We’ll Have Sex Again, I Promise

On the way into the deli, Stacy reached down to hold my hand and asked if I’d order her sandwich for her. On the way out of the deli, I reached down to hold Stacy’s hand and said, “We’ll have sex again, I promise.” It wasn’t the first time we’ve had either of those conversations. They always give her the wrong mustard and leave the pickles off her sandwich, and I haven’t wanted to have sex since — well, it’s been a while.

The joke was that we had to have sex before the election, because if Donald Trump won, I never wanted to be touched again. It was a joke. A joke. Because obviously Donald Trump was not going to win the election and on the very slim chance he did win (which he wasn’t going to do), it’s not like it would destroy my sex drive. And anyway, Hillary Clinton was going to be president. No doubt about it. A woman in the White House! The lead-up-to-election sex we had was euphoric. We were both giddy with hope because the world was about to be a whole new place where a woman who spent her entire adult life being demonized by the Right could follow the legacy of a black man who spent his entire presidency being demonized by the Right, after campaigning on the most liberal platform in history and embracing every kind of diversity.

I was wrong about what was a joke, and wrong about this also: I did need to be touched after the election.

I needed Stacy to stand beside me and hold my hand while I had another of what was becoming a series of pelvic exams. It was just some pain and symptoms that were supposed to add up to a specific diagnosis, but my uterus was swollen and my doctor needed to look at it again. I needed an abdominal ultrasound. I needed a transvaginal ultrasound. I needed another one. I needed a gynecological specialist. While I was at the imaging center, my doctor figured I should go ahead and get a mammogram. I’m 38. My mom had breast cancer when she was my age. My mammogram was suspicious. I needed a second one. And an ultrasound. A biopsy. An MRI.

My brain is a series of ceaseless numbers: 60 days since Donald Trump took office. Two days until my primary care physician hears back from my insurance. Four days until my biopsy. 24 hours until Congress votes on whether or not I’ll have healthcare next year. One week until my appointment at the imaging center. Ten days until my 30-minute appointment with the head of gynecology at Mt. Sinai. $100 copay. $1,000 deductible. 120 days since we’ve had sex.


The first time Stacy and I had sex it was different. I was afraid and I was shivering. I tried to play it off like I was cold, that my arms were tired. We both knew I was lying. I’d already lived ten lesbian lives by the time Stacy and I met. First love, toxic love, the illicit affair, the convincing myself a straight girl loved me back. I’d done the thing where I had sex with whoever I wanted wherever I wanted. In the park, in the car, on a hike, at the beach, in the dressing room, her house, my house, our friends’ house. Those times, I didn’t care what came after the sex. I didn’t want to go for pancakes, I didn’t want to watch TV, I didn’t want to shower together or take a walk or hang out and go out that night. It was fun. I had fun. (I really did!) I just wanted to go home to my books and my writing and my pets and the quiet.

It drove me crazy how much I cared what Stacy thought. Not just about me, but about TV and movies and music and biographies and fantasy novels and philosophy and queer stuff and politics and religion. And I guess I cared extra hard what she thought about having sex with me too because, for the first time ever, I wanted to ask someone to stay after and talk. She told me about the planets and the stars. I told her about the Oxford comma. Long baths, late nights. We kept talking and having sex until we were waking up and going to sleep doing both of those things in the same city, the same house, the same bed; promising to do them forever.

We used to cry when we talked about sex, one of us at least, every time. Because the way you feel about the sex you’re having and the sex you’re not having is a story you’re telling yourself about yourself and about your relationship and about every comforting and insecure thought you’ve ever had about both of those things. You’re wanted, so you’re beautiful; you’re desired, so you’re worthy. Not just of sex, but of love maybe. Of commitment. She could be having sex with anybody, but she’s having sex with you. She chose you. Or the opposite thing. It’s because you’ve gained weight. It’s because you’ve been depressed. It’s because she’s into something or someone else. There’s something wrong with you, as you always suspected.

