Gender, LGBTQ, Opinion, Roundtable, Sexuality, Zines

[NSFW] Fucking Trans Women: “A sexual cookbook.”

ftranscoverFucking Trans Women #0

Mira Bellwether
Released: October 2010
80 pages, zine

Fucking Trans Women is an 80-page zine by Mira Bellwether about sex, gender, and trans women representation. It includes personal and political essays, diagrams, 101 info, and sex tips. The zine is available in hardcopy or as a PDF.

The following conversation between Rachel Stevens and Megan Purdy includes diagrams and discussion of sex acts, sexual preferences, and bigotry within queer communities. It is NSFW and may be triggering for some readers.

Rachel Stevens: So. Fucking Trans Women. This was a helluva zine. My eyes went extremely wide quite often while reading this.

I’ll be honest, this was the first zine I’ve actually read. I know friends who’ve made them before, but I either couldn’t afford to buy them or had no interest in the subject matter.  The design was…well, it was clearly intentional. There was a bunch of cut together art and writing collaged together for new meaning. It felt…messy? But I guess that’s why you make a zine vs any other form of media- you can’t necessarily do something with a budget.

Megan Purdy: It’s funny you call the design “messy” Rachel, because I also had that reaction: intentional messiness. But I found it to be a lush kind of messy. The design, I guess, is meant to support the message: that sex and bodies and people are sexiliy complicated! Articles are often laid overtop images of nude bodies, or famously sensual bodies, varying between peak-a-boo style and more brazen images. It’s a black and white zine, and they’ve made good use of this. Heavy blacks and smoky greys, that can at times be as pretty as the women depicted. (Not always, though.)

Of course, there are also numerous diagrams that leave nothing to the imagination — for good reason! I have Learned Things.

RS: Yeah, I saw things in there that can’t be Unlearned. Muffing was….augh. That’s the kind of thing you’d want to do with an experienced partner and not on your own.

muffing

MP: I am 100% not prepared to try muffing unless I am guided every step of the way by my partner. Too intimidating! I am, by the way, a cis woman whose partners have included trans, cis, and genderqueer people, and while I’m kinky and love to try new things (always!), I’m also uncomfortable with causing pain or discomfort in my partners. Eeee. That said, I appreciated the description and explanation of the act. It’s clear and cogent and I’m certainly not confused about WHY some trans women would love it!

For you, dear reader, here’s how it’s done: muffing involves tucking the testicales inside the inguinal canals, located on each side of the penis/clit. These canals are covered by the scrotum and while they can be penetrated, you have to work up to it. It’s a process. Once you’re comfortable with tucking, you can move onto muffing, which is an internal massage of the testicles and I guess the surrounding area.

With an experienced partner, it sounds like a grand time. But with a less experienced partner, it’s evidently easy to cause injuries.

RS: Yeah, that’s fair. Pain is definitely not something I’d like to factor in with my partners, myself. I’m definitely (oh gosh I’m describing preferences on a website, hope my mom doesn’t see this one) not inexperienced or unafraid of giving new things a shot, depending on what they are. I’m a trans, poly, lesbian who’s had cis, trans, and genderfluid partners myself. Mostly LDRs, admittedly. The experiences I have had were pretty fun and light, though I do have some friends who have more…intimidating interests.

MP: Let’s also hide it from my mom. All the moms. No moms allowed.

Ok, so preferences. Let’s do this. I’m pretty sexually dominant but for whatever reason (worth examining, I suppose) I have a strong aversion to giving pain or humiliation. Play fighting is as hardcore as it gets in that respect. I’m so very into communication and enthusiastic consent. Like, I want to hear from you. So! Chatty, assertive partners, you are my jam.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.14.20 PMRS: Yes! All of those are key/similar to how I feel. I’m more of a switch depending on the person, but either way I want to make a lady feel good, and pain feels counter to that, from my personal perspective. Not to look down on people that are into that! I’m just not able to function in that avenue. (Bondage is all right though)

MP: Absolutely! I’m not into pain-play but I do get it. There are good pains that we have all experienced, both in and outside of the bedroom. That hot feeling you get from overworked muscles, or the twinges you might feel when pushing your limits while running, or lifting weights. Spanking, of course, which is wildly popular, even with people who aren’t interested in other forms of pain play. It actually annoys me when people treat pain play as some mysterious, deviant act — not my thing but kind of self-evident? (Bondage is definitely all right.)

RS: So, besides muffing being absolutely intimidating (but containing a useful tutorial for tucking linked to that) there were some other neat tidbits in here about sex for trans women. Instructions for how to play with an AMAB designated genital structure without it being erect was interesting and important. Some trans women can still do the bog standard penetrative sex, others can’t. Hormones are amazing but they can possibly put a damper on traditional sexual practices. Either way, it’s good to consider how to work with that.

