Guest Blogger

Sex, Love & Transsexuals

Filed By Guest Blogger | February 06, 2008 5:09 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gender reassignment, love, sex, transgender, transitioning, transsexual, women

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post is from Monica Helms. Monica is the President of the Transgender American Veterans Association.

Monica-Revised-sml.jpg"Arrrrggg! Monica said the other s-word! She will burn in Hell for this!"

Okay, so that is a bit melodramatic, but after ten plus years living as a woman and interacting in the transgender community, I seem to get the impression that transsexuals, specifically transsexual women, are more prudish about sex and love than the Quakers were back in the 1700s. However, not 100% of the transsexual women I have met feel this way. For the most part, those not afraid of sex have wonderful loves in their lives and are happy.

Why are some transsexual women afraid of sex, or even afraid to discuss it? (I hesitate talking about the men, since I haven't talked with them on this subject very much. But, I haven't noticed any of them afraid of sex, or afraid to discuss it. If there are some, I would like someone to write about why.)

It is interesting to hear the various reasons trans women give for forgoing sexual contact with another person. One thing I hear some say is, "Estrogen made me lose my libido." There is indeed a physical change in the libido level when a male-to-female transsexual begins hormone treatments. However, we have more control over our libido levels then we are sometimes willing to accept.

Sex and the Single Trannie

In the spring of this year, Haworth Press will be releasing a new book called "Trans People in Love," edited by Tracie O'Keefe and Katrina Fox from Sydney, Australia. This book has 25 chapters, all written by different authors from around the world about their experiences with love. I am one of the contributing writers for this book and my chapter is called, "Sex and the Single Trannie." In my chapter, I speak about libido and how I vowed not to lose it when I started hormones. Here part of what I wrote:

While writing my autobiography in 2005, I had a chance to scrutinize the experiences I had with women while living as a man. I didn't have many encounters with women, so the ones I did have stood out rather vividly. A connecting thread between all of those loves began to emerge, surprising the hell out of me when it became obvious. This thread occurred because Mother Nature had endowed me with such a miniscule "tool" that it forced me to find more creative ways to satisfy women. Not surprising, many of those ways have been used by lesbians since the dawn of time. It appears that Mother Nature actually gave me a gift, preparing me for my future life as a lesbian.

As a man, I truly enjoyed making love with women and I enjoyed the pleasure they gave me. But, as I approached the time to start hormones, I became more and more worried that I wouldn't even feel like making love to anyone because of losing my libido. To not find intimacy exciting any longer sent a chill through the Italian blood coursing through my veins. My brain couldn't conceive of the idea of being asexual, so I decided to do something to ensure I would still desire lovemaking with another person. At that time, it could have been with either a man or a woman.

According to the dictionary, the word "libido" means: 1.) The psychic and emotional energy associated with the instinctual biological drives. 2a.) Manifestation of sexual drive. 2b.) Sexual desire.

If there is a psychological component to a person's libido, then couldn't the brain be trained to maintain the same level of libido after a male-to-female transsexual begins hormone treatment? I felt truly motivated to find out the answer to that question.

I can hear some trans women already screaming at me, "TMI! TMI!" I think the reason O'Keefe and Fox decided to put their book together is that in our community, there isn't enough "I." My motivation came in the form of locating places on my body that would provide me sexual pleasure without even stimulating my penis. It worked, far better than I would have ever expected. In later years, I was told by Dr. Virginia Erhardt Ph.D. that this is the same method used to help paraplegics and quadriplegics find sexual pleasure.

What's the reason?

If a transsexual can overcome the affects of estrogen by finding new ways to have pleasure, then what holds them back? I spoke with Dallas Denny, who has an M.A. in Psychology, and she gave me some interesting insights to what she has learned over the years. In many incidents, before transitioning, trans women are not comfortable with the genitals they were born with.

Not surprising. Many do not experience sex until after their teenage years and usually after they are married. They cannot stand what they have and want it gone as soon as possible. However, the inability to get surgery right away can cause some to experience even more frustration and depression in their lives. And, there are some trans women who make it even worse by putting those people down for not getting surgery.

This disconnect with their genitals - and in some cases, inexperience with sexual pleasure - carries over to their new life as a woman. This happens even after they have had Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) also known by some as Genital Reconstruction Surgery or Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS.) Another less used term is Sex Affirming Surgery (SAS.)

Decades of living with the wrong genital configuration can play havoc on a person's psyche. Even many who did not have a disconnect with their body still had issues over the years. As time went on, I found little desire to make love as a man. When I discovered female-like orgasms, a whole new world opened up to me.