But now there is something wrong with me, with my brain. I can’t bounce back from the election. I want to think of it as just politics, but it was more than that to me. It was my life’s purpose facing off against a culture that has destroyed so many of the people and things I have loved. Equality, empathy, and a promise to grapple with our own contributions to the darkness facing off against ingrained prejudice, ignorance, and backwards thinking. A prepared, capable, flawed woman promising to do good facing off against the bigoted bombast of a man promising to do harm.

There’s something wrong with my body, too. No one knows what yet. More probes are needed. More bloodwork. More images. More insurance approval, more appointments, more bills, more tests, more questions.


Stacy slipped her hand under the back of my t-shirt while we were watching basketball this week and gently traced her fingers up my spine. I shivered and let out a little purr that surprised us both. It’s not just the sex. I’m having a hard time being touched at all these days. I keep imagining myself with a robot body and my brain is inside it. I have work left to do, contributions to make to this world, but my body is a constant source of pain and anxiety. I try to forget it exists and just work; when Stacy touches me, I remember. And because she’s Stacy, I remember there’s a heart in there too. Bruised, exhausted, overflowing.

“Have you been thinking about having sex at all lately?”

I dropped my head and started to stutter out something guilty. I can’t think about sex because I can’t think about my breasts because I can’t think about the unidentified mass inside there. I can’t think about sex because I can’t think about my vagina because I can’t think about the pain and the uterus biopsy that’s coming. She kept her one hand under my t-shirt and reached for my chin. “Hey,” she said. “Hey, look at me. You’re okay. We’re okay. There are other ways to be close.”

She’s right. The closest I ever felt to her wasn’t when we were having sex. It was two months ago when she was standing beside me in that doctor’s office while I scooted down into the stirrups and prepared for a test that had sent me spiraling into a panic attack earlier in the week. The doctor tried small talk that was only making me more nervous, so Stacy smiled at me and said, “We rescued and adopted some feral kittens, Dr. Cox. Did Heather tell you?”

The doctor said no, I had not, but she’d love to hear about it.

“Well, they came into our backyard — how long ago, Heather?”

“Two summers,” I said.

“Two summers,” Stacy repeated. “Three black ones and two grey tiger-looking ones.”

“Their mom is a black tuxedo.”

“A black tuxedo. Her name is Bobbi Jean.”

The doctor said, “Just a few more minutes. You’re doing great.”

I was covered in sweat when the test was done, but I hadn’t hyperventilated. I hadn’t panicked. I didn’t realize Stacy had reached for my hand until it was over and she was still holding it. We went to brunch at a diner near the hospital. It looked like a cruise ship inside and Stacy ordered a drink that should have come with an umbrella. I didn’t want to talk and she didn’t try make me. She winked at me. She sipped her weird fruity Carnival cocktail.

We’re always filling in other people’s silences, the gaps in our story, with our own insecurities and hopes and fears and dreams and heartache. With the messages we’ve internalized from TV and movies. With the words we’ve heard from our churches and our politicians. We assign malevolent motive where there’s nothing but love. We castigate ourselves for offenses no one else thinks we committed. We do it with sex most of all.

Stacy has refused to fill in the gaps of our sex life with any story other than the truth: I’m sad and I’m scared.

We’ll survive Donald Trump and be better activists and humans on the other side of it. I’ll finally get a diagnosis with what’s going on with me and begin a course of treatment to fix it. I’ll reach for her hand. She’ll reach for mine. We’ll have sex again.

Stacy will have the Yankee chicken cutlet on a roll, no bacon, light deli mustard instead of honey mustard, add pickles.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 725 articles for us.

126 Comments

  1. I’m not sure if you wrote this in the Very Gentle Heather tone(that you should probably have trademarked) but that’s how I read it anyway.

    Also putting “never having to make small talk again” in the pet fostering Pro column, way to take one for the team, Bobbis

  2. My wife and I haven’t had sex regularly for two and a half years. I’m dying a little inside because I miss her so much. I’m really sorry you’re going through all this, Heather. Thank you for sharing, I’m glad we aren’t the only ones who struggle this way.

