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Transitions, Femme Baldness, and “INEXTINGUISHABLE PASSION”

Okay, A Queer Chick, here goes: my partner is a trans woman. When we met she was a man, and we’ve been together 15 years now. She transitioned about four years ago, and we went through all kinds of shit with therapy and counselling and anti-depressants and all that. We’re pretty stable now, good communication, doing good overall. I love her even more than I loved him (as a man and a frustrated trans woman, she could be a definite asshole with the misdirected anger and all). But here’s my problem: I don’t know how to have sex with another woman! Her libido took a dive with the transition; we’ve fooled around a few times, with a couple of toys, so we do know we can both get each other off, but it’s awkward. Also I guess I feel like it’s up to me — our friends call me an honorary lesbian, but honestly, I’ve never crushed on a woman or had fantasies about lady sex before. But I love my lovely partner, love spending time with her, think she’s beautiful and sexy. I feel like I need a twelve-step manual or something.  Help!

I’m glad you wrote in to ask for help when you needed it, but first I want to give you huge props everything you’ve already accomplished — to wit, a 15-year relationship that’s survived all the normal hurdles plus the added stress, uncertainty, re-negotiation, and general chaos that comes with navigating a transition. The fact that you’ve stuck it out and are still together means that both you and your partner are on some next-level emotional maturity shit, and should probably be writing this column for me. But you’re not, so we venture forth.

For starters, you don’t have to call yourself an “honorary lesbian” — you and your partner are both ladies, you can go ahead and call yourselves lesbians if you feel like it. I mean, you don’t have to. It’s cool if you feel like that word doesn’t accurately describe your sexual identity, especially since she’s the only woman you’ve ever even thought about being with, but I want you to know that it’s available to you if you want it. Because I think that having access and connection to the lesbian community where you live (there is one, even if it’s just three chicks who get together for coffee once a month) could be really useful to you both. You need to know that other people have been through the same thing, or if there’s no one nearby who’s been through the same thing, you at least need to know that other people have had similar experiences and you and your partner are not total, alone-in-the-world freaks. You could use a friend or two that you can call when you and your partner are fighting and be like “Ladies, goddammit, am I right?” And I think the best way to go about that is for you to go out and make friends with some dykes.

Of course, it’s possible that you are already friends with some dykes. Either way, let’s jump ahead to the real meat of your question: the sex stuff. I wish you had told me a little more about what your naked times were like before your partner’s transition — that could be a good jumping-off point for getting things back up to speed. If you two were getting sweaty and multi-orgasmic five times a week in the good old days, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start with what you used to enjoy, and go from there. (Yes, two ladies can do anything that a lady and a dude can do. Yes, anything.) It might feel different to your partner now that her body has changed (if it has) due to hormones and surgery, but experimenting with what used to get you off together may spark some of the chemistry you had before her sex drive stalled.

You may also want to check out some queer porn, the kind of thing that is made for queers and by queers and features lesbian sex more interesting and real than the two-femmes-fingering-each-other-with-inch-long-nails nonsense you tend to see in mainstream “lesbian” porn. and would probably be good places to start. If you can find some queer porn with trans women in it, even better (commenters, any recommendations? I know some of you filthy-minded folks will come through for us). If this sounds like a good idea, try watching some smut with your partner, and seeing whether either of you are turned on by anything you weren’t expecting. You’re not trying to learn fancy tricks to copy — you’re just trying to get a feel for what gets you going, and how her (or your) desires have changed.

The next time you start fooling around, don’t focus on orgasms so much as how it feels to be together. You already know you can get each other off with toys if you need to, but this isn’t about that — this is about getting past the awkwardness and back to that place where you can’t get enough of each other. So take your eyes off the finish line for a few minutes while you stop and smell the girl-on-girl action. What turns her on? What turns you on? What feels romantic and fun to you both? Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourselves to get it exactly right out of the gate, or indeed ever. Allow yourselves to relax, to giggle, to say “hold up, that feels weird, can you move your leg?” This doesn’t have to be a porno-perfect adventure in bedframe-smashing. It just needs to be fun, and comfortable, and honest.

Don’t think about “how to have sex with a woman.” Think about how to have sex with your partner, your special beautiful sweet unique partner you’re crazy about. You don’t have to be a good lesbian, or any kind of lesbian at all. You just have to be with her.

I shaved my hair off a while ago, and I love it. One of the things I love about it is that I can dress more femme and still feel comfortable. But I feel like I often come across as accidentally more butch than I might want to be on any given day. I have dark glasses, so eye makeup is not a real solution for me. I am pretty booby and I wear skirts most days, but some days I just want to wear comfy jeans and still femme it up. Halp?

