” for example, erases his identity as man. Instead, use a person’s requested pronouns and self-description.

Variations

  • FAAB/MAAB – Female Assigned at Birth/Male Assigned at Birth
  • CAFAB/CAMAB – Coercively Assigned Female At Birth/Coercively Assigned Male At Birth

Perspectives

Note that some of these posts have been reblogged or repurposed a number of times. I’ve done my best to track down the original source of each post. Some of these perspectives are not about the terms AMAB or AFAB specifically, but illustrate how various people use them.

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