The world has a lot of sex. Like pretty much everyone does it. That very fact has never made sense to me, because sex just did not appeal to me for so many years.
When I was 16 or 17, just starting to realise that I was trans (though FAR from accepting it), I was also in the early stages of identifying as asexual. I always felt like my attraction to girls was different than people around me. Obviously, I later realised it’s partly because it was gay attraction and not straight attraction, but at that point I figured that the sexual component was missing for me. Sex was not appealing, again something that in hindsight HEAVILY has to do with the fact that I don’t have the actual body parts that I want to be engaging in sex with.
While I can sum all of that up in a paragraph now, the intersection of transness and being on the ace spectrum is really a very twisted mess that took me a while to understand. Figuring out my attraction and my relationship with sex? Figuring out how to have sex? I might as well be stuck in an M C Escher painting.
So, I have a weird relationship with sex. Even attempting pleasure usually means constant discomfort and dysphoria. Luckily for me, the entirety of everything going on with me meant I wasn’t exactly engaging with anyone in even a romantic way at that point. I identified as panromantic asexual for a while, for some reason feeling like I’m attracted to men too.
A couple years later this shifted, as I became more comfortable (and out) about being a woman, and realised I really do majorly love women. I was very much a lesbian, and still am. I also kept having a nagging feeling that, if I could get surgery and have the parts I wanted, I would want to have sex. Maybe that meant I would feel sexual attraction? So I shifted just slightly on the ace spectrum and started identifying as gray-asexual.
Cut to a couple more years later. After two-ish years of flirting and back and forths, I had entered a relationship with a close friend. We took so long to get there, that she had moved out of the city, and I would soon be moving out of the country for a year. The day before I left, I had my first kiss. As amazing as that felt, even then there were certain bodily reactions that made it uncomfortable. Three months later I met her again and realised I might be feeling sexually attracted to her. This was new. It didn’t make sense to me. And since I had never felt it before, I wasn’t even sure what it was. We broke up soon after, but now I knew it was there. After a bit I realised that I was almost definitely demisexual. Not only did it make sense, it felt right. The word resonated with me.
Being demi means I’m essentially ace while I’m single, usually always. Being ace meant I never even got close to developing any comfort with sex using the wrong body parts, unlike other trans friends of mine who were quite sexually active. It’s not really something I’d have to think about too much outside of when I was dysphoric, because sex wasn’t something I was planning to have in my life anytime soon. I figured even if I ever developed some sexual attraction towards someone it wouldn’t be that strong. Two major changes in the past year caused a massive shift in this.
Firstly, I finally started on HRT (hormone replacement therapy). The estrogen coursing through my veins has made most of my body feel so much more right. It’s made me start to feel actually comfortable and confident with my body. It’s also changed the way I experience sexual stimulation and pleasure. There’s actual pleasure to be had, but way more effort needs to be put in to achieve it. If only I didn’t still have the wrong parts, which not only have continued with certain reactions that I thought estrogen would eliminate, also now hurt a lot due to atrophy. This makes sex quite literally a pain.
The second thing was that I fell very deeply in love again. The day my girlfriend and I first kissed, for many hours, I realised that the sexual attraction is very much there. Most transfeminine people lose a lot of libido after starting hormones, but considering I started from a point of basically no libido, the combination of more bodily comfort and someone I actually want to have sex with, my horniness levels are higher than they’ve ever been in my life. Except, I want to have sex using my vagina. My vagina which does not yet exist.
So I’m stuck in this cycle of navigating how to have sex, how to actually feel good from it, and learning to accept some amounts of pain and discomfort for the sake of pleasure. Many things have helped me in this journey so far. Literature, for one. ‘Fucking Trans Women’ by Mira Bellweather is a no-holds barred uncensored zine about transfeminine sex, both for transfem people and their partners. ‘Girl Sex 101’ by Alison Moon and KD Diamond is a very exhaustive resource for all sorts of sex (and romance) with women regardless of their parts, and also to an extent other trans people with those parts. It’s made me feel much more accepted and normal. Also good for understanding my partner’s pleasure too. Speaking of my partner. Her constant support and understanding has helped a lot too. She listens, she helps, she’s made a lot of this much easier.
16 year old me really didn’t understand herself, and I don’t blame her. The world doesn’t teach us how to deal with being trans or on the ace spectrum, let alone both. Everything we learn assumes we are cis and straight and get pleasure from penetrative sex.
But while it may seem confusing and twisted, especially when you have intersecting identities, it IS possible to figure it out. At 25, I understand myself, I’m working towards reaching a point where I could comfortably have sex. I still feel very unsure and uncomfortable and out of place. But I’m hopeful. So if you’re also on a journey like mine, be hopeful. Figuring yourself out will come with time. The climax of the journey is quite worth it.