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Understanding Gender Play, Forced Feminization and
Gender Change, in the Context of the BDSM Community

(c) 2006, Mercedes Allen

Gender Play

Gender is more broadly defined than it had been in previous decades, but it can still be too narrow for comfort, for transpeople (and by "transgendered" or "transpeople," I am including both part-time players and transexuals who undergo the entire process -- there are many principles that affect all transpeople, no matter how different we may feel that we are from others in this category). We may never completely fit a societal definition of any one single gender. In fact, real women often have masculine traits, and real men often have feminine ones. Gender play is often about becoming who you are or identify as -- in a temporary manner, in the case of those who are able to identify as both genders -- and taking off the mask, if only for awhile.

To understand gender play and the gender player, one first must be aware of the full continuum of transgender states. Not all gender players are alike. The following definitions are my own, based on my own biases and how I hear the words used in the transgender community. However, these words are often defined very differently by different sources, and are sometimes the cause of extensive debate. It is less important to adhere to the definitions, though, than to understand the ideas behind them. Also, as with anything involving generalizations, you will need to keep in mind that not everyone will fit any one specific mold:

Transvestite: A transvestite enjoys dressing up as a woman purely for sexual pleasure. Once the rush is over, a transvestite will return to his or her own life, have no desire to otherwise appear as a person of the opposite sex, and will quite often feel shame about this impulse. This is the fetish end of the transgender spectrum -- there is something very different and non-fetish at the other end... but this by no means discounts the transvestite experience or makes it any less valid.

Crossdresser: Not quite the same as a transvestite, a crossdresser will often want to dress as a member of the opposite sex when the opportunity arises. A sexual element may or may not be present, but the drive is far more for personal comfort and psychological satisfaction. A crossdresser can often feel ironically more "real" in this state. It may or may not be a precursor of transexuality, but often the crossdresser is satisfied with living "part-time," or is far more afraid of the consequences of transition than of the pressures of living a double-life.

Androgynous (Genderfuck): Some people choose to play with gender in real life, for a wide number of reasons. For some, it can be to express both a feminine and masculine side. Others enjoy the "genderfuck" process by which they can challenge other peoples' beliefs and preconceptions. A few are even just out for shock value. Many of these also don't want to transition in reality, it simply serves an expression of an aspect of themselves, or their exhibitionistic side.

Drag Queen (King): The drag performer is most often the genderfuck player taking to the extreme, and very much into the art of performance. Many do it primarily to be entertainers, but there are also some who have crossdressing or transvestitic motivations -- just as easily as there are some who are aiming to transition, and have found the drag community a comfortable environment to transition in.

Transexual: A transexual is the proverbial "woman in a man's body" (or vice versa). She (in the case of a male-to-female) is more female than male in her mind, identifies with women, empathizes with women, and can be extremely uncomfortable with her male body. She will feel like she is always being forced to act a certain way to make other people happy, and not at all allowed to express who she truly is. She will also have become extremely tired of putting on this performance, and having to live a double-life as a crossdresser -- tired enough that she is willing to risk losing her loved ones, her job and everything else by changing her gender.

Intersexed: The intersexed are the furthest opposite end of the continuum, and can include a range of persons who for one reason or another have some physical traits of both genders. There are few true "hermaphrodites," but many more born with some form of physical gender variance, possibly as simple as Kleinfelter's Syndrome. One common source of intersex stems from Dr. John Money's contention in the 1970s that gender is learned, and not biologically ingrained. From this belief, it had been the practice of pediatricians for over a decade to "correct" any gender-ambiguous children and have them raised in a "normalized" way, usually by trimming an undersized penis to acceptable clitoral length, as well as other surgical and prescriptive methods. It wasn't discovered until far too late that many "corrected" children do indeed identify differently from the way they were raised, and can often tell that something is different about them.

