All about control
Trans people tend to lack control in their lives — certainly in the UK (this is my frame of reference), we have very little control over our bodies and our medical transition; we exist in a cis-centred society that likes to take our control over our identity out of our hands.
This is not something I noticed explicitly, I never sat there thinking “I have no control”. Being comfortable with myself, and comfortable in my own skin, is a chore. When I’m on the receiving end of transphobic abuse from people on the street (or, for that matter, family members), it is largely because I am visibly trans. Visibility is a complex subject (and not one I want to go into in any depth now), but I have come to realise that one of the worst feelings of this abuse is that I am being attacked for something I have no fucking control over.
By the end of the day, my stubble sometimes shows. Why? Because I’ve been waiting for over 8 months to receive laser hair removal on the NHS. I’m a bit flat chested. Why? Because I waited over a year before I could start HRT, and only started then because I started seeing a private doctor. Transitioning on the NHS is a process that involves a lot of waiting, and through all this we have to just get on with our lives. I do not feel able to present as male any more, so I have to do what I can with what I get. And for a long time, all I did was wait, because what else could I do?
When I started to take control of my own body, a lot changed. I am lucky enough to be in a position to afford private consultations, and lucky enough to have a great GP who helps me get prescriptions for hormones on the NHS. That first moment when I felt like I could do more than just wait, I could take control of my own life and my own transition, I felt liberated!
Anyway, on to the point of what I want to actually talk about. Having realised that some of my deepest anxieties about my transition were the feeling of lacking control, I realised that I need seize control when I can. And this is no less true when it comes to physical intimacy.
Early on in my transition, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted. Sexual intimacy terrified me, so when the situation arose, I tended to shrink into myself and look sad and terrified. I didn’t know what I wanted, and I didn’t know how to say this to partners, so naturally the best thing is to do nothing and get sad right?
I’ve now taken the time to get to know my body on my own. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. Sometimes that changes slightly when there’s another person present, but I at least have a starting point. But I’m the one that’s done all the homework, not my partners. Sometimes they’re as terrified as me because they don’t want to do something to upset me.
So, just like I’ve tried to do in the rest of my life, I’ve started to learn to take control. More often than not, this is a matter of saying “this thing is a hard line, the rest is ok” or “do this thing and this thing and this thing”. Sometimes taking control looks like me taking over the part that involves my genitals, or involves me cumming. Caring and giving partners just want to see you pleased, and this sometimes means you taking over when they’re just not doing it right. This doesn’t mean they stand back idly — stroking, licking, kissing and sucking all of the other parts of my body while I do the heavy lifting feels really incredible, and helps me to feel very close to them (and them to me).
This does of course lead to the secondary part of control — communication. In order to take control in this way, I need to be able to communicate clearly to my partner what I want them to do (or not do). This can be hard at first, but just breaking things down into plain English does wonders for both of us, and I’ve found that a whole lot of that anxiety I used to get during sex just about disappears!
Having come to this realisation about control, I’ve come to another realisation (ok, it’s a pretty obvious one but whatevs). Control can be very fun to play with!
- Letting go of this control, and submitting to a partner who I trust (who knows me well, and knows my hard limits) can be an incredible experience. It puts me in a position of intense vulnerability that can make those feelings of closeness and intimacy amplified to a huge extent.
- Hey, if I’ve realised I like control I may as well roll with it. By taking on a dominant role with a willing submissive partner, I can control the scene exactly as I need and want. I can be clear and direct, and if it’s been acknowledged that I’m to take a dominant role, I don’t feel so shy and anxious in my communication.
I fully acknowledge that my ability to have confidence in myself, and to take control, comes from a place of privilege. It’s not a place everyone can reach quickly, easily, or at all…particularly in the context of the society we live in. But when all control is taken away from you, seizing every mote of it back is a fantastically empowering thing, and can be hot as hell.