Change My Sex Life
Dear Patrick: I am an FTM, a female-to-male transgender, a transman. I began taking testosterone last year. I know not all of us come out of the lesbian community, but I lived as a hard dyke for many years. I was a stone butch. Never let any of my girlfriends touch me. They knew they should not even ask, it would not have been respectful. Now that I am on T, that style of denial no longer works for me. But I am not sure how to get more of what I want out of sex. I know a lot about how to read my partner, how to get her to give up her secrets, but I can’t seem to find the words I would need to tell somebody else how to please me. I have been with girls who said they were willing, ready, and able—but none of them followed through. I don’t know how long I can keep holding back, this is killing me!
Testosterone is going to cause physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual changes that will impact your libido, your sexual functioning, and your physical responsiveness. But taking the shots or rubbing on the cream isn’t going to be enough, as you have discovered, to create an ideal sex life.
For readers who are not experienced with how gender works in some parts of the lesbian community, allow me to explain that a stone butch is a masculine person who is physically female but cannot tolerate being reminded of that fact by a partner’s sexual touch. The heat in such a relationship comes from the contrast between femininity and masculinity, between the naked exposure of one person’s desire and sexual response, and the distance of the other. A stone butch may remain fully or partially dressed during sex. The lack of sexual vulnerability or overt need is seen as reinforcing masculinity.
Not every stone butch is transgendered. Butches of every variety are simply women who express more masculinity than the larger culture thinks is permissible. But a masculine woman doesn’t necessarily want to be a man. Most of the time, she just wants to be left alone to pick out her own clothes, get her hair cut to please herself, and enjoy her relationships without getting called names in public or threatened with punishment for violating other people’s norms.
As the transgendered community becomes more visible, fewer and fewer FTMs are making a detour through the lesbian community. The trend now is for people with a cross-gender identification to face it at an earlier age, and transition. Transition means to create an identity, a life, and relationships that allow for a more accurate gender expression. This has upset some lesbians. The statement, “There won’t be any more butches left” is often heard. But I doubt that is true. Butch identity is as authentic as the self-image of a trans-boy who was not born with typical boy equipment. I am not sure why the lesbian community would want to hang on to FTMs or prevent them from transitioning. FTMs are not happy lesbians. As they try to fit into a community that actually has no role for them, they can do themselves and others a great deal of damage, even if their intentions are good.
This explanation of butch-femme relationships and transgenderism does not address the reality of a whole other group of differently-gendered people whose hearts and minds are in another space, but not necessarily a male or female space. For gender-queer people, neither womanhood nor manhood are a good fit. Hormones or surgery may or may not make a gender-queer person feel better. It’s important for each individual who questions their gender to check out all of their options, and seek out the best possible, unique solution. This may mean experimenting with identities that may or may not wind up being the best choice. Our culture is used to gender being determined by a medical authority at birth, not a flexible continuum that may change over the course of a person’s life. We are used to thinking of gender as a fixed and inherent quality that cannot be altered to suit anyone’s taste or desire. Controversy and turmoil over these issues will probably occupy at least as much of our time in the future as the issue of gay rights has done in the past.
For you, Dear Reader, terms like “FTM” and “transman” seem like the best fit. So you are taking testosterone, and it sounds like you want to eventually be able to live like a heterosexual man. Unfortunately, your straight male counterparts had many teen years in which to flounder, embarrass themselves, and make botched attempts at getting the attention of the opposite sex. For these peers, the idea of a guy who doesn’t know what he wants in bed is sort of a brain-breaker. But even the crudest straight guy has to admit, if only under duress, that there is more to sex than persuading a girl to touch his cock, getting her to suck it, or putting it inside her. Sex is also a source of gender confirmation. A woman reinforces a man’s masculinity, if only by swearing at how obtuse it makes the typical guy. By allowing access to her body, she invites a man to appreciate and vicariously experience femininity. Sex might even be the visible evidence of an emotional bond or commitment.
What is a transman to do in this wasteland of gender misinformation, missed connections, and unequal social privilege? Well, it never hurts to be kind to others. Never forget that all human beings suffer. We all want more pleasure, we want to be loved, we want to be more attractive, we want to be safe, and we don’t want to hurt. We fall short of our ideals. We feel alone, and we experience great self-doubt. We are vulnerable to misfortune, sickness, injury, and death. The problems that you face as a transgendered person are often hard for others to understand, but this commonality of connects us all. If you can draw parallels between your own problems and others’, your challenges will seem more manageable, and you won’t be as likely to retreat into self-pity or isolation.
Be patient with yourself. The first few times any of us have sex, we usually are not at our best. We may commit a wide range of errors, from over-confidence to a lack of tact to poor timing to misreading another’s signals. You have to allow yourself, in other words, to have at least the minimum equivalent of an adolescence.
