A Transgender Woman Looks at Male Sexuality
With lightning speed the #MeToo phenomenon has become a cultural turning point. Like all major tipping points, this change has been bubbling beneath the surface a long time. What makes #MeToo so unique is that sexual misconduct knows no racial or socioeconomic boundaries. It is a problem for rich and poor, black and white, liberal and conservative. The only common thread is gender. Sexual abuse is a male problem.
That males struggle with sexuality is not a new revelation. It wasn’t the quiet, holistic, heartfelt sexuality of Oedipus that caused him to murder his father and marry his mother.
When Jocasta, the mother of Oedipus, discovered what had happened, she hanged herself. When Oedipus realized what he had done, he took two pins from his mother’s dress and blinded himself. This is the complicated and difficult reality of male sexuality. There’s a reason we’re still talking about Oedipus millennia after the story was first told. As the myth of Oedipus shows, whether then or now, it is women who are destroyed.
A U.S. Department of Justice study showed 99 percent of sexual abusers are male and 91 percent of victims are female. Male libido is a problem. It has always been a problem and it will always be a problem.
When I lecture about my transition from male to female, there are more questions about the differences in how I experience my sexuality than any other topic. I am not surprised. It is not difficult answering the questions. Of all the changes I have experienced, by far the most powerful have been the differences in sexual drive and desire.
As a male, from the time I was 15 my sexuality was all consuming. All day, every day, it demanded my attention. I never had an inappropriate relationship. I never touched a woman in a sexual way or made a crude remark. But that does not mean I did not struggle.
Male anatomy is all about thrusting and power. Males are constructed to function that way all day every day. Counselors know that many thoughtful males come to therapy concerned they might be sexually addicted. Most are not. But you don’t have to be sexually addicted to spend an inordinate amount of time focused on your sexual impulses. You just have to be male.
In my relationships with women I always had to work not to sexualize the relationship. My male libido was difficult to manage. It takes great internal energy and external consequences for a man to stay out of trouble.
Everything changed when l became Paula. Testosterone is a powerful substance. So is estrogen. To lose one and gain the other is no small matter. One of the main reasons transgender men (those born female) enter psychotherapy is because they are struggling with the effects of testosterone on their libido. Conversely, transgender women (those born male) are relieved beyond measure when testosterone departs and estrogen arrives.
I have a number of female relationships that would have been problematic when I was a male. I would have enjoyed the friendships, but I would have been working to keep male sexual power dynamics out of the relationship. As a female, that is far less of a struggle. My sexuality is more balanced.
As I said in my TEDxMileHigh talk, I now experience my sexuality as more holistic. It is less of a body experience and more of a being experience. That is not to say my female sexuality is not powerful, because it is. Humans are sexual creatures, and desire is one of the great pleasures of our human experience. But my sexuality is not nearly as overpowering as it once was. It does not have dark undertones that demand external controls. It does not occupy my every waking moment. It is integrated into my being.
Of course, I am but one transgender person, with one unique perspective. Maybe others feel differently. I only know what I know.
What does all of this mean? It means the line between desire and action is a line that men struggle not to cross. It is a problem faced by all males, crossing educational, geographical, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic lines. To be certain, taking away testosterone and replacing it with estrogen would solve the problem , but I have a feeling the vast majority of men would not be crazy about that idea. 😉
So what must happen? Men must recognize male sexuality is all about power and pleasure, and cannot be trusted. Feeling shame about having crossed a line and apologizing for it is not a solution. Not crossing the line in the first place is the solution. And that will not happen until two things take place.
First, men must realize healthy sexuality will never occur in conditions in which men and women do not have equality and equity. Without a level playing field, nothing will change.
Second, men are going to have to admit they have a problem and do what they have never done before, talk with other men about it. When I was a male, knowing I would lose my job for straying, and having other well-known pastors as accountability partners, made life easier. Though we didn’t talk in any depth about the difficult nature of our sexual desires, our conversations provided more help than most men receive.
Unfortunately, I do not see any sign that either one of these solutions is imminent. But at least a problem is being confronted and a conversation has begun. For that, I am grateful.
And so it goes.