[Guest Post] “Silly Rabbit, Toys are for Everyone!” by Velvet Divine

Velvet Divine (fae/faer) is back again with another fantastic guest post, this time about transition, sex toys, body image, and lots more good stuff. Don’t forget to follow faer on Twitter!

“Silly Rabbit, Toys are for Everyone!” by Velvet Divine

“Hey, I’m really flattered and hella down but it’s been a while since we talked and there’s been some new developments. I’ve been on HRT for a bit now and it’s started to affect my downstairs equipment so things don’t really work the same as before.”

“That’s fine, we can still have amazing BDSM sex without a dick or even any kind of penetration.”

“You’re absolutely right, I guess I’m just still getting used to the new situation and never really thought I’d be here, ya know?

– A snippet from a conversation I had recently with an old flame about being physically intimate again. 

I was born with a penis and although knowing I was trans femme and being out socially and professionally, for the most part, I was not able to begin the medical portion of my transition until around five months ago. I shan’t bore you with the minutia of the HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) process but want to focus on one aspect of my experience: the loss of libido and erectile dysfunction as a result of the low blood pressure from Spiro and the Estrogen.

It’s not a bad thing in any capacity, mind you, I was never particularly attached to my bio dildo, to begin with, but it’s different – for the entirety of my sexual history up until these past few months, it was largely the main event or performing a duet with various accoutrements. That’s not the case anymore.

Now, I find myself in the process of learning how to make sensuality, foreplay, and various accessories the headliners of the experience. This isn’t a problem in and of itself but I have noticed that it can get tricky trying to navigate expectations, both mine and others. I’m typically physically and sexually intimate with other femme-coded people and more often than not those people have vaginas and, in the case of my last few encounters, came from mostly if not exclusively being with cis men.

A few of these people I was intimate with prior to HRT and then during, which became an interesting exercise in shifting expectations and accommodating material realities. Those liaisons did not last but they were incredibly affirming and I could not have asked for more at the time. The ones that followed were less affirming and a bit more awkward. There was disappointment that my equipment did not perform to expectation and trepidation about trying toys for the first time. They weren’t bad experiences but they were not repeated.

Orgasms are different too, they’re not quite as jolting as they used to be and I no longer feel the mounting pressure to like climax like I did prior. They’re rad enough but they’re no longer the ritz. I could take them or leave them. And I leave them more often than not nowadays since penetration used to be my main vector for climax.

I’m sure you’re about to say, “Velvet, that’s a barrel of bananas if not a whole jungle. There are so many other forms of stimulation you could receive or do for yourself”. And you’d be correct, dear reader – but here’s the kicker:

I do not want other people touching me any more than they have to. Or more accurately, by the time the trust and foundation needed for me to feel safe being touched intimately, my Fraysexuality has usually kicked in and the liaison plateaus platonically. (Fraysexuality being on the ace spectrum and characterized by a loss of sexual attraction as a platonic relationship is established and cemented. Think of it as the opposite of Demisexuality.)

Despite the complexity and frustration of the present situation, I’m making a concerted effort to approach it as an opportunity to heal and better conceptualize the relationships I have with intimacy, both the one I provide myself and the one I get from others.

I do not like my body, never have, but for the first time, I don’t actively loath it. Sure, there’s hair in all the wrong places, I feel like I’m built like a titan from the eponymous anime, and I still cringe if I catch the wrong angle in the mirror. But I’m growing boobs. That hair is growing back slower and it’s more manageable. The hair on my head (the one I actually like) is the longest it’s ever been and when it cooperates – my curls are fuckin’ hot.

(Note on the breast development: for the first twenty-four years of my life I was pretty unaware that I had nipples. Now I’m entirely too aware and they’re sore more often than not. But, boobs. So I’m pretty damn stoked.)

Inhabiting this mortal coil usually feels like being stuffed in an iron maiden two sizes too small and trying to provide myself with intimacy feels just as unwelcoming. Self massages, oils, and most spicy toys don’t quite hit the mark but hugging squishmallows, breaking out a weighted blanket, and even taking those extra five or ten minutes to pop a hoodie in the dryer for a warm treat on a cold night, have been baby steps that I can stomach.

