The Transgender Therapist
5 min readSep 2, 2022


I'm pretty stoked for this conversation so if you would like to discontinue it, let me know.

It makes sense that you might explain things in a way that made sense to you so that trans people who are specifically *similar to you* could have things click. However, making definitive statements (such as "these terms are not great") is actually telling those trans people - those you seek to make things easier for - that only certain words are correct or better. That could alienate many trans people who need help but don't resonate with the same words as yourself. Explaining words without putting a moralistic standard or value on them is a great way to expand these conversations in ways that would have benefited you.

That's totally understandable that you don't want to be called AFAB. I would now never say that about you. The thing is, we will never - and should never try - to find language that is all encompassing and supersedes all other language. Your tug of war metaphor talks about you being on the ground - but what about the opposite? What about your language somehow "winning" and someone else ending up on the metaphorical ground? Why would that be better? You state that your language could "invalidate the least amount of people possible," but the thing is...that is not quantifiable. You will never know every, or most, or even half, of the trans population in your part of the world, or the entire earth. It is not an honest project to "invalidate the least possible" because that serves to suggest that it's okay to invalidate those people since there's fewer of them. Sounds oddly familiar of cis people trying to say we shouldn't care about offending trans people because it offends "fewer" people to not ask about pronouns, for example.

When I say "assigned," I mean at birth. I am a trans man. I wasn't "assigned" male, I just am male. I was "assigned" female. I am AFAB. You are not AFAB because you said that doesn't apply to you, and I believe you. I also identify with transmasculine. Not everyone does, including yourself.

You not liking something doesn't make it bad. If it did, then someone else could invalidate your entire article and say that it's "bad" because they don't like what you said. Interestingly, the only issue I have with your essay is that you keep presenting it as if it is somehow objectively better to agree with you on those specific terms. Just because I like using "AFAB" and "transmasculine" for myself doesn't mean that I would try to convince other people to use those words, nor would I say that them using other words for themselves, or using incorrect terms for me until I correct them, is somehow invalidating of myself. If, instead, your essay explained how *you* describe things and why, that's a way different tone. It's not necessary to try to convince people to use terms that you like and discard their own. That is not fair to them.

I'm a millenial as well, for context. This may be an "agree to disagree" thing. I don't think trans people should use specific terminology unless they, themselves, like it. That is the only qualifier that matters in my opnion. I don't see a lot of articles where people try to universally define terms like nonbinary as if it's objective fact, unless it's something very basic written for cis people. I mostly see people describing their own experience.

Language actually does work that way. There are disabled people who use different terms for having the same disabilities; people of color who describe their races in unique ways; immigrants who identify strong as immigrants, other that prefer to blend in or assimilate (from preference or out of safety); etc. The most important part is respecting other people's words and boundaries.

I don't like the term FTM because I think it focuses too much on what I was assigned, but I would not tell other people to stop saying it. I like saying transmasculine but I would not tell other people they need to start using it. I don't like the word "tranny" but I've known people who reclaim the term. There are so, so many ways to be trans and it's really important to lift each other up, not label each other our our terms as "bad."

I am a mental health therapist who has worked with TGNB (my term, not universal) and queer youth and adults. I've had clients who say they are genderfluid demi guys, transsexual women, agender transmaculine, FTM, trans nonbinary, nonbinary and not trans, etc etc etc and it 's wonderful that they all found words that make them feel most authentic. We shouldn't take offense when people use terms to describe themselves or try to tell them to stop using them. What we should do is tell other people what we want to be called for our own selves. That is a reasonable boundary. People using a word for their own lives and bodies is not invalidating of you because you don't call yourself those words. It is invalidating to tell someone that your terms are bad, inaccurate, should not be used at all, etc.

This essay saying a word that makes me feel euphoric is "not great" is invalidating; whereas me writing a general essay that describes people as a whole will inherently not resonate with some people. There's a difference between saying something is inaccurate for yourself and that it's inaccurate for everyone. That's why it's so important to listen and correct yourself as necessary, explain your terms, and be open to dialogue (as you have been now) rather than rigid.

Serano doesn't use those terms to coerce people into agreeing, she uses them as a theoretical basis so she can more effectively communicate her personal ideas. Clarifying your own language and suggesting that language should be imposed on others who don't like it are two different things. I'm sorry you have felt invalidated and not seen language that accurately reflected you. It's great that you would put your own language out there; at the same time, you don't have to perpetuate the cycle by invalidating other people's language and describing it as "bad."

In essence, other people living their lives and embracing their truths does not invalidate yours. Telling other people to stop using words they want and replace them with yours, is.

I thank you again for engaging in the dialogue and hope you can hear me somewhat. It makes sense that you'd want to find common language. That language can't come at the expense of those who don't conform to it. After all, isn't that what queerness and/or being trans is all about? Being your true self, regardless of what others expect of you?



The Transgender Therapist

Queer, white trans man living in the Pacific Northwest with a grudge and a sharp tongue.