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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21 thoughts on “Word of the Week: AFAB/AMAB

    1. From what i understand cisgender is when you identify with your birth-assigned gender. so a transgender female is AMAB but they arnt cis.

  1. That’s a great way to reenforce gender roles. Just creat new terminology so people can’t feel comfortable being who they are until they find or create the right lable. What if we kept the binary male/female terms for biology, but just let people be who they are regardless of that assignment.

    1. No. Let’s keep learning more and more, and learning new things about all the people around us, so we can make them feel safe and respected. The more we know, the better things are for everyone.

  2. How could a minutes old baby be coerced into a gender assignment? You could call it he, she, or Megatron and they wouldn’t know the difference for several years.

    1. The intersex community is pushing back against surgical and hormonal treatments aimed at making their anatomy conform to male or female norms. Since infants or children do not consent to this its considered coercive.

  3. I’m just so relieved to learn that these acronyms *aren’t* related to ACAB

    Srsly tho glad this exists, very helpful explanation and I am less ignorant than I was a minute ago :)

  4. I don’t agree with not having advance groups or avoiding the creation of ways to legitimize sub-categories of different trans groups, just for the sake of keeping it simple. I think that attitude is lazy and unhelpful. There are really great reasons for having these subcategories. For one, the basic treatment for AFAB people and the coping skills they need as well as the challenges they face are very different from those that AMAB people need or deal with. It’s not for your convenience. It’s for access to help and for access to to communities of people who know exactly what you’re going through and may be able to help. Groups like these save lives. To me saving lives is more important than keeping it simple and it trumps your need for convenience.

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