Getting intimacy from other people, however, has proven more Icarian than Herculean. Not the least of which by virtue of the fact that being some flavor of aro/ace (Aroflux and Fraysexual in my case), at least for myself, makes it extremely difficult to discern the exact kind of attraction I feel for certain people and harder still to know the way I would prefer to express or receive that attraction.

In the event you may not be aware, there are different forms of attraction besides the classic romantic and sexual. Aesthetic revolves around enjoying a person’s appearance or style, without any desire for more. Sensual refers to wanting to touch and be touched by that person, in as far as hugs, holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc. Alterous attraction means the lovely limbo north of the platonic but not quite romantic, you’ll often hear it in reference to queerplatonic situations.

Some people I find incredibly and even frighteningly attractive, but the buck stops there. I’m just happy they exist and I can respectfully look at the insta feed. Others are a little trickier. They might have beautiful hands that I’d like to hold and kiss, maybe I want them to hold me and play with my hair while I get lost in their eyes (no, you’re thinking of specific people right now, don’t project onto me), and some I’d be cool with having them ride my face for an evening.

And once or even if the mode of attraction or vector of affection is identified, how the fuck do you make that known. I mentioned in previous pieces here that approaching femme-coded people as a trans femme, especially still looking as masc as I do, can be pretty frightening but there’s even less of a script for bringing up niche topics outside of those niche communities.

Amatonormativity has set such a draconian binary between platonic and romantic affection that even among LGBTQIA+ people it can be difficult to ask for intimacy or establish connections outside of this script imposed upon us. Thus, we may end up in situations that often don’t serve us or that are downright uncomfortable because we don’t know other ways to fill those needs.

You might settle for a romantic relationship even if you’re not interested in romance because it might be the most convenient way for you to get a nesting partner, co-parent, or a source of emotional closeness when a queerplatonic situation might better serve you. For me, I engage in a lot of casual sexual intimacy not necessarily because I want sex but because it’s the most socially acceptable and convenient way for me to get the sensual intimacy I need.

And sure, I could ask. I won’t, but I could.

Besides the fact that I would rather be dead than vulnerable, there’s this tremendous fear that opening that Pandora’s Jar would irrevocably change those friendships. 

Would they understand that my sensual attraction isn’t sexual and a testament to how safe I feel with them or would they be uncomfortable around me moving forward?

Would they reciprocate or be at least comfortable with my alterous attraction to them or just consider me the latest in a line of friends that ruined the connection by burdening them with my confession?

People are complicated. Try, if you have the spoons and the patience, but toys are always an option too.

I pay all my guest writers and would like to increase the rate, hire more amazing writers, or both. If you want to see more new voices on C&K, head to the Tip Jar to show your support!

[Guest Post] Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough

Today’s guest post comes from Shannon Burton (they/she) who I met through the Smutlancers community. They’re a brilliantly talented writer and I’m thrilled to be publishing them on C&K for the first time, talking about gender-neutral language and how to use it.

It’s important to note that though this article uses one specific example of problematic language as its jumping-off point, it’s not about attacking or critiquing an individual. This is stuff that virtually all cis people – including me! – could do better with. I learned a huge amount from this and I’m sure you will, too.

They’ve helpfully included some working definitions for those of you who are new to these concepts, so I’ll include those first and then we’ll dive into the article.

Amy x

Definitions

Cis/cisgender: when someone’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth

Trans/transgender: when someone’s gender identity is different than their assigned sex at birth

Genderqueer/nonbinary: when someone’s gender identity falls outside the categories of man and woman

Intersex: when someone’s sex characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones, gonads, or genitals don’t fit neatly into typical definitions of male or female sex. Being intersex does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Vulva-owner: person with a vulva (generally including the mons pubis, labia majora and minora, clitoris, and vaginal opening.) Being a vulva owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Penis-owner: person with a penis (generally including glans, shaft, and foreskin.) Being a penis owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough by Shannon Burton

Sometimes, even our best intentions fall short.

Such was the situation in the very first lesson of Dr. Emily Morse’s “Sex and Communication” Masterclass.

“I want this class to include everyone,” the Sex With Emily podcast host begins promisingly. “So instead of hearing me say woman, I’m gonna say vulva-owner or vulva, and instead of man, I’m gonna say penis-owner or penis.”

Arrrrgggg!