For all of these forms of transgenderism, there are a number of possible causes. Just as it is now known that people can be genetically predispositioned toward homosexuality, some now feel that transgenderism may be similarily rooted. One theory gaining far more interest and credence is that of endocrine disruptors, chemicals which can affect the development of mental gender, which does not form in the infant at the same time as his or her physical gender. The best known example of this is DES (diethyl-stilbestrol), a synthetic estrogen which was administered to women in the late '60s and very early '70s as a "vitamin" which would help prevent miscarriage (and has demonstrated other severe side-effects in female children since, such as cervical cancer). It is now believed that the introduction of these things after physical gender forms in the infant but before mental gender develops can sway the latter process. Either way, "Gender Dysphoria" is still recognized as a mental illness in the DSM-IV, the "bible" of medical conditions (and it is for this reason that Alberta Health covers the cost of Gender Reassignment Surgery). However, this classification is largely being abandoned (for which reason all the other provinces' Health Care have delisted GRS), and it is rumored (and expected) that it will be reclassified as a biological condition in the forthcoming DSM-V.

In any case, gender play may occur in people of both physical genders (as male-to-female or female-to-male), and have a wide number of permutations which are not always obvious as gender play. For example, there is one form of "forced-feminization" in the lesbian community in which one partner wishes to be coerced to become more "feminine" in various ways, although this is not as well-known or discussed.

It is important to note that an interest in gender play does not necessarily indicate a desire to become a person of the opposite sex. It is also important to remember that who we are in our minds does not dictate who we love, and if someone has male-to-female inclinations, it does not necessarily mean by extension that (s)he wishes for a male partner (although taking hormones can sometimes influence this somewhat). Gender play can be an innocent diversion, or an indication of a deeply-rooted personal need: only the gender player can really determine where they fall on this continuum (and sometimes this takes a lot of time to be certain of). It does also happen, sometimes, that a person may change direction and may find themselves in a different point of that spectrum.

Forced Feminization

One of the most common gender play situations where the transgender and BDSM communities meet also draws up some of the most confusion and apprehension from the BDSM community.

"Forced feminization fantasy" is a consensual non-consent roleplay, in the same manner of a rape fantasy, and so it becomes edgeplay of a sort. It is a power exchange, not a power struggle, so limits must be clearly delineated. Clear communication and negotiation are mandatory, particularily on how far each participant wants to take the scene, on any situations (anal play, corset binding, oral sex, play "rape") or words that might trigger hurt feelings (not all submissives who enjoy this fantasy can stand to have words like "sissy," "pansy" or "fag" levelled at them), and what humiliation they find enjoyable in fantasy context versus what they truly find humiliating in an uncomfortable way. This requires each partner's honesty with both their partner and themselves, before, during and after the scene. Checking in with a partner during a scene would also be ideal; however, it is not easy to do so, since the submissive has already surrendered power and many forms of checking in would be disruptive -- perhaps some form of hierarchial red-yellow-green (stop, caution, OK) safewording works best. Someone who is not truly comfortable with the idea of playing on a transgender edge is perhaps not ready to play this scene at all. A person who is in a love-hate situation with their gender and / or gender dysphoria may be just as likely to throw themselves too far into a fantasy, and later turn and blame their partner for taking them to that extreme. If the triggers and sense of humiliation become too painful, it can cause emotional damage, or the submissive might even become violent.

As mentioned, forced feminization fantasy encorporates humiliation play, which generates controversy. For some submissives, humiliation becomes a blessed catharsis -- for others, it's something they might not be able to endure. And humiliation is different for everyone. For one submissive, the act of kneeling may seem simply proper role behaviour -- for another, it can be a far more emotional act of abasement. Similarily, for some, trigger words about one's age, gender, race, weight, appearance, job or ideologies can be very wounding, while for others, they might be a turn-on beyond any other. You are potentially breaking the psyche. They things must be very clearly defined.

There also can come a point at which something (i.e. crossdressing) switches from being a humiliation to being a reward. A dominant needs to be able to sense this, and the two need to have a clear understanding of the point at which it begins to be treated like a prize. This point can also signal that a deeper need has come out that should be supported and nurtured -- and responsibly-speaking should not still be treated as something negative and humiliating. In this situation, you are helping someone face something about themselves that they have been afraid to face. Not recognizing and reacting at this point can result in negative reinforcement and damage waged upon the transgendered person needing to come out.