Girl, earrings. That is like How to Rock a Shaved Head and Still Look Femme 101. Invest in some big, dramatic, shoulder-scraping earrings, and you will look edgy and gorgeous even when the rest of your outfit is jeans, a t-shirt, and some beat-up cowboy boots. Do the trendy huge-dangling-feathers thing, or try some classic hoops — whatever feels right for your style; any way you go, it’s gonna look amazing.

Jewelry in general is a good way to femme up a casual look — statement necklaces, chunky bracelets, an exciting ring — although none of these things will give you the same striking silhouette as a really awesome pair of earrings. You can also add a little bit of lipstick if you want to give a girlier face.

And of course, just because you’re wearing jeans doesn’t mean you have to be slumping around looking like everything else you own is in the laundry. A cute lacy camisole looks great with jeans (and also emphasizes your booby frame, thus sending non-verbal messages of “Hello, girl over here!”), or a fitted blouse, or a soft pretty shrug over a basic T-shirt, or, or, or … there are a ton of options. Just make sure your jeans are clean and well-tailored, and that you have adorable yet comfortable shoes peeking out from underneath, and you will be totally fine.

Hey, queer chick! Fellow queer chick here, looking for some advice … I have an amazing girlfriend. We’ve been together for over a year and a half, and in all this time we’ve rarely ever fought (like, really. I can’t think of any major arguments and we have never yelled at one another), we’ve always been there for each other, and she makes me happier than anyone I’ve ever known. She is my best friend and I love her very much. She is also my first girlfriend/serious relationship. While I’m still attracted to guys, right now I can’t see myself, nor do I want to be, with anyone else, guy or girl.

There’s only one serious problem. After almost four years of my family knowing about my queerness, they are no more accepting than they were back in high school. Specifically, my mom is still extremely angry at me. We mostly try to ignore the issue, but every now and then something reminds her and it turns into an enormous shouting match and she says really, really hurtful things to me. (Such as, I’m ruining her life/I made her start smoking again/I’m not her daughter anymore, etc.)  I know some people might just write my mom off as a homophobic, mean person, but it’s more complicated than that.  She’s generally a great person, and a great mom.  She’s had a lot of bad things happen to her in her life, and while I don’t think it’s fair that she might take that out on me, I’m not willing to end our relationship over this … I mean, she’s still my mom and all.

Also, my father passed away this past summer, which obviously was and is a big, horrible, sad thing, and my grandmother’s really sick right now, too … basically, I REALLY don’t want to lose any more family members at this point in my life. I’ve tried a lot of different methods to ease the tension with my mom, including writing her letters explaining how I feel, talking with her in a calm manner (for as long as she’ll let me), obviously we’ve also talked in a not so calm, shouting kind of way. I’ve tried hiding any trace of my girlfriend/general queerness in hopes she’ll ignore it (and I go to great lengths to do this), but nothing seems to work.  At this point it really just seems like she’s not going to accept this part of my life anytime soon. The rest of my family is generally unaccepting, too, so I don’t really have any allies I can enlist ,either.

The thing that makes me feel even more guilty is that my girlfriend is the most understanding person ever when it comes to all of this! She never holds it against me and helps me out in any way she can, because she knows that, if there was any way I could, I’d change the situation in a heartbeat. My girlfriend is so wonderful and, believe me, I recognize this and know that not everyone would be willing to deal with all the crap I go through with my mom and she ends up going through as a result. I’m beginning to worry that it’s not fair to my girlfriend to make her go through all this (did I mention the fact that she’s a GREAT person?!) and that she deserves to date someone whose family she can actually meet.

Of course, when I say this to her she just says that she doesn’t care and loves me, but I still feel like a big jerk. And then I worry about the future, namely that my family will NEVER accept me and I’ll have to choose and then what do I do? What does my girlfriend do? I try to just take things one day at a time and remember that we (girlfriend and I) are happy now, but the whole thing’s just a big mess. I have lots of supportive friends who help me out, but they don’t really know what I should do, either. So I guess my question to you is, what do I do? Should I just accept that my family will never accept me and sometime in the future I might have to choose between my girlfriend and my family? Should I cut off ties with my (kind of abusive) family even though I don’t want to? Should I keep doing what I’m doing right now, which is neither? Help, please.

