The first time I had sex with my partner, my chest was bound with kinesiology tape. It was an inelegant process: I cut the tape to size, covered my nipples with bandaids, layered it across each breast, pulling the flesh sideways and sticking it to my ribcage. I didn’t even notice it was on till we were getting intimate. Then I looked down.
I should take it off. She probably wants to see my boobs. She probably thinks it’s weird.
But I couldn’t. Not without getting into a very unsexy pose and ripping my skin off. So I left it and accepted that I was having sex with a bound chest.
And I loved it. It made me feel really comfortable. The following day I felt a glow of pride – someone had made me feel sexy the way I wanted to be sexy.
When I’d had sex before, I had stripped completely naked. Sure, seeing my breasts and having them be seen freaked me out. I didn’t think I had any other option but to get used to being uncomfortable during sex.
My partner showed me that this wasn’t true.
If you’re cis (not trans), I want you to read this article because maybe, one day, you’ll want to have sex with a trans person. And it can be daunting. It requires communication and understanding of each other. Thankfully, the requirement of an open mind and forgoing of sexual conventions allows an opportunity for really great sex.
FOR CIS PEOPLE
Before the Bedroom
- It’s essential to take note of things that may make your partner feel feminine versus masculine. The kind of touch and the type of words you use while intimate can be quite powerful.
- For a transmasculine person, this might be holding their arm while walking, sitting on their lap, or using compliments like ‘hot’ or ‘handsome.’ For a transfeminine person, touching their waist, putting your arm around them, and using compliments like ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful.’ This doesn’t mean you are limited to these behaviours – they’re just things that can affirm your partner’s gender.
- Whether you’ve used toys during sex before, it’s worth considering what they might mean to your partner. For cis, straight couples, sex toys can be a type of foreplay or a once-in-a-while thing. For trans people, they might mean a lot more. If this is the case, reevaluate your perception of toys. They don’t need to take away from the intimacy of sex, and they don’t mean that either of you are incapable of manually pleasing the other. Try to keep an open mind, and if neither of you is experienced, head to Fyshwick and take a look through the sex shops. You’re bound to find something that makes both of you feel good.
- Dysphoria is the discomfort trans people feel with their assigned gender at birth, ranging from mild unease to extreme distress. It can be a big part of someone’s life or not present at all. Either way, it’s often exacerbated during sex, so it’s vital that you understand the basics of how it works and talk to your partner about their specific experience.
- Dysphoria is not static, and levels of dysphoria will fluctuate naturally and in response to triggers. The things that trigger dysphoria may be being misgendered, having certain parts of their body touched, or seeing themselves naked.
- Having sex is a vulnerable act. Be kind to your trans partner by being aware that they could feel dysphoric during sex and respecting their boundaries, even if they may seem odd to you.
FOR TRANS PEOPLE
Your trans body is sexy!
- I spent so long feeling unsexy. I didn’t want to be sexy as a woman, and I could never be sexy in the way a cis man is. But what makes someone sexy isn’t how well they look like the ideal of a man or a woman. If your partner wants to have sex with you, they find you sexy. Be proud and secure in that.
Unpack your feelings during sex
- Investigate why something makes you feel weird or bad during sex. This way, you can learn what your boundaries are. Ask yourself: What precisely is making me uncomfortable? Is it dysphoria, do I not like it, or is it just new? Is this pleasurable for me?
- Your cis partner may not know what questions to ask or won’t want to ask in case they make you uncomfortable. Before sex, try telling your partner your boundaries, what you like, and what language you are comfortable with using.
Trust yourself & your partner
- Don’t keep going along with sex just because you don’t want to offend your partner. Sometimes you get a random wave of dysphoria – you’re always better off stopping rather than pushing through. Doing so strengthens your own self-awareness and the trust you place in your partner.
Be mindful of your partner’s experience
- When I didn’t like the way my partner was touching me, I used to just pull away. Feeling dysphoric, I would be too ashamed to say much to her. I didn’t realise that this was making her uncomfortable.
- It’s painful to feel like you have triggered someone’s dysphoria during sex – like you’ve failed as a partner. Be mindful of this experience. Explain what you’re feeling, and clarify what you want to do next. If you need a specific touch to stop, a simple;
“Could you not ——, I’m feeling a bit dysphoric” does the trick.
It’s also okay to be urgent and brief. Try;
“Can we take a break” or “we need to stop”
- Once you’ve calmed down, explain what happened to your partner and do something together that makes you feel closer – watch a movie or cuddle. Aftercare is important after sex, but it’s even more important after ‘failed’ sex.
This may seem like a lot to remember. But all of these things will develop over time. It may take a little more consideration than ‘traditional’ sex; but I promise, it’s worth it.
Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 5 ‘Cum As You Are’
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