This is a perfect example of trying to be inclusive of trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people and falling short. Our bodies do not always indicate our gender. Yet, this statement still implies that women are vulva-owners and men are penis-owners. It also implies that being inclusive is just a matter of swapping out gendered words (woman, man) for neutral, body-based ones and then—hurray!—our work here is done.

But not every man has a penis, and not every woman has a vulva. While this body-centered language helps when giving sex advice and talking about bodies without assuming gender, this introduction unfortunately undoes its own intent.

Without that statement, the rest of the course is pretty gender inclusive. Dr. Morse uses body-centered language throughout the lessons (slipping up just once), so that vulva-owners and penis-owners of all genders can tune in to relevant information about themselves and/or their partners. That introduction, though, leaves viewers free to mentally substitute gendered terms when they hear the gender-neutral ones, maintaining the status quo that marginalizes trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people.

What could Dr. Morse have done differently? What can those of us who are trying to be more inclusive in our work and day-to-day life do to be better at keeping up with and using terms correctly, especially when it feels like they’re constantly changing?

The first step is to get in our own heads about gender.

Decoupling Body from Gender

Body-centered language (like penis-owner and vulva-owner) is becoming more common in some contexts, and for good reason. In reproductive health settings, for example, it’s important to know whether someone has a uterus or testes. Asking whether someone is a woman, man, or other gender identity can’t tell you that, since there are men with uteruses, women with testes, nonbinary and genderqueer people with either, and intersex people of all gender identities.

In other contexts, however, body-centered language isn’t always necessary. For example, when discussing social issues that disproportionately affect different genders, it’s appropriate to use those gendered terms. (i.e. “Women tend to make less money than men for the same work,” “Men are more likely than women to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol,” or “Trans people experience higher rates of sexual assault than cis women and men.”) Our socially-constructed gender identities are a major part of these social problems, so using those terms makes sense.

When it comes to talking about sex, things can get messy (no surprise there!) Sex is socially stigmatized, and people of different gender identities experience different pressures as a result. Meanwhile, sex educators and businesses aim to provide helpful advice and knowledge that often involves talking very specifically about people’s most intimate body parts. 

This requires ongoing work on our part to decouple bodies from gender in our own heads, while still considering how those things interact. That’s going to look different for everyone, but one place I like to start with cisgender friends is to ask a question you may have already asked yourself, seriously or not:

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and your body’s sex characteristics had changed?

In this thought exercise, you’d still be you… but your body hair, chest, hips, and genitals would be different, and perhaps your voice, too. If you currently have a penis and testicles, you might now have a vagina, uterus, and ovaries, and vice versa.

When I first explored this question with friends in high school, our answers predictably ranged from “freak out” to “find someone to go down on me.” Go ahead, have fun with the thought exercise yourself. Think of all the things you’d do with a different appearance and new sex organs. Then, really sit with it. What would happen if you woke up with the new body day after day, week after week? What if you’d have it for the rest of your life?

For most cisgender people, I think this would be very distressing. They’d know, to their core, that they are a “woman trapped in a man’s body,” or vice versa. The body would not feel like their own, and they might seek to change it with hormone therapy and/or surgery, if they had access to that and could afford it. They’d resent being treated as a gender not their own in day-to-day interactions, and told their gender identity is wrong when they correct people.

This is often the trans experience: one’s body does not reflect the gender one knows deeply to be true. (Please note, however, that despite this not all trans people desire hormone therapy or surgery.)

When you begin to understand how your gender identity is separate from the body you possess, you begin to understand why saying something like “instead of women I’ll say vulva-owners” is well-intentioned but still problematic. Not everyone who knows in their heart that they are a woman has a vulva.

What Sex Educators and Businesses Can Do

How could Dr. Emily Morse have done better? An improved introduction might look like this:

“I want this class to include everyone, so instead of giving advice based on gender, I’m going to focus on the parts of the body many of us use during sex. You’ll hear body-centered language like penis-owner and vulva-owner to help indicate which information is most relevant to you and your partners.”

Sex educators and sex-related business owners can learn about and use better language by consulting with gender-aware writers and editors for their content. They can also commit to further educating themselves by seeking out trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary authors, bloggers, podcasters, and educators. They can read, watch, and listen to what these people are sharing to build a better understanding of how different people experience gender.

Most importantly, they shouldn’t stop here. I am but one nonbinary person and this post is a very limited introduction to thinking about gender and language. Check out resources like this guide for writing about transgender people, which is constantly being updated, and the Trans Journalists Association style guide.