Society is to blame for a lot of what ails the transgender community. Fear and misunderstanding causes hate crimes and job discrimination against transgender people. However, some of the issues for transsexual women start at an early age, with how their own families treated some of them.

Dr. Erhardt says, "Then there's the issue of early sexual harm. I think it's possible that the percentage of trans women who were sexually assaulted or molested as children is higher than the percentage in the general population. Again, guessing, as children there may have been an obviously vulnerable quality that tends to attract predators. Some people who are sexually abused become hypersexual, others become fearful and avoidant of sexual contact."

Marriage: Do you?

If a transsexual woman survives those early years intact, they still have to survive adult life. I have heard from so many trans women that in order to try to live up to society's expectations of a male gender role, they got married. Some felt that this would "make a man out of them," which turned out to be the farthest thing from the truth. Some marry the first woman who came along, only to find out what a big mistake that was. They start to hate sex even more, seeing it as their "husbandly duty" and an unpleasant chore. Marriage also soured some when it came to love.

I have heard horror stories from trans women on how badly their wives treated them and how they would use the threat of taking their children away, or brow beat them with guilt trips. My ex wife did both to me. I survived because I refused to have her threats beat me down. She was not as strong as I was. But, many of my sisters were not so lucky. They had wives who knew what buttons to push and what threats worked the best.

Dr. Erhardt has seen various situations in the 14 years of her practice helping transgender people. "I can speak of 3 couples who stayed together, and whom I continued to see post-op. One couple lived more like sisters as they had for years, but once the natal female spouse accepted her partner's need to transition, the relationship became much more loving and affectionate.

"The natal female spouse of another trans woman did a remarkable 180 after spouting a great deal of fundamentalist fire & brimstone for a year, claiming that the cross-dressing was just a sexual addiction, and insisting that her spouse attend a 12 Step group for that "problem." The trans woman is now post-op and the couple has a very loving relationship.

"The third couple I'll mention were together for many years, and had maintained an active sex life of a sort throughout the marriage, i.e., one that respected the trans woman's preference not to involve the male organ in any traditional manner. The trans woman was very interested in sexual activity with her spouse after surgery and the natal female spouse was willing, so, having read up on the how to's of lesbian sex, they have an active and creative sex life."

I have also met many transsexual women who remained married to their spouses because the spouse stayed in love with the person, no matter what.

The love and sex correlation

I brought up sex, but Dr. Erhardt touched on the other subject I mentioned in the title, "Love." Love and Sex are two separate stories in the same building. You can have sex without love, but you can also have love without sex. Most people understand this. However, as with sex, many trans women are afraid to open their hearts to accept love from someone and equally afraid to give love back. There are several factors that affect "love" with transsexual women.

Again, Dr. Erhardt, "Most of the trans women I know seem to be quite capable of feeling and giving love. Some may, however, have greater difficulty risking vulnerability, opening their hearts to others, allowing themselves to be known (flaws and all), allowing themselves to need others. After all, this is a challenge for everyone . . . how much more so for people who have been rejected by family and friends when they have opened up and shared their true identity?"

Trans women guard their feelings because many have had their hearts broken by friends and family members who started off saying they supported them, only to turn around to viciously stab them in the backs. I met one trans woman who had a cold heart because her friends went out of their way to destroy her AFTER they said they were okay with her transition.

Another woman could not recover from a 30-year marriage where she was emotionally abused by her wife the entire time. Just mentioning her marriage would send her into fits of rage. Sadly, I got a glimpse of the love she had to give, only to see it quickly sealed behind the doors of a vault.

The weakest sex?

They say that "Time heals all wounds." This maybe true in most cases, but Time cannot grow back something that others have torn out. Many in our community who have had their hearts ripped from their chests by others they trusted. Loss of trust is not a wound that Time can heal so easily.

If, stereotypically, women are suppose to be the "weaker sex," then trans women may be the weakest segment in the world of women. Society does not want us to exist. Our families do not want us to exist. Our friends do not want us to exist. And, our co-workers do not want us to exist. The only thing that does my heart good is to know that not all trans women have experienced these problems.

I have a friend who has said in the past that her transition was so smooth that she didn't even lose the family members she wanted to lose. I pray that future generations of trans women experience that kind of life, but we know many will still be afraid. Sex and love don't rate very high as a life priority if they have to concentrate on just surviving.


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I have a friend who has said in the past that her transition was so smooth that she didn’t even lose the family members she wanted to lose. I pray that future generations of trans women experience that kind of life, but we know many will still be afraid.

