Intimate relationships can be tricky to navigate let alone when you’re transgender and your body doesn’t match your identity. Elijah Michel set out to find trans men and women who have experienced intimacy within relationships and those who are still looking for love.
We become vulnerable when we enter a physically intimate relationship. Along with the pleasure that sex and connection brings come fears of not being found attractive or accepted as we are. A trans woman may worry about the size of her breasts; a trans man may feel incomplete in the bedroom. Getting to the intimacy part of a relationship is a journey full of what ifs: what if she doesn’t like strap-ons? What if he is put off by my biological genitals? What if nobody even wants to date me?
Fifty-one year old Frank (who is questioning his sexual orientation) says, “I have no idea how I’d go about meeting someone, how I’d discuss being transgender, what sex would involve…” He shares how he had not come out when with his previous partner: “Lesbian sex never felt right, but nor did sex with a man. I’m hoping now that I’ve come out and had top surgery and started on t [estosterone] I’ll feel able to have a sexual relationship with someone – a woman preferably, which I suppose means I’m straight.”
Paula (51, bisexual) shares her experiences with her current partner: “Initially our physical love was classically male/female, informed by church tradition and lack of understanding of who we were. Over time I opened up and let her hear and see the other parts of my sexuality – my receptive, gentle, sensual, real sexual nature. I also let her know the confusion and pain inside me that comes from a mixture of male genitalia, growing sensitive breasts, and female sexuality. We’re exploring and experimenting. [My partner] is reading about ways and means of loving a post-hormone, pre-surgical, M2F Trans person. I’m learning to unlearn and be physically honest with myself and with her…”
Skye (22, “non-labelled… but Pansexual in theory”) says during a relationship with another trans guy, “it was rocky as we were both in various stage of medical transition – he was far more uncomfortable with his body than I was so often even hugging wasn’t okay for him.” He goes on to say, “all my sexual partners have made me feel very comfortable in my gender and were very respectful of any boundaries I had with regards to intimacy.”
Before coming out, 21-year-old gay F2M Parker says he found being in a relationship uncomfortable as he “did not want to be treated as a girl.” He has since married and shares, “we have no problem with physical intimacy because we talked about everything before we were physically together.”
There is no right or wrong way of being yourself in the bedroom. Some transgender people like to use their biological genitals during intimacy, others prefer not to acknowledge them. The main thing is finding someone who will treat you and your body with respect and understanding, and make love to you the way you want to be made love to. If they can’t assure you of that then they have no right to be in your bed. Love well.