Our understanding of gender is constantly changing. The language and ideas I’ve used in this post may be problematic without me realizing it, or may be outdated just a year or two from now—and that’s okay. I trust my fellow trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer comrades to hold me accountable and offer better alternatives, and you should, too. Be okay with making mistakes.

There are way more unanswered questions about gender out there than answered ones, so doing better at being inclusive is a life-long learning journey. Accepting that is a huge first step to being part of a safer world for people of all gender identities, and it’s worth taking.

About the Author

Picture of Shannon Burton, guest blogger writing about gender-neutral language

Shannon (they/she) is a sex coach and content writer residing in New Orleans. You can find them at SexCoachShannon.com or on Twitter @SexCoachShannon.

Remember: you can help me pay more guest bloggers (and pay guest bloggers more!) by donating via the tip jar.

[Guest Blog] “You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Velvet Divine (fae/faer) back to Coffee & Kink for the second time! You can check out Velvet’s last guest post for me and follow faer on Twitter!

This is your reminder that Coffee & Kink is and always has been a trans positive space. I’m cis and have a lot of learning to do, but I love my trans siblings and friends and am delighted to be able to uplift their voices on the blog!

Over to Velvet.

– Amy x

“You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

“You’ll never pass as a woman.”

The last words my mother and I exchanged regarding my transition.

I came out to my mother and my aunt (and essentially the whole family, because no one in mine has a concept of “privileged information”) on New Year’s Eve, 2015 – subsequently ruining the holidays and turning the domicile into a Cold War simulation.

Some background:

I was raised in a Roman Catholic, Colombian household. Although our family subverted the usual patriarchal expectation with our generations of single mothers (and my situation specifically, being raised by my mom and my aunt,) we still retained a lot of heteronormative frameworks. My entire life I was told that I was a “man” and had outlined for me the behaviors that were expected of a “man”.

To be quite frank, I never internalized any of those messages and never identified with being a “man” or “masculine” in any capacity. They were just words and concepts tossed at me by virtue of the particular set of plumbing I was born with, but they never meant anything to me.

Fast-forward to much later. It wasn’t until I was exposed to actual LGTBQIA+ people and terminology that I learned that the issue was not my failure to live up to some nebulous, gendered expectation, but rather that those expectations were entirely immaterial to me. I began by exploring using “they/them” pronouns and more neutrally-coded terms for myself, distancing myself from my masculinity as much as I could. And it worked, for a time. (Note: this is by no means a censure or criticism of masculinity, simply my own experience with it and having it forced upon me).

After identifying as “anything but he/him”, for a few months, my thoughts shifted from “not a man”, to “maybe a woman”, to… yes. Absolutely a woman. Much like when I discovered I wasn’t heterosexual, my initial reaction was relief and joy – at the weight of doubt lifted and the prospect of being true to myself. However, that semblance of joy was, in both instances, quickly replaced by anxiety and frustration at the knowledge that I still lived in a heteronormative world and, whether it was randos on the street, the systems and powers that be, or religion, I would have to fight tooth-and-nail to simply be true to me.

For a year I kept my realisation secret from my family and workplaces, slowly coming out to close friends and my cousins (who are practically siblings,) as well as a few professors throughout the course of the year. Some folks gave me odd looks when they heard my name and pronouns, others had difficulty with the new pronouns, and others just dropped me. And while that hurt, no one had been abusive or malicious. I guess my mistake was expecting the threat to come from outside the gates rather than within.

The initial reaction when I came out to my immediate family was resigned silence. With the evening ruined, we all retired to our separate rooms. The next few days were fairly quiet and I mistook the silence to be one of processing instead of festering. What followed were six months of being dragged to various churches, an incompetent psychoanalyst (the type who claims that bi/pansexuality don’t exist and that people like me are just “promiscuous” or “greedy”), and debilitating dissociation. I wasn’t surprised by the pious or even the general assholes, but I felt beyond betrayed by the teachers and “philosophers”, who suddenly had nothing to say while my proverbial carcass was vivisected by the vultures of archaic values.

Throughout this process, my mother did her best to belittle and discount my identity – posing that I was a confused gay man, not trans, or that my sexuality was a phase.

