Uncut Jems: Navigating Sex As a Trans Man
by Emory Oakley
On top of being fun and sexy, sex can be weird and messy and awkward. Being trans can add a layer of awkwardness to sexual experiences and make sex more challenging to navigate. It’s okay for sex to be uncomfortable, especially at first. But let’s unpack what makes navigating sex as a trans man challenging, and what we can do about improving the experience.
I am a queer, trans man who mostly has sex with men. I will share some of the challenges I’ve experienced navigating sex and what helped me get through them to improve my sex life.
Before I get started, I’d like to say this is my personal experience, so, of course, not every trans man is going to relate, nor is my advice going to be helpful for everyone. Additionally, I experience a lot of privilege in the trans and queer community. I am white and thin, and I don’t experience high levels of dysphoria as many other trans people do.
Dysphoria is one of the most impactful things when it comes to sex as a trans person.
Gender dysphoria is defined as the psychological distress a person experiences from an incongruence between their sex assigned at birth and their gender.
Dysphoria can affect a person in many different ways, but when it comes to sex, it typically has to do with how a person feels about their body. For many people, their dysphoria manifests as discomfort around their chest and their genitals, but it can also impact other areas of their bodies. For trans men, it could also include their hips or their height or any other places they don’t deem as ‘masculine enough.’
How Does Dysphoria Impact Sex?
Dysphoria can make a person so uncomfortable with their body that they don’t want anyone to see or interact with that part of their body, including their intimate partners. Know that it’s okay to set boundaries around your body.
My Experience with Dysphoria
My dysphoria isn’t particularly intense and doesn’t have a significant aspect on my sex life. I am comfortable with people interacting with most areas of my body even though I haven’t had surgery and don’t plan to have surgery. The things that can cause dysphoria for me when it comes to intimacy is using words to describe my body that I am not comfortable with.
Meeting People to Get Sexy With
Meeting people can be extremely challenging when you’re trans, regardless if you’re seeking a relationship, dating, friends with benefits, or a hookup.
Disclosing You’re Trans
One of the first things many trans people consider is when and how to disclose their trans identity. For many people in the trans community, when to reveal they’re trans can be an issue of safety. If you disclose in person, make sure to do so in public and have a safety plan.
Making a safety plan is very important if you plan to disclose you’re trans to a potential intimate partner in person. Here is how to make a safety plan:
- Go somewhere public (ideally somewhere you’re familiar with).
- Get yourself there on your own and plan your route home.
- Tell a friend your plan, including where you’re going to be and what time (also consider giving them the date’s name and contact information).
- Set a time for your friend to check in (also consider connecting with an app that tracks your location).
- Make a plan for what your friend should do if you don’t answer at their check-in (or call them back within 30 minutes, let’s say). For example, how many times should they try to reach you before they show up at the location?
- Have an excuse to leave prepared.
Remember, don’t be afraid to leave if you feel uncomfortable for any reason. And when it comes to consuming alcohol, don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t drink too much.
You can have this discussion online before meeting if you’re talking with people virtually—or you can choose to disclose it in your online profile. That’s what I do. There are positives and negatives associated with this.
Disclosing you’re trans in your profile will automatically dissuade people who are not interested from messaging you in the first place.
At the same time, it will encourage people who are specifically seeking out trans people to message you. While this can be a good thing, as is the case when trans people are actively seeking connections with other trans people, it isn’t always.
Often, when cisgender people seek out sexual interactions with trans people, it can be fetishizing. In my experience, many cis men expect certain things of trans men, like for them to be more submissive or a ‘bottom.’
Also, cis men who are beginning to explore their sexuality may consider exploring with trans men first because their genitals are ‘safe.’ They see it as a baby step toward exploring their sexuality.
These are both based on the assumption that a trans man has genitals that look a certain way.
Know that it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to take hormones (which for trans guys is likely to change the look of your genitals) or get lower surgery. And, regardless of your choice, your genitals don’t dictate what you should or shouldn’t be interested in when it comes to sex. Not all trans men want to be penetrated, and that’s okay—don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.
Navigating Transphobia in the Trans Community
If you’re queer, like me, disclosing you’re trans on your online profiles can also invite transphobic people within the LGBTQ+ community to send hate messages. If you decide to disclose that you’re trans on your profile, you will likely get people messaging you and calling you names or saying things like ‘you don’t belong’ in these spaces.
Regardless of what your genitals look like, if you identify as a queer, trans man and seek men to sleep with, you belong in those spaces. And you will find people who accept you as you are.
How To Deal with Receiving Transphobic Messages
I find it best not to engage with these comments or these types of people. You may feel like you want or need to defend yourself. However, you’re unlikely to change their opinion, and arguing can negatively impact your mental state.
The best thing to do is ignore, delete, and block. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t negatively impact you. So, even if you ignore the comments, it is still important to take care of yourself after receiving these messages.
There are a few things you can do to make yourself feel better after receiving transphobic messages:
- Regulate your nervous system to remind yourself that you’re safe. I would suggest doing a deep breathing exercise (such as four-stage breathing) or trying one of these grounding techniques.
- Get support from others. It can be helpful to have someone to vent to when these situations arise.
- Remind yourself your identity is valid. It can be beneficial to have a mantra that makes you feel affirmed in your gender. Or you can ask for external validation from people you trust.
When You’re Ready to Get Sexy - Navigating Sex as a Trans Man
Once you have a partner and you’re ready to get sexy, how do you, as a trans man, make the process as comfortable as possible?
There are a few things, in my experience, you can do yourself before sex with a partner that can make the process smoother.
- Determine what areas you are and are not comfortable with people seeing or interacting with. Also, determine what terms you are comfortable with people using to refer to parts of your body. Personally, I like the terms chest and nipples for my upper body and for my genitals, I prefer cock, dick, bonus hole, and boy pussy.
- Take the time to explore your own body and rediscover what is pleasurable for you. If you’re on testosterone and have experienced a decent amount of bottom growth, chances are what feels good and what will get you to orgasm has changed.
Communication is Key
Navigating sex with a new person can be nerve-wracking, but communication should make it easier. Note that if the person you’re hoping to get intimate with isn’t open to talking to you about the experience first, that’s a red flag.
Take the time to let the person know what you’re looking for in bed and what your boundaries are.
Remember that boundaries around your body are for you to set, and it’s okay for them to change. Consent is an ongoing conversation and something that can be revoked.
Learn more about boundaries including how to set them and what to do when your boundaries have been crossed in our boundaries factsheet.
Emory Oakley (he/they) is a Vancouver-based writer and LGBTQ+ educator who regularly discusses the intersections of queer identities and mental health. Emory identifies as a queer transgender man and he loves to share what he's learned on his journey of self-discovery.