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Aug 15 2013

10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans

After reading Suzanne Moore’s only-half-serious advice on owning a penis, and fellow FTBer Ally Fogg’s insights on the relationship between men’s penises and society, I had an odd feeling that something was left out. Sure, their musings on the “male organ” were entertaining, but still somewhat limited in one important respect: they focused solely on men’s penises.

Now, I know a lot of people see these as inseparable, a perfect tautology of gender and anatomy. Men have penises, and people with penises are men. It’s an elegant notion, but one which fails to reflect the complex realities of today. Let’s face it – some women have penises, too. And that can be a pretty serious situation to find yourself in. What exactly are you supposed to do with your penis when you’re a woman?

Yes, men are the vast majority of the audience for penis-related advice, given that most penis-owners are still men (at least until we implement our secret plan to dump finasteride into the water supply). And I’m sure they’re very much in need of these man-centric tips. But contrary to mainstream perceptions, we members of Club Ladycock face a very different range of penile challenges.

People like to assume that our bodies are still essentially men’s bodies, and therefore work the same way. However, as any trans woman can tell you, this just isn’t the case. From social situations to sex to surgery, the standard dudely dick dilemmas simply aren’t all that relevant to our lives. So, for the sake of my fellow trans ladies (but mostly for any confused cis onlookers), I’ve assembled my own 10 semi-serious tips for wrangling a girl penis.

1. Tuck that thing. Conceal any trace of its existence at all times, leaving no hint of what’s in your pants. Too-tight panties, taping it between your thighs, twice as many layers of clothing as anyone else might wear – whatever it takes. Sure, guys get to walk around all day with their insubstantial crotch bulges, and no one gives them any crap for having outward-facing bits that take up space. But, much like how leg and underarm hair magically becomes unhygienic when it’s on women, the mere presence of a girlbulge will make people freak right the hell out. As the Montana Meth Project would say: Pushing your testes up into your abdomen and keeping them there for hours isn’t normal – but when you’re trans, it is.

2. Never go to pools or the beach. So you like swimming? Found a really nice bathing suit? Too bad. Tucking in everyday life is one thing – now try managing that in a crowded, wet environment where highly-gendered tight clothing is the norm. All the tape in the world won’t help you now, and society’s inability to comprehend or accept non-normative bodies is especially magnified when a woman quite visibly has something extra in her bikini. Potential means of mitigating this issue: skirtinis; burqinis; martinis.

3. Speaking of spaces with no room for non-normative bodies: never, ever use locker rooms. Any of them. Take tips 1 and 2, add enclosed spaces, and multiply by nudity – what do you get? A level 7 disaster on the International Ladydick Event Scale. Much like gendered swimwear, locker rooms leave little possibility of compromise. Either you’ll be taking your breasts into the men’s room, or you’ll be bringing your penis to the women’s room.

I’ve actually asked some ignorant assholes what they expect us to do in that situation, and once they understand the paradox, it basically breaks their brains. People generally don’t seem to be prepared to accept either of these choices – not without blowing it up into a non-troversy for the Daily Mail. Yeah, you just wanted to shower and change like everyone else there, but apparently the cis world can’t allow that.

4. Don’t even dare to expect that anyone could ever find your body desirable. Sure, in a world where people have gotten past the fear of being “gay”, and the realities of transgender existence are accurately taught from a young age without stigma or ridicule, there might be vastly fewer people who reject us outright as partners. In a time when people can accept that some of us simply have different bodies with different origins and a different shape, they might be somewhat less reluctant to get into bed with a woman and her penis.

But, for the love of estrogen, don’t ever say that out loud. Don’t even suggest that the kinds of women people say they like are anything other than sacrosanct, forever untainted by societal norms and common prejudice. Don’t expect them to reexamine their assumptions about who and what we are. And, boy howdy, don’t ever express your discontent with people largely viewing your transness as something that marks you as inherently unfuckable.

