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Navigating a Genderqueer Body in the Bedroom

Jun 16, 2016

 

            I had my first gender dysphoria-induced panic attack while in the middle of a class of a hundred people. At the time, I couldn’t explain why it felt like an elephant was making itself comfortable on my chest, only that I had suspected that my binder was placed funny and wasn’t allowing me to breathe properly. It wasn’t until after the panic storm had passed that it hit me: I was in a room of mostly strange, presumably cisgender humans who all now had a front-row ticket to my transition, which involved becoming more visibly queer and gender-ambiguous. Being fresh out of the genderqueer closet that I had holed myself into for some time, I was slowly learning what it meant for me to express my gender, which to me, involved chopping my hair off and dressing differently. However, through this coming out process, I realized that I also unintentionally invited anyone who interacted with me on a semi-regular basis onto this gender journey I was embarking on. As a disclaimer, it is worth noting that the visibility of my gender journey is specific to the exploration of my own gender: you do not have to perform or display your gender to anyone in order for your gender to be valid; gender identity is different than gender presentation, even if they often match. So you do you, friend.   

            Fast-forward to going on four months of active avoidance of physical intimacy because of strange and unfamiliar dysphoric feelings, and I am sitting in a coffee shop watching a documentary on queerness while casually looking at paintings of naked bodies on the wall. I started feeling my chest constrict and so I began to panic about the oncoming panic attack until I realized where that jaw-clenching, palms-sweating feeling was coming from. The idea of being intimate with women reminded me too much of a body I was trying to modify or escape from altogether, while the idea of being intimate with men came with a fear of potentially having my genderqueerness be disregarded and my body seen as that of a female. Eureka! I had figured it out, but had no clue how to go about negotiating these complex feelings.

            In the presence of enthusiastic consent, sex has the potential to be a truly wonderful experience. To trans and gender-non conforming humans, this experience may come riddled with a few obstacles that can make it rather challenging. I can only speak for myself when I say that gender dysphoria affects me in the bedroom, but it is definitely not an uncommon theme in the trans community. Since I have been out to myself for a handful of months, my hesitancy and general fear of sexual encounters are very new feelings that I am learning how to sit with and work through. So, what am I so afraid of? The most straightforward answer is that, for as long as I have been having sex, I have known how to do so as a female-identifying person, up until now. Now that I no longer identify as female, my trusty ‘how to’ sex guide is no longer applicable, and I am left staring at fresh, empty pages. To me, that is both exciting and absolutely terrifying.

            With so many variables at play that can cause more anxiety than pleasure, my attention turns to focusing on knowing myself, and on establishing strong communication with lovers. While easier said than done, communicating desires, limitations, and boundaries with potential lovers –either before or during sex– can be empowering and beneficial to all parties involved. For myself, communication is the step that comes after the process of unlearning and relearning my body and what feels good; others might go about it simultaneously, using communication with their lovers as a tool to negotiate their boundaries. No matter the order you decide on, having some knowledge on what makes you feel good and being able to communicate that can help alleviate some of the anxiety around sexual experiences and hopefully make sex fun and pleasurable.  

 

Bio: Rory is a middle eastern genderqueer human currently living in Hamilton, Ontario, the shared territory of the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnaabe people. They are a social work student passionate about social justice, vegan eats, and supporting their communities. Feel free to reach out to them at roryy.blou@gmail.com 

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