TW: Discussions of violence, mentions of sex or sexwork in the articles.
A question that I see in many of the circles I move in has been whether trans masculine people (trans men and masculine leaning non-binary people as well as others under the trans umbrella) can experience and even perform toxic masculinity. Hopefully the links below, as well as the discussion of my own experiences as a trans masculine person, can help clear some of that up.
Starting off by stating I’m a trans masc non-binary person who tends to just use the term trans man when describing myself outside LGBTQIA2S+ circles.
So the short answer to this is that yes, trans men can be the bearers of and perform toxic masculinity. In some cases it’s done as a survival method, where when they come out they’re expected to perform the same forms of masculinity as their cis peers, or in some cases it’s to try to “prove they’re man enough” to be considered men.
When I first came out, I was told by multiple cis men that I would need to not only get better at fighting, but that I would need to prepare to fight and constantly be ready to assert my dominance through beating down another person if they tried to make me submissive to them. They told me that I would need to constantly be ready to “throw down” either verbally or physically to prove I’m really a man, and that by showing signs of submissiveness I would be considered to just be a woman wearing manface (they used a few slurs, so I’m changing it to that).
It was the same with how I was expected to present. It was expected that I ALWAYS present masculine and any showing of femininity would just prove that I wasn’t really a man. It was expected that I in many ways perform masculinity MORE than my cis counterparts to make up for my inherent femininity, even if that meant dipping into toxic levels of masculinity.
Over time, I have moved away from that and found a mix of healthy femininity and masculinity, but I still get comments over and over about how a “real man” would or wouldn’t do something based on either hyper or toxic masculine views.
One can see it in the wild, so to speak, in some trans masc or trans men groups here on Facebook and elsewhere, where they embrace the toxic aspects of masculinity either due to feeling like they have to prove they are “real men” or for some other reason. I’m going to provide some reading material both in trade and academia (mostly trade due to pay walls) that discuss this topic that I hope will help better explain it.
The Embodiment of Masculinity among Trans* Identified Men
“Real Men Don’t”: Constructions of Masculinity and Inadvertent Harm in Public Health Interventions
Be a Real Man: Toxic Masculinity (this discusses trans men a little ways down, but relevant)
Dangerous Privilege: Trans Men, Masculinities, and Changing Perceptions of Safety (This one was a reading piece I had to cover in my Masculinity Studies class, and goes into some of the reasons why some trans men go the toxic masculinity route as well as learning masculinity as trans men that I feel is relevant)
Toxic Masculinity Part I: Strips Away Gender Equity, Hurts Everyone
(Re)doing gender: Trans men and the reproduction of toxic masculinity
What I’ve Learned About Toxic Masculinity As A Trans Man
Amateur: How Do I Reconcile My Masculinity With The Toxicity of Men?
What it means to be a man
https://www.topic.com/what-it-means-to-be-a-man (This one is really interesting since it discusses both race, social status, and “rites of passage”)
Three trans men of color share their experiences: ‘Every day, I inspire myself’
Ian Alexander on Stereotypical Masculinity, Fluidity, and What it Means to Be a Man
The Queer, Trans, Non-Binary Strippers Taking Aim at Toxic Masculinity
Thomas Page McBee interview: The first trans man to box at Madison Square Garden talks gender anxiety, transitioning and toxic masculinity
One of the Guys: Fragile masculinity is pushing trans folks out of male spaces.
Trying too hard to be one of the guys