I‘ve spent the last few years as a pre-op trans bi woman in a poly lesbian/queer community of a Western-European city. Since after a long time of waiting the date of the gender affirmation surgery has finally come, I’ve decided to say my goodbyes by reflecting on what it was like to date in women spaces with women who most often defined themselves as lesbians.
To understand my experiences, it’s important to know how noticeable it is that I’m trans. I think it’s best described by a conversation I had with an acquaintance of mine. She is an elegant, charming yoga teacher around sixty, whom I’d known for a month and we’d chatted about four times. This time she was coming from the gynecologist with visible relief because her cervical cancer tests came back negative.
‘Has your gynecologist tested you for this?’ she asked.
‘I don’t have a vagina so I don’t go to the gynecologist. I’m trans.’
‘Oh I’m sorry. To be honest, I have thought about this already but then forgot it completely. I hope I didn’t offend you.’
The situation was different in the queer women’s community. Even though I didn’t hang a ‘Trigger warning! Beware, trans!’ sign in my neck, I didn’t keep it a secret. And when it came to dating, I thought it was especially important. It didn't seem very likely that I could get close to someone without them noticing it, but I didn’t want to get into the uncomfortable situation of them noticing it too late.
Nevertheless I was very careful. In the first two years of my transition I didn’t really dare to get close to anyone. I didn’t want to risk my fragile female ego with being rejected and I couldn’t really assume that the people in the community, which consisted mostly of lesbians and other WLW, who took me in as a friend could accept me as a sexual partner. Which would be an entirely normal thing and I wouldn’t have been willing to consider it as transphobia. Who we find sexually attractive is a deep, intimate and unexplainable thing, so it can’t be considered transphobic when a woman has sex with other women, but only with those who have a pussy. But if someone says in hetero or queer circles that they wouldn’t date a trans person at all, that’s not alright, because there are numerous attractive trans men and women out there. Excluding them without considering their looks, genitals or behaviors just because they’re trans is obvious transphobia. However if someone, trans people included, is not attractive to someone for any other reasons, that’s perfectly normal. Period.
After a while my will to meet new people came back. I started thinking that it might be worth taking it seriously sometimes when someone flirts with me. I got compliments that were very suggestive. And eventually there were some people who were not waiting for me to take the first step.
My first lover was a football player - a very lesbian cliché. She was a quarterback.. Her queer biography was a typical queer women’s biography as well and it was very similar to my partners later in life. She started dating guys when she was younger because this is what she had seen,because it was the much easier way and because she thought this is how it should be done. But it wasn’t right. Later she realised that girls are much cooler and sexier so she started dating them instead.
V. considered herself a lesbian, but since she’d known that she can accept masculine features as well and was interested in me, she wrote me on OkCupid. She had never been with a trans woman, which was good to hear because I didn’t want to be the next trophy in the collection of someone with a transfetish. It turned out I shouldn’t have been worrying about this at all.
In the past years I have not met one woman who wanted to have sex with me because she thought it would be interesting to experience the rare mix I had to offer. Not a bisexual, not a queer, not a lesbian. Whomever I got into an intimate relationship with,my transness, so basically that I’m a feminine woman but with a penis, either didn’t matter to them or they decided to sleep with me ‘in spite of’ it.
The situation was much more different with men. I think every other taxi driver would’ve hopped onto the occasion to fuck with someone with male genitals without having to question their ever-so-important heterosexuality.
When I asked her, V. admitted that this is definitely something ‘exciting’ which I find completely alright. We met twice afterwards and then just left it as it was. We sometimes still meet on demonstrations where we greet each other happily with a hug.
The experience with J. was very similar. J. and her childhood best friend fell in love with each other when they were 18 and it turned into an 8-year long relationship. When it ended, she tried what it’s like to date men. She figured out that sexually it was alright, but to her female personalities are more interesting and attractive. This is when she started dating women again and met D. who was polyamorous. This was new to J. so she asked: it’s alright that you don’t want to be monogamous, but does this mean that I can date others as well? Yes, it does, was the answer. This is how I met J.