  3. Yesterday I was saying on twitter, it is amazing that on Buffy (the show)’s birthday they gave US a present! This seems like a dumb thing to say in a comment on a serious and beautiful essay, but in a world where pure joy (Beauty and the beast! the cutest cats! pictures of Willow & Tara grown and in love and both alive (I know that’s not what that picture actually is but please let me have this)) is so so rare and so hard to find, it feels so precious and generous. Anyway, that’s what you did in this essay — YOU are dealing with this scary and sad time, and you gave US a present out of it. This is perfect and sad and raw and I wish I could give you 100 hugs.

    I hope that you have answers very soon and that Stacy gets her right sandwich order. I’ve never been so glad that someone else is loved so well as I am when hearing about you and Stacy.

    I’m sorry for gushing like this, but <3 <3 <3

  4. I hope all your medical concerns turn out to minimal and/or easily resolved. The panic attacks recede. And you and Stacy have wonderful, tender, loving sex sometime, whenever it’s right for you.

    She sounds pretty wonderful, but she sounds pretty lucky too: I’m sure you can’t always do it, but you can communicate your problems clearly and beautifully which makes it easier to be there for the other person too. Love and best wishes to you both.

  5. Hot damn, Heather. This made me cry. Last year, falling in love + the shock of the election + a gynae scare converged for me too, so I could really relate to this. Sending well wishes.

  6. Heather, thank you for being brave. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    When I woke up this morning, I opened Autostraddle as has been my routine for everyday in recent memory. Unlike any other moment, 3 sentences in I had stopped everything else to a complete halt and read the entire piece on my phone while standing barefoot in my kitchen.

    Then I moved to my laptop to start work, and found myself reading it from beginning to end again. And again. And again.

    So now, my fourth time reading it in three hours. I just have to tell you:

    You are a marvel. Your words change lives, they have changed mine and saved me and provided me comfort when almost nothing else could. All of my love to you and Stacy on this journey. Know that we are with you, walking hand in hand.

  7. I’m just beginning to dig into Autostraddle as a community and not just a sex toy review and queer celebrity Instragram resource, and THIS is why. I so appreciate this sincere and generously intimate writing, which I so relate with and am so crying about not only for that reason but because, god, this post-election downward spiral and because I feel such feels for you and Stacy. Sending love and the best vibes your way.

  8. This is by far the best piece of writing I’ve ever read on Autostraddle.

    And for the record, I enjoy virtually everything I read on here a lot! But this piece is one of the most moving, well-written, beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever read, anywhere. This belongs in the New Yorker or some literary magazine or something. Wow. Thank you so so so much, Heather.

  9. “The doctor tried small talk that was only making me more nervous, so Stacy smiled at me and said, ‘We rescued and adopted some feral kittens, Dr. Cox. Did Heather tell you?’”

    This is so sweet and wonderful, and also I need to remember this technique for when other people are hurting.

    (Also… can there be a kitten update? I want to hear more about this!)

  10. Sending lots of love and good hippy vibes your way.
    Watching Parks and Recreation from start to end got my wife and I through a health scare a few years back… sometimes you just need a bit of Leslie Knope optimism to keep you going. Things will get better Heather, you poetic, noble land-mermaid.

  11. the maintenance guy is fixing another thing in our apartment (i know! omg i hate this apartment!) and i’m over here in my office crying and sniffling and i hope he doesn’t say he’s finished soon because i can’t face him with all my tears from reading this.

  12. When it could be cancer and one contemplates the void, the worry of sex frequency (and a lot of other things) takes a backseat.

    I’ve​ been there myself. In the recovery room post surgery I learned mine wasn’t but the woman’s​ across from me was. A few decades and 12 ft all that separated us. My dad kicked it at 32 and, for now at least, I’ve been spared the same fate.

