You have a friend who just told you they’re a trans guy?
Your significant other is thinking about transitioning?
You’re just curious about trans guys in general?
Here are some of the things I learned the night (and weeks after) Matt told me that he is trans:
A Translation of Terms and Concepts for “Interested Parties”:
Note: I’ve ordered these in a “story” format. Feel free to skip around, but if you’re completely new to the game it may benefit you to read from top to bottom. Some of these terms can be found with textbook definitions in our FAQ section.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. My knowledge is limited and learning and understand the trans community is an ongoing process.
Gender Identity: Gender identity has very little to do with genetailia, assigned gender, chromosomes, sexual orientation, or presentation. Just because someone is currently presenting as a female does not mean that they identify as female. Gender identity is the gender that a person feels they are. I’ve read that this is dynamic or fluid in some people, but in my experience it’s fairly static. I truly believe that no gender identity is wrong.
Gender Identity Disorder: This is when someone’a assigned gender (chromosomes and/or genetailia) do not match up with their gender identity. Matt went through a long process as a child and young adult being told he had Gender Identity Disorder and going through the hoops to rectify it. Basically the process entailed ensuring doctors that he was confident in his gender identity and competent enough to make life-altering decisions (like to start hormone therapy or to have surgery).
Transgender vs. Cisgender: A transgender individual was born into a body that does not match the gender they identify with. A cisgender person was born into a body that does match the gender they identify with. Matt is a transgender male, Steph is cisgender female.
FTM, F2M, female-to-male, trans man, trans guy, transgender male: These are all other terms for trans guy. I typically stick with trans guy, because it’s generic and gets the point across. Tranny, transsexual and transgendered are all generally unacceptable terms to refer to a trans person. If you’re unsure of how to address a trans person, just ask them.
Passing: Trans guys work to present to the general public as their intended gender. They go through a fair amount of work to pass in their daily lives. I’ll go through some of that below…
Stealth: When someone passes 100% of the time, they’re able to go “stealth” if they want to. I wish this had something to do with being a secret undercover agent for a special operative, but really it’s just going about one’s life as the gender one identifies as without needing or wanting to disclose their transgender identity and their past with others. Pretty simple, though the name is awesome.
Stealth Seal: Cis-gender people generally assume that the people they’re around are also cis-gender. When a trans person reveals their trans-status, they are breaking what Matt and I have called the stealth seal.
Here’s a list of some techniques guys use to pass:
Packing and Packers: A packer is a prosthetic that hangs in a harness situated in a trans guys’ groinal area. Packers are intended to create the bulge that cisgender males have. Matt’s packer is a “vanilla” colored silicone soft packer. He uses a homemade harness with an elastic around-the-waist band and denim/mesh pocket for the packer. I’ve read about (and seen pictures of) “pack and play” packers that are semi-hard and can be used for general presentation as well as sex. Matt and I tend to make light of his packer. My first few times seeing or holding his packer were uneasy, but we’ve gotten past that. He’s comfortable joking about “cleaning his dick” or making jokes about his dick being in another room. Take this slow. Some guys won’t be as comfortable. I recommend taking a look at some packers and harnesses (NSFW LINK).
just so you aren’t surprised if/when you see one.
Stand to Pee (STP): An STP is a packer that is rigged so that a trans guy can urinate standing up. A big concern for transgender individuals is being “outed” while in the restroom. It’s a big risk that causes a lot of stress and can sometimes be unsafe for the trans guy. STPs make it possible for transguys to “whip it out and go” just like bio-guys. I’ve never seen one of these, but there are lots of YouTube videos!
Binding: Breasts often get in the way of passing. I met Matt after he’d had his top surgery (more on that below), but binding is a technique lots of guys use before they have their surgery. Binders are basically super tight tank tops that constrict the breasts to make the chest appear flat. Some guys use multiple sports bras, but FtM specific websites sell products specifically for male presentation. I think it’s important to note that guys can do real damage to their spine, chest, lungs and back by binding too tight. I’ve read that a lot of trans guys, before having top surgery, don’t take off their binder for sex. Don’t expect that your partner will be comfortable with their body as is.
Dysphoria: The unfortunate feeling of uneasiness when a guy’s body parts don’t match his mental image. Lots of guys report “phantom boners” and even phantom flaccid penises. The mis-match of brain-gender and body-parts can be extremely distressing. Fortunately Matt doesn’t experience much in the way of dysphoria, but my advice would be to ask your partner at a time when they’re not feeling dysphoric how they would like for you to respond. Every person’s expectations and needs are different.