For the second date, she invited me to her place for dinner, where after an alright-tasting kimchi we ended up in bed. It was beautiful, but unfortunately it turned out D. wasn’t ok with it, so to my great sadness it was over.
My first serious relationship was with T, whom I managed to fall madly in love with. Not long after meeting her for the first time she made it clear that she liked me. So much that I couldn’t not understand the signals. The beginning was quite impressive. I don’t want to get into many details, but let’s just say I have never been never smeared like this onto the shower wall. Face forward.
And now a short detour about the sexuality of trans women: the testosterone blockers I’ve been taking have a great impact on it. Because the muscles generally get smaller, the penis, which is made of muscles, gets smaller as well. The sex drive also decreases and so does the ability for erections and ejaculation. The latter decreases quite a lot. So even though it stays a penis, it also starts resembling the female user experience. For example if we both orgasmed with my partner, she definitely left the bigger stain on the bed sheets.
Losing the ability for erections was not that big of a trouble for my partners, because luckily they had extensive experience about having awesome sex without an erected penis. The changes in my sex drive meant that without getting to know the other person and liking them, it was impossible for me to imagine having sex with them. When I felt lust for someone, it was a much more distant, ‘unfinished’ feeling, which needed the other person to be satisfied and to ‘complete’ the desire. It felt like my desire was under a thick blanket which could only be lifted up by another person.
When it came to sex intimacy, trust and getting in connection with the beauty of my partner became much more important than the physical parts. When I was together with T. for the first time, I was disappointed that the aforementioned body part didn’t function very well, to which T. reacted with the most beautiful sentence I’ve ever heard in my life:
‘But you’re a woman, how would I expect you to have an erection?’
T. sometimes went out with men as well, but primarily she was interested in women. Penetration was not very interesting for her, as she said, her best orgasms didn’t happen because of vibrators or penises, but hands. Even when I had an erection, she didn’t say ‘let’s take advantage of it’ - penetration was simply not interesting for her. It was much more important for example to, while I was lying on my stomach, rub her clit to my ass while she fucked me, which, for the first time, was one of the most interesting experiences of my life.
For T. queer identity meant social awareness as well. She followed trans activism and the feminist events she organized were naturally trans inclusive and she considered me a woman as well. She was the first with whom I went to the swimming pool, sauna and nude beach. All my other girlfriends were more interested in my personality, and the context of me being trans was not interesting for them. She was aware of the situation of trans people therefore she was supportive and considerate with me. She was probably the only one who asked how I call my genitals - which she did, because a lot of trans people, due to their dysphoria, call their clitoris glans (in case of a trans man) or vice versa (in case of a trans woman) to make the contradiction between their body and their sense of self more aligned. I answered that since it’s unfortunately a penis, we can call it so.
She didn’t suggest that my transness was something ‘exciting’ - she had been with men and women as well and she thought it was obvious that I was a woman. Period. When we had been together for about a year, she told me how much more feminine my sexuality became over time. When we started dating I behaved quite menly in bed, which completely disappeared after a while. Penis or no penis, she experienced sex with me as lesbian sex, where she was usually the active one. About my surgery she said ‘I don’t care if I suck or lick as long as I hear your voice in the meantime’.
I often had sex with her and with others as well in a way that I rubbed my penis, which was not able to erect, to their clitoris - similarly to lesbian sex. I was usually lying on my back and my partner kneeled between my legs.
I liked both T. and V., the blonde quarterback, also because they were about as tall and as strong as me, which made it easier for me to feel like a ‘real’ woman when I was with them. I had a short fling with a cute nonbinary person who was about twenty centimetres shorter than me. When they wanted to kiss me, we had to find a step for them to stand on, and I had to stand with my legs wide apart, like a drinking giraffe. Well, what can I say, it was easier for me to feel like a fucked up avalanche with them.
S. was a 30-year-old engineer and was about to leave her job because she didn’t want to design medical equipment that would go obsolete on purpose. We met in the summer in a friend group and started to flirt. I knew she identified as bi but dated mostly women. She looked like the stereotipical lesbian. Her asymmetrical hairstyle with an undercut could be displayed in a museum and she only cut the nail short on her index and middle finger. After five days of flirting I got to the point when one morning asked her if she wanted to spend the night at my place. She asked for some time to think it through and accepted my invitation within an hour. Afterwards we made lunch together, played ping-pong, went to a workshop, had dinner and so on and went to shower together. Here we were a bit (a lot) uncomfortable whether we should take the shower together or just by ourselves but eventually we just laughed it off and decided to shower together. Then we went to my room and had sex.
