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Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Question MarkI’m catching up, but still behind. Today we have two short letters that I have some thoughts about, but that I am unable to answer with much certainty, so I hope that readers can give these writers some additional information.

A reader writes: “I found your website while googling around on gender-neutral pronouns. My question, in brief, is this: Is it just me, or are gender-neutral pronouns mostly sought by people who were assumed to be cis women at birth?

“I love the idea of genderqueer and have happily appropriated the parts that work for me and read a fair amount of queer theory over the years. It occurred to me today that most of the third-way writing I have read is by people who no longer want to use girl-pronouns after being assigned she/her at birth, where as trans women tend to love getting access to (and perhaps ideally only using) the girl pronouns versus seeking some third way.

“I googled a bit hoping to find some evidence to the contrary, but didn’t find much. Perhaps I’m insufficiently thorough. Thanks in advance for your reply, and also for your patience with my question and any parts I may have phrased inelegantly or insensitively.”

I don’t know whether or not this is true, but it appears to me, as well, that the majority of people who prefer gender-neutral pronouns are those who were assumed to be female at birth. I do know some genderqueer-identified people who were designated male at birth who use “they,” and I know some who use “he” and “she” interchangeably. But again, the majority of people who I have found to use “they” or “ze” were designated female at birth.

I’m not aware of any statistics on this, or whether or not any surveys or studies have been done (if anyone knows, please fill us in), so my answer is coming from personal experience.

If my personal experience transfers to the larger culture (and I don’t know if it does or not), and I had to give my thoughts on why this might be, I would say that I think that the “gendered” life experience is different for those who are designated female at birth and those who are designated male at birth, and this causes potentially different responses to any feelings of gender incongruity. (more…)

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Question MarkHere are some short questions and short answers. I (and I’m sure the writers) would love to get reader input on any or all:

A reader writes: “When someone says they are a transsexual man, does that mean that they are a woman contemplating their sex identity or a man contemplating their sex identity? Pardon me if this was offensive, it was purely out of curiosity so I don’t mess up in the future.”

No offense taken. It’s a legitimate question. (Here’s a link to some vocabulary terms that might also help: Trans-lations.)

In most cases, when a person says that he is a transsexual man, what he means is that he has transitioned in some way from female to male. In other words, he was assigned female at birth, and now lives as a man. When someone says that she is a transsexual woman, she means that she was assigned male at birth and has transitioned in some way to female.

This is particularly confusing when the press refers to a “transgender man” when they actually mean a “trans woman,” and vice versa. I could go into a long diatribe about the whole “transgender” and language thing, but I won’t (because nobody wants to hear it again).

Suffice it to say that when people refer to themselves as a man or a woman and any form of “trans” is in front of that, they will generally mean that they are living in a sex and gender that were not assigned to them by the outside world at birth.

A reader writes: “I’ve always felt like I was male from being a young child, and now I feel ready to begin my journey. My question is: I understand there is no guarantee with hormones, but do people who are younger when they begin hormones see results sooner?”

Hmm. That depends on the person. I don’t think there is any research behind this. In my experience, it seems to me that people who are younger when they begin often have “better” results. By that, I mean that I have seen young people masculinize relatively quickly when compared to older people (but “quickly” is just a matter of a few months), and it seems to me that they generally get better facial hair and muscle tone. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a woman who recently started dating a man who was assigned female at birth and transitioned several years ago, a fact that he shared when we began talking about having sex.

“As part of my usual pre-sex discussion, I asked him about getting tested for HIV and other STIs, and he said that he has had very negative experiences with health care providers and was not willing to get tested.

“He said that since he has not engaged in risky behavior since he was tested several years ago, he could not possibly have HIV, and that he can’t transmit any fluid-based STIs to me anyway since he can’t ejaculate. (There are of course skin-to-skin STIs, but those are more difficult to test for).

“I know the likelihood of getting a fluid-based STI from him performing oral sex on me is very low, but I would still like him to get tested. From his vantage point, because of the very low risk factor, I am making an unreasonable request. From my vantage point, getting tested is something that responsible adults do to take care of themselves and their partners.

“However, I know that it is difficult for me to fully understand his resistance to medical settings, and the last thing I want to do is traumatize him or pressure him to do something that has a negative impact and have him end up resenting me. He appears to identify very strongly as male and not as trans, and I don’t think he would be open to going to an LGBT clinic, as he has felt marginalized by the queer community in the past.”

I completely understand his discomfort with medical providers. Many trans people feel this way, and many do not get regular health care, even if they can afford it, because of their concern about how they might be treated or their trauma because of how they have been treated in the past.

And not all STIs can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Some require examination, a urine test, or cells taken from the genital area, which can be very unpleasant for anyone, but particularly for trans people. So I do not fault him for this at all. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a 45-year-old black woman who is partnered, well, recently married (though not legally; it is important for me to make this distinction) to a 45-year-old white trans man who started the process and completed both surgeries within one year of us knowing one another.

“I have had wonderful relationships with both biologically born men and ‘butch-identified’ lesbian women, but never a trans man, so when I first met my partner, the fact that he self-identified as a ‘stone-cold, dyed-in-the-wool butch lesbian’ was not something I had any ‘issues’ with, though I did realize he was transgender before he did.

“It is not my partner’s gender identity or expression that is currently causing me concern. What I am most concerned about is that my partner’s identity, I mean, who he identifies with as a man, are all fictional characters: Superman, John Wayne and Cary Grant. I don’t even really know who these characters are.