I think that's the funniest and most poignant thing I've read all day! Your contribution was enlightening for me, and I hope you continue to read and write here at Bilerico!

Perhaps it is an age thing, or maybe something else….

Most of my friends including my girlfriend are in our late forties or early fifties… We were taught by the women in our lives that sex was a subject not for polite company. So we usually don’t discuss sex over dinner or at the Gym or while waiting in line at the store and seldom with but our closest friends. Maybe the open discussion of sex is a regional thing; if that is the case Oregon Southern California and South Texas all treat sex as a subject not for polite company. When I was in RLT and seeing a therapist to certify that I was fit for SRS the subject was discussed then. She was surprised to find I had a rather conventional attitude toward sex that being an expression of one’s love for another. My girlfriend and I agree on that one…
One issue I am very surprised you didn’t mention Monica is there are a large number of TS who don’t want to chance contracting STD’s. Some of us are completely disease free not even a cold sore. Sexual encounters even with protection are potentially life altering from an immunological standpoint. Transsexuals share this concern with nearly every other group on the planet. Some TS are monogamous not necessarily for the above reason simply because they don’t want to play the field, they were brought up with the idea that one should reserve one’s self for that special person. They don’t see sex as a hobby or sport, but as an expression of their love for someone. I can’t speak for the 20-somethings of today when I came out I was 24 however I was raised and adopted the values of love and sex my parents had. I know in this I am far from being alone. I know a couple of hundred TS Pre and Post-Op and even among the Non-Ops I know a surprising number have similar values, given my experience I would hazard to think we reflect a cross-section of society in general.
Take care
Sue

You brought up some good points here. The fear of STDs and HIV does make a big difference with the heterosexual and bisexual trans women. That would put a fear in me if I was not a lesbian. Thank you for pointing that out.

On the other part of the people our age not discussing sex, that is true as well. People with a healthy outlook on sex and love act that way, including myself. I was talking about the trans women who have been scarred for various reasons and don't even want to ever entertain the thought of sex or love, much less discuss it. We see too much pain in this community. I just wish future generations will see less of it. Thanks.

I agree with you about the pain and how many of us have been scarred.
Just one more thing STD's are a problem in the lesbian community also. Some of us who are lesbian are afraid of acquiring and passing on HPV clamidia among others. All groups are venerable to an extent. This is another of those subjects that a four volume set could be written on and it still wouldn't be completely covered.
Good article by the way, I dare say one of the better of this crop of trans-related articles.
Take care
Sue

Thanks for sharing this. I'm really looking forward to the book.

Thank you. Maybe you should try tackling an article on one of those "four volumes" you mentioned?

Monica;
I actually have written several for the Neutral Corner Newsletter over the last four years. what i have written has been from the prospective of someone who has dealt with her condition while living in the straight community and for the most part (until 2000) in a GLBT vacuum. The straight world i have lived in was not hostile as many who transition have experienced. In those days i did a lot of one on one advocacy and education. The articles were written toward the other half of the transgender identified people, the ones who don't ally themselves with the GLBT polotico-social engine.

Take care
Sue

Maybe Bil would publish one. You don't know unless you ask.

Hey all, first poster. I'm a gen-X transwoman and I do feel a distinct generation gap in terms of sexual attitudes between myself and people who are really not that much older than me (I'm 36). On the other hand, the gen-Y and millenial attitudes seem like logical extrapolations of what I experienced at their age, and I connect with their world despite the age difference being larger.

I believe that it's an echo of the sexual revolution. Gen-Xers are its children and we were brought up basically taking it for granted. Of course we're more open about sex, because our boomer parents taught us to be.

Plus, there's a lot more mixing between the letters in the younger set and more exposure of transpeople to gay culture, where sex and sexuality are openly discussed.

What are your thoughts?

A very nice post. Even if it does seem to have been at least partly motivated by an overinterpretation of a single comment.

Actually, Val, I was in the middle of writing it during that time. When I was making corrections, I added the "TMI" comment. Thanks for the help.

Understood. I know that process. I have quite a few things in my own queue, that get tweaked or prodded by current interactions.

For what it's worth, my own "TMI" was very context-dependent. I have no particular personal squeamishness in talking about sex... I just think that a lot of the politics of the currently raging debates get too easily sidetracked by references to it and its, um, relevant anatomies.

Minica;

Look for something in the next 10-14 days if Bil will accept it.

