Why Another Trans Woman Wants to Discuss Sex After Surgery

This week Vogue released an article discussing trans women’s sex lives after vaginoplasty. There were some things I found impressive, in the my-expectations-can’t-get-much-lower sense. The cis reporter was respectful, in fact she used more respectful language than the trans women she interviewed. And although there was still plenty of hemming and hawing about whether she should be reporting on the subject (she really shouldn’t but here we are), I thought she did as good a job as I could expect from a cis woman reporting on trans women’s lives.

The meat of the article, the interviews with trans women who have had vaginoplasty, I found limited and unimpressive. Both women interviewed, Nomi and Charlie, were straight trans women. And both women would seem to have only discussed their sex life with straight cis women. Despite the article’s initial bemoaning that trans women aren’t having this conversation more openly. And perhaps because of this, the article follows the same tired “vaginas are so confusing how do you make them cum” narrative that is in so many heteronormative discussions of sex. So this is me, a trans woman, initiating a conversation about sex for other trans women. If you are not a trans woman, you are still welcome to read, but this is not written for you.

Straight trans women are not the norm. Seriously.

Less than a quarter of trans women identify as straight, according to the most recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which is some of the largest collection of self-reported data about trans people to be found. This means any attempt to have a well-represented conversation about sex and trans women must involve queer trans women. The fact that both of the trans women interviewed at no point discussed sex with anyone other than straight men, frankly says more about straight men as sex partners than it does about sex after vaginoplasty.

Your mileage will vary.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the lament that, by expanding the conversations about trans women beyond what our genitals look like, conversations about sex have somehow become taboo. This has not been my experience, or the experience of any of my trans friends. We talk about sex a lot. Regardless of what shape our genitals are or have been. We’re all trying to figure out how to get where we’re going and none of us were given a decent road map when we were born. If anything, the understanding that surgery is not a given has actually helped us have better conversations about sex.

When I was preparing for surgery, vaginoplasty was intensely important for my happiness and well-being. I would often go into dark pits of self-loathing because of disgust at my own body and how others would perceive it. Now that I’ve had surgery, I can acknowledge it was a good decision but only that it was a good decision for me. Every time a trans woman asks me about vaginoplasty, I tell her the honest truth. It was really fucking difficult, quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve done in an already hard life. And it hasn’t so much improved my life as it has simply removed some obstacles that were significantly troubling. Other than that, not much in my life has changed. I’m still trans and always will be. I will still deal with oppression and obstacles cis people never will, and that’s true of all trans people. The only person who can know if vaginoplasty is right for them or not is the individual contemplating it. For me, that’s more important information than whether I can get wet or not.

My experience will not be your experience. And a cis woman’s experience won’t be your experience either. So rather than wondering if what you experience is “normal”, it’s better to ask if it works for you.

Sex before vaginoplasty can be weird. Sex after vaginoplasty can be weird.

Before surgery, I had a pretty active sex life. I had several regular partners that I enjoyed infrequent sex with in various ways that worked for my and their preferences. Because of intense dysphoria, I never used my genitals during sex before surgery, but I gave lots of head and took lots of anal from people of various genders. Although having the initial conversation of “how do I fuck you?” was awkward, actually having the conversation ensured we had an enjoyable time.

After surgery, I’ve had a pretty active sex life. I have several regular partners of many non-male genders that I enjoy infrequent sex with in various different ways. I still don’t really like having my genitals touched most of the time, which many people find surprising. And I no longer enjoy penetration except in very rare circumstances. But I still give lots of head, and now I love strapping on. My sex life has gotten more creative, but also possibly more confusing, since surgery. But that’s because I’ve expanded what is and isn’t “sex”, not because my anatomy boggles me or my partners.

I still have “how do I fuck you?” conversations with new sex partners. This could be why, at worst, I’ve had unremarkable but never bad sex. I’m not afraid to tell someone “Yeah, your tongue isn’t working for me. Let’s get out the magic wand instead.” And there is still plenty about how sex works for me that I still can’t really articulate or understand, but because I discuss that with the people I have sex with, and not straight cis lady friends, I’ve never had anyone tell me that boring sex is just part of figuring out life with a vagina.