“We are struggling. We love each other deeply and sincerely. We have a wonderful life and share wonderful times together. However, as my partner ‘works all of this gender stuff out,’ we have not had sex since July. There, I said it! Please, please, please, H-E-L-P!!!”

Okay, it seems to me that the main concern here is no sex, but before we get to that, I can tell you that the men who your partner is identifying with are all traditionally masculine men (in Western culture) who each embody certain masculine “ideals” – Superman embodies the strong superhero who takes care of and rescues other people, particularly women. John Wayne was an actor, and the characters that he portrayed were generally Wild-West cowboy types, so we’ve got two very tough, brave guys here. Cary Grant was also an actor, and he tended to portray very suave, sophisticated masculine characters – the kind who lit cigarettes for women, stood up when women entered a room, held the door for them, and wore really nice suits while doing all of that.

This seems typical to me for some guys. These Western masculine archetypes might be what some guys would aspire to, and there’s really nothing wrong with that, other than that they might be slightly old-fashioned. But none of them were really jerks or anything that I’m aware of (John Wayne’s characters probably said “little lady” a few more times than necessary when referring to women, but that was the cowboy aspect of it all). So I wouldn’t stress out over that, unless he starts to become very chauvinistic and you start to have a hard time with it. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m an FTM, 18, and I came out to my mum about two years ago. She didn’t take it very well.

“She told me that she didn’t believe that I was transgender because I feel uncomfortable talking to her about sex (I’ve tried telling her multiple times this is normal and that my friends feel the same way with their parents, to no avail), and that I’m stuck in a phase that I just haven’t grown out of.

“Since I came out to her in 2011, thing have slowly gotten better and I’ve put in a lot of effort so that we could reach common ground. She is a lot less hostile about it, she’s fine with me wearing a binder, she tries to use gender neutral pronouns when she can, and I had a talk with her earlier on in the year about changing my name when I finished high school later in the year and she seemed all right with it.

“A few days ago, however, I was talking to her about my name change again, and she told me she thought changing my name would be a mistake, but that I’m an adult and she won’t try to stop me. As we continued talking I also discovered that she still thinks that I’m not transgender, and for the same reasons she told me when I first came out to her.

“While I do appreciate that she won’t try to stop me, my relationship with my mum is very important to me. I love her very much, and I just wish she would be supportive. I don’t want to try to move out, and when we’re not arguing about me being transgender, we get on very well. But I’m not coping well with the realisation that she still doesn’t think I’m transgender.

“I have a psychiatrist (so I can start medical transition) who is willing to approve me for testosterone. I asked my mum if she would be interested in meeting my psych, and she refused and was very negative about the whole thing. Not having her on board makes everything so much harder for me. There aren’t many things that I want more in my life at the moment than for my mum to see me as her son.

“So essentially, what I’m asking is do you know what else I can do to try to make my mum realise that I am transgender, and that the emotions and feelings I have because I’m transgender are real?”

I had to edit your letter a great deal for length, but from the entire letter, it sounds to me as if you’ve done just about everything you can to convince your mother that you are trans, including asking her to talk to your therapist and providing articles and information that she won’t read. She has chosen not to believe this and to dismiss any evidence to the contrary. This is a classic defense mechanism called denial, and she has decided to use this so she doesn’t have to deal with information that she doesn’t want to deal with. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m a transgender female and I have recently started dating again. I haven’t dated anybody since I started my transition. Now I’m almost completely done with the physical part of transition.

“I have met some guys that have been very curious about my situation. It’s not like they are chasers – I know how to weed them out. It’s more about decent guys that are interested but have not being exposed to trans people and not understanding the correct way to talk about my transition.

“I have read your Ten Things Not to Say to a Trans Person, but I’m interested in how I should educate a new lover about the boundaries of my body.”

This is a tough one, but honestly, both trans and non-trans people have to educate their new lovers about their bodies. When people go into a sexual relationship, they have no idea what their partner likes and doesn’t like, and that partner has no idea about what they like and don’t like. So they have to communicate.

It sounds as if you are very open about being trans, and it sounds as if the guys you are meeting are not afraid to ask questions. This is all good. This works in your favor and makes it easier to talk about your body, including what you like, don’t like, and what is completely off limits.

Because you will be talking about your wants and needs with them, that will open it up for them to talk about their own wants and needs. And I would say that this is how you approach it – “Let’s talk about what we like and don’t like, what we want and don’t want, and what works for us and what doesn’t.” (more…)

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Question MarkBelow, we have three different relationship issues. I’m hoping that readers can help out. Here goes:

A reader writes: “I am a bi woman who has recently struck up a relationship with a person I thought was a gay woman. She’s come out as trans, but does not want to have sex reassignment surgery. She says she’s a man stuck in a female body.

“That’s not an issue for me. But this could be: She said I can never see her without clothes, and I will never be allowed to touch certain areas of her body. She said if I ever tried to do such things, she would get sick.

“I want to understand what’s going on, and would like to know if you have any suggestions on how to proceed. I never thought it would impact a future sexual relationship in this way.”

I don’t think this particular situation is all that uncommon for trans people. I know a lot of trans people who don’t want specific parts of their body looked at or touched, because they don’t want to think about having those parts.

They don’t get sexual pleasure from those parts because those parts are “wrong” or foreign to them. Not only do they not get sexual pleasure from those parts, but to have to acknowledge them can be almost unbearable and can certainly put a damper on sexual activity.

Not every trans person feels this way, of course, but I don’t think it’s unusual. I think you are going to have to take your partner at his/her word that this contact cannot happen. I also think that you should not go into this relationship with the idea that your partner will change his/her mind later. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it. (more…)

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