AMAB & AFAB Meaning and Guide
What Does AMAB & AFAB Mean?
If you’ve been reading up about 2SLGBTQ concepts and terminologies, you may have already come across the terms “AMAB” and “AFAB”. Like the terms “non-binary”, “assumed gender”, and the singular they pronoun, AMAB and AFAB are part of the growing queer lexicon that the 2SLGBTQ community uses to explain their experiences.
Read on to discover the meaning and importance of these terms.
AMAB is an acronym that stands for “assigned male at birth”. Also written as “male assigned at birth” or “male at birth”, this term describes the biological sex – in this case, male – that was assigned to a person upon their birth by a doctor or a midwife.
Doctors determine a baby’s sex by observing their sex characteristics. Thus, children born with penises and testes are typically assigned male at birth.
How To Pronounce AMAB
The term AMAB is pronounced “EY-MAB”. People typically do not spell out all the letters of the acronym.
AFAB is an acronym that stands for “assigned female at birth”. It can also be written as “female assigned at birth” or “female at birth”, and it describes the sex that is assigned to a baby that is born with sex characteristics that are typically associated with females.
If you’re born with a vagina, uterus, and/or ovaries, you will likely be assigned female at birth.
How To Pronounce AFAB
AFAB is pronounced “EY-FAB”. As with AMAB, the letters of the term AFAB are not typically spelled out.
Why Do We Use These Terms?
To explain why these terms exist, we first have to talk about sex and gender identity. For decades, most scientists believed that sex and gender were one and the same. But in recent years, more and more medical associations have acknowledged what the transgender community has known for years – that sex and gender identity are two independent components of one’s identity.
Sex refers to the biological sex that is assigned to you at birth. Thus, the terms AMAB and AFAB. Gender identity, on the other hand, is your internal conception of your maleness or femaleness. Or, in the case of agender people, your lack of maleness and femaleness.
Your sex does not necessarily correspond to your gender identity – for example, someone who was assigned male at birth could, later on, discover that they identify as female. This, in essence, is what it means to be transgender – your gender identity and expression do not match up to the cultural expectations associated with your sex assigned at birth.
AMAB/AFAB Vs MTF/FTM
Up until recently, the 2SLGBTQ community used the terms male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) to categorize transgender people. However, some people feel that these terms imply that trans people first identify with one gender and then transition into another. This is not true for the majority of trans people, who often recognize that their gender identity is not in alignment with their sex from childhood.
Using the terms MTF and FTM can also fuel the misconception that transitioning medically (i.e. undergoing gender-affirming surgery and hormone replacement therapy) is necessary for one to identify as transgender. Even without surgery or HRT, you can still identify as trans. The only prerequisite for identifying as trans is experiencing a mismatch between your biological sex and your gender identity/expression.
It should be noted that AMAB and AFAB do not describe one’s gender. These are not identity markers like “cisgender”, “transgender”, or “non-binary”. These terms merely exist to help trans and gender non-conforming people explain their relationship with gender.
Who Do These Terms Apply To?
Aside from transgender people, non-binary, agender, bigender, demigender, transmasculine, transfeminine, genderfluid, and neutrois people can also use these terms to better explain their experience with gender. In fact, anyone can use these terms – even cisgender people – as they exist merely to describe one’s sex.
Note that not all trans and non-binary people like using these terms or having other people describe them as such. Most trans and non-binary people wish to be identified with their gender identity. For some, being reminded of or referred to with one’s assigned sex at birth can bring up feelings of gender dysphoria.
The Bottom Line
AMAB and AFAB are relatively new terms used to describe one’s assigned sex at birth. Though it may take some getting used to, knowing and incorporating these words into your vocabulary can help you become a better, more inclusive ally to transgender, non-binary, and 2SLGBTQ people in general.