Still in Transition
Dear Patrick: I am a trans woman who was finally able to have SRS four months ago. My doctor says I have recovered nicely from the surgery. I knew when I decided to have it that there was a chance I would lose my ability to have an orgasm. But I wasn't able to have sex anyway because I didn't like the way it reminded me of all the things I felt were wrong with my body. So if I did have sex, it was to give pleasure to my partner and to have company in bed. I knew I would never feel complete as a woman until my whole body was female.
I got the surgery from a doctor who promised to construct a clitoris. I knew this was an important part of a woman's equipment, so I didn't want to do without one. It made the procedure even more expensive. But I think the result is better, at least in terms of how I look. I believe I could sleep with anybody now and they would never know about my past. I wouldn't do that because it's dishonest and unfair to the man who wants you. But I feel safer in case of a car accident, I don't want emergency room personnel refusing to treat me because they know I am trans.
I feel more confidence in my identity so I have had a lot more partners than I did before SRS. But not being able to come with a man I want is so much more disappointing than I thought it would be. I wasn't having orgasms before so I thought looking better would be a great improvement. I still feel incomplete. Am I being selfish and expecting too much? Is there some magic technique that could make sex better for me? I don't have any girlfriends I can ask about it. The further I got in my transition, the less contact I had with other trans women. I don't know how truthful any of us were about sex anyway … It was a competitive scene, and I felt like if you admitted you had any problems, other girls would just use it as an excuse to tell you that you weren't really a woman. I've looked for more information but on-line there's nothing but porn. No sex manuals for women like me.
A mere four months is not nearly enough time to recover from such major surgery. You have just made major changes to your pelvic tissue and nerves. I would allow at least a year to go by before I gave up on having an orgasm. You've got a whole new vehicle to drive, and this is a much bigger deal than learning how to manipulate a stick shift instead of an automatic transmission.
Many women report that their sexual experiences are holistic rather than genital. They experience sexual pleasure over their whole bodies, especially sensitive areas of the skin. Whole-body touching is important not just to make a woman feel safe or loved, but to give her the time to relax and build up a sexual charge. I hope you are taking regularly scheduled breaks to explore your body and figure out where your erogenous zones are and what kind of touch you like best. It's much easier to learn how to have an orgasm while you are alone. Once you are able to masturbate to orgasm, you can transfer what you learned to lovemaking with a partner.
Bring in elements that may enhance your auto-erotic sexual experiences. Collect a basket full of velvet or fur scraps or soft brushes, to use for stroking your body. Material that helps to create fantasy can be helpful. Some women like romance novels, and some go for more explicit material. Some like the written word, some respond to visual erotica. Don't even try to touch your genitals until you are feeling quite relaxed and focused in your body.
There are many cis-gendered women who don't know how to masturbate. So you are in good company. Use a variety of strokes with different parts of your hand. Experiment with dry and wet caresses. Imagine that you are sending arousal into your nerve endings, creating a pathway between your hand and your clitoris, building excitement that will eventually be released. If it feels good to have something inside, make sure you are using the right water-based lubricant and a toy that is not too big. Follow your doctor's recommendations for keeping your vagina healthy and open. Regular dilation is usually necessary to preserve depth and reduce scarring.
Some women find that their hands get too tired, and they can't create enough stimulation to have a clitoral orgasm with fingers alone. A mild vibrator may help you. But be sure that your doctor approves of this activity—you don't want to damage a new structure with a toy that is too strong.
Make use of all of your sexual organs. Women are lucky this way, having many choices. Anal stimulation is often overlooked in advice for women having orgasmic difficulty. I'm not sure why there is such a big taboo around anal sex. The anal opening has many nerve-endings, and inside there is a prostate gland that is responsive to pressure. It's kind of like the G spot, a bundle of nerve endings in the roof of the vagina that can trigger orgasms for cis-gendered women. So you don't have to think of the prostate as a “male” organ. I've spoken with many trans women who experienced their first post-SRS orgasms during anal stimulation.
Use a technique of self-exploration that resembles what you are doing with your clitoris. Don't feel that you have to immediately plunge inside. You can build a lot of excitement with teasing the opening alone, using different lubricants and levels of pressure. If you do feel a desire for penetration, use a toy with a condom. Never put a toy in your vagina that has been in your rectum. You'll need to change the condom and disinfect the toy before you can switch orifices. The bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your bowel healthy can cause vaginal and urinary tract infections. So play safe, take good care of yourself. It's also a good idea to have anal toys with a flared base. You don't want to put anything in your butt that might slip out of your hand and get lost! It's also important to make sure the toy is the right size, has a smooth texture, and will not break.
If a few months of self-touch are not getting you over the edge so you can experience fulfillment, you might need to look for a sex therapist or a surrogate. Most large cities have counselors who are trained to help clients with various issues. Just make sure you get someone who is ethical, educated, and licensed. You deserve professional help from someone who knows what they are doing, and will be respectful of your identity and your problems.