I have to admit, there are few things in life that given me more pleasure than watching the color drain from her face as I explained to her that I was not confused and was quite clear on what and who I was attracted to, having tasted not only the rainbow but most, if not all, of the candy shop.

Mayhaps even more important than what I learned about myself throughout those six months, was what I learned about my family.

The sheer breadth and depth of their hypocrisy and cowardice.

Gossips and educators were conveniently silent, too cowed by tradition or my mother’s infamy to offer the slightest encouragement or reassurance. Alleged guardians who were far too married and enamored of the person they had in their heads, more than willing to sacrifice the flesh-and-bone individual to protect their fantasy. Child abusers, frauds, and narcissists are coddled, made excuses for, and prayed over but the queer kid wasn’t allowed the same clemency.

I wish I could tell you that we worked through it and had some appropriately cheesy Hallmark moment with accompanying music, but I won’t because we didn’t. I became the new Black Sheep, mostly because after what they put me through, I made it a point to fight fire with fire. If I had to endure LGBTQ+ bashing under the guise of religious expression, I quite happily delivered one of the appropriate biblical punishments for infidelity, violence, and fraud (to the point of telling an uncle that I’d bet money on their God being more fond of gays than cheaters) and eventually came out as an Atheist as well.

The best we have done is reach a point where the rest of them pretend it never happened. I assume they’re waiting for me to move out and be far away from them when I do begin the physical component of my transition – out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. They’ve learned better than to bring up homo-/transphobic nonsense in my presence. I am no longer invited to the vast majority of family gatherings and those that I do get invited to, I refuse.

If you want to help me to keep bringing important stories like this to the blog, please head over to the tip jar! Thanks again to Velvet for sharing this powerful story with us.

[Guest Blog] “Open to Trans Girls?” by Velvet Divine

I put out a call for guest blog pitches at the end of July and oh my, you folks delivered! I received some brilliant ideas and would have loved to accept them all. I’m absolutely thrilled to be sharing today’s fantastic piece by a new-to-me writer, Velvet Divine (fae/faer.) You can follow faer on Twitter!

To me, this post really highlights the experience of trans folks and the misconceptions and bigotry that too many cis people still hold. We have a long way to go. I hope that by uplifting trans voices in this space, I can make a very small difference.

– Amy x

Open to Trans Girls?

“Velvet Divine. Fae/Faer. Non-binary. Trans femme. Pan. Aro. Poly. Domme. Targaryen. Actress. Writer. Artist. Vegetarian. Trash fire. Nerd. Gaymer. Goth. For the Horde.” (My dating app bio.)

Due to living in a fairly small, Conservative town and working with clinically vulnerable populations, I am not yet out in my everyday life. I’m sure my identity as a non-binary trans person would compromise not only my employment but also maybe my safety. So, my main method of connecting with people for ventures north of the platonic is via online dating apps.

“Are you open to trans gals?”

Six little monosyllabic words, typed with practiced trepidation or tired resignation, depending on the day. More often than not, this is my first message to women I connect with on dating apps (specifically, cisgender women). Sometimes, it’s the third or the fifth message, following an initial volley of back-and-forth compliments. But it’s always something I feel the need to clarify as soon as possible. Part of it is in the spirit of transparency (pun intended). I like to get it out in the open in the event that it’s any kind of a deal-breaker. But the other part is a visceral fear of coming across as predatory.

Bigoted people have long been pushing a narrative that trans women and trans femme people are predatory, using their transition to gain access to vulnerable women and female spaces in order to sexually harass or assault women. A lot of us have, unfortunately, internalized a lot of this transmisogyny. When you combine that with my hyperawareness of how masculine I still present, you get a knot of anxiety at being perceived as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

I had my first taste of this in college, soon after breaking my egg (trans lingo for “coming out” or realizing one is trans). I began attending the LGBT+ Center’s Women’s Group. The second of the two sessions I attended consisted of the facilitators addressing “concerns” that some were there for the wrong reasons. Cue all eyes on me. I was the only trans feminine person and, more importantly, I did not look the part yet.

They went around the circle, asking everyone to share why they were in the group and what they hoped to gain from it. I don’t recall my answer verbatim, but it was something along the lines of wanting to connect with other LGBTQ+ women and femme-aligned folks. I looked around for some measure of commiseration or solidarity, but met only silence and a crowded room of women who wouldn’t look me in the eye.

