DFAB/DMAB. adj. (neologism/initialism) Transgender flag-triangle

Denotation: An acronym/initialism for “Assigned male/female at birth”, generally used by transgender or nonbinary individuals to describe the gender they were designated at birth. A replacement term for “born male/female”, which can be used to invalidate trans/nb people’s identities and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Etymology: Term created by and for the transgender/nonbinary community to describe the gender they were assigned at birth. Date of creation unknown. Popularized in 2014 by Laverne Cox during an interview with Gayle King:

King: “Let’s let people know about you, Laverne, because you were born a boy but—

Cox: “I was assigned male at birth is the way I like to put it, because I think we’re born who we are and the gender thing is something someone imposes on you. And so I was assigned male at birth but I always felt like I was a girl.”

The first UrbanDictionary entry for “DFAB” in this usage is from 2014. The first (and only) UrbanDictionary entry for “DMAB” is from 2012.

Designate(d)” (v.) A borrowing from Latin designat with the past participle suffix (-ate) and inflectional affix (-ed). Of a person or agent; to point out, indicate, make known; to particularize, specify.

  • (1677) These Augures did at the first use a crooked staff in pointing and designating the quarters of the Heaven. F. Bampfield
  • (1853) Josiah..was designated to his task before his birth. F. D. Maurice
  • (1967) Anna..was white. However, her race was not designated on the original letter. Ebony

Female” (n. and adj.) Of multiple origins: partly a borrowing from French female; partly a borrowing from Latin femella. A Person of the sex that can bear offspring; a woman or a girl.

  • (c1350) Me schel þe mannes lenden anelye, Þe nauele of þe femele. William of Shoreham
  • (1739) Of the Two we take a little more Care in the Education of the Males than the Females. G. Booth
  • (2001) [Man] may pretend to be manly, but most of the time is not. When the going gets tough, females rather than males get going. Daily Tel.

Male” (n. and adj) A borrowing from French male. Designating the sex which can beget, but not bear, offspring. A man or a boy.

  • (a1382) Two þou schalt brynge in to þe ark, þat male sex & female. Bible
  • (1681) The Malekind may come and see him, but no Women are admitted. R. Knox
  • (1992) Newborn male rats deprived of the male sex hormone testosterone navigate like females. Times

Birth” (n.) Derived from early Middle English byrþ(e , burð(e , birþ(e. The bearing of offspring.

  • (1382) For the hardnes of birth [a1425 childberyng] she biganne to perishe. Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.)
  • (1749) The Birth of an Heir of his beloved Sister. H. Fielding
  • (1881) One..wished God speed to the birth. W. Gregor

Sociolectical Information: This term is used primarily by and for transgender and nonbinary individuals to describe the way they were gendered at birth (typically – though not always, as in the case of intersex individuals – based upon their sex). It is used instead of phrases such as “born a boy/girl” or “used to be a boy/girl” in order to dispel the belief that trans/nb people are “not really” the gender they identify as, and to avoid harmful instances of misgendering. Trans women are especially affected by this; the idea that transgender women are just men pretending to be women is fairly pervasive. It is also used to highlight the concept of gender being a social construct – that, regardless of sex, one can have always been the gender they identify as.

The term is used extensively within online communities with heavy transgender/nonbinary presence. However, it has also been breaking ground in terms of everyday/mainstream usage due to the media presence of transgender celebrities such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.

Survival Predictions: I think this term will survive, at the very least until a better term is created. Society’s growing consciousness of transgender people has brought with it new conceptions of what gender is, and how it may or may not be connected to one’s body and sex. The idea of gender being socially constructed is itself nothing new, but the volume of discussion currently surrounding it – given its relevance to transgender and nonbinary identities – absolutely is.

Its growing usage outside of LGBT-centric spaces also indicates that it has a good chance of lasting due to popular knowledge of the term.

That being said, it is also possible that as society’s notions of identity and gender evolve, new terms taking these new notions into account will be created and used in replacement of this term. Additionally, if we ever reach a point where we start to refrain from gendering children upon birth, this term may not be as necessary.

Lexopinions: I think that this term is probably the most respectful word to use when talking about trans people’s histories. Not being trans myself, it is not my place to determine which terms are acceptable, and my knowledge of its appropriateness is derived primarily from the words and opinions of trans people I see online or on the news. If it is ever requested that this term not be used, I will stop using it.

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