Aside from issues of consensuality and humiliation, forced feminization has also raised some fears in the minds of some that there is a certain amount of hatred of women involved. The reasoning for this is that if the gender player finds it humiliating to become a woman, he must therefore think of being female as somehow less desireable or women as lesser beings. In fact, forced feminization is not about being forced to be female, but about being forced to be a "sissy," as a cathartic way of dealing with all the connotations that that word has been taught to have. And in the vast majority of forced feminization fantasy, the player does come to love their new life, and would not trade it for their old one. Moreso, transgendered submissives still tend to feel an overwhelming love, respect and admiration toward his/her Domme (or Dom), and comes to see transformation as a way of aspiring to beauty and other qualities that they admire.

Forced feminization fantasy can often indicate shame at a person's transgender impulses or a struggle to cope with them, as well as a need or desire for a stronger, more confident guiding hand through the process... and for someone else to make the decision that they cannot. Forced feminization can perhaps more strongly indicate a transexual drive in a person, but the gender player still may not want to transition (there are many reasons not to, which we will see later).

Forced feminization fantasy can involve costumes that seem more feminine than feminine, and this will sometimes give it a garish feel to the initiate. There can be a number of reasons for this -- I like to think of it as the kid in the candy store for the first time, who might gravitate toward the biggest, most attractive piece of candy, no matter how much more bitter it might be over the others. It's that feeling of first-time euphoria, of finally being able to be feminine at all.

One other aspect that can raise questions might be chastity play, which sometimes comes along for the ride. Chastity play can sometimes be a further symbol of shame, have roots in religious abstinence teaching, or represent a desire to be more fully dedicated to a Master's or Mistress' desires than their own. It can also stem from a love of teasing and denial play (which appears often in other areas of BDSM), or be a more symbolic way of forsaking male behaviour and fulfillment, in favour of a truer female experience.

The thing that has to be understood by both the gender player and his or her partner, however, is that forced feminization fantasy is a fantasy only. Someone who is truly needing to transition must make that decision for themselves, and find in themselves the strength to see it through. For all others, forced feminization fantasy is a temporary diversion.

Forced masculinization fantasy also exists in the BDSM community, even if it is not as prevalent. Many of the same rules apply, and there may be some unpredictability in any scene in which aggressive behaviour and apperance is encouraged.

Transitioning In The BDSM Community

Before considering pursuing actual gender change, one really needs to assess the consequences of this decision. This is a lengthy process (expect it to take from 2-6 years), and have a severely high cost -- perhaps not as much monetarily, but a high cost in nearly every other aspect of life. Spouses often cannot adjust to the total transition (although some do) -- remember that this process may conflict with their own orientation and needs. As well, parents, siblings, other family members, friends... any or all of them might have difficulty accepting, and the potential for alienation is daunting. There can also be issues about custody of one's children, regardless of their reactions to the transition. Transitioning people stand to lose their jobs, their homes (or their apartments), their anonymity in public places, their community, and far more. Too, the process is not reversible.

Although there is the sense of bravado that says "if he (or she) doesn't like it, then it's better not knowing him (or her)," but the truth is that rejection always hurts, regardless. What's more, once you're out to someone, your origins in the other gender may become a recurring point of contention in a relationship -- it may be thrown in one's face frequently, or one's partner may start seeking out your male traits (physical, personality, etc. -- or female in the case of FTMs) and find fault with them, whereas he or she might have remained otherwise oblivious. If this doesn't happen, then at the very least there is still the risk that in your partner's eyes, you might cease to be (for example) "the cute girl who likes club music and visiting the art galleries" and become just "the transsexual" -- as if there are no other interesting facets about you beyond that point. This can especially be a problem in that we as transwomen are psychologically female (or at least mostly so), but the stigma of being "transsexual" will often make others think of you more as "male" or "ex-male," than "female." (Although I use MTFs often in my examples, these things quite often apply to FTMs in a similar or parallel manner, such as here). There are ways, of course, of dealing with the rejection, and they often make a person stronger by so doing, but I list this here as something a person must be prepared to face.