Let’s set one thing straight: your mom is a homophobic, mean person. I’m really sorry, but she is. It’s not more complicated than that. There is no set of extenuating circumstances that can turn a kind, queer-friendly person into a shouting, abusive homophobe. If she is mean when she’s under a lot of stress, she’s mean, period. I’m deeply sorry for all the loss you and your mother have been through, but here’s the thing: many people have endured great tragedies without becoming awful to everyone around them. There’s a difference between being snappish and being cruel, and I think you know that, and you also know that your mother is way the hell out on the wrong side of that line.

Now, you can absolutely decide that you’re willing to put up with her verbal abuse and homophobia in order to maintain your relationship with her. No one gets to make that decision for you. You can choose to forgive her many faults, or overlook them, because you think cutting her off completely would hurt worse. But you have to be honest with yourself and stop making excuses. Stop telling yourself that it’s not that bad, or that it’s just because she’s had a hard-knock life. Your relationship isn’t worth much if the only thing holding it together is your refusal to face how bad she really is. So go ahead and say this out loud, or at least in your head: “My mother is homophobic and verbally abusive.” Now that you’ve acknowledged that, what do you want to do about it?

It seems balls-out absurd to me that you are even for a second considering throwing over your loving, supportive girlfriend in favor of your mean, nasty, awful mom, but then it seems balls-out absurd to me that some people wear black shoes with brown pants, so whatever, it takes all kinds. I suppose it’s possible that sometime in the future your heinous family members really will lay down an ultimatum — be celibate for the rest of your life, or be disowned — and I fervently hope that when you get right down to it you’ll realize that you need to take the Road Less Closeted and tell your mother to piss off.

For right now, however, no one is forcing you to make that choice, so, you know, you don’t have to make it. You can keep doing exactly what you have been doing. I know you feel bad that your amazing girlfriend doesn’t get to meet your family, but let me soothe your worried mind by telling you that after more than a year of hearing your psycho-mom stories, meeting your family is the absolute last thing she wants to do, ever. As difficult and painful as it is, your family situation is not a dealbreaker for her — she’s willing to work around it because she loves you and wants to be with you. No relationship is ever 100% issue-free, so please stop beating yourself up for not being able to offer her that. If she wanted to avoid all drama forever she’d just stay at home with her vibrator.

Ultimately, the person you’re hurting the most by maintaining contact with your mother is you — and the person you’d hurt the most by cutting her off would also be you. All you can do is decide which pain is the one you can live with. It breaks my heart that your mom has put you in this position. I hope someday she comes around.

Me: a lesbian with less than no interest in dating men. “Fred”: this guy I thought was just a pal. We’re not particularly close (to wit: he isn’t aware that I’m not interested in guys. We basically just talk about comics), but I recently learned from a third party that he has harboured some sort of INEXTINGUISHABLE PASSION for me during the whole time we’ve known each other. That’s pretty weird right? Five years of hanging out once in a while and not once has he mentioned anything about this, but apparently he’s been talking to all of his friends about it.

So my question is, how much courtesy do I owe “Fred” in this situation? I know just telling him I’m not into guys provides a pretty easy out, but honestly I’m really creeped out/annoyed by the whole five-years-of-pretending-to-be-casual-acquaintances thing, and ignoring him until he goes away sounds like a solid option. But then I’d have to deal with him if we happen to run into each other (fairly likely). This is a problem only you can solve, Queer Chick. What should I do?

I think you’re being awfully hard on Fred here, darlin’. I know it’s a little weird to find out that someone’s feelings for you go deeper than you realized, but come on, who among us has been unflinchingly up-front with every single person we’ve ever wanted to see naked? Who among us says absolutely everything they’re feeling the second the thought crosses their heart/vagina? And Jesus, how off-putting would it be if somebody actually did?

I mean, you’ve known this dude for five years and you’ve never even mentioned to him that you fuck girls, so it doesn’t seem fair to expect that he would pour his heart out about his crush. It’s kind of a huge leap from “hey that comic book store you like is having a big sale” to “I want to make out with you and also marry you and how do you feel about naming our first daughter Julie?” Confessing his ardor would be laying himself on the line in a big way — especially since, although he doesn’t know you’re gay, he probably senses that you have no interest in doing any kind of sex to him. He hasn’t tried to creep on you or manipulate you into unwanted smoochies, so I think it’s fair to say that he’s kept his interest a secret not for sketchy reasons, but because he knows he has no chance and doesn’t want to face a flat-out rejection. This dude has done nothing wrong, so try to let go of being annoyed at him. Drop a mention of the girl you’re banging into your next conversation and get back to being bros.

Previously: Nagging Attractions and the Strategies of Lesbianism Convention (SLC).

Lindsay Miller knows everything (and is now on Twitter!). Do you have a question for A Queer Chick? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock


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