How Transitioning Affects Sex Drive and Porn Consumption

For many, transitioning brings profound and surprising changes in how one approaches their sexuality.

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Sep 18 2017, 10:30pm

Illustration by Hana Song

Weeks ago, I stumbled upon and accidentally climaxed to a video tutorial of a man finding a woman's G-spot. It wasn't the kind of calculated, purposeful orgasm you reach when masturbating with purpose and intent, but rather that involuntary "oh fuck" that comes when you're unexpectedly turned on by something you'd never expect.

The part I didn't expect to find hot, specifically, was that I'm primarily attracted to men—and those accidental orgasms, generally speaking, have come from the gay porn I've watched all my life, not the highly clinical tutorial of a woman's vaginal orgasm I watched. The other variable here is the fact that for the last ten months, I've been transitioning via hormone therapy.

The effects of hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) on the sexuality of transgender people is little-studied; the majority of what's been publicly documented about it comes from personal anecdotes transgender people share online, anecdotes I spent years poring over since first realizing I was trans. Of the studies that have been done, two—one surveying 605 female-to-male trans people online, and the other surveying 115 female-to-male and male-to-female trans people in-person—have found that between 40 and 60 percent self-reported a shift in their sexual orientation before or after transition. But the more subtle reasons why and how this shift happens are harder to capture via surveys or studies, and to that end, I set out to interview five trans people about their porn consumption and sexuality, and how transition affected either or both.

Joanna Fang, She/Her, New York, NY

I always knew I was trans, but growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s meant an adolescence with hardly any representation of trans people in the public eye. Most of the exposure I had to trans experiences was either through somewhere like Jerry Springer or in pornography, and transgender adult film stars were the closest thing to representation I could find. I watched porn more as a way to form my identity than to masturbate—I thought, "I see myself in this." Specifically, I came across Asian-American trans adult star (and TV star) Helen Wong, and I would read her blog to figure out how I might want to live my life.

HRT turned my libido down from, like, an 11 to a 2. Nowadays I don't watch that much porn, mostly because HRT affected how I conceptualize sex. I prefer imagining my own idea of what sex is while masturbating. I almost don't need porn anymore because it's not very good, generally speaking, not to mention usually degrading for trans women. Another interesting thing is HRT did shift my orientation a little bit towards men. I was still predominantly attracted to women, but sometimes I would think to myself, "Hm, I kinda wanna talk to a cute boy tonight." The rules I set for myself changed, and what I want to see in a lover is totally different now than before transition.

Radcliffe Adler, Ze/Hir, Baltimore, MD

Prior to transition (and even coming out as "gay" at all), I predominantly watched straight or gay male porn, but as soon as I came out as lesbian (while still being seen as a cis woman), lesbian porn was of the utmost importance. Eventually that calmed down and I came out as a trans man and ended up interested in straight porn again, but I'm still mostly attracted to women. Transition didn't change that, but mostly heightened it—testosterone made me love women even more and that extended into any sort of femme-ness. I didn't embrace the possibility of being attracted to men prior to transition because I felt like I would have lost my lesbian power or something! But now, if a guy is femme enough, I'd probably go for it. I love sex now and I'm so much more comfortable and open to possibilities.

When I watch porn today, I'm more focused on putting myself in the place of a guy fucking something. Though I see myself as non-binary (I go by ze/hir) and I would never define my gender in any way, I still wish I had a dick that I could fuck things with. As trans people I think it's important for us to see ourselves in the porn we're consuming because it's a form of affirmation for us; it's one of the only times we see ourselves. I'm generally not attracted to masculinity, but being able to aspire to that action as a trans man is really hot to me. I need to be able to put myself in the scenario.

Cormac Fitzgerald, He/Him, New York, NY

I've really been everything—I started out identifying as a cis straight woman, then identified as a bi woman, a lesbian, a non-binary bi person, a bi trans dude, a straight trans dude, and a gay trans dude. The only things I've never been are a cis dude or a trans woman. Those changes in my sexual orientation seemed to come pre-HRT and coincided with my journey through gender. Once I started identifying as non-binary, I went through a pretty profound sex phase where I had drunken sex, public sex, OkCupid sex—you name it—and this was mostly with other non-binary people. I would say my porn habits followed whatever identity I held at the time, and now after coming out as a trans man I've started watching more cis gay porn and it's become one of my staples.

One thing I've noticed is that cis-on-cis gay porn is especially affirming. I watch gay porn with trans men in it, but there's something voyeuristic about watching two people fuck with body parts that I don't have. I don't have any bottom dysphoria, but I still feel validated tapping into that queerness as a queer man. I also tend to watch the bottoms in porn now, since I'm the bottom and that's what I do. Also, despite loving cis on cis gay porn, a cis dude fucking a trans dude in porn is always really cool. There's a weird disparity where in real life a cis dude fucking a trans dude is read as this sort of rainbow sparkle hippy queer trans thing, but gay porn really frames cis-on-trans gay porn as "gay porn with a trans person in it," and I like visualizing myself in that. I'm married to a cis gay man now, so that's what I most identify with.

Morticia Antoinette Godiva, She/Her, Brooklyn, NY

I found my dad's straight porn at around 10 or 11, but I eventually started watching gay porn once I'd found it. I didn't veer that much from gay porn before HRT, though I dabbled in other kinds of porn, too. After starting HRT and coming out as trans, I did notice a marked shift in the horizon for my porn consumption and I dove into different porn options, namely lesbian porn. Now I generally either go for lesbian or gay porn and not as much straight porn, but I also don't really watch porn that often and I never did. For me it's about synergy more than anything.

I feel like the change in my porn consumption came less from HRT and more from the social changes and identity changes I went through. Once my idea of gender was shattered, the idea of me not solely being interested in one type of gender and exploring all the other genders was on the table. Before, I wasn't necessarily not attracted to women, but I hadn't yet had any kind of connection with a woman because there was no real intimacy when operating as a cis man. I moved to New York, started HRT, and adopted a much more polyamorous lifestyle; coming into my gender played a huge role in opening myself up to a wider diversity of sexual experiences.

Lillian Em, She/Her, San Francisco, CA

I consumed way more porn prior to starting HRT, and I think there are a bunch of reasons for that. I'm not sure if my change in porn consumption could be attributed much to HRT, but rather to realizing my identity. After transitioning, my general level of social awareness increased, and with that social awareness came an acknowledgment of the male gaze in the porn industry. I generally avoid anything with high production value now, because that's generally synonymous with the male gaze. Pornography is about what you feel and your emotions, so the presentation is really important—I much prefer amateur videos of couples really enjoying each other, usually involving a trans woman.

I feel like sexuality is a bunch of wires, and during HRT it was like somebody came in and reordered the wires and then left. It's not necessarily true that I'm more or less sexual, it's just different, and I enjoy sex much more now that I actually understand my body. Prior to transition I was already pansexual and demisexual and that didn't really shift at all after starting HRT. I think when people come out as trans they open up more about who and what they're into, and with that honesty comes a wider understanding.

Interviews have been condensed and edited.

Mattie White is a musician based in New York. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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