Sexual Preference & The Norms I don’t Live Up To

About three or four years ago my sexual preferences started to shift. As I delved more into exploring my own gender, it opened the doors to having a more critical conversation with myself about what I might like in a sexual partner.  I knew I was attracted to femmes (and boobs), and I hoped to one day find a partner who was taller than me. Other than that, I didn’t really have a type that I could identify.

Before I made the move to California, I had two encounters with my friend’s husband. My friend knew I was struggling with being sexually unfulfilled and uncertain, so like any good friend does, she offered up her husband for some casual sex (they’re in an open relationship and all parties had knowledge and consent prior). I didn’t have much of an attachment to her husband, we were acquaintances and Pokemon Go friends so there wasn’t much I could lose if the encounter went bad.

Those two experiences with him were the first time that I was able to really explore a penis. Yea, I had fooled around with guys before but this particular partner allowed me to have the freedom and space to look at it, touch it, attempt to pleasure it, all without expectations that the sex would be mind blowing. 

Turns out he was great in bed. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, even though my performance was sub par at best. The sex went on for what felt like a blissful eternity… that was never going to end. Fun fact about me, I have a really, really difficult time hitting climax. I come close but can’t quite get over the hump. Even given his best efforts, I never came. The experience, despite that, was the most positive sexual experience that I had. 

After moving to California and my penis experience, I really felt that my perfect partner would be a trans woman, someone who embraced the mental image of femininity that I had in my mind coupled with my new ability to access a penis with less fear was a winning combination. I never talked about my sexual preferences though. Dating while trans is hard and poses risks, and I was afraid that by being open about my preferences, I was contributing to fetishization of trans women. How could I explain that a penis was more comfortable for me to interact with than a vagina? Vaginas are hard, but as a self identified lesbian there are expectations what come with that label, expectations I didn’t have the confidence to meet. I didn’t think I could explain that in a way that made any sense to anyone. So I kept my mouth closed and continued to swipe left or right on dating apps.

Fast forward to a year ago when I met my now girlfriend. I never had intentions to date her, I was desperate for contact with other gender diverse individuals and she seemed pretty cool. It turned into a relationship and the sex has been satisfying. I’m not sure how much of it has to do with her sexual personality versus her genitalia, but sex works for us. 

Even though the sex works, I still don’t climax. There’s generally an emotional moment for me after sex when we try to get me there. Last night it hit me hard, but my girlfriend is supportive. She asked questions and tried to help me problem-solve how to get past the hump. She offered to watch porn with me. That got me nervous, because as a single individual, I would often watch porn involving trans women as a way to get off. The fake boobs so prevalent in porn are an obvious turn off, but the essence of who I wanted to be with was there enough for me. Typically it was just a minute or two before I’d be ready to go and take care of myself away from the video. I never liked that I watched porn, knowing that it’s not always done in a safe or ethical manner, so somewhere I felt relief that it only took a minute for me to be able to stop watching and focus on myself. 

So the girlfriend and I searched the Internet, which was tense with discomfort for me. But if it would help I was willing to try. She turned on a video and I felt dirty and ashamed. We were both uncomfortable, but watching porn with her hit the nerve that I never talked about- my fear that I’d be fetishizing trans women, my girlfriend. Guilt filled tears flowed down my face but I couldn’t explain to her why- I was sure I didn’t need to. I was sure she wouldn’t want to be with me after that, now that she knew the secret part of myself I never shared. 

We both slept and in the morning I was so grateful that she snuggled up against me. Maybe she didn’t hate me? How often do you snuggle the one you loathe? My insecurity and shame were still present though, and in a moment of sheer vulnerability I told her why. Turns out she never even thought of the possibility that I’d fetishize her. Thinking about it, given her relationship history I’m not sure that she’d even have much context for that to be a thing on her mind. It was a relief to have her validate my struggle and shame as real, while assuring me that our relationship was strong. One of the many reasons I love her. 

So many moments of struggle in my life could have been alleviated if there were more open conversations about gender and sexuality. I didn’t know anyone who had a relationship with a trans woman post transition and pre bottom surgery. I didn’t have anyone I could share and relate to the same way that others do. Shit, even finding someone who could relate as a gay femme would have been awesome- but at least I had a community of people who were accepting of my preference there, despite the lack of contact I had with lesbians. 

As I grew into my gender and delved deeper into gender exploration, the way I identified my sexuality changed too. I still say I’m a lesbian but I also identify as bisexual. I don’t want to claim the label pansexual because I don’t think dating a straight cisgender man would ever work. The lack of intersections between my life and his would make that a challenge. However, I’d date someone with a penis, a vagina, or something in between. I’ll date someone with “masculine” and “feminine” traits. If gender norms weren’t a thing I’m sure I’d identify differently- but it’s not the norm for men to have vaginas or women to have penises, though I think it should be. So my bisexuality comes from my ability to have sex with different genitalia. But explaining all that is hard. So I just say I’m a lesbian. 

The next generation of young people are definitely embracing pansexuality and the ability to love with less limits. I’d hope that there would be more conversations about gender and sexuality in a way that normalizes preferences outside of the norm. My younger self could have used that. And maybe me writing about this, about my shame and fear, is my gift to my younger self. It’s the blog post I wanted to find to tell me that I wasn’t bad or dirty for who I was attracted to. It’s what I needed to hear, and maybe it’s what someone else needs to hear too.  If that’s the case, read this:

Hey you,

You’re normal. Maybe more than that, you’re special. You are attracted to someone who is maybe different or someone that your friends and family would be surprised by. That’s okay. Embrace it. Because there’s someone out there who needs your love and acceptance. There’s someone who wondered if there would be anyone who will love them. And there is. That’s beautiful. It’s okay if you feel shame; society doesn’t make it easy to accept differences of any kind. But don’t let that shame hold you back from being you and loving who you love. You are special. And you’ll find that right someone who sees just how special you are. 

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