Whether it’s your first time with anyone or your first time dating a transgender person, navigating what to do and say with your partner can be nerve-wracking. We’re here to help tame those worries by laying out some intimacy challenges you may face with your trans partner and what you can do to solve them!
Before we get into the meat of the article, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with a few identity terms that will be used if you aren’t already.
- FTM: A person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as male. This is an acronym that stands for “female to male”. This person is a transgender man.
- MTF: This person was assigned male at birth and identifies as a female. The acronym stands for “male to female”. An MTF person is a transgender woman.
- Non-binary/genderqueer: This person may either be assigned male, female, or even intersex at birth but doesn’t identify within the gender binary. Non-binary people don’t use terms such as female and male or girl and boy.
- Cisgender: Someone who identifies with the same sex that they were assigned at birth. This is the majority of the population. For example, a person assigned female at birth and also considers herself a woman is cisgender.
Possible challenges when first getting intimate with a trans person
One of the main challenges that you may encounter with your trans partner is if and when they experience gender dysphoria. Not every trans person does, but it can impact intimacy as it directly relates to their primary sex characteristics.
Gender dysphoria is described as a feeling of distress regarding body parts that the person feels doesn’t align with their gender identity. The distress can come from something as personal as their genitals all the way to how their body is shaped or how their voice sounds.
If your partner experiences gender dysphoria, it’s important to be patient with them, but also ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. Unfortunately, sometimes that feeling just has to die down on its own.
Especially if you’re not familiar with the trans community, another challenge could be what words and terms to use. When referring to a trans person, it’s important to not use harmful words such as shemale, tranny, it, he-she, etc. These words are now considered derogatory and stem from transphobia and the porn industry, and are related to objectification or fetishization.
When referring to a trans person’s body parts, you should check what your partner prefers, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid using typical words such as pussy, vagina, dick, and penis. As an example, some trans men refer to their natal genitals as a “front hole”. To avoid triggering dysphoria, it’s a good idea to check their word preferences.
What to know beforehand
It’s important to remember that not every trans person is the same. As with cisgender people, transgender people have their own individual sexual preferences and desires.
Whether they’re FTM, MTF, or non-binary, you shouldn’t assume what their preferences are purely based on their gender identity. This becomes particularly important when you consider that not every trans person has had or wants to have gender confirming surgery.
For example, trans men that haven’t undergone bottom surgery may be interested in using their natal genitals to be penetrated, while others prefer to use a strap-on to penetrate their partner. A similar example can be made for trans women, where some may be comfortable using the genitals they were born with and some aren’t. Some also may have already have had gender confirming surgery.
No matter the situation, it’s important to respectfully communicate with your partner about what their preferences are. However, don’t be intrusive with questions about their genitals and try to keep the discussion as neutral and respectful as possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can still catch and pass on STI’s with a trans partner, so it’s important to practice safe sex and get tested. A trans man can also possibly become pregnant, and a trans woman can get their partner pregnant if they have all of their “hardware”, even if they’re currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
What to expect from your first time when you’re dating someone trans
If your partner is currently doing hormone therapy and transitioning towards their gender identity, it’s important to know that there’s likely to be some physical differences compared to a cisgender person. If you’re respectful and not pestering your new partner, they will most likely speak to you about this, but we will also share some common changes that happen from hormone therapy.
- FTM changes: From taking testosterone, their voice can deepen, skin becoming a rougher texture, growing more facial and body hair, having a different smell, and their clitoris growing up to 4 cm.
- MTF changes: As a result of taking estrogen, their skin can become smoother and gradually less hairy, growing some breast tissue, redistribution of fat, mood changes, and shrinking genitals.
Of course, if your partner has undergone gender confirming surgery, their body will be closer to a cisgender body, but it’s important to remember that all trans bodies are unique and deserving of love.
Another thing to expect when dating a trans person that we touched on earlier in this article is not everyone’s sexual preferences are the same. A trans person may not want their genitals to be touched by their partner at all, and others are okay with it. An act such as oral sex is already very intimate, but it can be a source of anxiety and dysphoria for a trans person.
Your trans partner may prefer to be the one to deliver all of the pleasure and not be touched at all, which is their own preference. If that doesn’t work for you, you’re also allowed to have your own preferences, but make sure you don’t pressure the other person into activities that they don’t feel comfortable with.
How to talk about intimacy and sex
Emma McGowan, a sex educator writing for Bustle, has some great ideas on how to talk about intimacy and sex with a transgender partner.
Before you get into intimacy, you should have a conversation about what you and your partner are into sexually. A dialogue example presented by Emma is, “Our relationship is moving forward, and it’s really exciting to me, so I was kind of wondering if you wanted to talk about what we’re both into.”
As you’re getting into the moment, one of the tips that Emma shares is to ask your partner what they want to do to you, then share what you want to do to them. This ensures consent and your partner’s comfort levels, but also cranks up the heat of the moment.
It’s also okay to confide in them and mention if you’re nervous about intimacy, especially if it’s your first time with a trans person. Being honest about your feelings can also help your partner open up and understand that the both of you are figuring things out together.
What if my partner struggles with gender dysphoria
Unfortunately, many trans people struggle with gender dysphoria and it can be a hit to their self esteem. What can you do as a partner to help alleviate dysphoria?
- Compliments: This may be obvious, but compliments can go a long way in helping to boost your partner’s self esteem. It’s important to focus the compliments that align with their gender identity and expression. Examples of this can include complimenting their makeup, their muscle tones, hair, body shape, and more. Dysphoria stems from sexual characteristics that doesn’t align with their gender identity, so combating it with compliments is a great way to go.
- Consider giving gifts: Another way to help dysphoria could be giving gifts that align with their identity. It depends on each individual person and their expression, but some ideas include buying them a new binder, makeup, clothes, an appointment at a salon, and more.
- Be patient: It can be difficult to get rid of dysphoria entirely, and some days can be worse than others. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be understanding and patient with your partner and respect their boundaries.