Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Mistress Matisse,

I've been reading your blog for several years now, and I always enjoy your columns. I've been curious about something: do you see transmen as clients? I know you take a hard line about not seeing women as clients, but I also know that your understanding of queers and the queer community is rather nuanced (and you were once married to a transman, no?).

Point of clarification before I go on: transman means someone who started out female and transitioned to male. I know we can get into a discussion about whether transmen were ever truly female, I’m not questioning anyone’s feelings on that. Let us say: they were assigned the female gender when they were born.

Now then...

Some letters that I get, I think “I don’t know how to answer this without sounding like a twit.”

Well, in a way I can answer this. I don’t have any female-to-male transexual clients. In fact, I’ve never had anyone who told me he was transexual even ask me for a professional session. And since I see 99% of my clients naked, yes, I’d know if one of my guys was trans. The surgery for female-to-male transexuals is not nearly as advanced as it is for male-to-female people.

So, the issue has not arisen.

I’m not sure what I would say if a transman did ask me, though. Because the situation is, as you say, nuanced.

Yes, I was queer-identified for most of my twenties. My lovers were female and I socialized in mainly queer spaces. And then I did indeed marry (and subsequently divorce) a transman. 

In my experience, a woman who is lovers with a transman occupies a very curious social space between queer and straight. But my former husband looked very, very male indeed. He used to resemble a shorter Mike Ditka, in fact. Looking the way he felt - male - was precisely what he wanted, although on occasion it complicated matters. Like the day I took him to the hospital for his scheduled hysterectomy.

He was understandably a bit anxious about having this major surgery. And it seem like when you’re waiting for surgery, every yahoo with a lab coat just wanders by at random, picks up your chart, and reads it. Picture Mike Ditka in a hospital bed. And his chart says he's having a hysterectomy. The possibility of having a gender “Who’s On First?” sort of exchange was strong.

I was not going allow that to happen. I stood at his bedside poised like a jaguar, ready to spring at the throat of any clueless medical staff who looked at him, and then looked at his chart, and then said something stupid. There were several moments when various people looked like they were trembling on the brink of a throat-tearing remark, but - they refrained. Perhaps it was the I-will-kill-you look I was giving them.

This is all my way of explaining that I am aware of the incredible complexities and challenges transmen have to deal with. *

But that’s a lot of complexities to deal with in just sixty minutes, in a dungeon. With a not-a-transexual man, I have a head-start. I can safely assume a lot about where he’s coming from, culturally, and what the some of his hot buttons and wet dreams and taboo fantasies are likely to be. I know how to do the traditional male-female dance, and I know how to twist it sideways, lube it up, and jam it into someone’s sweet pink ass.

My experience of transmen in intimate situations is that they are emotionally vulnerable in a way that I can validate and sympathize with, and they are just tremendously complex. The social/psychological dynamic is all over the map. He’s a man, which in a patriarchal world means he has social power - but he’s a transman, which means that power is actually as fragile and as permeable as a tissue.

Often he has lived for part of his life being seen as female, so he knows what that’s like. But straight transmen don’t usually want to relate to women as someone-who-used-to-be-female, they just want to be a guy. So there’s this knowingness there - but one mustn’t make too much of the fact that this guy knows exactly what menstrual cramps feel like.

Transmen’s relationships with their bodies is tricky, too. I have never had any uneasiness about interacting - in a BDSM context, or sexually - with a transman's body. I’m good with bodies. I don't care whether your body looks exactly like other men's bodies, I just want to know how you work. If I can look at you and touch you, I can figure out your body pretty quickly.

But, understandably, a lot of transmen are not super-confident about their body. They are not always comfortable being seen and being touched. Stripped naked, their vulnerability is often, to me, heart-wrenchingly intense. One can learn how each individual transman wants to be looked at and touched, and teach them to trust you, but that takes time.

And one hour simply isn’t enough, in my opinion. It's completely different from dating a transman, where you go as slow as you need to. For me as a professional – wow, I’m daunted by the idea of trying to create a scene for a transman that I’d feel really good about in that short of a time. Since I have some personal history there, I’d feel extra-frustrated by doing a scene I didn’t think was as good as it should be.

What’s also true is that my professional time is not cheap, and most of the transmen I have met were not rich. I suppose if I met a transman who was wealthy, and he wanted to see me a lot and develop that type of BDSM relationship with me, and I felt we were well-suited as play-partners – well, I’d do that.

I would bet that’s a decision I will not have to make, though.

*Of course, everything I say is a broad generalization that only reflects my view from the outside. Every transexual person has his/her/hir own different and utterly valid experience.