Half a year after I got to New York City with no job or assets or plan, and almost a year after I knew I was a trans femme, I found a remarkable trans support group mostly by accident. It has since disbanded, but it met for an hour every Thursday evening and it gave me a resource that most trans people don’t get: people who had lived through what I was going through. Five months on hormones, I relied heavily on this group of 30 or so people over the course of my medical transition, and so one night I found myself asking a question I’d wondered almost since coming out: how am I supposed to have sex if I hate my genitals?
Even in explicit conversations about trans people’s dysphoria and genitals, media doesn’t really talk about how trans people with genital dysphoria have sex. When generally well-meaning cis journalists explore how we might rectify our dysphoria, they often play as voyeuristic rather than informative, asking questions about genital reconstructive surgery and therefore trans genitals, but somehow ignoring how, exactly, trans people have sex. Resources like Fucking Trans Women, a zine by trans writer Mira Bellwether, and Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary, edited by Morty Diamond, have cult followings and, like the work of trans writers who frequently contemplate sexuality like Elliot Wake, Sybil Lamb, Casey Platt and Imogen Binnie, are often passed around but not exactly common. The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference provides some more clinical online information and numerous panels at the conference addressing similar issues, but is highly controversial. And while trans sexuality is discussed in groups like the one I found, these groups just don’t exist many places. In Kentucky, where I live now, they don’t exist at all.
This scarcity makes hearing from other trans people more necessary than ever. So, for the discerning young trans person without a quality support group, and for partners of trans people who want to educate themselves before talking with their partner about sex, I’ve collected some suggestions about trans sex from trans women, non-binary femmes and otherwise trans non-men. These suggestions are by no means conclusive, but are a jumping off point for trying to find sex that you and your partner can both enjoy.
Some points apply to everyone. You have the right to stop sex at any time. If you need to stop, there will be other chances and other people, and good partners will understand. Have your own boundaries. You will feel unwanted due to your transness at some point. You will find people who want you not despite but because of who you are. I promise.
Other points are more fluid and are different for different people. Because everyone’s different, start with language. If you have a penis and you call it a dick, that’s cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. Many trans femmes, especially trans women, use other names for their genitals — I’ve heard “clit,” “strapless” and “pussy,” but there are lots of others a google away. The same is true for some nonbinary afabs. Think about the language that makes you feel good, and use it. (If you’re a partner, ask. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: “Hey, before we go any further, is there any specific language you like for your body so I can make this good for both of us?” Honestly, do this for every partner. Communication makes for better sex.)
A lot of trans people don’t like having our genitals touched by other people, or receiving any sexual attention at all, and if that’s how you want to approach sex, that’s how you should do it. “Sex doesn’t really involve my genitalia much at all, if I can avoid it,” says trans femme Nadia. “If I’m penetrating a partner, which doesn’t happen super often, it’s with toys or something else.” Ze says ze looks “more for sensual experiences that focus on other erogenous zones, which can vary by partner, and kink that focuses more on pain or control than straight-up sex.”
If you do want your genitals touched, it’s okay to be specific about it. Some nonbinary people who have vaginas like to have their clitoris worked like a cock. Yes, this includes some trans femmes who have had genital reconstructive surgery. “I like to have the index finger and thumb wrap around my clit,” says Rose, a genderfluid femme. “When my partner pumps it like they’re giving me a hand job, or when they suck on it like it’s really a cock, it helps sometimes.” Many trans women with vaginas don’t like them treated the same way many cis women do. Penetration can be painful or cause dysphoria, and sometimes too much clitoral focus can make an orgasm fizzle out. Alex, one such girl, says that “it’s really about the combination of different types of stimulation. I can’t come just from being touched one way, and I can’t think about it too long or it’s all downhill from there.”
During sex, keep checking in with yourself and make sure you’re listening to your body. With sex comes a certain level of vulnerability, and without clothes it’s harder to hide the things about ourselves that make us uncomfortable. For that, constant communication is key. “Sometimes in the middle of sex you just have to stop,” says Melody, a trans woman who proudly says she’s done so many times. “Even if you’re comfortable at the start, things change as sex goes, which is part of why it’s so great, but it also makes for complicated situations. It’s important to communicate, yes, but it’s more important to know that there’s no shame in needing to take a break from the moment. If taking five minutes to calm down helps you reassess what you need, both you and your partner are going to have a better experience than if you just power through.”
Having sex with yourself is the best way to explore what you might want in sex with other people. Use your hands, use toys, and find out what works for you. For instance, masturbation is a good place to try muffing; coined in Fucking Trans Women, it’s highly controversial. I know trans women who swear by it and others (me included) that it does nothing for; it’s one of those things that you just have to try for yourself. “I recommend, if you’re trying to masturbate with a penis, curling it inwards towards the testes while it’s still flaccid,” says Sara, sex writer extraordinaire. “You can then massage it and work at it as if it’s a clitoris, apply vibrators, whatever you want. It really helps.” Masturbation is also a good place to explore sex toys like vibrators. “If you’ve tried them before and didn’t like them, maybe try a different kind,” Nadia suggests. “For me, I’d always had the long type” — the fully vibrating rod style — “and it was like having a weird vibrating dick pressed against me making me super aware of my genitals. For me, a concentrated bullet vibe is a much better fit.”
Above all, communication with your partners is key. By keeping a clear and open line of communication both with your partners, and within your own head, you can find a clear starting point to establish how sex can be comfortable and fulfilling for you.