11 Sex Tips From (And For) Trans People

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be trans, especially when it comes to sex. Between the negative stereotypes and the complete lack of information out there about trans bodies, it can be hard for trans people to find the resources that a lot of cisgender people (aka people who aren't trans) take for granted.
Of course, sex can be a vulnerable topic shrouded in taboo, no matter your gender. But it can be even trickier terrain for trans people, due to the stigma surrounding gender identities that don't match up with the sex on people's birth certificates. And considering how much mainstream sex ed leaves to be desired — particularly when it comes to anyone who isn't cisgender or straight — it's no wonder people understand so little about trans sexuality. Add to that the fact that not all trans people choose to take hormones or undergo gender-affirming surgeries, and you have a society full of misconceptions about what it means to have sex when you're not cisgender.
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All of this, unfortunately, can leave trans and other gender non-conforming people ill-equipped to navigate the world of sexual pleasure.
But everyone has the right to safe, consensual, and fun sex, and fostering sex-positive conversations geared towards gender non-conforming people is a vital part of making that belief a reality. So we spoke to S. Bear Bergman, a trans author and sex educator, and Gaines Blasdel, a trans medical case manager at Callen-Lorde, to get some pointers about how to open up these kinds of conversations.
While these tips are geared toward the trans community, keep in mind that they are still relevant to everyone. Whether you’re trans or cis, queer or straight, there's no harm in getting a little more sex education. Besides, as Bergman puts it, “If you like someone and you want to have sex with them, and then it turns out that their genitals aren’t what you thought, like, who in the world cares? It just seems like such a foolish reason to not have sex with them.”
Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Change the conversation — and don't underestimate the power of genuine appreciation and enthusiasm.

"There’s a cultural discourse about trans people and sex, and it’s sort of the classic binary: fetishisation on the one hand and problematizing or stigmatizing on the other hand. So trans people very rarely have the opportunity to discuss our sexuality in open and positive ways, but it’s even more rare that trans people have an opportunity to see someone openly display a lot of enthusiasm for different kinds of trans bodies and trans experiences. I didn’t understand when I started [leading sex workshops] that that was going to be so meaningful for people. I talk a lot about how not only is it okay to enjoy whatever it is that you enjoy, but it’s actually great.

“It seems to be particularly a big deal for trans women, I find. Trans women and trans femme folks have come up to me literally in tears at the end of a workshop and said, 'That was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone talk about my body in a way that made me feel like I could be attractive to someone the way I am.'"- S. Bear Bergman
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Rethink your language and how you look at body parts.

"Just because someone has [a body part], doesn’t mean they want to use it — or use it in the way you assume they would use it, or call using it in that way what you assume to call that. So someone can be inserting their body part in another partner and still want to use language as though they’re the receptive partner. It’s part of a general consent discussion, and I think this applies to all bodies, not just people who are trans. It’s important to talk about language, not just language that’s uncomfortable that you don’t like, but language that you do like and that is sexy to you, regardless of what you’re 'supposed' to call what you’re doing." -Gaines Blasdel

"I tend to use language that I borrow from other contexts, rather than use gendered language. So, for example, I talk about people as having factory-instaled or aftermarket genitals. I don’t use words like 'neovagina' or 'constructed phallus' or other terms that are quite popular. I much more often say your factory-direct stuff and your aftermarket stuff, in part because...it just doesn’t feel gendered to people, and so it’s much easier to receive the information without it getting stuck in difficult language or associations." - S. Bear Bergman
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Explore new names for body parts.

"There are two guides that I like a lot that have a couple different terms in them. They’re both sponsored by the Canadian government. One is called Brazen: Trans Women’s Safer Sex Guide, that was written by a trans woman, Morgan M. Paige. She has a list of terms in the first part of the guide — like girl-dick, cock, big clit, clitasaurus-rex, unicorn, boy bits, strapless — [to use] when talking about external genitalia. The other one is Primed2, which is a sex guide for trans men into men. There’s lots of useful stuff [in there] for anyone who is a trans man or wants to sleep with a trans man." -Gaines Blasdel
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Remember that clothing can be sexy.

"In the movies, we think of completely naked people under the sheets together, but clothing can actually be really gender-affirming for trans people, and affirming clothing can be really sexy. So we can think of things like a binder, for someone who maybe feels dysphoric about their chest, staying on during sex, or wearing a T-shirt. We can also think about things like tucking, which is someone who has external genitalia putting it between their legs so it doesn’t come out in front of their body, and there are garments called gaffs that can be used to sort of hold the external genitals in place there. Or a padded bra with breast forms in it, or whatever someone wears to make themselves feel more sexy in their body. Keeping it on can sometimes mean better sex. There are also companies that make underwear that you can put a store-bought dick in that might feel more gender-affirming than using a harness." -Gaines Blasdel
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Know that anal sex is the great equalizer.

"Everyone has an anus. Some people aren’t comfortable with receiving anal intercourse, and some people aren’t comfortable giving anal intercourse — and that’s fine. But it is kind of a non-gendered thing, the great equalizer. There’s lots of good information out there about safe anal sex and anal pleasure. For someone who’s interested in receiving penetration in a gender-affirming way, whether they’re transfeminine or transmasculine, having good anal sex can be really gender-affirming." -Gaines Blasdel
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Respond to your body’s changing needs.

"Someone who was assigned male at birth who suppresses testosterone, if that’s part of their transition, and adds estrogen their body... they might not get erections anymore. If someone has a vagina, they might experience dryness or atrophy, because those tissues are dependent on estrogen to take care of themselves and regenerate. But those things are treatable. So if someone is on testosterone and experiences vaginal atrophy, [and] that’s uncomfortable to them, they can use a little bit of topical oestrogen to renew those tissues. And if someone’s suppressing their testosterone, they can use Viagra or other erectile drugs to still have erections, if that’s what they want." -Gaines Blasdel
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Don’t forget about your sexual health.

