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A Sex Educator Explains What To Know Before Having Sex With Your Trans Partner

In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about what to expect the first time you have sex with a trans man.

Q: I’m dating a trans man and it’s going great. We haven’t had sex yet, but we want to. I’m cis, and have never had slept with a trans person before, so I’m a little nervous because I don’t know what to expect. How do I talk to my partner? Where can I go to learn more?

Reader, I’m going to start by saying that I wish everyone was this thoughtful before having sex with a new partner of any gender. Your question shows that you care about your partner’s comfort and satisfaction, and that you’re willing to educate yourself. That’s a really great way to start a new sexual relationship. So, get ready — you’re about to have a lot of conversation. (And fun!)

According to a 2019 study in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology, most trans men haven’t had bottom surgery, which is when a person changes their genitals to more closely match their gender identity. So, your partner may have a vagina but might choose to call it something else. Many trans men use different terms for their vulva and vagina because those words are often associated with a “female” body and experience. Some trans men might say “front hole” or “internal genital” or another term that de-genders that body part. And some stick with any other myriad of slang words we have for vulvas and vaginas.

But there’s no way to know your partner’s preferred terminology — or even what genitals he has — without asking him. Try saying something like, “What word do you use for your genitals?” Straight up; doesn’t include any gendered language, and then you’ll know the right terminology to use.

Please note that I’m not saying that everyone should ask every trans person they know about the terminology they use for their genitals. This really only applies to people who are likely going to see those genitals soon: potential sex partners and medical professionals.

Once you know what to call your partner’s sexy parts, it’s time to get into what he likes doing with them. This can be done in two ways: sexy and straight up. If you choose the sexy route, work it into dirty talk. When you’re making out, ask him what he wants to do to you and tell him what you want to do to him. It’s a fun way to get the conversation going and to get a general idea of what he’s into.

And while sexy talk might suffice, you should probably also plan on having an out of bed conversation, too. If your partner is someone who’s pretty direct and open, you can ask them straight up. Try saying something like, “Our relationship is moving forward, and it’s really exciting to me, so I was kind of wondering if you wanted to talk about what we’re both into.” If he’s a little shyer or you already know he doesn’t really like talking about sex, you can start the conversation by telling him what you’re into. Being willing to be vulnerable is a great way to encourage someone you care about to be vulnerable as well.

You also mention that you’re feeling kind of nervous in your question, Reader, and I think you should share that with your partner! Saying something like, “You know I’ve never dated a trans guy before, and I'm so attracted to you, but this is all new to me, and I’m feeling really excited and a little bit nervous,” is honest and also lets him know exactly where you’re at. Chances are being open about that feeling can help you both through the conversation.

There’s no way for me to know what your partner is specifically into. He might be into wearing a strap on and penetrating you with it, or wearing a strap on and penetrating him. He might like giving oral sex but not receiving it or giving it and receiving it, or he might not be into oral at all. He might like digital penetration, but not strap-on penetration. He might like to perform sex acts on you but doesn’t want any sex acts performed on him. Just like any cis man or woman, there are likely a whole range of sex acts that he’s into — and a range that he’s not into.

As for where you should go to learn more, the short answer is: your partner. He’s an expert on his own body and his own experience, so he’s the person who can provide you with the best information. However, I always think that books — both fiction and non-fiction — are important when you’re trying to get a feel for an experience outside of your own. Check out this great list of books written by transgender people to get you started.

But remember: None of those authors speak for all trans people. Your boyfriend’s experience might have some similarities, but it will definitely have differences. So, get ready to have those conversations — and get excited! You’re about to learn about a new partner and have new experiences. How cool is that?