Heartbroken

Friday, March 09, 2012

Question

My lover, a transman, is breaking up with me because he says he does not get enough physical attention from me. I thought we had a very active sex life. We make love every time we see each other, four times a week or so, and he is one of the best lovers I've ever had. I also think he is an incredibly brave, honorable, handsome, fascinating person, and I wanted so much to make a commitment to him and create a life together. I don't think I will ever meet someone I love as much as I love him.

	Ironically, I suspect we got into a dysfunctional pattern in our lovemaking because I wanted to respect his male identity. If he was using a strap-on, I thought that my responsiveness would be enough. It certainly seemed like he was having an orgasm when I was! I've wanted to touch him, to slide my hands along his bare skin, put him in my mouth, please him in any way possible. But I held myself back because I knew that too much attention to the wrong areas might be traumatic or just a big turn-off for him. He immediately took the lead in our love life, and I guess I (incorrectly) assumed that if he wanted something else from me, he would tell me what to do.	Is there any hope? I guess if he is determined to leave me, I can't talk him out of it. I just really, really wish I had known this was happening before he decided there was no solution other than a separation. Do you think it's worth trying to talk him out of giving me back my keys and erasing my phone number from his phone?

Answer

If you have strong feelings toward another person and you believe that the problems in the relationship can be resolved, it is always worth it to keep communication channels open and offer to keep on trying to fix it. Love doesn't come along all that often. Real, grownup love deserves the extra effort! (But I should warn my crackpot readers that if someone has been clear that a relationship is over, and rejected the possibility of reconciliation, you need to back off, find support from other people to get over the heartbreak, and move on to new dating opportunities. Please don't take my advice here as permission to harass someone who has no interest in getting back together.)

Let's get back to “Heartbroken” and her situation. Tell him some of what you have told me, about how deep your feelings are, and how much you have wanted to touch him. Explain why you let go of your own sexual initiative. Let him know that you have not been passive because you didn't want to touch him. Reassure him that if he is ever willing to give you a second chance, you would love to be more active and giving. But do make sure that you tell him that you need more information from him about what he wants and needs.You have poignantly described a common problem in the sex lives of many FTMs (female-to-male transsexuals) and the people who love them. Being transgender means that you are uncomfortable (to say the least) with the body that you were born with. A sensitive partner is aware of this and certainly doesn't want to give offense. But every FTM has a different set of “no-touch” zones or “you gotta do this” buttons. Those parameters, needs, and boundaries may change from one partner to another, or from one phase of life to another. Couples in this situation need even more pillow talk than couples who can fall back on more mainstream patterns.For example, some FTMs like nipple stimulation, but they don't want you to touch any other part of their chests. Others may not want any part of their torso touched, but need to feel your hands on their backs or upper arms. Some guys like oral sex; others may want a handjob; some prefer to get off only with indirect stimulation, like the pressure from the base of a strap-on sex toy. Some guys want to make themselves come while you hold them or talk dirty. Other guys don't like to masturbate at all. There is no way for you to predict what moves will get a groan of appreciation and what might make him want to push you away. Unfortunately, many women with experience in the lesbian community see FTMs as super stone-butches. (For my non-lesbian readers, let me explain that a stone butch is a masculine woman who does not want her partner to give her direct sexual stimulation.) Being treated like a stone butch can make some FTMs feel disrespected and slighted. They see that identity as a female pattern rather than an expression of masculinity. Lesbian gender doesn't often transfer well into FTM bedrooms. Besides, if you are taking testosterone, you will probably be strongly motivated to find some way around your own sexual hangups. Men have a lot of permission in our culture to be lusty and pursue their sexual desires. The fact that an FTM's genitals may not be exactly like the genitals of other men doesn't change this!I hope your boyfriend can hear what you have to say and give you another chance. For many decades, the doctors who specialized in “treating” gender dysphoria believed that transsexuals didn't need sex and probably shouldn't expect much in that realm of life. As trans communities become larger and more visible, we have realized that we want and deserve to have complete lives, including intimacy and pleasure. Couples who genuinely care for each other can usually come up with a satisfying form of lovemaking that offers plenty of novelty and mutual joy. You sound like you have a good understanding of what went wrong here, so I hope you get a chance to correct your course. A lot of women are not nearly as insightful and open-hearted as you, so I can't help but think that the two of you might be able to be very happy together.

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