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 of Whipping 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.)
“Cultural sexism in the world is very real when you’ve lived on both sides of the coin,” says Tiq Milan, a friend of the future groom.
And that cultural sexism is often more visible to trans men, because most say they find it easier to be low-disclosure than trans women. They’re often not recognized as trans, which means they can be less vulnerable to obvious transphobia. Some call it “passing” or “going stealth”; others say those terms suggest secrecy or deception, preferring the term “low or no disclosure.” In practice, this means that a 6’2” woman is often more conspicuous than a 5’4” man. James Ward, a lawyer in San Francisco who transitioned about six years ago, put it this way: “We have the ability to just walk through the world and not have anybody look at you twice.”