“T”: On a very non-scientific level, testosterone is the body’s male hormone. Trans guys use testosterone to ease dysphoria and help their body match how they feel they should have been born. Common outcomes include lowering of the voice, increased sex drive, elongated dick (clitoral growth), hair, hair, and more hair, redistribution of body fat, increased muscle mass, and the stopping of menses. Topical creams and injections are the two most common forms of administering testosterone. Matt takes a shot once every other week. It’s not uncommon for guys to crave or look forward to their dose of T.
Top Surgery (chest surgery, bilateral mastectomy, double incision, keyhole): Top surgery is a permanent solution to binding. Breast tissue is surgically removed. A keyhole is a surgery that’s done when only a small amount of breast tissue exists. Scarring for keyhole surgeries is minimal. However, Matt had a bilateral mastectomy and was left with two large scars. The chest tissue is reconstructed to look just like a bio-male’s chest.
Gyneocomastia: When cisgender males develop abnormally large breasts. Gyneocomastia results from an imbalance in hormones; the body creates an excess of female hormones rather than male hormones. It’s not uncommon for stealth trans guys to tell people (when swimming, for instance) that they suffered from gyneocomastia. I don’t see anything wrong with this. Trans guys are guys. Their bodies created too much estrogen. That gave them excess breast tissue. They got it surgically removed. Bam. Scars.
Bottom Surgery (lower surgery, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty): There are a number of surgeries trans guys can undergo to reconstruct their lower organs to be more like cisgender males’. Science has not yet progressed for trans guys in the ways that it has for trans gals, but the option exists. To simplify: metoidioplasty involves separating the clitoris from the labia and extending the urethra while phalloplasty uses tissue to construct a penis. Check out this video for a look at one patient’s phalloplasty outcome. Other options that fall in the same category as bottom surgery include hysterectomy and oophorectomy to remove the existing internal female reproductive organs.
Prosthetic: Many trans guys are uncomfortable using their given parts during sex. This stems from dysphoria and is (very) understandable. A common solution is the use of a prosthetic (or dildo) and harness. However, I’d like to point out here that it is possible for a cis-woman and trans guy to enjoy coitus without the use of a prosthetic (Matt and I are happy sex-ing proof). Body confidence is key, ladies and gents.
Other Things to Consider:
What pronoun should I use? Well. If you’re dating a trans guy, I’m going to assume he’ll want you to use male pronouns. This shouldn’t be a guessing game, though. Ask. If you’re comfortable enough with this person to be diving into a relationship (sexual or otherwise) with them, you should be able to ask what they want to be called.
How does sex work? Of course, this will be different for every couple, but I can offer some advice. (More will come later too, I promise.) Buck Angel was my number one resource. Buck is an out-and-proud FtM porn star. I won’t provide any links, but there are videos of Buck riding vibrating dildos on talk shows, giving and receiving head, talking all kinds of dirty about his parts and loads (seriously, loads) of other things. Take an evening off from your usual spank bank and give it a look. If nothing else, you’ll learn a little.
How do I refer to his genetalia? This will depend on the guy. In the same way that some women don’t like their lady bits dubbed “cunt” I’m sure some guys won’t like the same terms Matt prefers. My general rule is this: If you wouldn’t say it to or about a cisgender male’s body don’t say it about a trans guys’ body. Buck Angel’s videos are a great resource for this. Again, I recommend taking a look at some pictures before you jump into the sack.
Don’t forget: Buck a great resource, but he is most definitely still a porn star.
In the same way cis-women don’t all want to have their face covered in cum, not all trans guys will want to have sex in the ways Buck does.
I used his videos more as a way to familiarize myself with transmen’s “parts” than anything else.
Can I tell _______ he’s trans? No! Not unless you’ve asked him. Story time: one friend of mine found out by accident. I had a picture of Matt in his boxers on my cell phone and my friend was flipping through my pictures. He noticed the scars on Matt’s chest, gave me a sly look and said he’d dated a guy with similar scars. I smiled, he smiled and it never came up again. I did, however, immediately text Matt and let him know. Regardless of whether it was intentional, or whether Matt wanted my friend to know, he now knows. It is my responsibility, and I owe it to Matt, to let him know.
Can I ask him about _______? Matt has been very open with me from the start. Only once has he not answered a question I asked. About what? His birth name. A few weeks later it came up on the back of a photo from when he was a kid. Once Matt was comfortable letting me see that part of his past, he opened the door. The moral of that story? Don’t push your partner to tell you anything he’s not comfortable telling you.