MP: In the section on strap-ons and toys there’s a great line, “dildos let me fuck someone with a cock, without using a part of my own body as a cock.” This is such an important point for cis partners: the body has social meaning, but also meaning particularly determined by your partner. This is true of all bodies, cis included, but I think it’s something we more readily ignore. And it’s so crucial that we do pay attention to those meanings as communicated by our partners. She goes on to explain that not only are toys safer (vis a vis disease transmission) and useful for a wide variety of trans women, they may also increase her pleasure.

RS:  It was really nice to see affirmations that trans women shouldn’t be pressured to do sex acts that mainstream cis pornography wants them to do. Not everyone’s a white, skinny, blonde woman with a killer rack and genitals unchanged by anti-androgens/estrogens.

Something else I liked: she didn’t want the reader to feel pressured to do everything in the zine. The stated intent was to be a zine for and by the people, and for later issues to have submissions by readers, new suggestions and preferences.

MP: Yes! I love how the zine balances assertive expressions and explorations of sexuality without asserting that these sexualities are the right way to do it. She’s always careful to say that this is her language, these are her preferences, shared by some, but not everyone. Total rejection of codifying a single trans women’s sexuality. And I also appreciated that there are notes throughout the zine, making this 100% clear. Things like, “I use the term penis in certain circumstances but some trans women do not, under any circumstance,” etc.

bodyparts

RS: I personally know some trans gals who hate that word so that kind of thing was definitely appreciated.

On a different note, one of the comics scanned and sampled in the zine was also the source material for a girlfriend’s web avatar on Twitter/Tumblr/Steam for a while, so that was a fun coincidence for me when I was reading.

Thinking on it more,  you were right about the intentional messiness. All of the cuts and pasted images and words made a jigsaw puzzle…a filthy, consensual, jigsaw puzzle.

MP: As a compliment to our discussion above, can we talk about the piece called “Touch”? We both have an aversion to giving pain, but in “Touch” she talks about partners who are too hesitant and shrink from even offering casual touches, for fear of being disrespectful.

RS: I…have been that partner. I’ve also had those partners. I often just want to be held or to hold someone else, and lacking that can be very not fun.

MP: Another great line: “I want to drop into your arms and be held as tight as you can hold me because I’m beautiful and special. I don’t want to wonder whether you’re scared to touch me, I want to know that you aren’t.” (Cuddling is my everything, by the way.)

RS: I have been sorely missing cuddles. In my case, whenever I fail to give that kind of touch, it’s in the case of casual partners or just close friends. I don’t know. It is extremely important to feel desired as opposed to just wondering. (I’m totally not comfortable thinking of myself as beautiful and special, but between humility and self deprecation is a thin line to walk.)

touch

MP: There’s a… solidity to cuddling. It transmits care so well. And it’s hard to fake a cuddle, maybe harder than faking desire. When you’re holding each other close, you (I, at least) feel safer and more…wanted, I guess is the word I’m looking for, than even during sex. It’s just appreciative?

RS: You’re spending time feeling comfortable vs spending time feeling good, might be how I’d phrase it. Any sexual person can have sex with someone else and just treat the partner like they’re disposable because they got the sensation of pleasure they wanted. It is much harder to hold onto or be held with someone you don’t feel some level of closeness or affection towards. In my experience, anyway.

LDRs are difficult because of this. Sometimes, just talking comes close to this feeling, but it never quite manages it. It isn’t snuggling under a warm blanket in the cold, it isn’t idly playing with someone’s hair.

MP: That’s true — it’s hard to have a cuddle with someone you don’t feel close to. Again, for me, at least. I’m considering trying the Cuddlr app, to see if that structured environment, two strangers just looking for some appreciative, caring, human contact, might be different than cuddling with, say, casual sex partners.

RS: I don’t know if I’d say I was cowardly or just cautious (I wouldn’t call myself a prude), but I don’t think I could use those kinds of apps/hook up with someone randomly. I need to feel like I know someone as a friend at the very least before I even think about doing things with them.

MP: I would say cautious. There are absolutely dangers to hookup apps, cuddle-hookup apps, and even in person Craigslist sales. I mean. Yeah. Caution is good. But I’m also super curious — I have to do it Rachel, for SCIENCE!

RS: Okay, but remember how snipers work: in pairs. Bring a spotter along. (I’m only half joking.)

Hookup culture is interesting/weird to me, but I’m also coming at it from the perspective of someone who had an androgynous but still fairly obviously masculine body and face for about twenty years. I still get gendered as male depending on what I’m wearing. (This isn’t ideal for me, since I’d prefer to be obviously femme.) It’s especially dangerous to try to hook up with someone at a bar for me, but I’m also not attracted to masculine IDing folk. This also means that since my preferences lean femme, I’m out of luck looking for nightlife. There’s only the one major lesbian bar in Seattle, and even then I’ve heard mixed things about how welcome trans women are, there.