The day after, when I brought her coffee to bed I asked when she’d realised I had a penis. The question needs explanation for various reasons. If I had any doubts about anyone not being aware of my trans status, I explicitly told them about it. I didn’t tell S. because of two reasons: one that she was bisexual and was clearly interested in me, the other was that we spent several days together flirting and one whole day after she said yes to my invitation. Throughout this time, she definitely had a moment to take a peek at my crotch. I find tucking uncomfortable and too big of a hassle, so if someone was curious about what my underwear hides, they could notice a not very conspicuous but clearly present bump.
The fact that I didn’t have to talk about this was an indescribably good feeling. When I told them about my being trans, both V. and J. made it clear it didn’t matter for them what kind of genitals I have. They will figure it out. I assumed that both of them could guess that I was letting them know about this because I had a penis, so I didn’t have to get into details, which I would’ve found very humiliating. The fact that S. was bi and we took it slow to get to know each other, had the same function as the statements of V. and J. I got to know them just like an average person, without having to talk about my genitals, which I didn’t feel like doing at all. Especially not about male genitals, especially not to lesbians, especially not as a woman.
This is why S’s answer caught me by surprise: she only noticed it in the shower. She was looking at how soft my skin is, she liked my legs, hands and smile. She said she’d thought that according to my behaviour I’d been living as a woman for over 10 years and in retrospective, she thought it was obvious that I had a pussy. And even though she’d known I was trans, it never occurred to her while we were getting to know each other what kind of genitals she was going to see. It simply never came to her mind.
I met S. several times. Within two months, on our third weekend together during foreplay she opened my thighs, kneeled between them, looked at me and said:
‘I forgot again that it’s not possible to eat you out.’
By this time she has definitely known what I serve, because unlike any of the other women I’d been with, she was interested in penetrative sex. When I had an erection (and when I was with her, it occurred from time to time), she laid me on my back and sat on me, which was the total opposite of T, who completely ignored it at the beginning. As she said, since she’d realised the connection between sucking a dick and the patriarchal worldview, she lost interest in it completely.
During our last night together before my surgery, she said that patriarchy was not something that supports me, so she was happy to make an exception with me, as a way to say goodbye to the body part in question, to both of our great pleasure. She said it was good that she could do this without having all the disturbing thoughts she usually has while being with men.According to her, having sex with me is such a feminine experience, that it made her forget that my genitals are characteristic to men. I don’t think she said this because it was what I wanted to hear. While we were dating, she also had a male partner and another girlfriend, whom she lived together with, so whenever I slept at S’s place, I met her as well. We sometimes had breakfast together all three of us, or walked around holding hands (with S. in the middle), and so on.
Y. on the contrary didn’t find sex with me purerly feminine. She was a 32-year-old ‘homoflexible’ Israeli woman, who has been with two men in her life, one when she was younger and one a year before we met. Otherwise she always dated women. When I warned her I was trans and asked her if she knew what it meant, she answered she always thought it was a pity that women didn’t have penises. On our first date we both confessed that it can be difficult to turn us on and that we hardly ever orgasm. In my case it meant that I hadn’t have it for four months even though I was having sex regularly, and in her case ‘maybe not even once’.
We ended up in bed on the same day. (This was also new. I don’t think that this would’ve happened on the first date if I had been a guy. But as a woman, it wasn’t a rare occasion.)
Y. is less than 50 kilograms. We kissed and caressed each other naked for about three hours. ‘Real’ sex didn’t happen, but we both enjoyed that the passionate ‘slamming each other onto the wall’, which was more difficult for both of us to get to, was not an expectation this time. There was no possibility that the other one was going to experience the slow burn as a disappointment. This made our night one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I wouldn’t call it a sexual experience, because it was more about intimacy and affection than sex.
