Trans Men in the USA

For the third week of June this year, I crossed one of the things off my bucket list and visited Chicago in Illinois. It is a beautiful, incredibly interesting and cool as fuck city. You should definitely go.

While I was there, I checked on Grindr (a gay dating app that shows gay men within your geographical proximity) to see what was happening. The first thing I noticed was a message from someone who recognised me from my writing on sex and gender (I mean, 6,500km from home and I’m recognised by someone!) which was really cool, we got to meet (platonically) and discuss the difficulties of having open and honest discourse about sex, gender and homosexuality in a liberal environment that prioritises the individual over reality. The second thing I noticed (two days into my vacation) was the prevalence of self-identified ‘trans men’: females who identify as males, who are on a hookup app for gay men.

Flicking through Grindr at home in the U.K., trans men are fairly rare. As I write this, I check on Grindr and there are five self-identified trans men within my proximity; this is quite a lot more than I’m used to here (60km east of London), they are as a correspondent of mine once remarked ‘like unicorns’. Anyway, what I noticed in Chicago was a fairly constant ‘double figure’ population of trans men, on average 12,5 per day (n=4, stdev=1.29). Before we go any further, I’d like to establish this post is intended to be a talking point, and is not a formal study; I was on vacation!

The last day I was there, 27 June, I thought I’d do some number crunching. At around 3pm local time, I sat in a Pret A Manger between Lake and State (downtown Chicago). Seriously, it was twelve quid for a sandwich, some fruit and a cup of tea. I went onto Grindr and pulled the fourteen visible trans men profiles from Grindr to see if I could establish within these any commonality.

Here’s what I found:

  • From thirteen of these, I could establish the age distribution was predominantly young, with 53,85% (7/13) being under twenty. One was over thirty. The mean age was 22,5.
  • Most were white with two described as Latino and three as mixed race. There were no black trans men. (1)
  • The median BMI (body mass index) from self-supplied height and weight details was 27 (overweight) and the mean 29. Three had a BMI of more than 30 (obese) and one more than 40 (extreme obesity).

It is difficult to draw solid conclusions from these numbers, although the intent here is to provide talking points and stimulate debate. This is hardly a formal study, the numbers have been collected on an ad hoc basis and I did not establish a control group. For example, in relation to the observations about BMI it would be interesting to look at the men looking for men on Grindr in that area, and determine whether the population of males demonstrated such an age distribution. Of more importance would be a comparison of the BMI distribution, it is well documented that childhood abuse is linked with food addiction in adult females; why would a small sample of predominantly young females be so overweight?

As someone who lives in a liberal part of a liberal country, I found these numbers interesting, based on my visiting a liberal part of a conservative country, and I would implore further study into the cultural vectors that compel women to want to become men.

(1) “The racial makeup of the city in 2010 was 32% black, 45.3% white (31.7% non-Hispanic white), 5% Asian, and 3% from two or more races. The ethnic makeup of the population is 28% Hispanic and 72% belong to non Hispanic background.”

Thanks to ‘M’.

6 Responses to “Trans Men in the USA”

  • ketzel

    Are you sure the USA is a “very conservative” country? I’d say it’s a mostly liberal country. For “very conservative,” see Saudi Arabia.

    • miranda

      I’ve dropped the ‘very’ but yes I do think the USA is conservative, certainly more so than Europe. I have always found Americans at home to be very compliant. That’s said, I love the country and the people.

    • Anemone

      The US is much further to the right than most developed countries. Americans often don’t realize this because there is little to no real left in the US to provide perspective.

      • miranda

        I remarked to a friend I was visiting that although we (Europeans) have this idea of America as having social class mobility and it selling itself as ‘the land of the free’ it is in fact anything but: I’ve seen class divides in America which are chasms compared to what I have seen in the U.K. (in Baltimore, for example) and, as I remarked to my friend, everyone in the USA seems to me to be ‘a slave to capitalism’.

  • Julian

    I don’t really feel like the sample size you worked with was useful.

    Mind you im in Canada not the US but as a transman I know many other transmen, you seem to have pulled the conclusion most are young (I think most on Grindr probably would be and the numbers of openly trans people definitely skew young) and also that transmen are typically overweight, seeing a posibly link between the social repercussions of being overweight and trans identity? Most I know are thin, but I would say perhaps that those who are overweight might be more prone to a hookup app like Grindr. Skinny transmen don’t have nearly as hard time finding dates. They fit a sort of feminine guy ideal, or just blend in as any attractive guy if they have a more masculine style.

    Your examination of race is interesting, probably has some basis based on other things I know, but in this sample size isn’t super helpful. Especially without a comparison to who is on Grindr in general. Too bad you didn’t grab that info tbh

    • miranda

      Thanks for the reply. The piece makes the limitations of my work very clear. It was written as a talking point and anyway I was on vacation, though I thought the prevalence of trans men on Grindr was notable for both quantity and consistency.

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