"If you have a body part that needs regular check ups, you still need to check it, regardless of your identity or whether or not you’re using it. So if you’re someone that still has a cervix, you need pap smears in the same sort of schedule that cis women need pap smears. If you have breast tissue on your chest, regardless of your identity, if you’re on hormones, if you’re a trans woman or a trans man or a nonbinary person, it’s important to...be aware of what your chest tissues feel like so you can tell if there’s a change. If you have a prostate, you need prostate exams, and then if you are using it, you need to test it." -Gaines Blasdel
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Find the best barrier methods for you.

"You can use a polyurethane barrier — lay it down over a trans woman’s strapless, so visually what you get is a smooth curve rather than something that’s more standy-uppy...I often really recommend that for going down on trans women or trans feminine folks, because it creates an experience that many trans women find visually pleasing if they still have their factory-installed business...

"The key thing about barrier methods is that a lot of them...have strong gender associations, and so with basically anything that is related to trans people and sexuality, the more you can push towards something that is neutral in terms of gendered connotations, the better. I’m not necessarily a big fan of the language 'gender-neutral,' which I think is overused; I really prefer gender non-specific. In this case, I mean neutral about gender, as in: The word or thing doesn’t have any gendered connotation at all, like colander or moose." - S. Bear Bergman
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Don’t be afraid to like what you like.

"I think that a lot of trans people — and non-binary people and genderqueer people — have been really hurt by this idea that there is a 'correct' way to be a trans person or a non-binary person or genderqueer. So I take extra care to say: Whatever you are doing that you are liking, no matter what part of your body you’re using to do it, or how you might otherwise feel about that part of your body, that’s all fine and good. Not just okay but, good job! Way to have hot fun! People experience that as a mind-blowing moment — for someone to just say, 'Hey, it’s actually fine to like what you like.'

"There’s this whole trend and narrative about [what] 'real' [trans people] do or don’t do, as though doing something with your factory-direct parts and having sexual pleasure is suspect, that maybe it means something about your gender. It doesn't...Are you having a nice time? Great. You’re doing it right, and don’t let anyone try to body-shame you about it or suggest that there’s some way in which you are insufficiently committed to your stated gender identity." - S. Bear Bergman
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Tell your partner what works for you — and what doesn't.

"One of the really key things, to me, is to break the silence. A lot of us have a hard time saying what we want to have happen, or saying what we don’t want to have happen. There’s not a lot of good modelling for what that conversation might look like, and people get nervous to have it, because they’re afraid that their partners will feel like they’re too much work, or it’s complicated, or they’re not a good sport.

"It actually is very valuable to stand in front of the mirror and figure out a couple things that you feel like you could say to a real, live person or people about what you like or what you want — you know, 'Touch me this way, don’t touch me that way' — using whatever language for your parts you want to model for other people to also use...You don’t have to say, 'I don’t want to be penetrated in my vagina,' in order to get the point across — to say, 'It’s fine to feel around and fiddle with stuff, but don’t stick anything in there!' I think that when people have a couple go-to things that they feel ready to say out loud, in front of another person, it really emboldens them to actually say those things, which really contributes to having sexual interactions that are pleasurable.

"As a bottom line: 'Dear trans people, sex is supposed to be fun for you. If it’s not fun for you, there’s no reason for you to do that.'" - S. Bear Bergman
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Explore positions.

"One of the [sex positions] that I really love is called muffing, and it’s stimulating someone’s inguinal canal — which, if you’ve ever seen a drag queen tuck, is where her Mary Kate and Ashley disappear to. That’s sort of the reference point that people often have for that, but anyone, regardless of their gender, who has that particular genital organization will have an inguinal canal. There’s a really great zine by Mira Bellwether called Fucking Trans Women, which includes diagrams of this.

"From the experience of someone who has done it to people, the real key part for me has been, like with any kind of new sexual experience or a sexual experience with a new partner: communicate, use lube, go slow. When I’m engaging in muffing with someone, I like to both lie down on our sides with her back against my chest, and one of her legs pulled back over mine, so her legs aren’t super far apart. I very often like to encourage her, or whoever, to take a warm shower before we start, because it loosens up the skin, and then I just use some lube. I'm just feeling around right at the place where the back part of their coin purse meets their body. It’s not the perineum — the opening of the inguinal canal is closer to the base of her mast. I just sort of make little circles, and pet and stroke things. It won’t take long until you find a spot where you can clearly put a fingertip or two in. The perineum is very nerve sensitive and tends to bulge out when it’s stimulated, but a muff spot tends to relax and let you in. You don’t want to do a lot — especially at first, you don’t wanna go hard.

"I also really enjoy encouraging people to stroke trans guy’s buck rogers. You take two fingers and you stroke up and down the sides. One of the reasons is that the underlying structure of what on a medical chart would be called a clitoris — what actually pokes out of the body is only a fraction of the total structure. It’s far more sensitive further along the sides than people know, and so...you get a motion that’s more like jerking off a thick cock, which for many people feels like a more gender-affirming experience to them. And you get the added benefit of that stimulation not only feeling novel, but there’s also a lot more surface area to stimulate, which just makes for a really nice, hot experience.

"I also sometimes encourage people to do this in the reach around position. To be clear, I definitely don't encourage people to have all of their sexual encounters back to front; it’s not remotely a requirement for trans sex. It’s just that these two particular things sometimes benefit from reaching around to someone’s front, rather than face-to-face style." - S. Bear Bergman
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