Straight cis men will call you “deceptive” for not outing yourself the moment they start flirting with you. Bonus boner tip for the guys: don’t blame us when your dick doesn’t cooperate with your transphobia. Shitty fringe feminists will call you “rapey” for daring to be a woman at all and not wanting to be desexualized and degendered and treated like a dude (or in the case of trans guys, treated like a butch lesbian). “Rapey” is a favorite metaphor of transphobes – it’s kind of like rape except for the part where no one is raped and none of us are actually doing anything to them, but it has the word “rape” in it, so knock it off you rapist. Best to settle for chasers whose entire knowledge of “chicks with dicks” comes from degrading mainstream pornography.

5. Cut it off. Much like trimming the tops of onion plants, this will cause the remaining stub to grow into a fully-formed vulva. I think? At least, that’s what people keep telling me.

6. Just kidding – better start saving up now. Assuming you’re not in a country with civilized healthcare and your insurance doesn’t cover it (and really, whose does?), a new vulva can set you back $20,000 or more depending on your choice of flesh-artist. Hooray, you’ve purchased the legitimacy of your gender in the eyes of the public, maybe kinda sorta if they’re feeling like it today. Who else gets the privilege of paying thousands of dollars just to go swimming again? Of course, it still won’t keep anyone from calling you “rapey”.

7. “Keep it in shape.” Bluntly, this is our euphemism for regularly masturbating to avoid penile atrophy prior to surgery. See, when your testosterone is chemically suppressed (or just gone, if you already got rid of your girlballs), you tend to stop getting spontaneous erections – the kind that happen on their own while you sleep, and sometimes during the day. On the bright side, morning wood is pretty much a solved problem. Still, even when we intentionally try to make it happen, it won’t always cooperate as easily. And mentally, many of us lose much of our sexual drive and interest. After a lifetime of having to deal with this obnoxious and uncomfortable testosterone-fueled urge, it can be a huge relief once we can just ignore it indefinitely. (That’s a pretty big difference between owning a penis when cis or trans – fearing impotence, versus enjoying every minute of it.)

Unfortunately, general lack of use can supposedly cause some degree of long-term shrinkage, which is undesirable if you intend to have the tissue repurposed into a vulva. For this reason, a lot of trans women feel it’s necessary to use it regularly even if you don’t feel like it. In reality, there doesn’t actually seem to be any hard data on this – some women who’ve made sure to “maintain” theirs have still needed additional skin grafts; others who’ve mostly disregarded theirs haven’t needed anything extra. Which basically makes it more of a superstitious ritual than anything. But just to be on the safe side…

8. Seriously, take some time to get reacquainted with it. People see what’s on the outside and assume we’re identical to men – even some of us make the same mistake. Getting off should be as simple as it always was, right? Not anymore. The truth is that running estrogen on unlicensed hardware can scramble almost every aspect of sexual response. Things just don’t work the way they used to: orgasms change or disappear, your whole body reacts to touch in different ways, and the entire structure of arousal-erection-climax may break down. Traditional techniques might not cut it anymore, and new approaches can be non-obvious. It can take a lot of practice to figure out what to do with it now, but you can speed things up with a Magic Wand and a copy of Fucking Trans Women #0.

9. Do come up with fun names for it! Sure, it’s not like it necessarily needs a proper first name (Barbara? Michelle, maybe?), but there’s nothing wrong with breaking out of the common “dick” and “penis” vocabulary. Those tend to be so strongly associated with men that using them in reference to a woman’s body can just feel strange and uncomfortable. So get creative! Try “girlcock”, or even “jane”. “Clit” is a particular favorite, given that it already refers to female genitals, and both organs initially develop from the same anatomy anyway. It also has the added bonus of pissing off all the assholes who insist “if you have a penis you’re a man because you have a penis because you’re a man because…” Use “she” pronouns for your clit for extra awesomeness.

