After reading Suzanne Moore’s only-half-serious advice on owning a penis, and fellow FTBer Ally Fogg’s insights on the relationship between men’s penises and society, I had an odd feeling that something was left out. Sure, their musings on the “male organ” were entertaining, but still somewhat limited in one important respect: they focused solely on men’s penises.
Now, I know a lot of people see these as inseparable, a perfect tautology of gender and anatomy. Men have penises, and people with penises are men. It’s an elegant notion, but one which fails to reflect the complex realities of today. Let’s face it – some women have penises, too. And that can be a pretty serious situation to find yourself in. What exactly are you supposed to do with your penis when you’re a woman?
Yes, men are the vast majority of the audience for penis-related advice, given that most penis-owners are still men (at least until we implement our secret plan to dump finasteride into the water supply). And I’m sure they’re very much in need of these man-centric tips. But contrary to mainstream perceptions, we members of Club Ladycock face a very different range of penile challenges.
People like to assume that our bodies are still essentially men’s bodies, and therefore work the same way. However, as any trans woman can tell you, this just isn’t the case. From social situations to sex to surgery, the standard dudely dick dilemmas simply aren’t all that relevant to our lives. So, for the sake of my fellow trans ladies (but mostly for any confused cis onlookers), I’ve assembled my own 10 semi-serious tips for wrangling a girl penis.
1. Tuck that thing. Conceal any trace of its existence at all times, leaving no hint of what’s in your pants. Too-tight panties, taping it between your thighs, twice as many layers of clothing as anyone else might wear – whatever it takes. Sure, guys get to walk around all day with their insubstantial crotch bulges, and no one gives them any crap for having outward-facing bits that take up space. But, much like how leg and underarm hair magically becomes unhygienic when it’s on women, the mere presence of a girlbulge will make people freak right the hell out. As the Montana Meth Project would say: Pushing your testes up into your abdomen and keeping them there for hours isn’t normal – but when you’re trans, it is.
2. Never go to pools or the beach. So you like swimming? Found a really nice bathing suit? Too bad. Tucking in everyday life is one thing – now try managing that in a crowded, wet environment where highly-gendered tight clothing is the norm. All the tape in the world won’t help you now, and society’s inability to comprehend or accept non-normative bodies is especially magnified when a woman quite visibly has something extra in her bikini. Potential means of mitigating this issue: skirtinis; burqinis; martinis.
3. Speaking of spaces with no room for non-normative bodies: never, ever use locker rooms. Any of them. Take tips 1 and 2, add enclosed spaces, and multiply by nudity – what do you get? A level 7 disaster on the International Ladydick Event Scale. Much like gendered swimwear, locker rooms leave little possibility of compromise. Either you’ll be taking your breasts into the men’s room, or you’ll be bringing your penis to the women’s room.
I’ve actually asked some ignorant assholes what they expect us to do in that situation, and once they understand the paradox, it basically breaks their brains. People generally don’t seem to be prepared to accept either of these choices – not without blowing it up into a non-troversy for the Daily Mail. Yeah, you just wanted to shower and change like everyone else there, but apparently the cis world can’t allow that.
4. Don’t even dare to expect that anyone could ever find your body desirable. Sure, in a world where people have gotten past the fear of being “gay”, and the realities of transgender existence are accurately taught from a young age without stigma or ridicule, there might be vastly fewer people who reject us outright as partners. In a time when people can accept that some of us simply have different bodies with different origins and a different shape, they might be somewhat less reluctant to get into bed with a woman and her penis.
But, for the love of estrogen, don’t ever say that out loud. Don’t even suggest that the kinds of women people say they like are anything other than sacrosanct, forever untainted by societal norms and common prejudice. Don’t expect them to reexamine their assumptions about who and what we are. And, boy howdy, don’t ever express your discontent with people largely viewing your transness as something that marks you as inherently unfuckable.
