If I said I didn’t want sex while I was trying to be a man, I would be lying. Wrong puberty, whatever else it was, created the same hormone storm it does in everyone and I had the same needs almost everyone else does. And if I said I didn’t enjoy it, I would be lying. It was fun, even if it was awkward and never quite felt right, like I was always doing it wrong – a roller coaster that strapped you in backwards and covered your eyes. Chicken that tastes like beef. Nice enough, even satisfying… but not right.
Also confusing for my partners – all cisgender women – as they worked out what my proclivities were. I didn’t fit the mould. I responded ‘weird,’ as one girlfriend at university told me once. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to. I was told I made her feel maternal. I didn’t know how to do anything else, but I tried to toughen up. It was expected of me.
One lesson I learned was men wanted sex and it was a source of amusement for women. Men were the ones that pressured, men were the ones that initiated. Men basically pushed for this thing they ‘needed.’ I wasn’t especially interested in pressuring anyone, but it’s what was expected of me.
Trying to fit in, for me, was really about an outspoken sexuality. Some find hypermasculine careers, some follow sports or drink. I had sex. There are worse things to do to fit in, but I can’t say it was any less damaging.
“I just figured I didn’t really want it after all. I was tired of the persona, tired of pretending.”
When I came out, I already gave up on that persona. I wanted closeness with my wife at the time, but actual sex was off the table as far as I was concerned. I just figured I didn’t really want it after all. I was tired of the persona, tired of pretending. I just stopped. My wife of eleven years knew me well enough to know there was something wrong, but didn’t really seem that interested in finding out what or why. I was just as happy to not discuss it.
The trauma of coming out obliterated any sex drive I might have had. There were other reasons: the loss of my father and my home, mainly. I was content to give up on this thing I tried to want and push for my whole adolescent life and, frankly, I had bigger problems.
When I met my current partner, I wasn’t ready. Only just getting my head above water three months after it all kicked off; one month on hormones. My body and mind were running riot on the medication and I was still recovering from the events from the previous June, but she turned up. There was no way I could get into a sexual relationship just like that.
When a person transitions, the way sex works changes. Some have more profound changes than others, but the new role makes the dynamic different, like it or not. Those of us who are lucky enough to have or find someone who gives us the time and space to adjust will probably discover something magical.
I always thought surgery would be the thing that made me come to terms with sex, and there is still a fair bit of baggage on that score. But here I am, waiting for my surgery and enjoying sex. It’s not the parts; it’s the people.
Not everybody wants bottom surgery. People manage to take pleasure in their bodies all kinds of ways. Sometimes that means surgery, sometimes not. For me, it means surgery. I can let it go and allow myself to feel as long as I’m not touched down there, but I’ll be very glad to take that step and rediscover myself all over again.
“It’s important to understand that a transition will bring us through stages of sexuality, and we don’t really know how we will be or what we will feel until it’s done.”
It’s important to understand that a transition will bring us through stages of sexuality, and we don’t really know how we will be or what we will feel until it’s done. Even if our actual sexual preference doesn’t change – mine hasn’t, for what it’s worth – our responses do. Even without medical transitioning, the social dynamic of the act will change and, ultimately, change how a person responds.
My personal journey brought me from the reluctant heterosexual pretender to the resigned, confused ascetic. Onward to the fascinated asexual and finally to the struggling but satisfied lesbian-but-probably-bisexual-men-freak-me-out-don’t-know. Creativity is what brought me to where I am; the discovery that sex isn’t just pushing something into an orifice. That actually, sex is a whole range of experiences and it’s up to us to try things.
Another core concept I had to let go of is that orgasm and ejaculation had to go together. They certainly don’t, but we’re told they do. It was a first step for me, realising I didn’t have to have this horribly uncomfortable thing happen to feel nice. Feminising hormones make that kind of physical response much more difficult for some, including myself, so letting it go becomes a matter of necessity in some cases.
And the ultimate irony is that legally I haven’t had sex with my fiancée. Of course I have; we’ve managed to find our own way forward. But in an official sense we’re still chaste as anything! And people wonder why society is so hung up on this stuff.
“In the vast landscape of sex and sexuality, it’s impossible to speak for everyone or even one person aside from oneself.”
In the vast landscape of sex and sexuality, it’s impossible to speak for everyone or even one person aside from oneself. Nothing I say will hold true for anyone else except that there will be change. How much change is unknown. What will change can be generalised but not predicted. Hormone therapy and surgeries add layers we cannot know about; I want surgery despite not understanding how that will change me or my sexuality. I wanted hormones also without knowing what that would mean.
As we move deeper into the unknown, all we can hope for is to find the right people to support us as we explore. I’m one of the lucky ones: I found someone. Some are luckier still and keep those that were with them before. The general sort of mishmash allows for everyone, but I do hope everyone does find that person. The one that can help them explore without judgement and push boundaries without placing them in danger.
And actually, sex might be one of those things best rediscovered again and again.