10. Fuck everything, do whatever the hell you want and don’t ever be ashamed. Toss the tape and rock that bulge. Wear your new bikini to the beach and dare anyone to say a word. Find someone who respects you and your girldick. Let it atrophy into something adorable. Take your $20,000 and travel the world. Call it Nadine and make little ballet outfits for it. At the end of the day, you’re not the one who needs to be told how to deal with your penis. You already know what to do with it. Society, sadly, still doesn’t.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    Aneres

    As a cis-pan woman (is that a designation? I usually just tell people ‘bisexual’ because it requires less explanation) I want to thank you for this article and helping me understand more about genitalia =) I struggle with my attraction to trans women because I don’t very well understand how any of it works. I fear that I “just want chicks with dicks” in the shallow sense; obviously society tells me that’s a selfish desire. Yet I know there are transpeople out there who have lived experiences and (if they’re willing to express it) can teach me who they are far better than the media or my own inner reflections could.
    Thank you so much Lauren, for letting me in on some of your life, it’s helping to better my own. <3

    1. 1.1
      Sheana Valentine

      It’s better to engage even if you’re uncertain of your own motivations than to ignore them and erase them from your existence.

      1. Aneres

        That’s why I’m here trying to learn, thank you =D

    2. 1.2
      alliecat

      Personally I seem to gravitate towards trans* women as partners in practice, but I think that’s because the fact that they share large parts of my experience (as a trans woman myself) means they know what I’m on about, I can relate to them better and vice versa – pretty much the same reasons I prefer left/anarchist militants and geeks, I guess. It’s probably also a factor that for the same reasons trans* women, and queer and trans* people more broadly, are disproportionately represented in my social circles.

      As for reasons a cis person might prefer trans women, there’s nothing wrong with having a preference for particular forms of genitalia (such as a penis, or penis-like appendage, even if the person can’t or won’t use it sexually – the same can be said for a lot of other features that people commonly find attractive after all – although a lot of trans* women are also not comfortable with their genitals being a source of even passive attraction, in which case you’re probably not compatible). There’s also nothing wrong with having a preference for people of a particular gender (such as women, in this case). Therefore there’s nothing wrong with having a preference for people in whom those characteristics – a particular gender and a particular genital configuration (female and penis-like genitals in your case) – converge.
      On the other hand, there’s fetishistic “chasers” who are attracted to trans* women because we’re “unusual” and “exotic”, or because we’re “freaks” and it’s taboo to find us attractive. A lot of us are uncomfortable with cis people who are specifically attracted to trans* women because they’re uncomfortable with having our genitals, which are a source of distress for many, appreciated – but the hostility is mostly towards the above fetishisation

  2. 2
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Awesome.

    It seems impossible to imagine any trans woman getting to the end of this article and failing to notice the industrial quantities of snark laid on, but I definitely feel iffy with the suggestion (under no. 1) of ‘taping it between your thighs’, which is pretty much the last thing anyone should want to do to conceal a penis, even as a joke. In that direction lies serious self-harm. (And yes, I engaged in virtually every other type of concealment you listed there for years before I actually came out as trans* – self denial is a habit you can get accustomed to – but never used tape.)

  3. 3
    resident_alien

    “running estrogen on unlicensed hardware” = all the win forever.
    Your writing rocks ,in form and content equally.

  4. 4
    Rhys S

    Sorry I don’t have anything constructive to say, just wanted to mention that reading my grandma’s and mom’s names, respectively, in #9 gave me a weird feeling. In .5 seconds I went from “how does she know those names!?” to “oh wait, they’re probably just random names with no correlation to her.”

  5. 5
    tuibguy

    Love #10.

  6. 6
    otrame

    I vote for a world where # 10 is a “Duh”.

    Hormones can change drastically even without medical intervention and the resulting body changes can provide some interesting insights. I am a cis woman who has been in the process of developing a more and more substantial beard the more post-menopausal I get and I have reached a bit of an epiphany: Growing hair on your face when you don’t want it there sucks whether you are any kind of man or woman. I don’t want a beard. I used to pluck out hairs until I realized that I was spending half an hour or more a day doing it AND dealing with ingrown hairs, so now I shave. But shaving sucks too, because you have this bristle…… Suddenly I am far more sympathetic to men who have had to deal with a beard or that bristle their entire adult lives.