Vaginas aren’t rubik’s cubes. Not even neo-vaginas.

Look, I’m not gonna act like figuring out how to achieve an orgasm isn’t a thing that a lot of women and fems struggle with. We’re socialized to put our (presumably male) partners’ pleasure and needs above our own, with their orgasm being assumed and ours being nice-if-it-happens. Unpacking all that and learning how to speak up for your own needs can be an ongoing process. But none of that means I don’t know how to touch myself and figure out what feels good and what doesn’t. That was how I decoded sex before surgery, and it’s how I decode sex after surgery.

There’s still plenty I’m figuring out, such as whether I’m polyamorous, whether I’m aromantic, whether I’m asexual, why some people turn me on and some don’t, and why that might change suddenly without warning, but I don’t try to figure myself out by sleeping with clueless men and hoping they magically know how to fuck me right. I figure it out by openly discussing those issues with partners, and in therapy if I really need help.

Before surgery, I was able to achieve orgasm after about half an hour of self-stimulation through anal penetration with toys. After surgery, I can achieve an orgasm in less than five minutes if I have my magic wand vibrator and the right mindset. Both of those didn’t come easily right away, but I held myself responsible for my own orgasms and found a way.

Sex is easy, except when it isn’t.

When I think about my major roadblocks in regards to sex, it’s not what gets me off or how my anatomy works or even finding someone who is interested. So frankly, an article that focuses on these aspects is just boring as hell to read. For my sex life, it’s about what relationship, if any, I want to maintain with my sex partners outside of bed. How much personal autonomy and emotional distance I need in order to feel aroused and not suffocated. What forms of communication are effective and what aren’t. How to express my sexuality and still be respectful of my non-binary partners. How to maintain a balance between indulging in fantasy but unequivocally respecting consent as a Domme. Why my sex drive is very high for some periods and then non-existent for other periods of time. Why I have such a difficult time allowing myself to be the focus of attention by a partner. Whether my methods of enjoying sex are healthy but unusual, or a sign of emotional issues I still need to work through.

At no point have I wondered “Is it normal to just feel like you’re rubbing on a carpet when a guy is eating you out?!”

Because regardless of whether it is a “normal” experience or not, it doesn’t mean I or any other trans woman have to put up with it.

Why Another Trans Woman Wants to Discuss Sex After Surgery
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Space Rat #1

I hate being terran-side. The floor doesn’t hum. How can you tell if something’s gone wrong if the floor never hums?

The air is unfiltered and unscrubbed, giving it an unforgivable taste. The people are too many, too loud, too pungent, too crammed into walkways and buildings and vehicles. Everything is too much. My heart is racing and my head is pounding. I haven’t slept in about 30 solours, and I am at least 40% certain that the xeno behind me recognizes me, but as usual I don’t recognize them. It makes me uneasy, but that’s my general state of being. Am I anxious because something bad is about to happen? Or because I’m coming down off stims? Or is it just because being on land always makes me fucking jumpy?

“Captain Neiboski, of the SFC Brooklyn Dodger, please step to the side regarding an item on your manifest. You will be redirected to an interview room for further questioning.”

I knew this would happen, even though I actually filled out the paperwork for my “item” by-the-book for once. But sentient remains on a freight class rig are bound to raise even the laziest of eyebrows.

I’m a spacer. An independent spacer, as a matter of fact. One of the most endangered species in the whole damn Confederate Galaxy. I fly my own rig, the Brooklyn Dodger, which was my Grandma and Papa’s rig, and would have been my momma’s had she not died giving birth to me. I haul whatever the fuck I decide to haul along the Sol-Remidian Circuit. Which means when the predictable boring work dries up, I might have to hustle a little harder for contracts. And might have to look to the side once in a while. And might have to talk my way through some checkpoints now and again. But at least I don’t have to do what some Con asshole tells me to do. I was born in space, I live in space, and I plan on dying in space because at least space makes sense.

