Genderfuck: Exploring Sex & Sexuality While Trans

Written By Leo Lardie.

My name is Leo. I’m twenty eight years old, a sexual health worker for an LGBT charity in Northern Ireland, a burgeoning stand-up comic and, I’m a bisexual transgender man.

For the first time ever, I’m also going to publicly announce that I am a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence.

As a survivor (the label I am most uncomfortable with) and a transgender man, my experience with sex hasn’t always been easy, in fact at times it’s felt like an uphill struggle in heelies. But, there’s a significant difference between how had I sex before I came out, after I came out and even now. I suspect there’ll be changes in my sex life for as long as I’m alive and kicking. Today I want to talk about these ‘stages’ to maybe help someone out there realise they are transgender or queer, to provide insight for those going through this whirlwind themselves, to give solidarity, and most importantly to help myself on this journey of recovery and acceptance.

STAGE ONE – ‘The Dark Ages’

I would freeze up when he’d start to kiss me sometimes, I knew it’d lead to sex or, more likely, another argument about sex. Sometimes I’d enjoy it, the vast majority of the time…I did not. I don’t remember distinctly wishing that I was a boy, I don’t think I knew that that was an option yet. I do however remember feeling very disconnected from the idea of a woman; petit, athletic, smooth (even before testosterone I was a hairy BEAST) and, sexy but not TOO sexy. Not that this helped my understanding of being a transgender man then but that I can now use this to corroborate my story with the Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) who hold my hormones and surgery hostage until I prove I am trans enough. As I’d guess that almost all girls and women feel this way. As is much of my musing about being transgender, I can safely say that far too much was going on at that time for me to even be able to process my mis-assigned gender identity. I spent a lot of time obsessing that I maybe was lesbian instead of bisexual, as I was and still am. Certainly there was some internalized biphobia at play (the idea that you’re either straight or gay/lesbian – that bisexuality is not a valid sexual orientation) but, regardless of the relationship being sexually and romantically unfulfilling there was a deep sense that something was fundamentally wrong with who I was presenting myself as.

STAGE TWO – I Do The Hard Work

People who’ve been in unhealthy or even abusive relationships often tend to idolize their later romantic/sexual partners for just meeting their needs. So, instead of talking about how much my partner helped (which he did) I’ll try to sidestep the idol worship this time and focus on the real hero, ME! I worked through a lot of my issues around sex to the point where I started actually wanting to have sex and sometimes even initiating it! But no matter what I do, I still feel an awful gnawing in my stomach afterward. By now, I know that transgender men exist (in fact I am friends with a transman at this time) but the idea that I might be transgender doesn’t ever cross my mind. Firstly, I am a survivor – so I assume there’ll always be some kind of hurt after sex. Secondly, I think many people who are assigned female at birth (whether they are transgender or cisgender) have to grapple with their sexuality and gender, because the societal framework for those presumed to be female is so restrictive and contradictory! So, whilst I find myself constantly thinking, “what IS a woman? What does it MEAN to be a woman?” I do not connect that this is because I do not want to be a woman, that I am NOT a woman. Rather, I assume that I am working through the restrictions placed upon all those presumed female. If you’re reading through this trying to work if you’re trans – here’s a good rule of thumb: cisgender people tend not to think about gender all that much.

STAGE THREE – Oh Shit, I’m Trans

When you come out as transgender, often you find that dysphoria (the feeling of discomfort in your physical attributes not typically ‘matching’ your gender identity) worsens. I think that’s probably because we can finally name and identify a feeling that’s always been around (as I’ve detailed previously – that unpleasant feeling of being disconnect from myself during sex). This is a double edged sword because on one hand knowing what is wrong means you can start to tackle it, on the other you now realise just how much of a problem it really is. I had come to accept that because of trauma, sex would always be a bit of minefield for me but dysphoria was something I’d never learnt to deal with, so at times I felt more lost and fragile than before. There was no quick fix (I even remember googling ‘medication to ease dysphoria’) but here’s something that helped – my breasts were now a ‘no-go zone’ (a shame as I really used to enjoy this). I would wear a t-shirt or a sports bra during sex (don’t wear a binder during sex as it’s dangerous to constrict your breathing during an intense workout). My partner would also affirm my gender afterwards, it sounds stupid but even something like touching my fuzzy face and commenting on how stubbly it was. I didn’t do this but, other trans people I know would use different words for their genitals (like calling your clit a dick or the head of the penis a clit). But generally sex was still very uncomfortable and sometimes panic inducing despite being pleasurable and enjoyable. I think it’s important to recognise that sex can make you feel lots of things and not all of them are pleasant but that’s ok, very few people have an uncomplicated relationship with their bodies and their sexuality.

STAGE 4 – Oh my god, how is it THIS GOOD?!

When I started testosterone (side note: not every trans person chooses to medically transition but I did) I was told that my sex drive would radically change but, even I did not expect how much. My partner and I already had quite a healthy sex life but now I would almost always be the one to initiate sex and now I would have the very new experience of having my fairly regular advances rejected. One unexpected side effect of this was feeling ‘gross’ which is my code word for worrying that I was coercing my partner into sex – a hang up from being in a relationship where I was always on the receiving end of this pressure. To combat this I often (perhaps unnecessarily often) checked in with my partner to make sure my behaviour was acceptable and healthy. My sex drive didn’t just increase because of the testosterone, testosterone improved the sex I was having! For all those curious, testosterone can often cause the clitoris to grow larger – bigger clit, bigger bulls-eye, more ‘direct’ hits. The testosterone alleviated my gender dysphoria somewhat (as my features were looking more traditionally masculine now and therefore more acceptable to me) but really the greatest change happened on the inside. I had been out as transgender to for almost two years before I got to access hormone therapy, in this time I had no choice but to grow stronger and more confident in my manhood. Whilst I couldn’t always escape the creeping feelings of dysphoria – I knew that men came in all sorts of different bodies and mine was just one of them.

Looking back, how I have sex hasn’t really changed (other than gaining a partner who practices consent) just how I see myself has but that’s no small feat! By no means have I everything figured out when it comes to sex. It’s a cliche but, recovery is not a destination – it’s a practice. So it’s up to me to keep practising; to be aware of how I’m feeling before and after sex, to communicate to my partner my needs (physical, sexual and emotional) and to accept that sex doesn’t always leave you feeling happy or complete – and that’s ok.