Guest blog by Alyssa Henley
Let’s start off with a bit of background (it’s kind of important for this article!). I’m a trans woman – you’ve probably heard a lot about us in the news recently (a lot of it isn’t true, but that’s a whole different article).
To put it in simple terms, I was assigned male at birth (basically I have XY chromosomes as far as I know) however my brain has always said ‘that’s wrong’ and now I live full time as a woman. I’m on feminising hormones but I haven’t had any surgeries yet. (Yes, this means I have boobs and a cock, to put it bluntly)
There are plenty of interesting words used to describe people like me that I’m not going to mention (a lot of them stem from fetishisation of my body and from pornography). Trans woman is the one I use.
I’m quite well known on the London sex positive community and I thought I’d write a blog about some of my experiences within it.
The sex positive community is quite broad – and I’ve been to a variety of different events some of which focus on ‘traditional’ swinging and others which are more queer, sex positive, poly or kink related.
To make things more complicated I’m also switch, versatile with women and bisexual (actually pansexual, but let’s not complicate things!). So basically up for most things (and have tried an awful lot of them)
My experiences of these are incredibly different. Let’s start with worst and move on!
I’ve been to a few swing nights at various clubs across the country (I won’t name names in this article, you can figure them out yourself). As well as a few hook-ups via swing dating sites. The one thing that ‘normal’ swingers seem to want is a very interesting blend of male patriarchy and pseudo heteronormativity.
I upset that balance. A lot.
It seems that the majority of men that go to these events describe themselves as straight (I have no issue with male partners calling themselves straight as I’m a woman, albeit a trans one). However as soon as a trans woman comes along all hell breaks loose.
The women in this environment are almost expected to be bisexual. This partisan homophobia is quite rampant where MMF and FFM threesomes and moresomes clearly happen but the men don’t interact with each other in any sexual way (other than maybe a high-5).
Which leads to a few problems when you are a woman with a penis…
The main reactions I found are that women mostly don’t have an issue with me. Clearly, some aren’t going to want to interact with me sexually (after all attraction and other criteria factor into this) but most of them treat me like another human being and the vast majority like another woman. This is quite empowering and accepting (and purveys across the sex-positive community).
Having said that a lot of bisexual women describe me as the ‘best of both worlds’ (remember, boobs and a cock) which is a little demeaning and objectifying, but that’s not the end of the world.
Men are a different question entirely.
I can put their reaction into one of four main categories.
1. Men who have never experienced trans women, or can’t get their testosterone fuelled brains around the idea. To them I’m some kind of freak of nature and must be avoided. Their partners talking to me represents a threat. Usually they aren’t physically hostile but it’s pretty clear from their body language they are scared / aggressive or just want nothing to do with me.
They will often misgender me or use offensive language which guarantees we avoid each other. This has gotten super awkward when their partner is clearly into me…
2. Men who *clearly* haven’t explored their sexuality properly or are in complete denial about this. Trans women (and to a lesser extent cross dressers) seem to represent a ‘get out of jail free’ card of giving them a chance to suck on a cock without having to deal with their own internalised homophobia. Great for them, sucky for me (excuse the pun).
I have literally lost count of the number of guys that have said ‘I’m not gay, but I really want to suck your cock’.
3. Men who are clearly attracted to me but have no idea what to do about it. This manifests either in them wanting to play in private (this can be handled well, but usually isn’t), or lots of fumbling awkward questions. Invites such as ‘can we go play in a private room’ are ok. ‘I don’t want to be seen fucking you but I really want to’ isn’t quite the same thing (yes, I’ve had this).
I am *nobodys* dirty little secret. Dirty yes, secret no…
4. Men who just see me as another woman with an extra body part that they might want to interact with (or equally totally ignore). Sadly these are few and far between in this community.
Clearly I like the last kind. I don’t mind the third kind if they manage the interaction in a polite and sensitive way, but they often don’t.
The other thing I’ve really noticed around this community is consent. I’m from the kink world – to me consent is not just sexy, it’s bloody mandatory. I don’t even touch people without at least a non-verbal cue and preferably proper enthusiastic consent. Even hugs.
It seems the kink world rule of ‘it’s a no until someone says yes’ is flipped in traditional swinging where it appears to be ‘it’s a yes until you say no’. And quite often that no needs to escalate into a ‘f-ck off don’t touch me’. I haven’t quite had to get physical with someone yet to enforce consent but I’ve come close a few times. Grabbing my arse is not a chat up line. At least make eye contact before you grope me…
Lastly respect for simple things like pronouns and names can be a challenge (yes, I’ve had someone ask what my ‘real’ name was far too many times for it to be considered polite).
For all these reasons I tend not to go back to plain swing events.
The bisexual events I’ve been to tend to be better, although they tend to be overrun with bisexual guys more than girls (this may just be my experience of course). Ladies if you like bi men then get in there (I’m a fan of bi guys for hopefully fairly obvious reasons).
The challenge here is more lack of awareness than anything else – a lot of these people are still swingers so their interaction with the queer/trans community still isn’t great, so they still stumble around trans people a little which can be off-putting (and totally kill the mood – nothing quite like being misgendered mid sex).
You tend not to get the first kind of guy above at these events. However, there are still people working out their bisexuality (which is awesome in a way, but not when I get used as an exploratory tool for them…).
These aren’t the best events for me, but I’m a pretty strong minded and confident trans woman so when I feel like this kind of play I just suck it up or put on my school teacher hat and just go educate people on how to approach trans women!
Sadly these are few and far between, but the conscious/burner community and a few other sex positive communities are starting to run more events.
These are super lovely to attend as a trans person as they often run workshops around gender and trans issues, actually introduce people with pronouns and things and have people there are aware of trans issues and trans people.
These are probably the best events for trans people; sadly they are smaller in number and far between.
As someone who is probably way more of a kink player than a swinger; I love the kink scene. It fits somewhere between the queer and bi events in terms of acceptance but I’m pretty well known in this arena (some would say infamous) so I have fewer issues than a lot of other trans people.
It’s been a tough road getting there though – I still have some dickheads that can’t figure out which pronoun to use (you would *think* the boobs, long hair, makeup and dress give it away, especially when there is usually quite a bit of cleavage on display…)
Making it better!
So how do you approach a trans person at an event without being a dick? There are some quite simple tips:
- If you aren’t sure about pronouns EITHER ask OR just use their name!
- Don’t ask invasive questions about their surgeries or transitions
- If things are going to get sexy, do ask about which body parts they are happy to use (a lot of trans people have negative feelings about certain parts of their bodies) and respect that
- Don’t ask a million questions about their transition, previous lives, old name etc.
- Do check before asking probing questions (“Is it ok if I ask about your surgical status” gives the person a chance to say no)
- Use their pronouns and the names they have told you
- Don’t use slurs or words you’ve seen in porn
- Understand that what you see in porn doesn’t always happen in the real world(!)
- Non binary people also exist, they tend to use other pronouns (often they) and fit somewhere outside the standard gender binary
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