What Happens to Sex When Your Partner Comes Out as Transgender?
In their new memoir, Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders, The Advocate's editor at large and her husband talk about their 23-year relationship, which weathered Jacob’s gender transition. In this excerpt, Diane Anderson-Minshall explores the roadblocks on the path to new intimacy.
I’m not shy. I can talk about sex at length. I’m a braggart, a reformed slut who’s proud of her past. Though I no longer remember the names of many of the forty-five people I slept with before Jacob came around, I can probably recall the experiences I had with them. And save for one time, I’ve never had an experience I regret.
Jacob doesn’t love it when I talk about sex though, at least as it relates to him. He was raised a good Catholic kid, and I think that sense of guilt and privacy stays forever with a person. His own sexuality has ebbed and flowed as we’ve gotten older, and I’ve mostly ridden the waves as they’ve come.
When we were younger we had toys galore, and sexy outfits and costumes, we could have sex anywhere without distraction— we once stopped off the road in a national forest and had sex on a log just barely out of sight of the road and loved it—and there was little you could do to keep my hands off him.
The year he was injured, he felt so bad both physically and emotionally we went without sex for an entire year. I didn’t enjoy that year, and Jacob was quick to tell me he understood if I got my needs met elsewhere. I did, with my right hand and a small buzzing blue object. I missed sex that year and was thrilled when one day he was finally ready to have a go at it again.
Even now there is one gender stereotype we don’t conform to: I’m usually the aggressor, the initiator. And I still desire him in a way I wouldn’t expect of a couple who had been together more than two decades. He is still movie-star gorgeous at forty-five, and if he’d let me I’d fuck him every night.
But the transition from woman to man did change our sex lives in the beginning. I think because I was so cognizant then of helping him become a “man,” something I kept thinking of as so distinctly different, that I went overboard in those early days. Here’s one example: when I discovered that men’s and women’s shirts (never say blouse) buttoned on the opposite sides, I went through Jacob’s closet and pulled out any shirt that buttoned on the wrong side and sent them to Goodwill. I was trying so hard to sort of help him succeed at manhood, that I forgot to think about simply the person he was. He didn’t care which side his shirts buttoned, but I was sure it would somehow tip off other men that he had previously been a woman. All this, even though we were going on talk shows and doing interviews with newspapers, including The New York Times, talking about that very thing. It made little sense.
I think my desire to succeed has always been foisted on Jacob a bit (sometimes unfairly, but that’s what you get when you marry me), and so when he announced his transition, I made it a goal to make it the best damn transition possible. He needed not just to be a man but to be the perfect man. And that meant my job was validating his manhood and his masculinity.
“Imagine a fourteen-year-old boy,” my shrink said.
“Maybe I’ll finally match your sex drive,” Jacob joked when I told him that. The doctors were right. All the changes that he started going through—the hair growth on his face, his new muscles, the acne and oily skin, his voice deepening—it all started happening immediately. Even his smell, his body odor changed. Most importantly, he got that teenage sex drive.
And new things began to turn him on. You know that Sir Mix- A-Lot song “Baby Got Back,” in which he sings about liking big butts? Well, Jacob could have taken that as an anthem. For about six months he wanted a lot of sex, and I was down with it.
Instead of doing a lot of our old same moves, I realized he was suddenly very interested in sex in which he could see my bottom. So I sort of planned and maneuvered every encounter in that direction, eschewing oral sex (at least receiving it) altogether for months because I so associated oral with lesbian sex. I wanted him to know I saw him as a man, I loved him as a man, and I wanted to have sex with him as a man (yes, even while proclaiming my lesbian identity; ours is a murky world).
Jacob was down with it for a few months, and then he withdrew a bit, seemed less interested, and after we talked I realized he was bored with this new routine, feeling penned in by this “heterosexual” sex, and it made me too realize that by trying to validate him as a man, I had sort of marginalized him even more. If I saw him as masculine before and masculine now, why couldn’t he have any type of sex?
The answer of course is that he could. Any type of sex is queer, or straight, or whatever we are, whatever is in-between and blended, and remembering that has led to even deeper intimacy as we move from a lesbian couple to a male-female one.