Like a lot of transmasculine folks, I lived a different life before I ever came out. In that life, relationships felt free, easy, and liberating when it came to sex — which is probably why sex wasn't something I particularly worried about when I started taking testosterone.
The doctor at the gender clinic ran through the list of possible changes I’d experience as my testosterone levels increased. Some of them I was deeply familiar with, and hoping for: Deeper voice? Check. Facial hair? Gimme. Muscle and fat rearrangement? Sign me up, daddy. Some things were more unexpected. Clitoral growth? Interesting. "Reduced vaginal lubrication"? Horrifying.
Of course, it wasn't just the physical that I knew would change. Even with my truly nerdy amounts of research, I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the journey my mind and body would be on, or how attitudes towards sex would shift as prominently as my attitude toward my body.
Of everything I've learned about sex as a transmasculine person, it's that sexual desire is an exciting, ever-changing geography you never fully get used to. That being said, here are a few things I've learned about getting down and dirty while taking testosterone.
1. Talking about it helps.
I don't necessarily mean sexy talk, although that is an excellent place to start getting yourself (and any other participants) in the mood.
The thing about transition is that it involves changes — some physical, but many more of them mental. Us trans folx have spent a lot of time trying to avoid being misgendered in a world that, well, tends to like misgendering us. That’s why words and the way our genitals are labeled, carry a lot of weight for so many of us. In fact, the wrong word can be a way to scream us out of the mood and back into the bad place.
What do I mean? For example, I hate calling it a clitoris. Particularly if hormone growth has increased the size of the clit, it feels much more like a dick. Why? I’m not 100% sure. But I know the difference between words for me is the difference between “stop” and “go.”
In fact, what I’ve found is that talking about body parts is a great pre-intimate touching experience regardless of gender identity — there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, after all. Finding out what somebody thinks is sexy makes it much easier to focus on enjoyment.
2. Use lube, lube, and more lube.
When it comes to enjoying sex, one of the miracles of the aroused vagina is that it produces its own natural lubricant. Without it, it's possible to end up in real physical pain — from tiny unnoticed tears to experiencing increased bouts of cystitis or thrush.
One of the downsides to taking testosterone is that the hormone reduces the amount of lubricant your body creates.
In most cases, you’ll find that the best investment you can make for your sex life is lube.
However much you think you need, you want more than that. You'll thank me later.
3. Open up the toy chest.
One of my favourite things about being in a queer space has been the fact that I’ve never felt unduly worried about what toys do or don’t mean. Instead, it’s simply come down to a case of want or not want.
Which is where experimenting with toys helped my body dysphoria before I’d ever consciously reflected on my gender identity.
A strap-on is a great accessory, although not necessarily in the ways you might think. I’ve found that wearing one is particularly helpful, even if I”m not the “top,” or looking to penetrate anybody. It’s a great way for me to get my head in the game and feels very much like a part of me.
There are times where wearing a binder on my chest is also more comfortable for me — although like with a lot of things, this isn’t always the case. But it’s important enough that my partner knows to check in and ask, and I know when I need to do so to make sex more enjoyable.
This, like everything else, is also deeply personal. Some trans men may actively enjoy wearing stereotypically feminine underwear, or being penetrated by a strap on. This is why it’s so important to ask and work out the lay of the land before you, well, lay the land.
4. Be open to change.
Perhaps the most shocking thing to me in the early days of taking testosterone was the way in which my mind changed about, well, everything. Some of this was inextricably linked with my body. How people respond to me has shifted, which means that how I respond to others has also shifted. How I smell has changed, my sense of taste has changed, and my physical composition has changed.
And of course, how I feel about sex has changed, too.
Being a dominant partner has always been a fundamental part of my sexual identity. But after hormone therapy, I started to become more comfortable in my body and have found I don’t need to take on a dominant role so much because I’m not trying to “prove” anything. These days I’m much more comfortable being versatile and have found sex more rewarding. I realized that being dominant in my past had much more to do with me trying to control how I was seen. I don’t worry about that so much these days.
Giving yourself, or your partner(s), the opportunity to explore and experiment with these changes is — above all else — a lot of fun. While your sexuality is distinct from your gender, one can definitely have an effect on the other, so it’s important to be aware that things that used to do it for you no longer might, and things you never thought you’d be into are suddenly red hot.
If you or somebody you’re intimate with is on testosterone, you may find that none of these may apply to you, or all of them might. Just as sex is different for everyone, the physical and emotional changes brought on by testosterone are equally unique.
In the end, the rules of sex are pretty much the same. Be safe, be respectful, and listen to yourself, and your wants.
Oh, and in case you missed it, use plenty of lube.