Is it transphobic of me to not want to date, be in a relationship with, or have sex with a trans guy? Time for an anecdote! I’d answered the OkCupid question, “Would you date a transgender person” with no. Luckily, Matt disregarded my response and gave me a shot. My hindsight perspective is that when answering that question I was dead set that penis-in-vagina sex was the best sex. Great sex is extremely important in a relationship and I didn’t see that as a possibility in my split second answering of that question. If that’s your reservation in dating a trans guy I would urge you to reconsider. However, no. I don’t think it makes you transphobic. I have lots of “deal breakers”. If a guy smokes cigarettes, he’s automatically out. For some women, a biological penis is required for satisfaction. If you wouldn’t date a guy who had his junk removed because of cancer either, I say you’re A-O-K. Transphobia comes into play only if you’re disrespectful to a person specifically because they’re trans.
Here’s a list of resources I found helpful:
Dade and his girlfriend Tiff (ElctricDade) were together before Dade transitioned. Their YouTube channel documents their journey; from top surgery to the birth of their child.
Skylar (skylarkeleven) is a college-aged trans guy who has documented most of his transition in vlog form.
Forest (ClosetTransgender) may be my absolute favorite YouTuber. He’s not afraid to ask the questions everyone is thinking. He often interviews other trans guys and brings in his real-life experiences when discussing hot-button trans issues.
Hudson’s FTM Guide is a great place to learn a little more about any trans related topics.
/r/mypartneristrans is a great place to ask questions of other people dating trans individuals
/r/asktransgender is a great place to ask questions of trans individuals themselves
/r/askGSM (gender and sexual minority) is a great place to ask questions of anyone of a gender or sexual minority. While it’s not specifically trans related it is, at times, nice to hear perspectives from a variety of sexual minorities.
Huffington Post article: “How to Bed a Trans Man” is written from the perspective of a gay trans guy, but was helpful for me as a straight woman as well.
Tranifesto is a blog written by author Matt Kailey. He has a great perspective on the world and has a number of helpful posts.
TransQueerNation is a free member-only discussion board site with lots of information.
Hey, internet. I’m Steph.
I’ve always been an “ally”. People are people and I believe they should be allowed to do what makes them happy (unless that’s killing babies, but you get the point). I helped organize the GSA’s Day of Silence at my high school. I’ve run Minneapolis’ Big Gay Race three years in a row.
My exposure to transfolk and trans-related issues before meeting Matt was absolutely zero. The image in my head of “trans” was incredibly vague, if not non-existent. I’d never met an openly trans person and I’d never even seen pictures of anyone, other than Chaz Bono, who was to my knowledge a transgender individual.
Matt is my boyfriend, but when he told me he was a trans guy our relationship was still quite new.
A few months ago I sent a cute guy a message through an online dating site. We messaged back and forth for a few days before setting up our first date.
Based on my interest in wine and the appeal of an intoxicated first impression we had dinner and drinks. We talked for hours over two flights of wine, two entrees, and bacon covered dessert. Having never smiled so much in my life, I talked him into walking across one of Minneapolis’ many beautiful bridges with me. At one point he snuck his hand in mine. I beamed.
I’d parked right near the restaurant and not wanting to end our date just yet I offered to drive him over to his car (two blocks, ladies and gentlemen… I was so into him). In my car, my beloved Saab, he asked me if he could kiss me. Matt was, and had been all night, unlike any of the other suitors I’d met online. I can’t remember if my response was of course or simply nodding my head, but I drove home that night with butterflies.
The next day or text message conversation was limited compared to those prior. We were both working and in hindsight I’m sure he was frightened to inform me of his “situation”. One glass of wine into the evening, I said (quite crassly, because I’d waited all day for him to ask me first) that we should go on a second date. The next few text messages are hard to recap, so here they are verbatim:
Re-reading that my response seems so calm. Honestly? I was in an absolute panic.
Let’s rewind for a minute…
Throughout my college career I only seriously dated one guy. Let’s call him Brandon. Brandon and I got engaged toward the end of our Junior year. That summer I took a trip to the West Coast to visit a close friend and his newlywed wife. My relationship with Brandon had already been rocky, but seeing the joy my friend and his wife shared created even more doubt. Over and over in my head I assured myself that I deserved to feel the spark that my Oregonian friends had. I gave Brandon back his ring the day I landed in Minnesota. Our breakup was rocky, but I learned a lot about myself and what I was looking for in a partner.
Around the beginning of the new year I opened an account on OkCupid account. I went on dates with 4 or 5 guys and exclusively saw (and broke up with) one other guy before Matt and I started talking. My online experience was similar to that of a lot of women… Meaningful conversations with a few fellas, but an overwhelming number of sexual advances from creeps.
Anyway, the story at hand…
I’m thankful that I had google at my fingertips as Matt came out to me. I immediately googled “trans guy” came across a list of 10 Things Not to Say to a Trans Person:
- “Have you had ‘the operation’?”
- “Which bathroom do you use?”
