“I feel a little silly saying this but I want to empower my vagina and me with an understanding of our own being, of our own authentic uniqueness. I could be anything now, anyone but I want us, my vagina and me, to be empowered with our own loving, erotic potential,” writes trans activist and “self-confessed sexphobe” Juno Roche in her introduction to Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-Binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationship.
Queer Sex is less of a set of directions, and more of a map: it’s an exploration of Roche’s journey as a trans woman in her fifties with a neo vagina that’s led her to question her assumptions about her sexuality, as much as it is a collection of her interviews with other trans and non-binary folks about how they navigate and thrive in eroticism, including sex, love, desire, dating and more. Roche is transparent about her own desire for advice, laying herself bare as she shares others’ stories as well as her own fears and hopes. She writes about her assumptions about her own sexuality, feeling alone, struggling to be vulnerable while also craving it, and learning to empower herself with erotic potential. Check out an excerpt from her introduction below.
My lack of experience prepared me to be a binary, vanilla heterosexual, which was exactly what I presumed I was and would be in my post-vaginal town.
I’m sure that there would be some people interested in me but I am bewildered by my emerging world of choice and, if I’m honest, slightly terrified about how to have the kinds of sexual and loving relationships that have opened up in front of me. When it comes to these new frontiers, I am hopelessly naive and despite my past — it’s well documented, I feel quite timid about the spaces I have never even imagined exploring.
Nothing is a given anymore. I seemingly find lots of people attractive, and the further I have moved away from focussing on my own genitals as being key, I have had to move my focus off others’ genitals as being a place to find love, sex and desire. Genitals alone weren’t going to provide the answer.
If I find lots of different people attractive — cis men, cis women (especially handsome, butch lesbians), trans men and some of the non-binary community — what does that make me and what should I do about it? What dating site should I join? Is there a dating site? Is there a label for me, that fits at fifty and naive, and at fifty should I really be open to a new label?
Am I not being silly to be over fifty and experimenting with new labels?
I’m sure there is a word, or a label, and I’m sure there are spaces into which I could fit, but part of this exploration is about allowing myself all the options without tagging myself or restricting myself to exist in one box. If I look back, I can only see restrictions I placed on myself, further implemented by society, which operates in an incredibly limiting way. I can only see transparent yet rigid boxes into which I placed myself, often for no reason, other than for fear of experimentation. Transitioning has opened up worlds to me, worlds I want to explore without knowing how.
My romance and sex life is currently incredibly quiet — actually non-existent — so I have nothing to lose and who knows what to gain. I want to spend some time trying to work out who it is that could possibly be the one, or ones, who could bring out something sexual in me that I have really lost sight of. I yearn to experience intimacy again, perhaps properly for the first time.
I feel, slightly, that since surgery I have drifted into a lightly depressed state where I have given up on being sexual, feeling sexy or being intimate; my lack of understanding about my own desire has left me unanchored, moving this way and that with each lapping wave or slight sign of interest but essentially being submissive and not at all proactive in following up even the most ardent of stares. Perhaps I have taken a step or two this way or that, seemingly to follow up a connection, but more often than not I have literally not known how to. Less than a half-hearted attempt, I berate myself as I close the door.
I feel like I have experienced a deconstruction of all of me and I’m left in bits and pieces which I can now put back together in any chosen structure I like. I don’t have to say I’m a heterosexual trans woman. I can be fluid and questioning. I could cut my hair short. IT sounds silly, but since transitioning I’ve had exactly the same ‘Morning Television blonde windswept bob.’ I stick rigidly to it even when I would love to experiment and cut it short. Post-vaginal landing, which by any stretch of the imagination is a gloriously liberating experience, I have stuck religiously to binary codes of conduct.
My self-imposed constriction has bored me sexless.
Am I the only one who has had this subtle and silent identity breakup post-vaginal landing, which has left me sitting alone on a shelf looking down at others, imagining everyone else is doing it, doing the do, kissing, fucking, hugging and generally being desirable and desiring. Is it just me that feels everyone else is ready and able to love and be loved apart from me, that every other neo-vagina is being taken out and shown off at parties, dinners, weddings, nightclubs? My poor pussy has met so few people she is becoming like the child who lives in the basement, smoking too much dope whilst playing computer games, except she is me and I am her and it is me locking myself in the basement without the games or dope or any fun. My sweet neo vagina is like the small pooch from the dog pound who ends up with an eighty-year-old who has mobility problems and a flat on the thirteenth floor.
My vagina is a lap dog.
I want to get down from the shelf and up and out of the basement to rejoin the world, to take chances and explore my new and not-so-new body. I want to feel the touch of another, to feel their lips, arms, breasts, phallus, their personality, their happiness and sadness. I want to take the chance to connect again and get undressed — to be as naked and as authentic as I possibly can. I want to be held and kissed. I desperately want to be kissed. Kissed gently on the lips, the neck, the shoulders, my breasts, my rounded belly and my pussy, right there on her beautifully sculptural lips.
I can write this kind of stuff down — words about sex, words about love — and I can dream about it, but to make it happen, to really happen in my life, I think I’m going to need some spirit guides, some radical sexual, romantic spirit guides to take me on this quest, my quest for sex, desire, romance and perhaps love. I need to learn to walk towards intimacy, love and desire.
Maybe it’s just me?
That’s how it feels to be alone: like you are the only person in the world who wakes up and stares across at an empty bed every morning; like you are the only person who explores their body with their fingertips to not feel body-isolated; and like you are the only person who closes their eyes every night and tries to remember what a simple light kiss on the lips would feel like as you fall asleep. You can feed and cook for yourself, spoil and pamper yourself, finger yourself and stroke your body but you cannot kiss or hug yourself. And no matter what they say, it’s pretty tough to tell yourself that you love you and it be a moment, a glorious moment in time to remember. Those things need intimacy, trust and the ability to put your belief and faith in another human, to connect.
Before transitioning, I avoided intimacy because my body’s surface felt so incongruent to my inner feelings, I avoided the ‘loving and trusting’ touch. Now I’m no longer sure who I am in relation to my ‘intimacy-potential,’ I don’t have an image of me that I project, dream about or foster. I really struggle to show vulnerability, or to be open to becoming vulnerable, but in order to grow happy I need to. I need to learn from others for whom intimacy issues have been solved, resolved or maybe were never problematic. I need to be a student in order to be able to deliver a plan for my body, my mind and my future life. I need to let go, step off and smile at not knowing.
This was gorgeous! I look forward to reading it
God I hate the clinical term ”neo vagina”.
I feel it as othering. I have a vagina.
Me too! Glad to hear someone else say that.
That said- I really want to thank Carolyn for several times seeking out voices that represent the all trans women’s bodies and experiences.
Rather than just saying I’m going to talk about trans women and sex – but I’m not going to talk about those with vaginas.
This is beautiful – Juno is such a wonderful writer. (Also “Morning Television blonde windswept bob” made me lol into my cup of tea).
So incredibly powerful ! I can’t help but recognize myself in this deep introspection.