Sue,
You need to watch when typing "i" and "o." They are roght next ti eachither. O slop and moss icassoinally, tii. (gron)

Monica
I am aware of that.
Everybody makes Typos

By the way, I have an observation more specific to the actual post:

I know a transwoman who, from the moment she decided to transition, consciously abstained from sexual contact. She was not someone who had "hated her genitals", as some report, and I believe she had a reasonably normal sex life. For a trans person at any rate... dealing with all the weird mapping and shame issues that so many do.

Her decision was very crisply determined: she wanted to make absolutely sure that her transition was *not* in pursuit of a fetish since, being an exceptionally well-informed and self-aware person who also had a predilection for kink, she understood the very real dangers of false consciousness.

It took an extraordinary amount of self-control - she was no less romantically inclined than anyone else - and lengthened her transition, but in the long run allowed her to complete it with confidence and she now lives a fulfilling life.

I doubt that many transwomen choose not to have sex with quite such purpose and focus... but it's an interesting variant on the more common narratives.

Val..

That is most interesting, for her that was a benchmark on to the way to the rest of her life.

Every once and a while we hear of a transwoman in the fetish community who transitions thinking SRS will spice things up. Then are disappointed to find out that their popularity as a sex object has diminished. I know of such a situation here, someone who had SRS half a dozen or so years ago.

It's truly sad when people transition for all the wrong reasons and their therapist is blind to the warning signs.

For anybody who thinks transitioning is a way of adding extra KinK to their sex life (and they are out there) you're looking in all the wrong places..

Sue

Val,
That is an interesting story. It hits upon one of the other areas I have noticed. Once a trans woman decides to live full time and begins the transition, many give up sexual contact because they "aren't configured correctly." Some, like your friend, can handle this well.

But what I have seen also are those who not only forgo sex, but along with it, forgo any socializing as a woman, whether it is with men or women. Some equate sexual contact as a byproduct of socialization, which many of us know that is not true. Once they have surgery, which could be years in some cases, they are now out and about trying to socialize as a woman and they have no idea how it's done.

Also, I found some places on my body that give me a female-like orgasm without ever touching my penis. The women I have been with agree that it has all the signs of a female orgasm. It's just not vaginally induced. I met one other pre-op who reacted exactly the same way at the same locations on her body, so I figured there has to be something to this. If all pre-ops learned this method, then once they have a vagina, they will be familiar with what a female orgasm feels like, except they will have to create it at a new place on their body. If you have multiple orgasm as a pre-op, you will do whatever it takes to recreate that feeling (or similar feeling) after surgery.

Not having sex before surgery is not a bad idea. But, I really encourage pre-ops to do whatever they can to socialize as a woman so they will be ready when they want to get even closer to someone.

I did a lot of practicing in the beginning, mostly with trans-fan men. It was an easy start, because I didn't have to spend a lot of time explaining myself. They already knew due to where we were at. It gave me a chance to practice on them what women did to me when I was younger.

I feel that most transsexuals (both men and women) are excellent observers of human behavior, because they want to learn. I had one other motivation for wanting to be a good observer. I write fiction and to write believable characters, you must be a strong observer of human behavior. Observing behavior and socializing as a woman are very important elements to a good transitions.

I'm beginning to be amazed at how many times I am agreeing with Sue on this post. Is this a sign of the world coming to an end? Oh, wait. The Mayan calandar ends at the end or 2012. Maybe we're getting a head start?

> I feel that most transsexuals (both men and women) are excellent observers of human behavior, because they want to learn.

I agree, provisionally. I think that transpeople *ought* to be first-rate observers of what men and women are, rather than what they imagine or desire them to be.

Sadly, I find two kinds of failure. The first is the one that tends to get brought up most often, where the transperson (usually a transwoman) is woefully anachronistic, has no real connection to the culture, and winds up making hideous mistakes that regularly embarass everyone her and everyone else.

The second seems to me an inordinate attention to normativity... specifically a reistance to queer identity. Since "normal" people are queer and otherwise sexually and socially variant, it would seem to follow that transpeople - who really are just normal people, after all - would have the same options open to them. But there appears to be a strong stigma attached to being trans and anything but strictly behavior-bound... since being trans and queer, or variant, or whatever, automatically calls into question one's motivations for having transitioned in the first place, and ultimately - as always - one's legitimacy or "true"ness.

I believe that in many cases it's a matter of self-protection. The culture at large *does* see transpeople as inherently queer, and so a transwoman that is not queer - especially one who may ride the knife-edge of passability - will necessarily be more stringent than usual regarding their own sexual identity... and the alliances they form as a consequence.

Val,
This is great stuff. Thanks.