Everyone's choice is different and valid. There is no shame in hiding a transgendered past -- however, this can lead to the same sense of living behind a mask as the one that drove the transperson to transition in the first place. Also, if a partner can tell that a transperson is hiding elements of their past (i.e. "why don't you have any childhood photos?"), this can sow distrust in the relationship.

Gender change in Alberta starts with getting a referral to one of the two recognized gender therapists in Alberta (both in Edmonton): Drs. Warneke or Brooks. The latter is on a reduced workload of one day per week and may be winding down his practice. The waiting list to see the former is approximately nine months to a year. So just getting started can take a long time. These psychiatrists are considered the "gatekeepers," and you need to have a signature from one or the other of them to approve you for Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS), plus a signature from one other psychiatrist or doctor. Generally, they will require you to go through a real-life test of living as the opposite sex for at least 6-9 months (which is relaxed slightly from the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, the recognized rule of thumb for dealing with transexuals, which recommends a full year), before referring you for surgery (which is currently being performed only in Montreal). The psychiatrists may prescribe hormones for you during this time, or refer you to an endocrinologist for this purpose, although your G.P. is actually able to prescribe hormones if he feels comfortable with doing so (most are not). GRS is covered by Alberta Health Care -- this is the only province to do so. Other provinces delisted it when they declassified "gender dysphoria" as being a mental illness -- but Alberta still insists that it is mental illness, so it continues to cover it. Curiously, gender dysphoria is the only "mental illness" on record that can actually be considered cured at all (rather than going into remission, like other mental illnesses do), let alone by a physical surgery.

Much of the difficulty in transitioning is learning to pass, something that some transwomen may never completely be able to do. If gender change is begun later in life, then for MTFs, testosterone has already wreaked it's havoc on the body (heavy body and facial hair, head hair loss, enlarged bone structure and hands, adam's apple, deep voice), and will prove troublesome for the transwoman. Electrolysis and laser can deal with facial hair, expensive transplants can help restore head hair (the hormones also help restore follicles that are not already dead), but otherwise there are some things that cannot be changed. MTFs often have to attend voice therapy, as hormones and removal of the testes (contrary to popular belief) will not change the voice. Bust size will be determined by genetics (the rule of thumb is to quess about one cup size less than one's mother or sister), but can take 4-8 years to arrive at.

Transitioning at a younger age is far more preferential, but of course not always possible. There has not always been as much information about gender change out there (even some doctors now still are unfamiliar with the process or who you would need to be referred to), and society is only just now becoming more accepting of transpeople. However, I do know of at least 4 people who transitioned when between the ages of 48-62, so it is possible -- but extremely rare, and not often done (almost never done outside Alberta, in fact, as it may be against the HB Standards of Care, and there are concerns of blood clotting during the surgeries, especially if there are any other health anomalies present).

FTMs have a much easier time of passing physically... at first (although it takes longer to become comfortable with the suppression of emotion, aggressive body language and the confident taking of power, to pass on a more subtle level, and not be thought of perhaps as a gay man). Testosterone is a powerful hormone and will work quickly to deal with biological cycles, deepen voice somewhat and even grow facial and body hair (the amount and pace on this will be also partly determined by genetics). At later stages of the process, though, FTMs will have to go a bare minimum of 2 surgeries (sometimes 6 or more -- see later) and the results are still not completely authentic-looking (in the cases of metoidioplasty and phalloplasty), at least according to some FTMs' estimation. Too, since many FTMs gravitate toward the lesbian community, there is often a dramatic sense of loss and betrayal when that community turns its collective back on someone who comes out as a transman, as usually happens. Even pansexual rights advocate and writer Patrick Califia (who had been well-known and respected in the lesbian, gay and BDSM communities before) has been somewhat ostracized since coming out as a transman.

