Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression

by Joanna Poppyfield, student

Note: This post contains images that are NSFW.

bodySince I began my transition from living as a male to living as a female between my sophomore and junior year of college, my mother often expresses her pity for me at my “disability,” as she calls it. She refers to my penis.

When I began my medical transition — that is to say I started taking hormones — it was assumed that I would have surgery to “fix my problem.” Sure, there was always the option to not have the surgery, but it was often presented as less valid. I felt like there was no other option but to have surgery, or else I’d never be a “true girl.”

I’ve been living the past four years as a trans*woman — someone who is assigned a male sex and gender at birth, but instead identifies as a female — but I’ve felt feminine ever since I comprehended what feminine meant. I attached the words feminine and girl later on in my life.

As a result of my transition, I’ve grown hips, breasts, longer hair, smoother skin, my lips have plumped ever so slightly. Most importantly for me, my waist grew curvier, more feminine. I was so delighted in my junior year of college when I showed off some new curvy jeans I had just bought and made my girlfriends jealous of my curvaceous hips and butt.

But the most important part of my transition for me was having people come to understand me as a woman. I can’t describe it all that articulately, but I loved how people treated me. It felt right. Sure, the sexism can get just a tad bit annoying at times, but I felt like I now had a license to be me.

All of this happiness is not in spite of having a penis. Rather, my penis has no bearing on my happiness. If I lived in my perfect world, I’d be equally happy having a penis or a vagina. I honestly don’t think it would affect my personal happiness. But the reality is that in the world we occupy today, my having a penis has made me horribly unhappy and depressed, not for internal reasons, but because of the challenges it presents in my everyday life, and the way people treat me differently as a result of it.

First off, in the media’s coverage of transgender people often focuses around surgery and medical care, like Lisa Ling’s portrait of five trans*people . And when they chat with younger kids, they always frame their angst in terms of their body, specifically their genitalia.

I want to state very clearly — I don’t think that surgery is bad, either way. I think for many people it is not only incredibly healing, but absolutely necessary to their mental health and survival. However, my problem is the dominant trend in media coverage to always contextualize transgender people in terms of their physical transition from one sex to another, because not all trans*people have surgery, nor want surgery, nor can afford surgery. And by largely ignoring that aspect of the transgender community, the media makes that choice seem less acceptable and less valid.

Secondly, dating and sex suck. I’ve been asked onto many dates, and have had every single offer except one revoked when I told them I had not (yet) had surgery. They always tell me they’d be interested “if it weren’t for the dick.”

Every guy’s greatest fear is that they’ll be about to bag a girl, only to find out — GASP — that she has a dick! Which means that she’s a dude, which means he’s gay, etc., etc., down that rabbit hole of bullshit. (I’ve been told similar phenomena happens in the lesbian community, although to a much lesser extent, but I wouldn’t know from first hand experience.)

Of all the shit I’ve gone through post-transition (trust me, it’s been a lot), nothing compares to having guy after guy telling me that they like me, they’d even go as far as fuck me — missionary, of course, maybe cowgirl if I felt adventurous — if only I didn’t have that extra limb down there.

I’m not saying that every female-oriented guy needs to be attracted to trans*women, or needs to be ok fucking someone with an atypical female body type. But I do think this demonstrates how we as a society need to seriously grow up.

First, genitalia do not determine your gender, or even your sex. There is often a lot of tension around this subject, but I feel like more and more people are starting to understand that gender and sex are constructed spectrums, not scientific dichotomies. (Which is also why I find the terms male-bodied and female-bodied highly cissexist, although that’s a topic for another post)

So if you fuck a “chick with a dick,” you’re not automatically gay (or straight, if a lesbian). You are someone who was attracted to and fucked a female identified person who has different genitalia than most women do. But she’s still a woman. (Also, what’s so bad about being perceived as gay or bisexual? Again, topic for another post.)

Secondly, as a society, we all need to reevaluate how we understand our sexual desire.

The one time I had sex was with a mostly straight guy who’d never had sex with a trans*woman before. He was polite, he asked questions and we learned from each other. It was a new experience for both of us.

In the end, he said the sex didn’t really differ, me having a penis instead of a vagina, from the rest of the girls he’s had sex with. Granted, he wasn’t sure how things would work out in the beginning, but we had just as fun a time.

Often, the fear and stigma of being with someone who has an atypical body type, especially the fear and stigma about having sex with trans*women, clouds a person’s ability to allow themselves to be attracted to that person.

Most guys don’t give me a chance, when in fact, they might have a really fun time with me (both in and out of bed.) And that’s what kills me — that they are putting their fears and ignorance before their genuinely expressed attraction for me.

I’m not saying all female-oriented people should jump at the opportunity to fuck a trans*women. Some people genuinely hate penises, and I can’t argue with that. But we should all ask ourselves, what’s really important when choosing a partner/s? Does their genitalia REALLY matter all that much? If yes, then that’s totally fine! I won’t try and change that. But if not, then consider giving me and other trans*women a chance.

So in short, I’ll probably have surgery, just because I want to hook up and sleep with random guys I meet at parties, or maybe someday, have a significant other. But I just wish I didn’t live in a world in which I had to go through an expensive surgery and months of hell so I could be packaged in a way that didn’t threaten people’s baseless insecurities.

