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Sex and the Transgender Libido

Exploring a healthy sex life and learning your new biology through transition in "The Weekly Rant" with Mila Madison.

Transgender women lose their libido once they start hormones and blockers. I read this a lot when starting my transition. Heck I was worried about it for sure. I also heard that for transgender men, it is the opposite. Though this is common folklore in the transgender universe, it didn’t really go that way for me. I later learned that just like our cisgender friends, the experience is different with everyone.

“ACCORDING TO THE LATEST RESEARCH IN DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY, WHEN IT COMES TO LIBIDO, TESTOSTERONE PLAYS A KEY FACTOR IN BOTH MEN AND WOMEN.”

According to the latest research in developmental biology, when it comes to libido, testosterone plays a key factor in both men and women. For the men, it is key for their sex drive. You don’t have to look much further than the thousands of “low T” commercials we are constantly bombarded with to understand that a lack of testosterone reduces the male libido. What many people do not know however is that testosterone also affects the female libido. Right before cisgender women ovulate, their brains signal their ovaries to create a blast of testosterone. Right before ovulation is when the cisgender female libido is most intense. So the “T” plays a big role when it comes to the libido of both cisgender men and women. Studies have shown that women who identify themselves to have a very healthy libido tend to have higher testosterone levels compared to those who don’t. This is also true with transgender men and women, but it gets complicated when you factor in transition, dysphoria and in some cases a partner who is sticking with you through the process.

For some transgender women, the effects of testosterone can lead to feelings of dysphoria. For others, even the thought of having an erection can be a trigger. I can only imagine for transgender men, not having testosterone can also cause similar problems. Next you have to factor in transition. When taking hormones, the beginning of the transition process is the equivalent of a second puberty. Your body is transitioning biologically and your mind transitions emotionally as you experience the changes. Things simply don’t work the way they used to. For some of us we say “good riddance” while others have a problem adjusting. Some couples, where one partner is transitioning, run into all sorts of complications. Not only are the physical and mental changes happening to the person transitioning, but the partner is also going through their own transition. Though some of us hit the proverbial “lottery” and have a partner who is just open to enjoying everything the journey has to offer, for most others their partner is forced to rethink their sexuality along with everything they previously conceived about attraction.

“WHERE COUPLES GO WRONG IS WITH THE EXPECTATION THAT THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN THE SAME WAY THEY ALWAYS DID, THEY DON’T.”

For those who don’t consider these simple facts, sex can be a big problem. When with a partner, things just aren’t going to happen the way you were used to. As trans guys can quickly get accustomed to and often enjoy their increased libido, for the trans woman it can be difficult to get there pending the situation they are in. Where it used take a quick thought or the wind blowing (just kidding) to get it going in the past, it is now something much more complicated. Often in relationships where one is transitioning, the couple has many complications due to the changes that are taking place. For many women, whether cisgender or transgender, sex is more of a building process. Though it can take time to start the engines, they can also run for days at a time if the mood is right. Where couples go wrong is with the expectation that things are going to happen the same way they always did, they don’t. For the partner, they may be experiencing a new body different from the one they are used to. The partner is going through the process of trying to figure out “can I be with a woman?” or “can I be with a man?” There is a big adjustment process and some partners are just trying to figure out if it is something they are going to be able to handle. In some cases they are and others they just cannot. A partner who previously thought they were in a “straight” relationship now has to process the idea of being “gay” if they haven’t before. It is the same for a gay or lesbian couple where after going through the entire process of accepting themselves, they now find themselves in a “straight” relationship. This just complicates matters even more. The stresses during this period can certainly be a non-starter.

So keep in mind as a transgender person, your process when it comes to sex will certainly change. For the transgender woman there are now psychological factors, emotional factors, sexual roles and a new biology to get used to. All these things have to be right for sex to be a truly great experience and we need to have the right expectation while making sure these things are in the right place.

As for my experience, I went through my loss of libido during my former presentation. I never had much T and towards the end I as at dangerously low levels. When I did have it, I was so miserable in my body that sex was always awkward for me. Even in its best moments. I can look back now and see how it was all dysphoria, triggered by testosterone when I had it, the role I found myself in sexually (the part of roles rally has nothing to do with gender but is simply a matter of the role we prefer) and the overall happiness of my relationship at the time.

What I learned was that the more my wife and I connected emotionally and psychologically, the more intense our sex life became. We would eventually connect in ways I could have never imagined. I experienced things with my body that I would have never thought possible. I am still amazed at how things can go on for days. I find myself finally wired correctly and with every sense of my body in tune with life. I realized that this was all because the emotional bond was there along with the willingness of us both to explore who we were both becoming. We accepted the fact that we were transitioning together and our relationship also grew because of it.

“SO CAN TRANSITION AND HORMONE THERAPY CAUSE A LOSS OF LIBIDO?”

So can transition and hormone therapy cause a loss of libido? Not really. What really happens is that it changes the dynamics of your libido. It takes some getting used to. And if there is a partner involved, it is best to first make all the emotional issues right before even trying. For some, they never get there and the sexual connection changes. Some relationships become just great friendships while others become more intense. For some transgender people, their sexuality flips through transition and they become attracted to a different gender. Some become more asexual. I would certainly love to speak with someone who is genderfluid about the subject as I am sure they would have a unique perspective on all of this if they are sexually active. In the end there are many factors in transition that can impact sex and libido. The best thing is just to be honest with yourself, explore and make sure the situation is right for you and your partner as well if you are with someone.

Remember there are many factors that can affect your libido. Make sure your diet is good. You also need to make sure your hormone balances are correct as many people who are transitioning go wrong in this area. Too much testosterone or estrogen can cause problems with the libido. Also, remember many cisgender women have trouble getting there for many of the same reasons. If you are in a relationship, make sure you focus on that first. It will have a positive effect on your libido. Most of all, explore your new body along with your new perspective. After all, it is all about the journey.

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