GOOD ADVICE/BAD GAY #8: sex vs gender

GOOD ADVICE/BAD GAY #8: sex vs gender

with special guest star Frankie 💪

GOOD ADVICE/BAD GAY is a bimonthly advice series from an anonymous gay therapist1 who’s not afraid to hurt your feelings with the truth.

Submit your requests for advice to badgayadvice@gmail.com. All submissions get a free 3-month subscription and all subscription funds benefit rotating mutual aid projects, so please share and tell your friends!

Dear Bad Gay,

I'm a trans woman, and I started taking estrogen for the first time about six months ago. It felt great; even before I could perceive physical changes, I felt a new level of comfort in my body—and I felt like I could name and talk about my experiences in new ways. 

However, the estrogen basically destroyed my sex drive. I didn't want to fuck—maybe once every month or two, but beyond that, no. This was tough on my relationship, but my partner is very supportive and was able to meet their sexual needs elsewhere. 

But sex—and especially leather, kink—have always been central to my sense of identity, who I am, the things I value. The desire for play faded as completely as the desire for sex (the same thing, really)—but I don't want to be that person! If taking estrogen means I am no longer a pervert, I don't know if I wanna take it. And I hate this! I feel like I am being forced to choose between my gender and my sexuality, when both are central to who I want to be, who I want to be in community with, and how I want to move through the world. 

I stopped taking my hormones a few weeks ago, and felt very confident in the decision at the time. But while my desire (and kinks) have returned, I feel a different lack of ease in my body, and am not sure I can think of myself as a woman if I'm not taking HRT (of course, I 100% believe and affirm that other people can be trans without hormones—but I don't know that I can). 

I just don't know how to reconcile or prioritize these competing, conflicting parts of who I am. Any advice?


Trans/Leather Woman

Dear T/LW, 

Competing, conflicting—the words at the end of your letter stood out. In these letters we—and by we I mean queers who seek advice from curt, faceless people on the internet—tend to buckle ourselves into dichotomies, despite having found more liberated and radical ways to exist in the world. We tend to have a thought or feeling (I am this now, I am no longer that) and sink into the tragedy of it, deciding that this is where we live now and making a home there. I am going to push back against any letter that asks me, “How do I choose between two things I value on an essential level?” So I’m wondering, T/LW, with a little work, can’t you have it all?

I'm actually going to pause here because, T/LW, your letter is a little too reasonable for my taste. I much prefer bad behavior to this perfectly tidy little question, so I decided to ask for some help because I got bored. And because BAD GAY is, after all, a mutual aid project, David and I concocted a queer little cross-promotional plan to raise even more money by bringing in a ringer.

Leatherdyke and leather worker Frankie is going to help us out. We’ve been corresponding about your situation, so now you get two judgmental queers to help you work through this quagmire. Here’s what Frankie had to say on the matter:

The first thing that came to mind after reading the letter is the 1:1 relationship between hormones and desire, both toward SM and sex generally, that the writer is experiencing. I wish we had more info about what exactly the type of SM she engaged with was because I have this suspicion that the role SM plays for her is being satiated by being on hormones! I think she’s engaging with this idea passed around amongst cis people that gender and sexuality are distinct and separate categories. This misses the idea that sexuality/gender inform and co-construct each other.

That stands out as a distinct possibility for T/LW: SM was a pre-hormonal-transition entry point to a feeling, an experience, an affirmational space that post-hormones isn’t hitting in the same way. If that is the case, your problem makes total sense! You’re literally changing the chemical/mental/social aspects of who you are, and your relationship with sex and desire aren’t going to pass through that metamorphosis unchanged, as well! We’ve all heard the stories of lifelong dykes or faggots who switch teams two or three years into hormones.

Second: There is no one-size-fits-all hormone regimen despite doctor’s/Reddit’s/peers’ insistence otherwise. It’s taken me personally 7 years and 5 different dosages—weekly or biweekly, changes in type of injection (IM or subq)—to find a regimen that works for me. It’s entirely possible that the effects T/LW is experiencing could be related to her regimen. The options aren’t either hormones/no sex drive or no hormones/sex drive with no area in between. Maybe you need progesterone as a supplement, which many girls take specifically for sex drive. Or maybe microdosing? The power and terror of transition is that you are exercising your agency in the most radical way and there’s no true roadmap for that! 

I guess what I’m driving at is that there’s this expectation that things will be the same—just better—post-transition, and in reality you have no idea where you’re going to wind up. It is entirely up to you and not intrinsically known from the outset. For instance, 8 years ago I had no idea I’d wind up some flavor of masc both on estrogen and testosterone who primarily bottoms. Changing is terrifying and confusing because it destabilizes what we think we know to be true and absolute about ourselves, but I guess I’m trying to also point to the parts of that which can be channeled into something empowering. 

I want to challenge this mutual exclusivity between biology and desire that T/LW is suggesting with the distinct possibility that desire hasn’t dissipated but has rather found a new location, a new form, a new set of protocols yet to be explored. If we understand our desires on some level as being contextual to our experiences, our social locations, and/or our self-perceptions, why wouldn’t a change that radically alters all of those and more metamorphose the forms our desire takes? I think there’s also the idea that is part hormones/part gender stereotype that estrogen=bottom and testosterone=top, which could also be at play if you’re feeling as though bottoming is what you’re supposed to be doing but is also what you’re bored/disinterested in. 

I do feel that it’s possible to acknowledge that she took a rather radical leap from going on hormones to being fully off them without any real reflection on the possibility of just not having the right combo. So I feel like there’s room to address that kind of either/or mentality in a way that’s not just about dosages or hormones, but rather as another instance of this overall approach she’s taking in figuring herself out.

Our desires change across our lives. Yes, dear T/LW, you are newly on hormones and you are struggling with libido changes—in a world where you have the privilege to make the choices you make, why not go all the way and experiment? What if this is an opportunity for you, T/LW, to discover something new about what you like? Six months after a long time of waiting is both an incredibly long and incredibly short amount of time. How can you envision where you might be six months from now and use that to your advantage? There are infinite ways to fuck and infinite ways to be kinky—use your imagination. It is not the time to resign yourself to a life without perversion but with peace in your body, or to a life with perversion but no sex drive. 

Instead of splitting yourself into two selves with impossible choices, experiment with all the variables in this brave new horizon until you find the sweet spot. Why resign yourself to less? You've come this far, after all.

Yours as ever, 

Bad Gay

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For this edition, funds are going to Free Ashley Diamond. Ashley Diamond is a Black, transgender woman, and prisoners' rights activist. She made national headlines in 2016 for her landmark victory against the Georgia Department of Corrections. Ashley has since been re-imprisoned because of a technical parole violation and is currently incarcerated at Coastal State Prison in Garden City, Georgia. Find out more about Ashley and her struggle here.

Thank you for your continued support. We’re all in this together, so let’s act like it!

David tweets at @k8bushofficial.


This column is meant as a source of advice and entertainment, and should not be considered therapy or medical advice in any way, nor does it establish a therapeutic relationship. If you are seeking either, please look into appropriate venues.

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