So I never went back to the group. After a few times, the facilitators stopped asking me when I would come back whenever we ran into one another. Maybe the others thought that I was there trying to pick up a date and took my lack of feminine clothing and makeup as admission to this perceived grift. Maybe I just projected my own insecurities and completely misinterpreted the situation. Regardless, that pit in my stomach never left me. I continue to feel the need to question whether or not I am intruding upon a space that isn’t for me, or offering my company to someone who is merely tolerating it.

I ask women who match with me if they’re cool with or open to trans girls and they’ll reassure me, many vociferously and graciously, with “trans women are women” or “I love ALL girls”. Others will make a crack about how it’d be silly if they weren’t, considering it’s plastered all over my profile and hard to miss.

I will continue to ask them if they’re comfortable. I will ask them when we plan a date and I explain that I will not be dolled up because I’ll be coming from work or getting a ride from a relative. I’ll ask them again if the subject of sex comes up and we discuss desires and boundaries. I’ll ask them again during the act itself.

“I am Non-binary and trans-feminine. At the current moment, I am unable to access HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) due to my housing and economic situation. I’m on the chubby side and I still have my bio dildo. If any of those are an issue, feel free to exit stage left.”

That’s what my usual “disclaimer” looks like on my profiles. I add these because, again, I want to lay my cards on the table. Because I’m afraid that otherwise, people will feel misled somehow. Logically, I don’t imagine that these disclaimers are anything but obvious. I’m thick and, even if cis women thought I was just butch, the mention of being trans and the bio dildo euphemism would make it clear. (I used to use the expression “fleshy strap-on” but that kept going over people’s heads). But you’d be surprised. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that cis Sapphics also often feel like they need to “disclose” that they’re on the thicker side up-front. Solidarity, sisters.

Even among the LGBTQIA+ community, there is a staggering amount of ignorance regarding the trans experience on the part of cisgender folks. I’ve had many people mix up trans women and trans men. Most recently, I had a woman ghost me after I corrected her misconception by reiterating the fact that I have a “bio dildo” and explaining the euphemism. Some of my favorites, though, are the ones who think that being trans is like a Magical Girl transformation and that by shouting that I’m trans into the ether, a la Greyskull, I will immediately undergo years of HRT and surgeries. I wish that were the case.

Though these hiccups are more common than I’d like, I’m grateful that they tend to come from places of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than malice. I’ve been using these apps for years and can count on one hand the number of times that women have been intentionally rude or hateful towards me (men are a whole other story). Women are always a treasure to connect with. Even people for whom the bio dildo and transition were deal breakers have generally been perfectly respectful about it.

I want to thank Velvet again for sharing faer insights in this fantastic post. I pay all my guest writers and would like to increase the rate, hire more amazing writers, or both. If you want to see more new voices on C&K, head to the Tip Jar to support the blog.

Pride Month Guest Post: Euphoric Erotica by Quenby

For the second guest post in my Pride Month series, I’m delighted to be hosting Quenby for the second time (they previously wrote an utterly charming piece about lessons in boundaries from a cat!)

I loved today’s piece about exploring gender identity and creating gender euphoric feelings through the possibilities which exist in fiction but aren’t available to us in the real world. I hope you guys enjoy it as much.

This post deals with gender dysphoria, so please take care of yourself if that’s likely to be difficult for you.

Amy x

Euphoric Erotica

This Pride Month, I’ve been thinking about how erotica can allow trans people like me to navigate the at times strained relationships with our bodies.

For most of my tenure as an erotica writer, I have generally kept my work realistic. The experiences are edited and simplified to bring a narrative to those sweaty, gloriously chaotic moments when we give ourselves over to intense sensation. But I prefer to keep things as close to my real life experiences as possible.

There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, I want to encourage more inclusive beauty standards and write about real bodies. I want big bellies and asymmetric tits, sweat drips and positions which don’t require gymnastics training.

The other reason is that, by sticking to things I have personally experienced, I know how they feel. My aim when writing erotica is to immerse the reader in the experience, to allow them to imagine what it would feel like to be degraded in public, to be fisted, or to be spanked until they cry. To do that, I need to know what that feels like to begin with.

Recently, though, I’ve started making an exception to this rule. Why should I bind the trans people I write about to a body that feels wrong to them? In prose I can grant a body denied by nature and the medical system, one which affirms and meshes with their gender identity.