Finally, it has to be understood that there are some areas in which a transperson may never find full acceptance. With MTFs, a transwoman can go through years of hormone therapy, full GRS surgery, experience the discrimination towards women as well as the different expectations that occur, experience rape, spousal abuse and many of the other hardships of being female, experience hormonal biorhythms, and sometimes even experience far more in the form of violence and discrimination toward transexuals -- and at the end of the process, may still never be accepted as female, especially by lesbian and / or feminist circles, or by homophobic men who would still view a relationship with a post-op transwoman as a "gay" experience. Even some of a transexual's strongest supporters might suddenly turn around and object to having to share a public washroom. For FTMs, there is also the constant realization that the current process does not make it easy to pass with one's partner, particularily due to the appearance and function of the genitals, and there is a constant fear of having to explain everything. For many, the final objective becomes to blend in as much as possible, and never let anyone know about his or her past and previous physical gender -- something that can be difficult or impossible for some transwomen, and also something which continues to leave the transgender community fairly isolated, with few advocates who choose to remain, support, advise, and champion their brothers' and sisters' cause.

And yet, for many of us, it is far worth these hardships -- a testament to just how strong and deeply-rooted this need can be.

Loving a Transperson

Wherever they may be on the transgender continuum, this will come much easier if you are just beginning the relationship with the person. If you are in an established or long-standing relationship and have learned only recently about their interest in gender play, it can be a very jarring experience. Please understand that it is a very difficult thing to have to explain to a lover -- and the stronger the love is, the greater the fear of losing the partner. For men, there is a horrific stigma attached to any behaviour that could be considered "sissy" or feminine. For women, it is not so taboo to be "butch," but in the lesbian community (where many gender playing FTMs gravitate), there is a definite spite toward anyone who is seen to be trading in their embrace of womanhood, seemingly in exchange for male privilege (it's seen as a betrayal of the "one for all and all for one" sense in that community).

So when I say that you (as someone new to gender play) need to be understanding, I say it with the full acknowledgement that they (the gender player) also need to be patient for your sake. Part of the latter may mean starting slow and giving you little tastes of what they're asking for at a time... so it may seem for awhile that their interests are growing. Remember that you as their partner are still entitled to your limits, and have the right to put on the brakes from time to time. If you are joining them in their desire for gender play, this will probably be a time of great enthusiasm for them... you will have to be gentle but firm, when you need to slow them down.

Feel secure in your relationship. Coming out about one's gender issues is a very difficult thing to do -- if they have confided in you, there must be a strong bond of trust and desire there toward you. Your partner loves you enough to want to share a very important and very intimate part of their life with you, despite the fear of doing so. Again, gender play does not necessarily indicate anything about your partner's orientation -- the two are entirely different facets, and someone who plays an MTF role can still love a woman, for example (in fact, a majority of MTF-oriented crossdressers still identify as "heterosexual" or sometimes as the more confusing phrase "male lesbians").

It is also important to know how they identify. If they identify as truly being the opposite sex, it will mean the world to them for you to accept and acknowledge them as such. If they're playing at a transformation fantasy as a temporary thing only, then it will be much more awkward and embarassing if you accept them too much as the opposite sex. Everyone's personal needs are different.

It is the gender player's responsibility to be patient (and sometimes this will mean putting some desires on the back-burner), to accept that their partner's enthusiasm may not be as great (and may wane from time to time), and above all to be completely honest, to the best of their ability. For example, it sometimes takes a great deal of time for a gender player to know where they are on the continuum. But for what they do know about themselves and their needs (as well as every other aspect of their lives), they must be completely up-front. Probably, most gender players will fall within the "crossdresser with possibly some uncertainty about being transexual" (or suspect that they are transexual but cannot transition for real-life reasons) range. If that nagging sense of being transexual is there, then the gender player should not deny it, nor should a partner be afraid of it. There are many acceptable agreements that loving couples can reach over this, without one partner having to compromise their identity or orientation. It may be occasionally difficult, but certainly can be done.

A gender player will at times have traits of their birth gender which will creep up and seem awkward or funny at times. In the beginning, it is best to resist laughing at these quirks, and instead help correct them (if that's what the partner wants), or learn to shrug them off (if they're only playing part-time and not worried about the quirks). This can be a very insecure time for a gender player, and laughter will be one of the worst things they can face. If something catches you unexpectedly and you can't help but laugh, try to turn it around by making them feel that you are intending to laugh with them, and not at them. Gentle correction also helps, so the person can feel as though you're helping them to not look funny in the future, and strengthening their ability to fulfill the role.