Straight men are expected to try to have sex with women, and that includes the first date. It may even include a mandate to approach women you don’t find very attractive. (Feel free to disregard any of these mores that seem stupid.) You don’t have to make it a hard sell, and you don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you are expected to remind her that you are available, if she’d like to take you to bed. The reality is that men get cleaned up, go out, and then hope that a woman will pick them, but the outward fiction of heterosexuality is a story of male assertiveness and female reaction. That means you have to be the one to ask if you can buy her a drink, is she there alone, would she like some company, would she like to dance, can you call her, etc. The good news is that with a stone butch background, you are going to be light years ahead of the average straight man in terms of your social skills and your understanding of female psychology and socialization.
If you are lucky enough to wind up in bed with a girl, don’t wait for her to volunteer to do you. You are expected to indicate what you’d like her to do. This is even more true if she has little or no experience with transmen. This may be as subtle as making out for a while and then applying a little pressure to her neck, to see if she will put her mouth on your junk. Or it can be as explicit as the direct statement, “I’d really like to feel your hand on my cock.” If she is willing to stroke you, it is okay to give her praise and suggestions. For example: “That feels amazing,” “Slow down,” or “Give me a little more pressure.” If the way she is touching you doesn’t feel good, say, “Ouch” or “Too much”—whatever will clarify and correct the problem as soon as possible. A partner who listens and follows directions is a gem, and deserves to be shown a good time.
FTM cocks do not react exactly the same way that other cocks respond. You have the obvious advantage of not getting anybody pregnant, and the risk of disease transmission is very low. You have a lot more nerve endings packed into your equipment. It may take less work to get you off, or you may need more indirect stimulation. For example, the head of your cock might be too sensitive to enjoy hard, direct pressure. Many FTMs report that they rapidly lose interest in sex once they have come, and may even want to fall asleep. This male pattern has been annoying women since we were first trusted to sleep in the cave with them without pissing in their pile of sleeping furs. Even if you had multiple orgasms before you went on T, you may find now that one orgasm is more than enough. So if you want to spend a whole night making love, she might have to go first. You will be looking, then, for a woman who is considerate and realistic enough to understand that even if she has come 25 times and wants to sleep, she needs to keep her wits about her just long enough to satisfy you. Simultaneous orgasm is a less important goal than simultaneous sleep.
Some FTMs do not like to use vibrators or strap-on dildos, perceiving these as lesbian devices. I think that’s silly, personally. Why limit your opportunity to please yourself and your partner? If you are having sex with someone who likes deep penetration, why not use a toy? I know, I know, we all want our cocks to be big enough to do the job—and that applies to ALL guys, not just FTMs. Nature doesn’t always provide a perfect fit between our genitals and our ambitions. That’s why the first “tool” a human being ever made was probably not a knife or a spear. It was probably a sex toy. What was the first thing we did with a camera? Took pictures of nekkid people. What was the first thing we did with electricity? Cobbled together a buzzing thingie that fit between our legs. New technologies always gets their maiden voyages in the realm of Eros.
If you want to use a strap-on, consider investing in a dildo or a harness can hold a battery-operated egg against your crotch. This creates mutual pleasure that keeps you in touch with your partner. A few FTMs report that the pressure of the base of a dildo against the crotch is enough to satisfy them, and I say, “Good for them. Now bring me some new batteries and shut the hell up.”
If you are not masturbating already, I recommend it. Being able to take the edge off will make you more polite in public, and it will give you useful information about where and how you like to be touched. Masturbating by hand is not inherently more masculine than using a toy.
While we are on the topic of using what you’ve got, I want to acknowledge that some FTMs like penetration. Not everybody enjoys it, but if you do, it’s okay to make this a part of your sex life. (I’m not sure who put me in charge of writing perpetual permission slips for the frisky boys and girls at the School of Hard Knocks, but I’m happy to keep signing them as long as you all keep putting your apples on my desk.) You may first want to make sure your partner is emotionally safe, of course. There’s nothing worse than having a bedmate shame you for requesting a specific erotic experience. There are people who are ignorant or insensitive enough to tell you that if you like to get fucked, you can’t be a man. Many, many, many straight and gay guys of all types will disagree, of course.
The anatomical facts of life for an FTM are that some of our genital tissue, tissue that would have gone into creating a bigger penis if we had developed into baby boys, is placed internally. It makes no sense at all to carve up an FTM’s genitals and decree certain parts of his bits are male and certain parts are female. If he is male, then his body is male, and that includes his genitals. The world may not be ready for men who have vaginas, but you know what? The world is a spoiled brat who doesn’t always get what it wants. I would rather not have a vagina, frankly, but it remains firmly in place despite various eviction notices. If I have to take care of it, it will have to pitch in and do its part around the house. That may include performing as an erogenous zone from time to time. Because, let’s face it, genitals are better at providing pleasure than they are at doing the dishes or balancing one’s checkbook.
I hope some of this information has been helpful. I also hope nothing here seems disrespectful. I have included a little humor because I am only a little funny, but also because humor sometimes makes it easier to discuss uncomfortable topics. I certainly don’t mean to prescribe (or condemn) any specific sexual behavior. By mentioning a bunch of different things you can try, I only want to give you permission to find a lovemaking style that really works for you. After all the years you devoted to pleasing others, you are entitled to receive as well. But if any specific sex technique sounds scary or just boring, don’t force yourself to try it just because some silly columnist nattered on and on about it.