In a recently published piece of erotica I imagined my boyfriend with a flat chest and a factory installed dick, and I saw the joy that imagery brought to hir. From now on, I will not be bound by painful accuracy. Let’s use this as a way to imagine trans bodies freed from dysphoria, immersed in gender euphoria which blends with and amplifies arousal.

When we are freed from the constraints of accuracy, we can explore options which would be impossible in the real world. Wish your genitals could shift between cunt and cock as easily as your identity shifts between masc and femme? Me too! I can definitely write about that. Wish you had an androgynous gentacle rather than conventional genitals? I can write about that! (Also you should really check out some hentai.) Wish you transcended the mundane and had a 6 dimensional vortex between your legs? I love the way your filthy mind works you brilliant queerdo, and I can (try to) write about that!

For all the issues that plague the world (including the sex writing industry,) erotica can serve as a glorious escape, a way to imagine experiences and connections shared with others. So let’s use that escapism to help trans people explore their identity and imagine bodies in which they feel more at home.

Quenby is a queer perfomer, writer, and activist. If you liked this post you can check out their blog, or follow them on FB and Twitter @QuenbyCreatives.

Fellow Cis People: We Really Need to Talk About Transphobia in the Sex Positive Community

“And the love we have for each other
Will defeat the hate we suffer.
You’re my sisters, brothers, and all that’s in between”

– Grace Petrie, Pride

This isn’t going to be a fun post to write and it probably won’t be a fun one to read either. But it needs to be written. Fellow cis people, we really, really need to talk about transphobia in sex positive spaces. (I’m talking particularly about sex blogging here, but this applies to kink, swing and many queer spaces, as well.)

First, what this isn’t

This isn’t a personal attack on anyone. If you read it in that way, I suggest you take a breath and then reexamine your own behaviour and reaction. This is about much more than one person. This is about a huge, systemic and entrenched issue.

This isn’t being written for kudos, attention, or ally cookies. I’m not speaking up because I want to be seen as some awesome ally. I’m speaking up because it’s the right goddamn thing to do.

This isn’t a lecture. This is about me too, because none of us are perfect at this. We all fuck up from time to time, and we could all be doing better. This is a call-in, a plea to do your part.

This is not a new issue

Transphobia is not a new issue, and neither is transphobia in sex-positive spaces. Trans and non-binary people have been speaking out about this stuff for years. So why now? I am speaking out now because issues have come to light in recent weeks which have really thrown up the horrible, ugly undercurrent of transphobia that has been running through the sex positive world.

This is fucking heartbreaking. I love this community and I wanted – naively, perhaps – to believe we were better than this.

Fundamentally, my voice isn’t the one you should be listening to here. I’m writing this in order to use the platform – and substantial privilege – I have to hopefully do some good. But what I really want you to do is go and read the pieces by the trans and NB folks who have directly experienced harm.

Things to read before we go any further

Quenby (a fantastic writer who guest blogged for me recently) wrote this important piece about the pattern of transphobia in sex blogging. In it, they point out the exhausting cycle wherein someone does something transphobic, gets politely corrected or called out, and then proceeds to either double down or make it all about them and their hurt feelings.

“I don’t think that sex bloggers hate trans people, I don’t think you wish we didn’t exist. But I don’t think you care. I don’t think you care enough to put in the basic effort to not repeatedly hurt us. I don’t think you care enough to stand in solidarity with us when it’s inconvenient (and it is never going to be easy). And in the current climate of rising transphobia, that means you are complicit in our dehumanisation.” – Quenby

This week, a hideous, violent and transphobic blog post emerged, written by the husband of a popular blogger. A number of bloggers wrote comments essentially co-signing or endoring the vitriolic transphobia. I’m not going to link to the original post, because bigotry doesn’t deserve the clicks. But Mx Nillin wrote an important call-out thread and I encourage you to read it.

Nillin also wrote a post talking about this hateful piece, the response to it and, in connection, the problem of discrimination within the Smut Marathon competition. (One of the recent discussions around transphobia in sex blogging started because of a piece of criticism which described a trans character as “confusing.”)

