By Imara Jones, originally published in TransLash Zine: Pride Month Edition
When we talk about trans liberation, we can’t forget that a key ingredient is the total freedom to control our bodies, explore our desires, and find pleasure through sexual expression on our own terms. That’s because there is no greater sign of self-determination than body autonomy.
Doing what we want with our bodies is essential to being free, and this includes asexual, demisexual, aromantic folks! But for many of us, figuring out how to sexually and romantically express ourselves on our gender journey can feel confusing, frustrating, and scary.
I know it was for me.
Over time, I have gone through several versions of my gender identity. I also went through changes in my sexual orientation, which happens to many trans / non-binary / intersex / two-spirit people; a TGNC person who once thought they were strictly heterosexual may discover on their gender journey that they are actually bisexual, lesbian, etc. This experience is common, normal, and valid!
It took time for me to finally figure out who I was and who I wanted to be with. Exploration and experimentation was crucial to me discovering what fuels my sexual and romantic attractions to others. Embracing the truth of who I am, who I desire, and what brings me sexual pleasure with myself and others, has been empowering and healing.
What I have come to realize is that I am Black trans woman who is attracted to masculine-identifed people — but not necessarily men (specifically, those assigned male at birth). This means that I am attracted to a range of people and body types, and I can find pleasure in them all.
For me, it’s literally not about the body. What is at the core of my passion is masculinity, and masculine expression, rather than the physical form in which it finds itself.
Embracing my gender & sexual preferences has gone hand in hand, and discovering this about myself was a path full of twists and turns.
In my teens and early twenties, I tried to live my life as a straight man. This gender identity meant that sexually, I worked very hard to be attracted to women. But it didn’t feel good, because neither that gender, nor the sexual attraction which accompanied it, held true for me. After that realization, I identified as a gay man — which then meant that I had sex with cis men. This was slightly better, but still far off the mark for me.
The next stop on my gender journey was genderqueer. This period of my life contained my first experiences having sex with a range of gender expressions: cis, non-binary, and trans. This was closer to my authentic self, but not quite there.
Finally after more time, effort, pain, and therapy, I was finally able to accept the truth that I was a woman! That was step one. But step two was harder.
Accepting my true gender identity brought up new questions: both sexually and romantically.
Who was I attracted to, and why?
Did being a woman mean that I actually longed for cis men after all?
And, if this was true, what about the other bodies and gender identities I had actually enjoyed back when I identified as genderqueer?
The answers started coming to me when I finally got out of my head and into my body.
By living my truth as a woman, I was able to let go of the performance of gender. I no longer felt that who I had sex made me more or less of a woman.
I realized that I was always a woman — regardless of who ended up in my bed.
Getting to where I am now was a long process. How did I do it?
Well, tuning into how my body and my heart responded was essential in me figuring all of this out. The relationships I had with non-cis, masculine identities showed me — step by step — that I had to accept what I want. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up seeing the shape of my desire, I had to have the courage to act upon it.
And this is so essential: possibility models matter.
It was hard for me to picture actually living and loving as a trans person in my youth. So the prospect of anything other than cis couples was unthinkable.You might have as well have told me that I was going to be a captain on Star Trek.
But even now, it is difficult to see how the full range of my desire can find expression.
Despite the growing number of trans couples, there is still an incredible amount of pressure for trans women to gravitate toward cis men. In many circles, there is this expectation that cis men are a prize which affirms our desirability.
But the truth for me is that there’s nothing about a phallus which makes or breaks my attraction. It’s just not enough.
Sometimes I wonder if I am the only trans woman in the world who is attracted to masculinity, but not necessarily cis men.
But even though I still feel isolated sometimes, being trans has taught me I have to live in my truths — all of them. Regardless of the signals or messages that I receive from the outside world, I know what is right for me.
I cannot be fully myself unless I honor my attraction and desire.
If trans liberation is the ability to live freely in who we are, then we must manifest our passions in the world. We must embrace our sexual attractions — or lack of — and trust in our own hearts and minds to guide our path.
SEXUAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Safer Sex for Trans Bodies: The HRC Foundation, in partnership with Whitman-Walker Health, released this comprehensive sexual health guide for transgender and gender expansive people and their partners.
Asexual Visibility and Education Network: AVEN hosts the world’s largest online asexual community as well as a large archive of resources on asexuality. AVEN strives to create open, honest discussion about asexuality among sexual and asexual people alike.
Sex Down South: Atlanta Sexuality Conference: a trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sex and sexuality conference that aims to foster learning, inspiration, and wonder – and provoke conversations.
ABOUT TRANSLASH ZINE
TransLash Zine is an independent publication by TransLash Media that supports our mission of telling trans stories to save trans lives. We feature uncensored art, writing, and photography by trans/non-binary/intersex/two-spirit/gender non-conforming people, and we pay contributors. Our first two issues were developed and produced by POC Zine Project, and POC Zine Project continues to support our content and partnerships strategy. Our third issue, a Pride Month Edition partnership with Transgender Law Center, dropped June 6, 2021. Print editions of 1-3 coming soon. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive alerts. Want your writing and art featured in the next issue of our zine? Submit here.
Imara Jones is the founder and creator of TransLash Media. Follow her on Instagram: @imara_jones_
[Image Description: Illustration about protecting black trans women and sex workers, and allowing them to protect themselves. Black trans women and black sex workers are two of the most targeted groups of human beings and the least protected. And should be given the ability to protect themselves since so many are not doing so.]
Artist bio: Shanisia Person is a NB AfroLatinx erotic multimedia artist based in ATL. Their work is all centered in their study of sexuality from gender and it’s expression, to eroticism and it’s practices. IG: @shanisiaperson FB: /shanisiapersonillu