    I don’t take any thing-even garbage-y Trump filled days for granted. Nor do I waste time on anything that won’t bring myself and others pieces of good and happy- even if I look a fool in the process.

    May you be well, friend.<3

  13. I just remembered something. When I was lying in MRI scanner or waiting to go to biopsy, I often thought about Rizzles. Not my wife, not my child, Rizzles. It took me to another place. The power of stories and fandom. I never even watched the show.

  14. heather this is so difficult and good, i love you and i’m grateful that you shared this with us. in my experience it’s incredibly challenging to talk about stuff like this as it’s ongoing — my instinct is always to try to keep a lid on it until it’s resolved, and there’s a neat ending to put on it — but i’m really thankful that you shared it now, when i think so many of us needed it. <3

  15. Thank you for this. For your honesty and openness with us. I wish you the best of luck. With everything. And I’m so happy you have someone to share this and to help you through this.

    In terms of the election, it’s so nice to feel validated through your words. My feelings and the feelings of so many others are shared and should not be diminished. But we will get through this. As a community, we always have. And we will come out better and stronger on the other side.

    Thank you again. For bringing tears to the eyes of someone who rarely sheds them.

  16. This is really moving. You are a lovely person and so is Stacey. You are fighting and making a difference, but you don’t have to do that all the time. I hope things improve for you soon.

  17. I’m in tears here in my office. I needed this. like you dont’ understand how much I needed this.

    I hope I’m as strong as Stacy, I hope I’m as strong and as good as Stacy. I’m trying, and I’m hoping.

  18. Thank you for this. So much. I needed this so badly and so did my partner. We haven’t had sex regularly for quite some time now… I keep getting tossed around to different doctors and the unknown makes it so difficult for me to even want to be touched. It hurts to want my partner so badly, but be so terrified of touch at the same time.

  19. “Because the way you feel about the sex you’re having and the sex you’re not having is a story you’re telling yourself about yourself and about your relationship and about every comforting and insecure thought you’ve ever had about both of those things.”

    Oh my god. Way to sum up something I’ve been trying (to varying degrees of success) to coherently verbalize for years.

  20. “Because the way you feel about the sex you’re having and the sex you’re not having is a story you’re telling yourself about yourself and about your relationship and about every comforting and insecure thought you’ve ever had about both of those things.”

    Oh my goodness. Way to sum up something I’ve been trying (to varying degrees of success) to coherently verbalize for years.

  21. Wow, thank you for sharing this and for allowing yourself to be so vulnerable and so honest, Heather.

    2016 has knocked the sex drive out of me for the moment. For me it’s because of the death of my sister after many months in hospital (though Brexit has also been a factor). I love my wife with all my heart – more so than ever, but at times I feel numb and disconnected from the world around me and the rest of the time I just feel so sad and lost. Spring is here now and my wife is forcing me to get outside and enjoy it and I know that one day I’ll feel more like myself again.

    I’ll be thinking of you and Stacey over the next few days and sending you much love and best wishes.

  22. I’m glad I was sitting down to read this, bc holy hell, Heather Hogan. I happened to be eating a smoked meat sandwich on rye, regular mayo and dill pickle on the side, and that just made this all a little too real.

    Thank you for this piece, thank you for your existence, thank you Stacy for taking care of you and to you for taking care of her, too. Be well, both of you. I hope for so many good things for you both.

    Love, a stranger on the Internet who is very grateful for your existence.

  23. I tell pretty much everyone I meet that Heather Hogan is my favorite writer. (And then force them to read autostraddle. It’s a great system!)

    You are so loved and appreciated here, Heather. It’s been incredible to read your work through the years and follow your relationship with Stacy- you’ve even made me like Harry Potter!

    I’m not the praying sort, but each time I sing some Dolly, I’ll put the energy your way <3

  24. Thanks for this. I appreciate your vulnerability in writing this. It can’t have been easy to do. I’m in my office getting teary and sniffly, and I’m glad I’m here by myself today. 🙂

    Stacy sounds pretty awesome, and you two are lucky to have each other. I wish you the best and hope that your medical issues will turn out to be minor.