Although we as transwomen are largely psychologically female, for example, we do not have the benefit of having been socialized (raised) as such by through adolescence, with parents to guide us into what we're supposed to know, and peers to share the things that we're not supposed to know (so to speak). This not only means that we are at a disadvantage in the beginning regarding things like makeup, dating, comportment, fashion and the like, we are also coming into a world where women are expected to be warm and intimate, while we had been trained (as males) to be aloof and stoic. Consequently, there will always be the potential for these awkward moments.

Most of these tips are addressed toward part-time trans-players, such as crossdressers or transvestites, mostly because they will be a little more prevalent in the scene. For those undergoing transition, there are a few more direct realities to be prepared for.

Post-operative Transwomen

First and foremost, it is absolutely imperative to accept a transwoman as her chosen gender. This is her identity -- she has become the person who is true to her. For you to not accept this, or to throw anything different in her face (even in an arguement), that is one of the most hurtful things you could do, and could very well be a deal-breaker in a relationship.

If the surgery is recent, there will be some recovery time required before she can have sex with a partner, and far more before any particularily significant genital play can be done. Make sure that you have found out from her what is safe at that point in time, and what is not. Also keep in mind that her lack of sensation in that region may make her unaware if play is going too far or becoming damaging -- you will have to use your own caution and observation, as well. Additionally, it may take some time before that region rediscovers the endorphin rush point at which something changes form pain to pleasure. Full enjoyment may take awhile to return.

Sensation will vary considerably depending on how recent her surgery was, as well -- it takes some time for the nerve endings to reform and strengthen. On the plus side, any attention that you give the region at this point in time also helps the reconstruction of nerve endings to develop faster.

While the surgery now yields a very authentic-looking result, there will be some physical differences from most women. Her depth will only be as far as her previous length, since the genital is shaped from her previous tissue. Likewise, a surgically-created vagina does not lubricate naturally, and regular care must be taken.

Transwomen in Transition

It is just as imperative to accept a transitioning woman as female, because during transition, she is going to be very self-conscious as it is, about her "deficiencies," and feeling insecure about them. She is also at a stage where she is desperately learning to "pass" as female (which is more difficult for MTFs), and each time she is "read" will feel like a failure. She will need your confidence and support, and will certainly not want to feel like an embarassment to you or as something inferior in your eyes.

Love play and genital play are often difficult experiences for women in transition. They quite often feel a very strong hate for and shame of their existing genitalia, and will often want to do as little as possible to remind them of their existence. Discuss this very clearly with her before playing, to find out where her limits are -- these are often hard limits, and pushing them is not a good idea.

Hormonally, she might be very well on the way to womanhood. We sometimes joke between the sexes about hormones, but it takes the process of transition to see how dramatic a difference they really do make. A transwoman does not menstruate, but she does develop a biorhythm that in the beginning can be unpredictable. She also becomes far more emotional, and the process can actually be frightening for her, without her even being aware of what's causing it. There are a lot of ups and downs in this time, and the both of you will have to learn how to ride the waves. Also, some report depression during hormone therapy, others report an overwhelming sense of calming. There is a loss of strength as fat and muscle mass are redistributed, and there is also usually some loss of energy.

It also takes considerable time and energy and even frustration to learn to come out of that shell of aloofness, "toughness" and stoicism that is drilled into male children so rigorously through childhood, before that vulnerable woman can come out. It is a very liberating thing for them, but that does not mean that it will come easy or that they will be unafraid of it. This is a process that will require some patience and support, as it will probably involve some continual reminders and an ongoing adjustment of mindset.

Sex is also becoming very different for transitioning transwomen. Their physical drive changes, and their old equipment tends to lose its function (but they have not yet learned to have female orgasms, either). Instead, sex becomes a more cerebral experience, more psychological, and meshes very nicely with the BDSM side of things for a more fulfilling experience in this context.

