Sex and Dysphoria
Age: 36 years old
Identifies as: Pre-everything FTM
Talking about sex is hard enough in the cis, hetero, privileged ranks. As I plan my plummet from those unfairly built social heights, I’m faced with figuring out what this does to my romantic life. (And how to dismantle those towers of privilege, but that’s not a dysphoria issue.)
I’ve dated men and women, but most of my longer relationships were with men. I won’t talk about the physical processes of transgender people and sex. Those have been written, recorded, photographed, and blogged to such extremity, and in such variety, that I don’t think another manual needs to exist, especially since every person is different and what works is what you’ll do, that’s all. But there’s a huge elephant in the room when you bring sex into the relationship, because it involves bodies, and my body just ain’t right.
I never felt right as a woman. It’s hard to feel good about how hot and bothered your body makes people when you don’t feel like that body has much relation to yourself. It’s like having someone hit on your sister because she looks like you- close, but not on target. It’s uncomfortable when you don’t know why it’s not quite right, and after you figure out the trans part, it’s unbearable. It’s someone attracted to the least, wrongest part of you, a fetish for something broken.
It’s disturbing. At the same time, you want to be loved and feel attractive. Maybe you lie for awhile. I did, for years. It doesn’t work. Maybe you come out, and destroy things. Maybe you leave for other reasons, and don’t tell people. It ruins sex, the idea that someone is touching a body that isn’t yours. It’s yours in that you live in it, but not yours because that’s not how you, your real inner you, is shaped.
It’s poison. It seeps into you and makes you miserable. I was in hell with it. The body becomes a commodity, something you try to share only with people you can tell your secret to. “Don’t touch there.” “I don’t want you to tell me how pretty I am.” And then, much later in the discovery process, “Please, between us, use male pronouns.”
I had a talk with a friend and fellow transgender person about when to talk to someone about being transgender. This is such a serious sex issue, the “I’m at real risk when I tell you this,” point. I came up with this answer: The point where I would tell them is the same point I’d tell them if I’d been in an accident and lost my parts there, or had some kind of serious scar, or an STD. You know, the part where we start to talk seriously in murmurs about what we think about getting closer, the point where we’d talk safe sex. Adults have these conversations. They’re important. And that’s the point where I’ll mention quirks of anatomy. I know it’s easier for me as a transgendered male, and I try not to take that privilege as anything but what it is- a societal bias that works in my favour. I’d abolish it if I could, and I’m doing what I can. It’s not right that it’s so much more dangerous for women, because of sexism. It’s all as bonkers as bullpobbles, no matter which direction you look at it from, but it puts people I care about in really terrible situations. Transgender men seem to get more curiosity in their responses. Transgender women should be given federally mandated stun guns and a license to use them at will.
Is there a duty for me to tell? This is a big flashing neon dysphoria issue, for me. Personally, I have to tell anyone I’m getting involved with. It weeds out the people who don’t like me for me. It’s a force-field, protecting me from people who are only after surface level attraction. I can’t impose on anyone else a responsibility to place themselves in danger. But I use the telling as a shield against dysphoria: being open about it means that I don’t have to retreat to that emptiness when someone touches what they think is me. I can be real. And I very much like being real. I can be me. That’s my duty to tell, and it isn’t anyone else’s. It makes for more intimacy when I can be entirely present.
I was, and am, very lucky. I have someone in my life who calls me “he.” An open minded, (apparently now bisexual) wonderful cismale. We are long distance right now but see each other at least every 3 weeks.
He’s known me as female through the decade we’ve been in the same online group, and when I came out to that group, he didn’t flinch. It was tough for him to decide to date me anyway, but he said once he saw me smiling, as myself, he stopped doubting, because I was still me.
Yeah, I know. A keeper. A keeper for way more reasons than that, though. It’s a shame when it’s a rare special thing that someone accepts you as you are. I hate that about the world right now.
And so, apparently, we’re both now gay. Great. I can handle that (maybe.) I’m a guy at home, though I’m not out to the world, so there’s some serious social dysphoria, too. That dissolves when I get home, that part’s easier between us. But… sex.
When things get really difficult, he refers to me as his boyfriend. That fixes a lot. But it’s still terrible for me sometimes. I’m afraid he won’t find me as attractive when some of the things he’s attracted to disappear. Sex is extra weird because hey, binders might help, but both of us know my body isn’t right. I’m a something in between, now, and that does affect us. We try to make up for the awkwardness, to accept it, to giggle about it. We do giggle about it. If we’re going to learn to be gay men together, the least we can do is laugh along the way. But it’s so damned hard. I’ve started sprouting some facial hair, even without the help of hormones- aging does its own dirty work. I shave them. The stubble made kissing interesting, and so we got our first real jolt; there’s a whole lot of physical new that’s going to go with this. I’m a little daunted and I’m lucky that he’s not. It wasn’t a bad jolt, and it’s a positive sign that we liked it.
As tough as it is, it’s better than the life I’ve had. I never had much regard for my body, because I never felt close to it. So I went through stages where I wasn’t very good to it. And somewhere it kept a roof over my head- I don’t usually tell people those stories. I’ve been some truly bad places with this body and I’m lucky it came out intact. The sense of betrayal by my body was pervasive in my sex life back then- I always felt people liked it, not me. “If I were a guy, would you still love me?” “I’m not gay.” But why? It’s the same me, isn’t it?
It is. It really is. But it’s *more* me, and that’s why I want that. I’m using the same words, but it’s not a question any more. It’s an opportunity: I’m a guy. Love me if you love me. Leave if you don’t.
He didn’t. Like I said, I’m lucky. But in the meantime, before transition, sex is a compromise. It’s fumbly and awkward as being a teenager, because that’s basically what we are again. We’re in totally new territory, struggling to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what can make us feel sexy without my body getting in the way. There will be tough decisions later about anatomy and plumbing, risks and possibilities. The truth is that I may not be a good candidate for bottom surgery at all. I have some issues that might make healing problematic, and I’d rather not risk it if there’s anything that works now. That’s a damned hard decision, and one that doctors may make for me pre-emptively. But it’s a decision every transgender person faces, the “how much dysphoria can I live with?” question.
I’m glad that I’m with someone. I would hate to face the newness of dating while in middle nowhere with my gender right now. The pool of men I’d be fishing in has shrunk dramatically, even as it’s grown more cultured and interesting. If I wanted to date a man, it would have to be a gay man- and that wouldn’t happen until I really do transition, because I certainly don’t want one who wants me looking like a fourteen-year-old boy. That’s just creepy, and again, my body and not me. Instant dysphoria. If I wanted to date a woman, right now only lesbians would be attracted to me. Again, wrong game. The wrongness of my body stands out in every direction, and I’m lucky to have my sweetheart, because he loves me for me, and I know it.
I suppose that post-transition, it would be much easier, though it would be paradoxically harder to see who was really interested in *me*. To be honest, I hope I never find out; I’d like to see where things go. It’s been almost a year together, and I’m liking this. I think it will be even better as my body becomes more my own.