“Joanna Poppyfield” loves to challenge the world and challenge herself.

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17 thoughts on “Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression

  1. […] I penned a post on STATIC entitled “Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression“ (NSFW) in which I opened up about my sex life, sexuality and gender identity to analyze […]

  2. […] I was recently pointed to this post about transition and dealing with the complications of being trans and female. […]

  3. A friend just sent this to me and we’ve each learned a lot from it. I’m going to pass it on to other people as well.

    I’m sorry that you have to do the work of educating other people (I hate always having to do it in the areas where my perspective is in the minority), but these three minutes alone have shifted how I think and it’s truly a special thing to be able to have that effect on people.

    Hope to see more of your writing and hope to maybe chat one day in person.

  4. […] Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression ( […]

  5. Anonymous says:

    So I just want to preface that this will probably come across as very rude and intrusive – which is not my intent – I’m simply very curious. If you feel uncomfortable answering by all means you don’t have to.

    My question is how exactly did you have sex with the guy you described in the article? Since you don’t have a vagina you couldn’t have vaginal intercourse. Did you have anal intercourse? Also did he perform oral sex on you or otherwise stimulate your penis in any way?

    I am sympathetic towards straight guys who wouldn’t want to have sex with a pre-op trans*woman. It’s not like the woman’s penis is some incidental thing that you can ignore. Genitalia are (obviously) a big part of sex. And I can see how a straight guy might be worried he’d have to stimulate it with his hands/mouth, etc – especially if he’s not into anal intercourse (possibly due to fear of being seen as gay) then oral/manual sex is all that there is left really.

    • JPoppyfield says:

      Originally, I performed oral sex on him. He said he would be ok getting me off too, but I was a little uncomfortable with that originally (I’d never shown it to anyone before). So we had anal intercourse for a little while and then later on I let him get me off.

      Agreed, you can’t ignore the penis, and I don’t think you should. Like I said in the post, I don’t think everyone, or even most people, who’re female-oriented needs to be ok fucking trans*women. My problem is when people don’t sincerely and critically look at their attraction to determine what they are attracted to, what repulses them and why, instead letting their fears and ignorance dictate who they sleep with. With the guy I slept with, he could have let his initial shock stop him from, what he said, was a great time. And it was a learning experience, but he learned that my genitalia played little part in his attraction to me. Not everyone is like that- which is totally awesome and fine! But I think we should bee critical off our sexual attractions to understand what motivates them so we don’t perpetuate systemic oppression that already severely affects trans*people.

  6. Susan says:

    I think social-gender disphoria and physical-gender disphoria are two somewhat distinct things, and while they can occur together they also occur separately. It isn’t possible to generalize a trans* experience.

    Second, I find shaming of people who are attracted to specific genitalia distasteful. “Gay” and “straight” aren’t the right words for it, certainly, but I know my sexuality is genitalia rather than gender or sex specific, being into people of multiple genders with similar genital configurations and having a very awkward moment with a cis*woman when I realized I wasn’t actually “bi” after all. While I am all for “consider trying it; you might like it!”, I am made uncomfortable by anything that implies an entitlement to sex.

    • Tom says:

      “I’m not saying all female-oriented people should jump at the opportunity to fuck a trans*women. Some people genuinely hate penises, and I can’t argue with that. But we should all ask ourselves, what’s really important when choosing a partner/s? Does their genitalia REALLY matter all that much? If yes, then that’s totally fine! I won’t try and change that. But if not, then consider giving me and other trans*women a chance.”

      I don’t see that as shaming people who are attracted to genitalia, but rather encouraging people to explore their attraction to see what most in their attraction towards people. There’s a big difference between shaming and being critical, and I think she did this in a really respectful way. I know it’s making me think a lot more.

  7. Lauren says:

    Fantastic post. I strongly agree with all of this and think it needs to be said. People have, I think, been taught to fear or find “icky” the other set of genitals from what their orientation means they’re attracted to (if gay/lesbian/straight.) It’s always struck me as kind of goofy. Orientation is a real thing, okay, but it’s scarce to hear someone say, “I’m penis-sexual.” or “I only fuck people with vaginas.” because we think of sex in terms of gender, not parts.

    Whether you decide on surgery or not, I wish you the best of luck. You’re so brave, eloquent, and smart, I have no doubt you’ll thrive either way.

  8. gregory says:

    thank you for writting

  9. Heather says:

    This is the best article I’ve read in a long, long time. Thank you for this.

  10. esqg says:

    For what my opinion is worth, this post is great. It doesn’t matter how many people will be concern trolls, make false analogies, think you’re trying to police their sexuality, find any way to be defensive about this–though those reactions are an acknowledgment of a sort. Challenging people’s anxieties and preconceptions about their partners’ bodies, challenging their discomfort with their own attractions, is so important and this post does it well.

    I still remember learning “your partner’s genitals are for their pleasure, not yours” (Whipping Girl by Serano) and how that doesn’t contradict sexual orientation at all. It means as you said, people who want to say otherwise “are putting their fears and ignorance before their genuinely expressed attraction for me”.

    • esqg says:

      Should not have said “it doesn’t matter”, as the effects clearly do. I meant only that when people argue or push back, it doesn’t mean they won’t be moved to think /change.

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