Giggles...I'm 39 Gen-X'er did the Marriage thing and losted. I do have three chidren out of it. The thing for me i enjoyed having my libido gone when i first started HRT. So, it was a emotional shock to me when it kicked in. Not looking forward to the next time. HMMM It was different though. I'm planning on being celibate until way after. Plus not ready to form a intimate relationship with anyone because of the trauma and drama of my failed marriage. :) When I'm ready though, I get to be the Girl!

Monica;

One thing i have to point out.
The transfolk under the umbrella are only half of the TS out there. Over the last four years i have mentored six pre-transition females and none of them identify with the GLBT social-political engine. It is a fallacy to think all TS are part of the TG community. at least half want nothing to do with it.
The only reason I have been involved in it is i have had life long friends or family members who were gay or lesbian. That in no way means i drink the same brand of Kool-Aid. All it implies is that i am more accepting then the average kitty.

We have to remember that Kristian Jorgensen just wanted to be a straight woman nothing more. She was the foremother of the Paleo-transsexual movement some five decades ago.

Sue

> The transfolk under the umbrella are only half of the TS out there. ... It is a fallacy to think all TS are part of the TG community.

This is a major step forward from the absolutist position that "no transsexuals are transgender." We may yet find that elusive middle ground.

Christine Jorgensen is an interesting example to bring up, because she actually relished her celebrity. Think of that... the iconic example of the "true transsexual" and not only was she enlisted in the military (not at all uncommon, for a variety of reasons) but she was very "out."

How very unorthodox.

i would have to disagree Val.
for fifty years transsexuals have desired to become part of and blend into the mainstream. I did when i was a Paleo-transgender person. When someone would ask me "are you a man or a woman?" i would say yes, i am a woman trapped in a man's body. I have never bought into the third sex transgender paradigm. Being absolutist has nothing to do with it this who I am female brain in a deformed body, i fixed the birth defect therefore i am and perhaps never was transgender as you know it. Had i been borne in a body that was not deformed i wouldn't be here because even as a lesbian i would have found community outside of the GLBT social-political engine.


Christine Jorgensen is an interesting example to bring up, because she actually relished her celebrity. Think of that... the iconic example of the "true transsexual" and not only was she enlisted in the military (not at all uncommon, for a variety of reasons) but she was very "out."

She was out because she like you and i had to eat.
She did the drag thing and on several occasions said she just wanted to be part of mainstream society. She just wanted to live as a woman and be treated as such. After she came out with her last book, i saw her on TV. She was asked what was the most striking change that took place in her life. She said a few years ago people stopped spitting on her. She was a little ahead of her time as i was being a paleo-transgender person in the early 80's. The difference is I didn't have to resort to living in a gay subculture in order to survive. I have a special talent that made me very employable in spite of my need to live as a woman. none of it was luck it was all hard work both in honing my abilities as an electronic tech and my abilities to educate people in the mainstream. This is a big part of what this post is about getting along with people. Regular people don't want to hear nor do they care about all that feminist and transgender dogma. They just want to know "are you a man or a woman" it';s really that simple. When you break it down into terms the average person can understand they are more likely to accept you. The average woman is not a feminist. The average man is not gay. They could really care less about that dogma.

The next time any of you are confronted with the question "are you a man or you a woman"
Try answering;
I am just me.

You might be surprised at the positive reaction you get.

Take care
Sue

Sue,
Why did you start the HBS stuff again on this post that has nothing to do with a person being HBS or not. Bil wanted us to avoid that crap again, and you went out of your way to dredge it up. I hope Bil is reading this. You just can't leave well enough alone, can you?

I didn't start anything.
I see nothing that indicates that i made any such reference.

I'm not going to fight about anything.
I will however speak my mind.

you and i also have that in common.

Sue

Read # 23 again. You came out of left field with this HBS-related stuff, making that whole post out of thin air, not even responding to anyone else's comment. It was uncalled for. No one twisted the conversation in that direction but you. No one mentioned Christine Jorgenson but you, and you misspelled her name. When are you going to just stick to the flow of the conversation and not use it as an excuse to bring up why you hate transgender people and that you don't want to be under our umbrella? I'm just tired of it.

Great article Monica, thank you.

I used to be one of those prudes, but have found after surgery that things are different now. The dichotomy of having a masculine body and a feminine mind really added a lot of confusion to the question of sex. Now that this is no longer the case, I can deal with sex more openly and honestly.

Diddlygrl, thank you for the compliment. I have to say my good friend Dr. Erhardt was absolutely wonderful. I considered going to her a few years after coming to Atlanta, but she told me I don't need her help.

I have seen some of your other responses and I can easily tell you have it together. I hope we can meet one of these days.