A Transgender Woman Looks at Male Sexuality

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.

 

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6 thoughts on “A Transgender Woman Looks at Male Sexuality

  1. Paula,
    Your comments are always thoughtful and often bring insight and perspective that are helpful to me. I particularly appreciate your perspective in this piece. You parsed the issue at the heart of our current national conversation very well and pointed to the root causes in a way that I had not seen so clearly before, even though I was aware of most of the pieces. You have a unique perspective and platform that are a blessing. Thank you for continuing to honestly share what you see and feel.

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  2. There’s such a range of experience within the genders! I know women who would describe their own experience of their sexuality much as you do here: “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 [someone] in a sexual way or made a crude remark. But that does not mean I did not struggle….In my relationships…I always had to work not to sexualize the relationship. My…libido was difficult to manage. It takes great internal energy and external consequences…to stay out of trouble.” I also know some men who would not relate to this. Both may be the minority, but the range is there.

    It is nevertheless true that men deal with the strength of that drive differently from women, which I suspect may be in large part due to the different ways men and women have been socialized in their sexuality. As that begins to change for women, I understand younger women and girls are increasingly aggressive sexually.

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  3. My libido as a man was perhaps not as strong as yours but it was strong enough to be a nuisance. There were many days I just wanted it to disappear. I was quite happy when I started estrogen that it took, to a large degree, that ‘nuisance’ away!

    There definitely needs to be more discussion of our sexuality. We Americans are prudes for the most part, we see sex as dirty, and a topic that should never be discussed. How can we discuss the root causes of the rampant sexual harassment and abuse we have in our society without talking about our sexual drives.

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  4. Hello Paula, I have a couple questions and I am hoping you are willing to address them. It seems in the times we live in it is difficult to have honest conversations without upsetting one’s ideologies, so I hope this will stand out as an exception. My interest in this topic is not cultural or political, but rather theological.

    You made several assertions that I would like to address: “sexual abuse is a male problem”, “male libido is a problem”, “Male anatomy is about thrusting and power. Males are constructed that way all day every day.”
    Based on those statements, it seems you believe God constructed males with this plight. You have presented that the problem is a design flaw, correct? If so, why do believe this? Not to assume you know the motivations of God, but based on your understanding of God, why would he make men this way? In a way that, based on this picture you painted, needs to be fixed. Certainly, the problem of sexual abuse and even misconduct is a problem! One that is of great importance to me, as it should be with all of us. I would argue, however, the problem is not in the male gender, but rather external factors–on both genders. You said the solution is to change all men to women, but certainly following that solution to the end reveals a negative outcome.

    Also you said now that you have transitioned you experience sex drive differently, and you allude to it being better and mention the “dark undertones” of the male sex drive. So would you say women are made better? Or are inherently better when it comes to sex drive? You say that men struggle to not cross the desire to action line, yet don’t we all struggle with this line? Desire, one could say, is an antecedent to sin–all sin, not just sexual sin…for men and women alike. As it says in James 1, we are all tempted when we are dragged away by our own desire. This is a burden for all people, not just men–would you agree?

    One of your proposed solutions is equality, saying “without a level playing field nothing will change”. However, asserting that the problem is the flawed male gender is not equality, but rather swinging the inequality pendulum in the other direction. For generations women have been fighting the Christian idea that they are inherently (or have been constructed) less than–less intelligent, more apt to sin, a tempter, and a general afterthought to God’s creation, merely a sub-creation of Adam. Indeed, flipping the coin and making men the created problem is only devising a new bigotry and hate. I am not saying you are being hateful, but often this kind of thinking (that one is created better than the other) is a bias that leads to hate and intolerance.

    You said that men should admit they have this problem, but isn’t this just pointing the finger of blame and then demanding those pronounced guilty to submit to your assertion? This is something women have been subjected to for years–men pointing the finger at women and demanding women to submit.

    I say these to you with respect and in an effort to speak and seek out truth in my own life.
    Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your ideas, and I look forward to your response.

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    • Nicole,

      I believe we are created in the image of God. I also believe in an evolutionary process that began with the Big Bang and resulted in the development of the highest expression of the creation, human beings. I do not believe God engineered the particulars of the evolutionary process, nor do I believe that the reason for the existence of evil is original sin. It appears we are beginning with differing hermeneutical understandings, so I doubt we will see eye to eye on this subject.

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