The day after she said she really liked that she could experience both my feminine and masculine side. I didn’t consider it negative news to have a masculine side, because I spent most of my life as a man, I was socialised as a man, it definitely made an imprint in me. Even if it wasn’t as strong as for example a dyke’s. But showing both my sides made it possible for her to unleash both her feminine and masculine side while we were together as well.
I’ve met a few lesbians, who have never dated men. Understandably, most of these dates didn’t turn into something more intimate. Some of them wrote me on OkCupid and I always answered them right away to inform them that ‘I’m trans, do you know what this possibly means?’. Most of them disappeared afterwards, some of them said, sorry but no, and some of them said it wasn’t a problem, I seem nice so let’s just meet and see where it goes. I had two dates like this. One of them disappeared after one date, the other after two, but I think of both of them as nice experiences and I’m grateful for these women for their trust. None of these instances made me feel like my transness was the reason that caused them to end it.
N’s first relationship was with a man, but they never got to ‘real’ sex. They realised it quite early that the relationship was better as a friendship, than as a romantic relationship and they’ve been good friends ever since. One of our mutual acquaintances defined N. quite well as a bee flying from flower to flower. She had many female partners and some nonbinary as well. When she was with me, she had someone who was a trans guy. She’d gotten into ‘erotic situations’ with trans women but never had sex with any of them. We had been flirting for quite a long time when she told me that she had ‘erotic fantasies’ about me and asked me on a date that didn’t end well. A flared up skin disease killed her sex drive completely. This was not something I was very upset about, because during our weekend together we had time to experience everything that sex functions as: intimacy, trust and fondness. As I’m writing this article, this is where we’re at with N. I’m definitely not going to have sex with her while having a penis.
I met R. in a summer camp. She was one of the few feminine looking women around me. Most women who are interested in me are quite butch, which is especially striking among the people who liked me on OkCupid. R considered herself a lesbian, without any other additions, and she had beautiful blonde dreadlocks, which is my weakness. She was really nice, but in the first year we didn’t really get close to each other. A year later in the next camp I noticed that she smiled at me a lot, which I had no idea what to think of. Nevertheless, I smiled at her a lot as well, because I liked her very much. Around the end of the camp she asked me what’s behind my smile, which obviously made me embarrassed and I confessed that I’m interested in her. She said that if this is true, then it’s mutual.
‘This is very nice of you. But if I want to be honest, my interest is not because I want to be your friend. I really like you.’ I said.
‘I like you too.’
I asked her to look for a bench to sit down while we talk.
‘But you’re a lesbian, aren’t you? And I… I didn’t even think about it’
‘Yes, and you are a woman. A very sweet one’ she said while caressing my arm.
This was unfortunately at the end of the camp and R. lives on the other side of the country and the story is on halt at the moment. As of now, I’m not going to get close to her either while having a penis.
Soon, on an operating table a chapter of my life is going to end. One thing is sure: the next one will begin with a lot of pain. Nothing else is for sure. But I have good chances to have a 15-cm deep vagina that a superficial observer cannot distinguish from a ‘real’ one. After months of recovery the clitoris they will create out of the glans will be able to reach orgasm, which, by stimulating the prostate, will probably be possible vaginally too. The labia minora will be created out of the foreskin, the vagina itself mostly out of the skin of the penis and partly out of the scrotum turned inside. The labia majora will be created out of the rest of the scrotum. I will definitely need to use lube. Like in the case of cis women, it will require a lot of care, I will have some kind of vaginal flora, can go to the gynecologist (to one that has seen something like this before) and I can catch all kinds of infections. This all sounds great, but I’m prepared that it will not work perfectly. I’m not worried about it that much, because with my transition, the physical part of sex got less important while the emotional part gained a greater emphasis. So if my new vagina will not be as sensitive and functional as the current penis which doesn’t function very well, I won’t lose a lot.
The past years have brought me numerous beautiful and important experiences, which would be very off-topic in this article. But this definitely belongs here:
I am incredibly grateful for the women who accepted me in their spaces, recognized me as someone that belongs there and especially those who shared their embraces with me as a woman. I owe them the most beautiful experiences of my life so far.
Translated by Ibolya Nagy