What Does It Mean to Be Transfemme?

Trans woman on her coffee break

Alex Farfuri/Moment/Getty Images

Abbreviated from transfeminine, transfemme is a gender identity. It is typically used by people who are assigned male at birth (known as AMAB) but identify more with a feminine gender expression than a masculine one, according to Monica Johnson, PsyD of Kind Mind Psychology.

To be transfemme means that you identify with femininity, but you don't necessarily identify as a woman. Savannah Cole, MS, MBA, LMFT tells us that "people who identify as trans femme are usually, but not exclusively those who are AMAB (assigned male at birth) who seek to present femininely, identify as more female than male, or have a desire to transition to look more feminine."

You may confused about how being transfemme is different from being a trans woman, or not completely understand who might use this identity label. Ahead, we will discuss what it means to be transfemme so that you can be fully clear about what this word means.

Uses of the Term 'Transfemme'

The term transfemme acknowledges both that a person leans feminine and that they fall under the identity umbrella of being transgender.

As far as who might use this term, Cole says that iIn addition to trans women, trans men, nonbinary, and genderfluid people who—while not identifying as women—identify in some way with femininity." Transfemme is a term that can be used by people of various gender identities who feel that femininity is an important part of their gender.

There is no set way to be transfemme. Someone with this identity may transition to being a woman, or they may not.

History of the Term 'Transfemme'

The exact origin of the term transfemme has not been clearly documented. The first written use of it that has been saved online is from a magazine called The TV-TS Tapestry, in 1985, in which Jane Nance wrote a piece entitled "TRANSFEMININE!!!"

In it, Nance discusses not resonating with the terms in use at that time and suggested that "do we need another term or category to cover my particular reality? Maybe! Could it be 'transfeminine' (a male who feels like a female, strictly undefined in relation to any issue of an operation) - perhaps!"

The transfemme, or transfeminine, flag, went online in 2015 but the artist is not known. The flag has a center band of dark pink, surrounded on each side by four bands of lighter shades of pink, with outside lines of blue. It bears resemblance to the transgender pride flag, but contains more pink and no white.

Transfeminine flag

Wikimedia Commons

How Do Gender Roles Influence This Term?

Gender roles have changed over time, and are becoming progressively less important as society changes. However, they do still play a large part in our perceptions of how others will behave, think, or express themselves.

The biggest way that gender roles influence the use of the term transfemme is that people automatically assume someone who identifies as femme will express their gender in a feminine way. This is a heteronormative concept. That's because there are countless ways to express one's gender. While it's common for a person's expression to reflect their identity, that isn't always the case.

Cole tells us that "gender roles in western culture have undoubtedly influenced the term trans femme." They note that "at first glance, one may assume because it says ‘femme’ that only transgender females fall under this umbrella due to gender stereotypes, yet this is far from the truth." Plenty of other people under the trans umbrella may be transfemme. They add that "trans women, trans men, nonbinary and genderfluid people can all identify as trans femme."

It's important to remember that there are no set rules about how identity interacts with expression. If a person identifies as transfemme but does not seem traditionally feminine or womanly to you, there is nothing wrong with that. Think of all the ways we have moved forward in gender roles from just 50, or even 20, years ago! As times change, so does our understanding of humanity and the infinite ways there are to be human in the world.

What Is the Difference Between a Trans Woman and The Label Transfemme?

Both transfemme and trans woman are gender identity labels, and they may overlap. For example, Johnson says that "trans women can also identify as trans femme." The main difference is that a transfemme person may or may not also identify as a woman.

Cole clarifies this by telling us that "A trans woman is a person who was assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman. Whereas a trans femme person is someone who identifies as a gender more feminine than their assigned one yet isn’t necessarily a trans woman."

  • Someone who identifies with femininity

  • Typically a person assigned male at birth (AMAB)

  • May present in a feminine manner

  • Under the transgender umbrella

  • May transition to becoming a trans woman, or may be one, or may not

Trans Woman
  • Someone who identifies as a woman

  • Typically a person assigned male at birth (AMAB)

  • May present in a feminine manner

  • Under the transgender umbrella

  • Is likely transitioning or has transitioned to womanhood

How the Term 'Transfemme' Compares to Other Terms

There are numerous other terms that are also used for gender identity, that you may have heard in a similar context to the term transfemme. Let's look at how each is different:

  • Nonbinary: This term means that a person identifies outside of the standard box of masculinity and femininity; a transfemme person may also be nonbinary, but these are separate identities
  • Gender Fluid: To be gender fluid is to not feel stuck in a single gender identity; a transfemme person may be gender fluid, or they may not be
  • Transneutral: A trans person with a gender identity can identify as transneutral; this is different from transfemme in that a transfemme person identifies to some extent with femininity
  • Demiboy: Someone who calls themself a demiboy has a gender identity that is partly male; this term is different from transfemme because the transfemme identity highlights femininity, not masculinity

How to Support Transfeminine People

Regardless of how well you feel you personally understand the label of transfemme, it's important to remember that marginalized people need our support. Trans people face discrimination in many areas of life. While the first step towards supporting others is identifying yourself as an ally, that alone doesn't help terribly much. As Cole notes, "an ally shouldn’t just self-identify as an ally—they should demonstrate their allyship through action."

If you see or hear someone misgendering a transfemme person, discriminating against them, or otherwise potentially harming them, speak up. Educating yourself about discrimination is also an excellent step to take. From there, you can take action to help stop it.

If you meet a person who may be transfemme but you aren't sure, it's good to keep in mind that soemone may or may not want to discuss their identity with you. Says Cole, "someone’s self-identification is their private info to share or not to share." Always ask if it's ok to ask questions before doing so, and if someone doesn't want to discuss their identity with you, don't push them.

Links & Resources

Learning more about transfemme experiences and stories can help you be an ally. Try reading books by transfemme authors, or essays about their experiences such as this piece. The website Transfemme contains valuable information, and though it isn't centered on the American experience, is very useful.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nance, Jane. "TRANSFEMININE!!!". The TV-TS Tapestry: The Journal for Persons Interested in Crossdressing & Transsexualism. no. 47, Tiffany Club, 1985

  2. Henry C. A brief history of civil rights in the united states.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.