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The Ace In the Pack

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When I was 18, I met a guy. He suited me. He was the first person I ever enjoyed having sex with (and he certainly wasn’t the first person I tried to have sex with). We moved in together, we planned to get married. We stayed together for three and a half years, and ended the relationship on a mutual basis.

I think the person I was back then did love him. But when I came out as trans, he couldn’t understand. And I became a more confident person, a person who had grown too much to fit the box he wanted me to.

I don’t for one second miss him, or wish that we had got married. But he is undeniably a part of my story.

Recently, he admitted (though I had for some time suspected) that he is asexual. This has left me feeling rather odd. For three and a half years of my life I pursued a sexual relationship with somebody who was completely indifferent to it, and would often have rather not had sex.

I think I had always sort-of known. Early on, I placed a moratorium on masturbation- because I knew we would never have sex if he did. Although he agreed to it, I still feel a little strange now about having done it.

I feel like the consensuality of every time we had sex has been called into question. I see those three and a half years now as being not normal, that I imposed rules that were unfair. That, if only we had been able to talk about it, we might have come to a solution that suited us better than whatever that was.

Ace erasure is definitely part of the problem, but also I know the kind of person he is. I can’t see him admitting to someone that sex holds no appeal to him, because he knows the value of it in terms of cementing romantic relationships. He’s willing to play the game (as best he can) if it gets him what he wants- a nuclear family.

Right now, I feel all kinds of guilty. Although I know that some people manage to make asexual/allosexual relationships work, I couldn’t knowingly consent to be in one. Is that discrimination or a legitimate preference? I’m monoamorous- I need the love of one person to be happy. I want to get sexual fulfilment from that person, because personally, the romantic bond I experience through sex is dependent on it being a shared experience.

I’m still friends with him. Could I watch him get into a relationship with someone else, lying by omission every time he gets into bed with them? Or would I say, “You know he doesn’t care for it?”

Honestly, I can’t say how I actually feel about this, because I just don’t know. I know it’s hard being ace, because you’re excluded from this whole mating ritual thing society has going on, where it assumes that everyone experiences sexual attraction. I feel like I did a bad thing, to be honest. But I also knew that I hadn’t put his asexuality into words in my head. I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t think he did either- I think he thought everybody probably felt like that. Had sex because it was what people do.

It’s probably going to trouble me for some time. All I can do is move on in my life making sure the relationships I’m in are fulfilling for all concerned. He is a part of my past-and that he will stay.

How do trans people… y’know?

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Without portraying myself as too much of a pervert, I am utterly fixated on the sex lives of others. I have an almost inexhaustible curiosity for what, exactly they do when nobody is around.

By the same token, I don’t have any interest in pornography. I see zero titillation ensuing from watching two complete strangers frick-frack in whatever delightful way takes their fancy. Because I’m nothing more than coldly, unsexually curious about other people’s sex lives.

So, I 100% understand that cis people’s apparent obsession with trans bodies and trans sex isn’t entirely perverse. A decent chunk of you are just curious as to what goes down when the lights are out.

Me too. See, I’ve been having sex as trans for nearly eight years now. I’d hate to think I was doing it wrong. And it was partly to this end that I attended a safe sex workshop for trans men.

Previously when I’d seen “trans safe sex” workshops advertised, they were all geared towards trans men who have sex with women, with a little bit tagged on the end about making sure to get regular smear tests.

However, this one was great fun- we opened up by trying to get a condom on a dildo we couldn’t see in the quickest time. It took me the longest- which, as two of the attendees had never put a condom on anything before, was particularly shameful. After that, we got to discussing our hopes and fears about sex.

Now, I’m not going to breach confidentiality by discussing anything that was said, but during the discussion a few things became obvious.

Firstly, that talking about sex is important and that those of us who want to have it should feel able to talk about it.

Secondly, nobody but you knows what strap-on you want.

Finally, that there is no one way for trans people to have sex, in the same way that there is no one way for anybody to have sex.

In September of last year I visited the sadly now-closed Institute of Sexology, which was an exhibition that combined history and art to provoke thought on the nature of sex. Particularly moving, I found, was a piece by Neil Bartlett called Would You Mind? This sought to anonymously ask people of all ages and genders about their sex lives, and also ask them what they wanted to know about the sex lives of others.

Nearly 20,000 people completed questionnaires which now comprise part of a collection in the Wellcome Library. I was one of the last, meaning the questionnaire I filled out was entirely comprised of questions submitted by the general public rather than Bartlett.

The snippets I read were amazing. And I couldn’t help but think, on the last day of the exhibition, that it was a shame to see it all go. Because cis or trans, there’s no right way to have sex, and I think we forget that sometimes.

Asking trans people about sex shouldn’t be an interrogation, it should be a discussion, and only if all parties want to talk about. So, the next time someone asks me how I have sex, my response is going to be, “how do you?”