Transitioning women are often on guard against "Tranny Chasers," who will often either be men who are experimenting with gay experience in more comfortable packaging, or else as fetishists of a sort who will view them as not much more than a novelty sex toy -- and can in both cases be questioning men who might just as easily play with them, then turn around and blame them for any guilty feelings... and possibly take it out on them physically or emotionally. If someone is truly drawn toward women in transition (i.e. "shemales"), he (or she) must understand that transwomen are human beings who will often not fit our expectations of a woman or man, will have awkward moments and traits carried over from their birth / raised gender, and will often want more than sexual play and experimentation.

Non-operative Transwomen

Some transwomen simply opt not to undergo GRS surgery. It is a personal and perfectly valid choice. These are women who are more comfortable with their birth genitalia, still enjoy their function, and choose to live at a point between female and male. Perhaps there is some "genderfuck" aspect involved in their decision. Non-op transwomen were at one time marginalized as fetishists, but are becoming better understood. However, they are also not necessarily the proverbial "shemale" popularized in porn culture. They also tend to have reduced sex drive and function, but are satisfied with where they are.

As long as they retain their testes, testosterone and hormone therapies will be ever-present factors in their lives. Some opt for orchidectomy (removal of the testes) for a number of reasons, including a reduced risk of cancer, reduction of body hair, better head hair growth and better breast development. Orchidectomy, however, still reduces the sex drive, and removes tissue that might be preferential to have later, if the transwoman does eventually choose to have GRS. Like GRS, it is a life-changing surgery and requires much forethought.

Post-operative Transmen

"Post-operative" can be a confusing term here, because transmen can go through only a few surgeries, or several, depending on where they choose to go. The surgeries involved often include mastectomy (or liposuction, although the results of that tend to be very disappointing) and hysterectomy as a bare minimum, and can often involve a metoidioplasty (a clitoral release which might be accompanied by a urethral lengthening or scrotoplasty -- the clitoris has some erectile function, but it is considered not enough for intercourse) or phalloplasty (the actual construction of a penis from arm or leg tissue -- this surgery may be followed by another surgery to insert a pump for creating erections, and yet another surgery for creating testicles). There is a third procedure in development in the U.S. currently (of which I am unfamiliar), and the first penile transplant in 2006 offers a small hope of a fourth option in the future. Some transmen will opt for neither of these routes, because at this point in time, the procedures are not as well-developed and some are not satisfied with the result.

As with transwomen, it is imperative to accept a transman as male. At the heart of the transition resides the fact that we have a physical gender, a mental gender and an instructed gender... and chances are, he's resisted any non-male teaching during the latter (childhood) as much as possible, and is very much male in both other crucial dimensions (especially if he had been born intersexed, which is the case with many FTMs).

If he has had phalloplasty or metoidioplasty, the same rules about sensation, caution and waiting time (above) apply. Because of the difference in sensation in the beginning, you may find that things that are blissful for most men may seem ineffective for some time, while things that are agony for most (i.e. harsher sensations such as contact with teeth) will in fact be more pleasureable. In the case of phalloplasty, it takes years before ejaculation starts to occur.

Transmen in Transition or Non-operative

Many of the rules applying to post-op transmen and transwomen in transition also apply here. From a hormonal perpective, FTMs experience more clarity of thought, more energy, more strength, and a dramatically high level of virility.

It is rare to find an FTM who chooses to remain non-operative, since at least a mastectomy is often necessary to get by. When this does happen, it is usually from the overwhelming fear of being ejected from a lesbian community (a very valid fear, because this is often what does happen). But for a non-op transman, this will mean being forever binding down the chest and / or living in the fear of being outed as FTM. It is an extremely difficult road to take, and will require much support.

For more information

For information on transitioning, particularily that pertinent to Alberta, is developing as a resource for locating trans-friendly support groups, organizations, shopping, clubbing and information throughout the process. There are also several additional links for information and support within.



Originally posted to an Edmonton leather group discussion board, the Edmonton O Society.

  If you are aware of resources for Alberta transfolk (or good online resources) that are not listed currently, please inform me, so that I can also make these available. Please contact me if you have anything you can contribute.