As a trans, nonbinary, agender person, navigating sex and pleasure is often challenging. That’s in large part a reflection of the lacking sex education young people get (if they get any at all) and patriarchal perspectives about sex and dating that center the cisgender, heterosexual experience. An effect of this landscape is that many cisgender people don’t know understand how to interact with a trans, nonbinary person in the bedroom in a way that’s sensitive to our specific needs, considerations, and boundaries—at least that’s been my experience during my sexual encounters with cisgender people.
Based on my experience, it’s clear that many well-meaning cisgender people who want to or are open to dating trans and nonbinary people could still use quite a bit of guidance. So, the next time a cisgender person wants to date me or engage in a sexual way, here’s what I’d want them to know:
Sex and pleasure extend beyond penetration
Queering sex—or examining sex beyond a lens that centers heteronormativity—is important, and it’s something I can trust that potential trans and nonbinary sexual partners already do. With trans and nonbinary partners, I can also trust that I’ll be able to comfortably communicate my boundaries and preferences and not feel expected to perform in a certain way. And I can trust that trans and nonbinary partners have already done some crucial unlearning of common cishet (cisgender heterosexual) scripts for sex—like, for example, that sex is defined by P-in-V penetrative intercourse. Unlearning these types of scripts is essential for embracing the authenticity and freedom of queer sex and for making it a safe space. So, here’s what I want cis people to understand:
- Sex doesn’t always equal penetration.
- People can fulfill different dominant and submissive roles, no matter their gender identity.
- Orgasm from one partner doesn’t mark the end of sex, and not everyone has to orgasm to have a good time.
To help cis people unlearn these damaging scripts, I’d suggest watching queer porn. Some of my favorites that feature trans and nonbinary bodies and voices are Crashpad Series, Bellesa, and AORTA Films.
Handle misgendering swiftly and with grace
The way many people respond to getting called out for misgendering someone else is so frustrating to me. What I wish would be a quick call-out and correction before moving on with the conversation too often turns into an hour-long confession about how hard the person is trying and how hard their experience is, not mine. Because of this cisgender fragility, we’re both left feeling guilty and I can’t stop thinking about anything but my gender. Now imagine that conversation happening during sex. Not ideal, right?
So, what I want cis people to know moving forward is that the best way to handle being called out for misgendering is to apologize, self-correct, check in with me about how I feel and then move forward. If I want to continue with you moving forward, I will do so enthusiastically; if I don’t, you need to respect that and not flip the script to make my choice about you and your feelings.
Some words, some body parts, and some times are off limits
Gender dysphoria is complicated, and it’s different for everyone. It’s important to know that certain parts of our bodies, words for our bodies and genitals, and some words we use in dirty talk can hold very loaded cultural gender associations that may trigger someone’s gender dysphoria. Some people aren’t comfortable with the word “pussy,” and some people don’t want to be penetrated or even use their genitals at all, to name a couple of examples. Sometimes I want to hack off the lumps on my chest, sometimes I don’t mind them at all. It could depend on the day, depend on the hour, the minute even—and depending on how I feel, I may have a different stance on how I want to be touched.
Regarding how to ensure those limits and boundaries are respected, communication is key. Have a conversation about setting ground rules, and ideate alternatives when necessary.
Use Yes/No/Maybe lists to set helpful boundaries
Yes/No/Maybe lists are a simple tool for setting ground rules to make the bedroom a safe space for all. These lists allow all parties involved to get to know each other’s desires and interests easily, comprehensively, and respectfully. Good ones highlight ways to experience pleasure, are inclusive, and contain a language section.
I’ve had great success using Yes/No/Maybe lists to initiate conversation around sex and boundaries with cis partners. But no matter your gender identity or sexual preferences, the lists can prove to be an effective resource to open the conversation around sex and benefit everyone in the bedroom.
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