Straight cis men will call you “deceptive” for not outing yourself the moment they start flirting with you. Bonus boner tip for the guys: don’t blame us when your dick doesn’t cooperate with your transphobia. Shitty fringe feminists will call you “rapey” for daring to be a woman at all and not wanting to be desexualized and degendered and treated like a dude (or in the case of trans guys, treated like a butch lesbian). “Rapey” is a favorite metaphor of transphobes – it’s kind of like rape except for the part where no one is raped and none of us are actually doing anything to them, but it has the word “rape” in it, so knock it off you rapist. Best to settle for chasers whose entire knowledge of “chicks with dicks” comes from degrading mainstream pornography.
5. Cut it off. Much like trimming the tops of onion plants, this will cause the remaining stub to grow into a fully-formed vulva. I think? At least, that’s what people keep telling me.
6. Just kidding – better start saving up now. Assuming you’re not in a country with civilized healthcare and your insurance doesn’t cover it (and really, whose does?), a new vulva can set you back $20,000 or more depending on your choice of flesh-artist. Hooray, you’ve purchased the legitimacy of your gender in the eyes of the public, maybe kinda sorta if they’re feeling like it today. Who else gets the privilege of paying thousands of dollars just to go swimming again? Of course, it still won’t keep anyone from calling you “rapey”.
7. “Keep it in shape.” Bluntly, this is our euphemism for regularly masturbating to avoid penile atrophy prior to surgery. See, when your testosterone is chemically suppressed (or just gone, if you already got rid of your girlballs), you tend to stop getting spontaneous erections – the kind that happen on their own while you sleep, and sometimes during the day. On the bright side, morning wood is pretty much a solved problem. Still, even when we intentionally try to make it happen, it won’t always cooperate as easily. And mentally, many of us lose much of our sexual drive and interest. After a lifetime of having to deal with this obnoxious and uncomfortable testosterone-fueled urge, it can be a huge relief once we can just ignore it indefinitely. (That’s a pretty big difference between owning a penis when cis or trans – fearing impotence, versus enjoying every minute of it.)
Unfortunately, general lack of use can supposedly cause some degree of long-term shrinkage, which is undesirable if you intend to have the tissue repurposed into a vulva. For this reason, a lot of trans women feel it’s necessary to use it regularly even if you don’t feel like it. In reality, there doesn’t actually seem to be any hard data on this – some women who’ve made sure to “maintain” theirs have still needed additional skin grafts; others who’ve mostly disregarded theirs haven’t needed anything extra. Which basically makes it more of a superstitious ritual than anything. But just to be on the safe side…
8. Seriously, take some time to get reacquainted with it. People see what’s on the outside and assume we’re identical to men – even some of us make the same mistake. Getting off should be as simple as it always was, right? Not anymore. The truth is that running estrogen on unlicensed hardware can scramble almost every aspect of sexual response. Things just don’t work the way they used to: orgasms change or disappear, your whole body reacts to touch in different ways, and the entire structure of arousal-erection-climax may break down. Traditional techniques might not cut it anymore, and new approaches can be non-obvious. It can take a lot of practice to figure out what to do with it now, but you can speed things up with a Magic Wand and a copy of Fucking Trans Women #0.
9. Do come up with fun names for it! Sure, it’s not like it necessarily needs a proper first name (Barbara? Michelle, maybe?), but there’s nothing wrong with breaking out of the common “dick” and “penis” vocabulary. Those tend to be so strongly associated with men that using them in reference to a woman’s body can just feel strange and uncomfortable. So get creative! Try “girlcock”, or even “jane”. “Clit” is a particular favorite, given that it already refers to female genitals, and both organs initially develop from the same anatomy anyway. It also has the added bonus of pissing off all the assholes who insist “if you have a penis you’re a man because you have a penis because you’re a man because…” Use “she” pronouns for your clit for extra awesomeness.
10. Fuck everything, do whatever the hell you want and don’t ever be ashamed. Toss the tape and rock that bulge. Wear your new bikini to the beach and dare anyone to say a word. Find someone who respects you and your girldick. Let it atrophy into something adorable. Take your $20,000 and travel the world. Call it Nadine and make little ballet outfits for it. At the end of the day, you’re not the one who needs to be told how to deal with your penis. You already know what to do with it. Society, sadly, still doesn’t.