I’m in one of the interview rooms now. A sterile cold white room with nothing but a Screenbot, table, and chair. It’s so quiet I can almost hear my own blood rushing through my veins. Silence is usually a sign I’m about to die, but Terraners just seem to take it for granted.

The screenbot has a digitally rendered cartoonish face projected across the table from me. It stares blankly ahead for a moment, likely accessing whatever files and regulations it’s about to lecture me on. It suddenly whirs into “life” as it begins to address me in the forms of Sapien communication it was programmed with. Its voice is overly personal and chipper for my taste.

“Captain Neibowski, according to your flight records it has been 2.4 solycles since your previous visit to your home planet. How was your trip?”

It projects what I am sure is intended to be a friendly and caring expression.

“I’ve had better, robot. My papa died on our last haul to Remidian IV and, although I have no personal attachments to this particular planet, he did. So I’m here to burn his body, scatter the ashes, drop my cargo, and collect my money before heading back.”

The screenbot now forces itself to look concerned before continuing the friendly interrogation.

“My condolences. Our inspectors became concerned because, according to your cargo manifest, there are sentient remains in a non-environmentally controlled portion of your shipment containers. As you may not be aware, this is against Confederate regulation for the transportation of deceased sentient individuals.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t see much sense in storing him for over a solycle in a container that would only speed up the decaying process. I wanted to keep him fresh for his service. And a container with no moisture or atmosphere and sub-zero temperatures seemed like the way to go about that.”

“I understand your reasoning, Captain, but these regulations are in place for a reason. As this is your first violation for this particular matter, and because it concerns the death of an immediate family member, you will only be fined half of the standard 50,000 Credits for improper storage and transportation of restricted cargo.”

“Thanks, I really appreciate it. Next time a family member dies I’ll be sure to toss them out the airlock instead.” Screenbots, and most Xenos for that matter, never seem to pick up on snark. Maybe it’s the shitty translators.

The robot hums to itself as it processes my facial expressions and attempts to detect signs of deception.

“According to our records you have no remaining family members. But if you should discover others who later become deceased, know that remains disposal is only sanctioned in Neutral Space.”

“Thanks for the tip. Is that all, robot? Can you just deduct the credits from my ship account? I’ve got a haul to drop and money to collect before I get back to Remidian IV.”

“Your heart rate appears to be highly elevated, as well as your cortisol and adrenal levels. Is there a reason you are currently in distress?”

“I just fucking hate being on land. And I also hate discussing personal matters with a robot who isn’t programmed to actually give a shit about me.”

The robot hums again for a moment, “Yes, according to my records your bio levels, while unusual for most sapiens, are within the range of every previously monitored interview you have participated in. Would you like to consult with a Confederately-funded physician at the conclusion of this interview?”

“I’m good. The only thing I need is to get back on my rig.”

Since I’m not currently being arrested and tortured, I’m assuming neither my deception nor the other illegal cargo have been discovered. Grandma always said Cons are greedy but lazy. An obvious but minor violation like this means they’ll happily collect their fines and move along. I think being a red herring would actually make Papa proud.

“That will be fine, Captain Neibowski. As soon as your payment has cleared you will be allowed to continue through customs. However I would like to inform you that, thanks to the Sol Salvation Act, the Confederate government is prepared to extend psychological assistance to you as you grieve your loved one. As well as accommodations in an available Sol housing settlement for up to one solycle.”

“Yeah, that 25,000 Credits ought to cover at least that. Eh, bot? Thanks but no thanks. Space is where I belong.”

There is a long silence as the robot does whatever the hell it needs to do. Finally its face becomes expressive again.

“Your payment has been processed, and you and your cargo are now cleared through Sol III customs. Your sentient remains will be released to you within 24 solours upon further inspection. Welcome to Earth.”

Space Rat #1