Thursday, May 11, 2017

Intimacy, Initiation, Inventiveness and Independence

Do you enjoy Charades? Could you communicate 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason' to your onlookers?  It is over four years since I completed my transition and ventured out again into the world.  Up to that point I had been strangely dependent on a charade or so it felt seemed. If you're TS, that interregnum between coming out and experiencing surgery can feel a little fraudulent.  For me it lasted 7 years.  During that time I raised my daughter as a single Mum, held down a Teaching Assistant Job and started training as a counsellor.  Though I had felt female my whole life, the process of convincing everyone else was so hard: People who knew you previously seek to invalidate you.  Thrill seekers want to date you for 'dickgirl' sex. Officialdom resists changing your identity and 'normal' life seems to elude you.  You end up with the impression that your existence rests on sufferance and grudging tolerance.  If you are clever at charades then others might understand you as 'you' and not someone else.  Misunderstandings abound. Controlling the messages you give off in speech, appearance and demeanour are important. Choose your friends well and they will sensitively mirror what others see. On the scene, we call it 'learning to pass'. It can feel a little like 'the edge of reason' itself.

Post-op I was launched into the world afresh, dating again, building new confidence, I finally found a new independence.  I re-invented my appearance. I tried to create a sexier, more attractive 'me' and I pushed myself to have courage and confidence.  By that point, I was confident at passing.  Shopping for a new work outfit I was wolf whistled by a couple of builders and realised how genuine it was, not mocking my trans-ness. I found that guys like confident and playful women. Suddenly I was 'out there'. I learned to flirt. I had always smiled a lot. I learned to pick up when guys are hitting on you.  Life began to feel like fun again. Sex however made me a little nervous.  I was still a virgin and in spite of the regular experience of dilating my vagina with perspex, I felt quite scared. Adult females who are still virgins are fairly rare.  I wondered if any guy would ever find sex with me pleasurable. One of my dates, a really nice guy, bailed at the thought of taking my virginity.  It didn't help my confidence.

When I finally got a regular boyfriend, things began to change.  When a guy lends you his coat because you're cold, buys you new dresses and puts your photos in his phone, you start to relax.  I lost my virginity in woodland, caressed by his touch and softly descending rain.  It was deeply romantic and gentle, quite unlike my first time.  My initiation wasn't full on passionate intimacy:  I wouldn't advise that only 3 months post-op. It was, however, a start: Building sexual confidence starts with little steps it seems. I'm a married woman now.  Sex is decidedly full on and passionate; hot unbridled enjoyment whenever I want and a delicious intimate bond with my husband. It may sound strange but I finally learned that sex was so much more than intercourse.

When you grow up with the wrong body parts sex can be confusing and intercourse downright intimidating. I never understood how close a woman can feel to her man when he's inside her and making her climax.  Learning how to enjoy that moment fully meant ceding control to somebody else and letting him lift me as high as he wants.  It involved the realisation that seeing you ecstatic and breathless makes him want you more. Moreover, I began to value his masculinity as a complement to my femininity.  To a girl who was raised as a feminist in waiting, all this was a revelation and a puzzle.  Was I selling out to a patriarchal view of sex? Should I be ashamed of myself? Thankfully I came to the realisation that I wasn't. Enjoying foreplay and penetrative sex with a man who loves and respects you is freeing. Experiencing sex as a joyful, mutual act for you both is a sex positive act.  For me, it helped define me as a woman.  It also helped me to celebrate that womanhood and enjoy it.  Having a vagina and clitoris starts to feel like part of you and not just the product of surgery. Best of all, it willingly bonds two people and creates something new. Your marriage begins to take on a meaning that pleases you both.  You feel protected and supported. This isn't new.  It is as old as time.  I can't speak on behalf of my Gay and Lesbian friends but I'm sure that their experiences are equal, especially when there is love and respect for each other.

I'm aware that things could have been different and I am grateful that they weren't. I could have ended up in a controlling relationship.  I'm drawn to alpha males and adventurous men. I'm dizzy, impulsive and controlled by my heart.  I could have wound up unhappy or with no boyfriend at all. I am either very lucky or very brave. I'm never quite sure which. I look around at other friends and wish for good things for them too.  Most of all, for the type of relationship that suits them:  I'm aware that heterosexual monogamy isn't for everyone.

Four years on in a relationship, I've come to realise that the magic remains if you are inventive and willing to play.  I've found to my surprise that you carry on dating your husband, dressing sexily, sharing naughty fantasies and being adventurous.  Inventiveness is something that comes with the territory. Finding new ways to surprise and excite each other is an journey that never ceases to delight. It works both ways. Some things took me by surprise however.  They're not confined to post-op TS relationships but they are significant.  They've left me wondering.  Wondering why I ended up a married woman the hard way, or even just a woman.

The surprises were infertility and a monthly cycle. Infertility is a shock, even though you know it is an inevitable consequence of transition.  I have two children from a previous marriage.  He has two from his.  We already therefore have a family of four between us.  Nothing prepared me for the yearning to carry his baby inside me and have a child of our own.  I had imagined that box to have been ticked but it wasn't.  That longing to carry his child began once I felt protected and nurtured, once we had built a home of our own and planned a future.  I couldn't help it.  It came of its own, unbidden and took root in my heart and mind.  Not being able to get pregnant and create a new family together is tough.  It is one of the saddest parts of being born Trans. You learn to live with it but it's always there. I'm broody whenever I see other Mums with babies, I still get sad and cry sometimes.

Something else deepened that loss and bewildered me too.  Aware that I have recurrent moods I find, I began to track them.  Those moments of tension, conflict, moodiness and headaches tend to fall towards the end of the month for me.  They last a couple of days, no more.  Straight after, my sex drive increases but I also have an upset tummy. Mid month, I feel great and am mad about being bedded and pleasured.  None of this makes any sense.  I wasn't born with ovaries as far as I know, or a uterus.  Apart from 3 months of sanitary towels post-op, I don't have periods. Even so, I seem to have PMT. Things are easier now I know it's coming.  My husband is finding his way around my predictable moodiness too. Are my cycles wishful thinking? Somatic feelings caused by transition? I don't know. I'd love to know if others experience these monthly changes or not.  When I mentioned my experiences to my doctor he just shrugged his shoulders.  Anything might be possible, he ventured, we know too little about post-op men and women.  There is so little follow-up.

I have been candid and forthright in my blog post. I hope that sharing these things might help others make sense of their feelings too or inspire them to write about you their experiences of sex. TS men and women are men and women but they don't share the usual starting points.  There is much written about cisgender sexuality but so little about ours.  How TS men and women experience sex may be conditioned by our experiences of heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bi sex or it may not.  I really don't know.  What I do know is that my journey to self awareness as a woman is a continuing and exciting one, full of surprises.  I hope that yours is too.

Huggs, Jane xx

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