    So I am interested in any epiphanies you’ve had as your body changes. I assume your beard has seriously reduced. If so, how do you like not having the damned bristle?

    P.S. Dealing with everything involved in being trans with such grace and humor becomes you well, young woman. I enjoy reading your posts, because you write so well, but more importantly because your struggle to be who you are keeps reminding us that there are a lot of ways to be human and every one of them is part of who we, collectively, are.

  7. 7
    Kira

    This is absolutely flawless. One of your best articles for sure.

  8. 8
    Ikari

    I can confirm that a swim dress can make going to the beach a possibility again, though I am less sure about close quarters environments like a swimming baths. Everything seems to be in order though, I’m just too shy :)

    The whole thing about exercise I’m going with too here. Worse still if you don’t keep it in shape and then want to actually do something maybe with a partner in any form there’s a good chance its gonna hurt like hell even if you get a soft girlyboner.

    Oh! And one thing I came to terms with was that I’m not planning to cut her off so to speak.. I’m just getting her a major makeover ;)
    Whatever you do, its your damn body and be proud of owning it because hells yes its always okay to be fine with what you have and its just as fine to wanna make steps to change that into somthing you want. In a world of body policing, be your own vigilante and give that power back to yourself alone.

  9. 9
    Stephanie N.

    Do come up with fun names for it!

    I have an acquaintance who uses the term “strapless”, which I have adopted.

    Thank you for this, BTW — and I should have said this before for several of your other posts, so thank you for those as well!

  10. 10
    Maureen Brian

    Brilliant!

  11. 11
    Mara

    Thank you for being willing to educate clueless cis folk like me! I learn a lot from reading your posts and hopefully that will help me be less annoying to my trans friends.

    (I literally LOLd at “skirtini, burqini, martini”. Heh. I can only imagine how much you need a martini sometimes.)

  12. 12
    Kathleen

    Very nicely written — thank you for explaining this so clearly. I will say, though, that it still seems possible to get SRS for closer to $10,000 than to $20,000 if you are willing to travel to Thailand. With respect to #2, I used to have success with an eleastic garment to retain the tuck — but then, I did not expect to wear a bikini.

    1. 12.1
      Zoe

      It’s true, you can pay a surgeon closer to $10,000 in Thailand. However, the plain tickets for one person are on the order of $2,000, and because of the length of the flight it is super strongly recommended that you spend at least 4 weeks there. When I was pricing it out, my estimate was that was about $4,000. So, $16,000 brings it a lot more in line with going to a local (if you have one) state-side surgeon.

  13. 13
    sathyalacey

    Awesome article.

    “skirtinis; burqinis; martinis”, “running estrogen on unlicensed hardware” – funniest phrases I’ve heard in quite a while.

  14. 14
    Azzy

    Keep it. It will be handy if your partner wants a different ride occasionally

  15. 15
    Zoe

    Hooray, you’ve purchased the legitimacy of your gender in the eyes of the public, maybe kinda sorta if they’re feeling like it today.

    That was like a gut punch. Some of us are aware of the implications and choose to pursue this route solely for ourselves. I hope it (and believe) it wasn’t your intent to suggest otherwise.

  16. 16
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  17. 17
    Shalanda Geoghan

    I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering problems with your blog. It appears as though some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too? This may be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Thank you|

  18. 18
    Stanton Mckin

    Useful info. Fortunate me I discovered your site unintentionally, and I’m stunned why this twist of fate didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.|

  19. 19
    Jess

    I pretty much always wear some kind of shorts when going to the pool or beach (unless swimming naked) – maybe that’s a good idea for those who don’t want to wear tight swimsuits in public? Board shorts or running shorts or anything else that dries quickly.

  20. 20
    danomast3r

    Fuck yah! You nailed it!

  1. 21
    10 Rules For Managing Your Penis When You’re Trans* | Thought Catalog

    […] This post was originally featured on Free Thought Blogs. […]

  2. 22
    Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] This post was originally featured on Free Thought Blogs. […]

  3. 23

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