Finding romance/affection is tough, Megan.

forbidden

MP: Gosh, it really is. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in lesbian bars and I can’t call myself a regular of any, even now. As a bi/pan woman, especially as a bi/pan teen, I always felt that I was a subject of some suspicion and lacked authenticity. “Maybe it’s just a phase.” And while many of Toronto’s queer communities are increasingly diverse and inclusive, others just aren’t. We need more spaces where we can be together, without worrying if the bar might be dangerous for our trans friend, or unwelcoming to our gay male friend, or fetishizing of our black friend.

RS: God, the queer scene trends unfriendly to anyone but conventionally attractive able bodied white folk. I’m pretty lucky in that regard. We all need to do better making people welcome in every avenue.

MP: In the latter third of the zine, she explores popular depictions of trans women in pop culture and pornography, and also talks about drag. (And she mentions Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, which I know you’re a fan of.) One of the interesting points she makes here is the difference between fetishization and invited objectification. On overcoming stereotypes she says, “We can be sexual without being sexualized… the key is simply to get there first, to talk about how we are sexual, and to create our own images of what that looks like, of what we look like.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff to unpack from this series of essays — what parts of it worked (or didn’t) for you?

RS: To be perfectly honest, I loathe modern drag. I despise it. I hate everything that RuPaul stands for, that t-slur spouting perpetrator of stereotypes…ugh. I do know that trans women have come out thanks to it, and I know that in the past that it’s been a good avenue for helping people discover themselves (and continues to do so to a point) but the conflation of drag, of the societally constructed concept of crossdressing with trans and non-binary identities infuriates me to no end. The idea that it’s a disguise, a costume, something that can just be undressed or turned off is not something I’m a fan of. I know there are trans women who enjoy it, but I dislike the cis gay male domination of the scene that’s been used to invoke that imagery against trans women.

So, because of that, I find it hard to collaborate with modern drag queens like she’s suggested. I know that in the past, transvestite was a term used for what we could call trans women of the time period, though perverse presentism means that one could stand to be careful labelling someone of the past with modern labels. I know that labels in general are a tricky subject that vary depending on local community: transsexual vs transgender, or trans* vs trans, for example. I’m not a fan of the asterisk, and I’ve seen arguments made that it was added to include non trans identities including crossdressers by AFAB members of the LGBT population.

I know what my preferences are, and sometimes that it can make it difficult to communicate and try to collaborate with others. As much as the internet can bring people together, sometimes it shows just how big the division is between people, even those who would otherwise consider themselves to be members of the same group. I do try to keep an open mind and accept the very real possibility that I’m wrong or misinformed, and I have become more accepting of certain concepts when I’ve been shown I’ve made mistakes in my thought process.

alliesMP: Obviously I don’t want to interject myself in a conversation that has to happen between trans women and cis gay drag queens, but one thing is obvious to me: we, the queer community(ies) and feminist community(ies) have so much work to do around genderplay, something which has been kind of unproblematically accepted and sometimes glorified in some circles. As though being “above it all” is the ideal. Genderplay is of the utmost importance to some, but can be a harmful for others. Why the hierarchy? And of course, crossing gender lines (in dress and in roles) has been and is of tremendous importance to cis gay men — but it can’t be exploitative or a source of violence. We have to respect each other’s vital needs.

RS: Also worth noting that I’m a twenty one year old white trans woman who is talking on the internet about her experiences in the modern day — I am young, I am angry, and though I try to be informed about the past struggles of trans/queer culture I am more often than not woefully underinformed. Take my words with a grain of salt and listen to other trans/queer people for their perspectives, especially older and non-white people in the community. I do recognize the importance of drag and crossdressing in previous years, and I’m living in a culture that’s changed significantly since prior time periods — though not beyond the point of recognition.

MP: Yeah, time is significant here. So much has changed in queer communities in the last hundred years. So much has changed in the last decade.

RS: This is why it’s so important that there isn’t just one prominent representative voice for a community, and why I’m glad that Mira Bellwhether, the author of FTW, wanted people to write in their experiences. We need a lot more people heard, and we need different people heard.

MP: Definitely! I’m really glad I read Fucking Trans Women — not only did I Learn Things, but I learned things. The zine brings a really valuable, confident perspective to the table. But now I just want more.

  1. Ginnis Tonik

    January 30, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Y’all, this article was great. Great to see this insight and highlight the complexities and yes biases of queer communities.

    1. Megan Purdy

      February 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

      Thanks Ginnis! I really recommended picking up a copy.

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