- “If you combed your hair a certain way, walked a certain way, did ____ a certain way, you would be more masculine/feminine.”
- “When did you decide to become transgender/transsexual?”
- “You pass really well.”
- “I thought you’d be a monster – but you’re just a normal person!”
- “How do you have sex?”
- “I can still see the woman (or the man) in you.”
- “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”
- “What does being a man (or a woman) mean to you?”
Given the fact that we’d intended to have sex with each other eventually these rules didn’t all apply. I asked him about hormone therapy, top surgery, his transition timeline, his junk–for lack of a better word–and even sex. I asked questions that I would never feel the need to ask a cis-gender male, but I did my best to be (and having asked Matt after-the-fact I believe I succeeded in being) respectful.
A lot of questions came up, but not necessarily all at once and definitely not all that night. Transitioning is a process and so is understanding what it means to date a trans person.
So, I began that process with Matt.
More on that process in part 2…
Hi. My name is Matt.
I like rock climbing and yoga. I have a degree in creative writing, work in online communications, and have a passion for outdoor activities. I also wasn’t born with a male body.
At various points in my life I have identified as a woman, gender non-conforming, a transgender man, and a non-cisgender-man.
Right now I live happily in stealth mode, but it’s been a process, and stealth life wasn’t always what I wanted.
Though it’s often argued in my family as to when they knew I was trans (mom says 3 or 4, dad says 9 or 10), I knew that something was weird when I was 7 or 8, knew definitively that I was not in the right body when I was 10 or 11, and was able to put the term “transgender” to my feelings when I was 14.
I remember being asked by the younger kids in middle school if I was a girl or a boy, and I remember being just as confused as they were.
But once I had a term, I was able to do research and I was able to understand that I was able to go through a process to feel whole and complete within my own body.
However, I had a lot of demons as a result of being confused in my body for so long as well as a lot of other things–because it’s rarely just one thing that gives you so many demons that you want to die. And I did want to die. Eventually I tried really hard to die when I was a freshman in high school. I failed to die, though.
As scary as that time was for me and my family, a lot of good things happened. For one, my parents realized that I was unhappy and that my unhappiness wasn’t arbitrary. For another, the therapists I was seeing realized that I had full-blown Gender Identity Disorder. Which meant that I was on the path to alleviating my dysphoria.
High school was mostly a time where I was content being uncomfortable. I learned how to let dysphoria wash over me instead of stopping me. It would drench me in sadness and anxiety but I would keep going; I needed to keep going; there was a light at the end and I was adamant to reach it. I relied on meditation to help me process my dysphoria.
I used my high school graduation money to legally change my name when I turned 18 in May of 2008. I then went off to college and played on a women’s soccer team. Yes, that’s right. I played NCAA womens college soccer. I wasn’t out and proud as a trans man though. My team knew and they loved me like a little brother, but I was never able to physically transition while playing for the team. So, following my sophomore season I decided to quit. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I felt it was for the best.
I had been active in the Christian organizations on my campus for most of college, attending bible studies and group praise sessions many nights a week, even though I identified as an agnostic Buddhist. I joined a men’s bible study after quitting the soccer team and this was my very first experience being stealth. As wonderful as it was to be seen as a man so fully it also provided me with a lot of additional anxiety. What if they found out? I was in the most conservative environment that a liberal university can provide as a stealth trans man. Not the most nerve calming place to be.
But nothing ever happened. We studied the book of John, discussed what it meant to be good men, good people, and men of god. We talked about how to treat people well; how to use our anger, fear and aggression for righteous causes; and how to be strong against the trials of the world. We would also make multiple trips every week to a local house church for dinner and to laugh with the wonderful Korean family that ran it. Though these brothers of mine didn’t know, they were giving me my first real education at what it meant to be a man and they reinforced the disjointed socialization I had as a kid. I’m still not religious, but that semester/year was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.
And then my then-girlfriend encouraged me to finally start testosterone.
I started topical testosterone in March 2011 and testosterone injections in May 2011.
My senior and final year of college was just a pubescent blur. I lived with a bunch of great guys in the dorms, stealth and all.
I ended up getting the funds to pay for surgery by October of 2011 and set up a surgery date in January 2012. My mom and then-girlfriend went down with me to Florida for my surgery and it went pretty great.
If it sounds like I’m skipping through most of these big life events, you’re probably picking up on the fact that while this big events were important, I’ve never felt like they defined me. Being trans never really felt part of me, and the process to right myself was less about feeling more like a man and more about curing myself from a chronic pain.
College wrapped itself up, I broke up with the girl I was dating, I moved to a new city in a new state and I started my life over.
And then I met the woman of my dreams. Enter: Steph.