Being a romantic partner to a transgender person means you’re likely present for all of their experiences: happy, sad, angry, and dysphoric. Sexual partners of transgender people have a huge opportunity to effect their lover’s gender and body dysphoria. Many transgender person’s body dysphoria includes, and may even focus on, their genitals. Sexual intimacy puts you in direct contact with the part of their body that likely causes them the most discomfort. What you say, how you react, how you approach this intimate space and time has a huge impact on how your transgender partner will feel about their body.
I was inspired to write about my experience as a partner to a transgender person after reading Melissa A. Fabello’s How to Reassure Your Partner That They’re Hot When They Hate Their Body. She wrote about the heterosexual cisgender narrative of a woman who’s body issues revolve around weight or shape, but I think her advice applies for partners of transgender people as well.
When I first met my partner, before we were intimate, I worried that using gendered terminology in relation to his genitals would be hurtful. So I was honest about my concern and asked about what language heightens his body dysphoria and what language reduces his body dysphoria. Thankfully my partner was self-aware enough to share with me what language he has used over the years in reference to his anatomy that makes him feel sexy and confident. The idea is to challenge the cultural belief (for yourself and your partner) that certain genitalia means a certain gender.
Along with language, we can challenge the idea that certain sexual activities are done by certain genders. Creative play provides lots of opportunity for gender affirmation. The human imagination is highly influential over the body and the mind. Explore with your partner what sexual activities and stimulation feels good to them and respect their boundaries around what feels uncomfortable for them. The goal is physical and emotional intimacy with a person you admire, right?
For partners just beginning the transgender journey with your lover, changing how you relate to their body can take time. Be patient with yourself and your partner. It will be much easier if you both engage your creativity and explore new fun ways of relating to each other.
Relationship counseling can help couples wanting to Live and Love Authentically explore what's sexy for them in a safe, comfortable space.