  25. I want to say what a beautiful piece of writing this is, because it is, but what I keep hearing in my head is “no, no, no, no” over and over again at this shit that is causing you pain, and your contemplation of your own health and I just… can’t. No. No more, not on top of this shit year and this shit president and this shit world. No more pain. Not to you, of all people, who – I mean we don’t know each other but I read everything you write and one time I commented on your tumblr and you said you’d bake me a cupcake – you’re so kindhearted and full of integrity and I’m just not okay with this. But then again, like, also, on the totally flip side of my not-okay-with-this-ness, I am also so grateful that you wrote this. It feels like you wrote this for me (random internet girl) and I can’t thank you enough for being so honest and gentle and sincere. You make me feel not alone, so thank you.

  26. I’m a at a loss for words with how heartbreakingly beautiful this was to read and how affirming too. Thank you for sharing this Heather. I host an interview series called #sexafter where I talk to people about reconnecting to their bodies and pleasure after a traumatic or life-changing event and everything you wrote is why I started it. Hope you’ll check it out and maybe I could interview you one day.

  27. I’m a at a loss for words with how heartbreakingly beautiful this was to read and how affirming too. Thank you for sharing this Heather. I host an interview series called #sexafter where I talk to people about reconnecting to their bodies and pleasure after a traumatic or life-changing event and everything you wrote is why I started it. Hope you’ll check it out and maybe I could interview you one day.

    http://www.o.school

  28. This piece reminds me of one of my favorite Hemingway quotes, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

    The election broke so many of us, but this piece is a testament to being stronger in those broken places. Heather, you are stronger in those broken places and you and Stacy together are stronger in those broken places.

    Thank you for sharing your world with us.

  29. Heather this was so beautifully written – thank you so much for sharing your life and self and relationship with us. I for one totally cried and felt hopeful for love and the world and stuff.

  30. This was very hard to read. You are a brilliant, brave, good person Heather Hogan. I hope everything’s better soon, both with your body and your heart. Wishing you and Stacy brighter times ahead.

  31. I opened Auostraddle at a coffee shop hoping to low-key catch the attention of the queer girls here and now I’m holding back cheers and my chest hurts but also I want to hug you through my computer. Thank you for your vulnerability and your craft and for continuing to show up in all this.

  32. This is so moving – the way the personal and the political can collide and collude to produce such intense vulnerability, and how the person standing with us and by as at these times is the only thing that matters. Thank you for this. But please let us know if you’re OK!!

  33. Sending you and Stacy so, so much love, Heather. What a beautiful relationship.Know that warm and healing energies are being sent to you from all over the globe.

    America will survive Trump.

    Much love from Uganda!

  34. I have read Autostraddle for a year and AfterEllen before it’s demise and never created an account to have the privilege of commenting until now.

    This piece touched me deeply. As a woman in a country I’m rapidly not recognizing, I feel the Trump component of course. As someone with a disability, I am terrified of losing healthcare and our nation’s safety net. But it’s the actual sex part that hit me hard.

    With a disability, my view of my own body is complicated. It fails me in many ways. But where it fails me perhaps the most is in my inability to be intimate with someone without the reminder of its inabilities. It fails my heart, in that respect. And with that come periods of time where the very thought of being intimate is exhausting, frustrating, emotional.

    Thank you for reflecting some of these things back at me. We often get so caught up in our own problems that we forget others are struggling with these same issues.

    You have my sincere hopes and good vibes as you await news and treatment. Thank you for sharing this.

  35. ” I didn’t realize Stacy had reached for my hand until it was over and she was still holding it. We went to brunch at a diner near the hospital. It looked like a cruise ship inside and Stacy ordered a drink that should have come with an umbrella. I didn’t want to talk and she didn’t try make me. She winked at me. She sipped her weird fruity Carnival cocktail.”

    my favorite part. togetherness, in all its wildly varied manifestations, is such a beautiful thing.

    also i feel like maybe i should work on my winking skills. i’m kind of inspired.

