Over the last three years, transgender awareness has exploded. From Orange is the New Black to Transparent, from Janet Mock to Caitlyn Jenner, America has a growing fascination with the lives of transgender people, most recently in light of recent debates over controversial bathroom laws. But the spotlight on trans issues has mostly been focused on transgender women, and transgender men have been largely left out of the narrative. Our cultural obsession with feminine beauty contributes to the imbalance. “Women’s appearances get more attention, women’s actions are commented on and critiqued more than men, so in that world it just makes sense that people will focus more on trans women than trans men,” says Julia Serano, a transgender activist and author ofWhipping Girl. (Because most surveys ask people to identify as male or female but not cisgender or transgender, the size of the transgender population in America is unclear, though one study suggests there are about 700,000 trans people in the U.S.; it’s nearly impossible to know how many of them are trans men.)
Yet experiences of trans men can provide a unique window into how gender functions in American society.