Fact is that there is simply nothing fair or ethical about a competition organized, and at least partially judged, by ignorance. There just isn’t. It throws the whole thing into disrepute and makes for results tainted with toxicity, prejudice, and discrimination.” – Mx Nillin

Finally, my dear friend Quinn published this brilliant piece just today on not having to be nice to people who misgender hir. One of the things that is constantly thrown at trans people who call out transphobia is that they should just be nicer. Well, if you harm someone – and misgendering, deadnaming and making thoughtless transphobic comments is harm, even if you didn’t intend it that way – they’re not obligated to be nice about it. And your support of trans people should not hinge on whether or not any one particular trans person is “nice enough” to you.

“I don’t have to be nice to people who misgender me. But if you genuinely want to apologise and ask ‘how can I do better?‘ I would love to help educate you on how to be more inclusive of trans folks. I’m still learning how to be inclusive, and I’m still fucking up. I know I’m going to make mistakes and have to apologise for being a dick, and I’m hoping when I do fuck up other people will help educate me.” – Quinn Rhodes

We need to do better.

This is not good enough, guys. The world is fucking hard enough for trans and NB people as it is right now. Sex positive spaces ought to be better than this, and yet we’re not. Why is that? Why is this shit still happening?

It’s been heartbreaking to watch things unfold these last few weeks and especially this week, and seeing the vitriol and hate that has come out of a community I used to regard as safe and loving.

As cis people, we have a tonne of privilege here. We’ve probably never feared violence just for going to the bathroom. Most of us have never had to make the choice between our safety when we’re out in public, and presenting in a way that alleviates the pain of dysphoria. We don’t have to fight every goddamn day to be called by the correct name, referred to by the correct pronoun, to just be allowed to exist and live in fucking peace. And it is our responsibility to use our privilege in whatever way we can to make the world safer for our trans siblings.

So what can we do?

Firstly, listen to trans people. The posts I’ve linked above are a great start but there are so many incredible trans writers, thinkers and activists out there. Listen to them. Give the mic to them. Compensate them fairly for their time and effort. Remember it is not their job to educate you, and show appreciation for the time and energy they give to do so. Amplify trans voices – share their posts, retweet their work, hire them to write for your site or speak at your event.

Next, speak out against transphobia. If you hear someone misgender or deadname a trans person, correct them. If you hear transphobic vitriol, do not be a bystander. Say something. Speak up. Make your voice heard. Sitting silently and thinking someone is wrong doesn’t make anything better. So it’s time to get loud, get angry, and let the world know that we will not sit idly by and let transphobia slide.

And when you fuck up (which you will, because we’re all learning and unlearning all the time)? Apologise without centering yourself. Apologise for what you did or said. No “I’m sorry if you were offended” half-ass non-apologies. No “but I didn’t mean it.” Fucking apologise and own your behaviour. Quinn’s post has some great words on how to make a meaningful apology that counts. And recognise that an apology doesn’t erase harm, and that intention does not equal impact.

The best thing you can do, when called out on perpetuating transphobia (or any other form of oppression) is to apologise, thank the person for bringing the issue to your attention, and do better in future. The worst things you can do are dig your heels in, insist they’re wrong to be hurt, centre yourself, or double down on the offensive thing you said.

A callout is a gift

You don’t want to perpetuate harm, right? If you do, get off my blog and, to quote the wonderful Danny M. Lavery (another trans writer you should know,) “profoundly reconsider the orientation of your heart.”

Assuming you do not wish to cause harm, recognise that a call-out – or, as many prefer to think of it, a call-in – is an invitation. It is a gift that enables you to do better, to not cause the same harm in the future. Someone who calls you out – or in – almost certainly isn’t doing it to hurt you. In fact, they’ve probably done so knowing that you’re likely to get defensive, turn on them, or double down on your offensive behaviour – because that’s what people so often do when they’re called out.

They’re giving you the gift of information that enables you to become a better version of yourself. Treasure that.

Silence is complicity

All that is needed for evil to triumph, so the saying goes, is for good people to do nothing. Staying quiet in the face of violence is complicity. Not taking sides, in a situation of injustice, means you have chosen the side of the perpetrator.

We can all do better. We all need to do better. Please allow this situation to be a wake-up call, and let’s fucking do better.

The trans pride flag, for a post about transphobia in sex positive spaces

If you’d like to support trans people right now, please support the Gender Reveal Survival Fund which is supporting trans folks who are in need of urgent financial assistance.