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Years before I took hormones or had top surgery, I remember trips to gay cruising grounds feeling a mixture of joy and terror.
I was scared of the reaction guys I hooked up with might have to me, but also found the whole thing thrilling – when cruising I felt, for once, truly in the moment and alive. I tried not to speak and only give blowjobs or handjobs – though I knew myself to be a man, I was worried that if I didn’t ‘pass’, guys would be put off, or worse.
My strategy rarely worked. They would put their hands in my pants, or for some reason I would have to speak, but fortunately, to my surprise and relief, when it came down to it no one cared – not everyone was as fixated on genitals or the ‘ideal man’ as I’d anticipated.
By the time I began hormones some six years after coming out as trans, many cis gay friends, and a few trans ones, were on hook-up apps like Grindr and Scruff. Until I’d been on hormones long enough to be read as male all the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to use the apps myself. I know this sounds contradictory given my cruising adventures, but those were rare enough to chalk down to fluke. Somehow the apps felt like a vanguard of cis-centric gay culture where I wouldn’t be welcome.
“I was soon chatting on the apps drunk and horny in bed at three in the morning – but still too nervous to do anything about it.”
Six months after beginning hormones, either through a newfound confidence in my body or thanks to the testosterone making my sex drive shoot up, I took the plunge and made my first profile.
I tentatively began talking to guys and was shocked to find them actually interested. I was soon chatting on the apps drunk and horny in bed at three in the morning – but still too nervous to do anything about it. Let’s face it, gay hook up apps are a land of six packs and dick pics; I had not had top surgery, nor did I have a dick.
I was always open about this, so I felt confused when anyone was into me. Eventually the irrepressible march of the horn paid no heed to my insecurities, and I went on my first Grindr ‘date’. When we were in bed and the binder I wore came off to reveal my chest, I panicked. Now my hormones allowed me to pass as male I was actually more worried about being a ‘disappointment’ by cis-centric standards of masculinity. Still, we had pretty hot sex in the end.
As my sex drive shot up, so did my consumption of porn. Porn is a broad church, but I found it was the most mainstream cis-normative straight porn that tended to get me off – perhaps because it felt like the dirtiest and most taboo thing for someone who’d spent years in queer feminist environments.
Horny as it got me, I think on some level the amount of mainstream straight porn I watched had a negative effect on me when it came to sex and pleasure in my own life. I rarely saw bodies like mine, and I think this contributed to the way I compared myself with cis men I slept with.
“As much as I enjoy sex, some of the times my own internalised transphobia feels strongest is during sex.”
When the vast majority of society talks about bodies, they talk about ‘women’s bodies’ and ‘men’s bodies’, as though these are the only categories and these categories are static and set. Despite various sections of the UK media positing that trans people pose an existential threat to cis women and men, the truth is our bodies are still given little space. It’s still hard to find a sexual health clinic where I won’t face horrified looks from clinicians when I tell them I am trans, not knowing how to approach a body like mine, asking if the men I sleep with are straight or whether they ‘also have sex with men,’ as though I am not one.
One of the best things for me about being trans and queer is that it has in some ways freed me from the straight jacket of traditional masculinity society seeks to hoist upon cis, straight men. Still, it can be a struggle to feel sexually adequate in a body which falls short of our cis-centric society’s standards.
I still absorb expectations of what it is to be a ‘proper man’ and the sense of failure that comes with it. As much as I enjoy sex, some of the times my own internalised transphobia feels strongest is during sexual encounters.
Transition is not a magical cure for feelings of bodily or sexual inadequacy. Negotiating insecurities around my body and sexuality is, and will be, an ongoing process. For now, I thank the inspirational voices who talk about sex outside the norm, the friends and the lovers who affirm and accept me as a queer man, are helping me undo the damage living in a transphobic society has done to my sex life – and allow me to feel hot, and embrace the pleasure I deserve.
Len Lukowski is a writer, poet and performer. Follow him on Twitter at @JurassicLen
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Useful websites and helplines:
- The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
- Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
- LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
- Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
- Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK