Reprinted with permission from Crash Pad Series.
Lyric Explains it All! We’ve launched an ongoing Sex and Relationship Advice column by the one and only Lyric Seal. Email your questions to [email protected] Read Lyric’s past posts, on Ask Lyric: Clit Sensitivity and Rebuilding Sexuality, Being Vulnerable, Religious Indoctrination, and Respectful Hollering and Maintaining the Mystery.
I’m a disabled AFAB genderqueer, who, among other things, got diagnosed with CFS/ME. This illness is quite disabling and affects energy levels, plus it can easily became more severe if one does excessive efforts (those usually lead to a delayed reaction, so pacing must be done and it’s not easy to know when an effort will be too much). I’m still trying to figure out how will I go about having sex with these issues, trying to come to terms with sex having to be a lot calmer and lower rhythm than just two years ago, and specially trying to figure out how to find partners that are ok with it (and me not feeling like I’m a deception for sex not being as energetic as they, and I, would like it to be). I was already struggling with my dysphoria, being closeted as genderqueer in a small community with majority of cis lesbians. I’m not monogamous and just want occasional encounters, difficult as it is here. How can I go about rebuilding a sexuality as a disabled transgender person and finding the right kind of sexual partners, recovering my erotic self-esteem, etc?
I always read you, love your wisdom and cheerfulness! Thanks for being here for us! — Keerky
Mmmmmmm! Such thought for food. I’m proud of you for asking yourself those questions, and thank you for sharing them with me.
First, a meditation and reminder: We are rebuilding a home for our sexuality, or even just our sensuality, and hope for moments of embodied satisfaction and pleasure, our whole damn lives. Remember that you are not behind. You are doing the work, and you are worth it.
Every time our body changes, it is something to contend with and adjust to. Having a body which is marginalized early on, experiencing dysphoria for multiple reasons, having our bodies change or become disabled in new or different ways as adults — what a learning curve!
Society tells us to fight our changing bodies, to mask illness or aging or fatigue. I am glad you are asking the questions which show already that you are on a path toward loving and accepting the new ways, speeds, rhythms, and intensities at which you need to move in order to feel good and use the beautiful energy that you have well.
I know that, personally, when I get used to one difficulty, nuance, complication, limitation, or function of my disability and body, it is really rough for a little while when I have a new injury, or when I notice that certain activities fatigue me more than they used to. For instance, I have a strong right arm, but my wrist and fingers have a tendency to cramp, atrophy, and spasm. This means that while I can marathon jack, I can’t necessarily marathon fuck with my fingers or hand. This was not something that I knew how to talk about without taking time with casual hookups, so mostly bottomed in those situations.
I didn’t start really communicating thoroughly about what kind of sex I can and like to have, or like to imagine I’m having while my body does things a little differently, until I started performing in porn. For me, porn was an attack on my disassociation from my lived experience. The other aid was writing. Writing my sexuality out. Dialoguing. Draw a new map of your body for yourself. You can never do this too many times. You know what can be a really wonderful way to engage casual non-monogamous dates about your desires, to address what you can do and can’t do, what you would like to say you are doing while your mortal body does a beautiful translation of these words? Sexting.
Sexting with my now primary partner while we were still casually dating taught me soooo much about my own sexuality, how it ebbs and flows, how my gender changes, how my body works and what will make it not work, and how to communicate this to another person, no matter our level of intimacy. Thank you so much for the lovely things you said about my blog and my articulation! That is another aspect of words I would recommend: reading! Do like fairy tales? Memoirs? At times that I have been most scared about my own body, possible foes, and the road ahead, I have picked an outfit that made me feel beautiful and safe, gone outside with a book that has a weirdo hero in it, fact or fiction doesn’t matter, and imagined that I was getting on my horse and that I would live to look and learn and ride another day. You are brave. No matter what, you are brave. At the moment I am going to recommend Sex and Disability edited by Robert McGruer and Anna Mollow, Ring of Fire (zines or anthology) by ET Russian (fka Hellery Homosex), anything by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha, The End of San Francisco by Matthilda Bernstein Sycamore, Lessons in Taxidermy by Bee Lavender, Jazz by Toni Morrison (for one of the best descriptions of not being able to picture your own body having sex I’ve ever read), Pride and Pain by Eli Clare, and on the changeable bodies in the fairy tale world: Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.
As you are navigating the waters of communicating lovingly, firmly, patiently, and accurately about yourself and your sexuality with new dates and lovers, make sure you are also carving out sexual time with you yourself. This can look like lying on whatever surface is comfortable with music and candles or lights and breathing into the nooks and crannies of yourself. This could sound like talking dirty to yourself. This could smell like taking off your own underwear and noticing, just noticing you and letting it turn you on.
Give yourself room to experiment and let others know that you are learning and relearning about your body and sexuality and how it all fits with new information you have about your gender and your disability and your desires. If they are worth having sex with, they will be willing to learn, even for a night, and they will probably even admit that they are learning about themselves too.
Don’t settle for less, even from a casual date. You can have a hot jerk off session without them, for real. You are never a deception. I know that as trans people and disabled people, we get used to hearing that we are not what somebody expected. But guess what? We are a beautiful surprise. And next time, they better get themselves ready.
The right kinds of sexual partners will not necessarily do everything right all at once, but will have room for their own growth. And they will ask questions, and they will listen. And chances are, they will have more than one body nuance of their own. I think that verbose and free and queerly used dating sites like OkCupid are great because you get to say a lot about yourself and read a lot about a person. I also wouldn’t rule out Tumblr flirting, or meeting someone at a really good party, at a museum, on the street. Chance occasional encounters are just that — chance and occasional — but don’t get discouraged! And don’t worry about limiting yourself by having high standards. Build your body love by writing and speaking and singing your truth to yourself and others and reading and listening to people that share your experience and an ethos and standards around how you want to be treated will follow! We need self-love, and we need standards for how we let others engage with us, we got magic to protect. Please come and visit me anytime, I’ll have more for you when you ask!