  36. Oh, wow, I relate to this so much — the election trauma, obviously, but also the alienation-from-troublesome-body.

    I spent most of last summer in bed, recovering from really invasive surgery that I hadn’t expected to need. (Can I just say, you never want to hear an ultrasound tech say “wow”.) And now it’s like my body isn’t me anymore, just a thing I have to deal with.

    I can’t imagine how much more frustrating it must be when you’re in a relationship and your body’s rebellion is affecting someone else, too.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Heather. I’m sending you all the good wishes for a positive resolution to any medical issues you might face, and also for peace about everything you’re dealing with. <3

  37. Your writing style is really smooth and heartwrenching, thank you for sharing. I’m just a little bit confused about the part where you say Hillary Clinton campaigned “on the most liberal platform in history and embrac[ed] every kind of diversity.” Do you mean of any nominated nominee from one of the two major parties? Because that could technically still be debatable, but I’d probably concede that point. In the history of American elections, however, third party candidates have been far more liberal and inclusive in their messages than her platform was this go-round. I voted for Hillary but she’s definitely a moderate neoliberal, not a socialist or anything.

  38. Oh, Heather. This was so lovely and raw and I fervently hope that whatever shit ends up happening with the healthcare bills that you are safe and looked after – which it sounds like you will be. You’re doing such a great job keeping things together but please remember you don’t have to be ‘contributing’ to anything, you’re great just as is and your wellbeing comes first. As someone with a decent sex drive who just doesn’t want to have sex with Other people very often – guilt over how long it takes or worry about performing, I guess – this really was good in articulating the need to work out other forms of intimacy and touching.

  39. I had tears in my eyes by the end of this.

    The love you have for Stacy and she has for you is really touching. I struggle a lot with non-sexual intimacy, usually because it’s what I need but it’s also something I can’t figure out how to ask for.

    A body is a scary thing to inhabit. Support to you and your partner <3

  40. Wow, this is deep. I didn’t cry like everyone else (I’m all cried out) but I did feel like I am not alone with this kind of stuff. Thank you for writing this. I am going to show this to a few friends.

  41. “We assign malevolent motive where there’s nothing but love. We castigate ourselves for offenses no one else thinks we committed. We do it with sex most of all.”

    This is so relevant and timely for me I teared up. I’m sorry you’re dealing with scary health stuff. Thank you so much for voicing what myself and probably many others haven’t been able to articulate yet <3

  42. <3

    "Because the way you feel about the sex you’re having and the sex you’re not having is a story you’re telling yourself about yourself and about your relationship and about every comforting and insecure thought you’ve ever had about both of those things."

    Crying, thank you

  43. Oh, this is so beautiful and beautifully written. I hope I’m fortunate enough to find a love like this one day. Wishing you both the best. This election has unmade me too, and I’m still not sure how long it will take to put myself back together or who I’ll be when I do.

  44. I’ve read this three times now and each time I try to compose a comment the words fail me. Your writing is a gift to this world, and changes people’s lives for the better. I hope that you really know that.

  45. Thank you for This. I’ve been doing a worse job than usual trying to fill my partners silence and my own with really one dimensional stories, and it’s been wearing on me. This reminds me they were complex and life is hard and that we love each other and we’ll be fine. We’re where we need to be.

  46. Misha read this the night you posted it and told me to wait awhile to read it. That it would be too much for me and that I needed to take care of myself first. She was right, as she often is, but I am sorry it’s taken me this long. What a beautiful piece of writing. I had tears running down my cheeks almost the entire time I was reading and was just filled with love for you and Stacy. I wish you both so much peace, contentment and, of course, good health.

  47. Thank you for this piece, Heather Hogan. I’m only reading it months after it was written and it still resonates so much. Thank you for writing it, thank you for sharing such personal thoughts. Thank you.

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