Sex can be many things. Sex can be beautiful and amazing and make you feel really connected to someone you love.
Sex can also be traumatizing and hurtful and horrible.
People have sex for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes people have sex to experiment, or to show someone how much they love them, or because they were bored, or horny, or hungry, or needed a place to sleep, or to feel loved.
People can have sex with people they love or someone they just met. They can have sex with one person at a time or many people.
Some people have sex using toys or role-play or bondage or completely clothed or wearing leather or nothing at all. Some people have sex with the lights on and some want it completely dark. Some people have sex every day, while others go years without sex, or maybe never have sex. Some people masturbate on a regular basis and others don’t. Some people crave sex and experience sexual urges, while others may not.
Some people feel really good when they have sex, while others might experience shame.
Some people received comprehensive sex education, but most of us don’t.
Most of what we’ve read about or seen or were taught about sex, if at all, is heterosexual sex between cisgender people. What if you don’t fit that mold?
Growing up, I was very much a late bloomer when it came to even learn how babies were made. There was very little sex education and the education I did receive in school was about body parts and menstruation. I didn’t learn anything about the actual experience of sex. The rest of my sexual education was learned in church which boiled down to, “Don’t have sex until you’re married. After you’re married, which is of course between two consenting cisgender heterosexual adults, then sex is great and a gift from God. But before that, it’s horrible, and you’ll burn in hell. Also, don’t masturbate.”
What I never actually learned was the answer to my question, “What is sex?” After I did have sex for the first time, I had a lot of feelings and I realize now looking back that nobody taught me anything about the act of sex itself, and much less about the feelings that go with it. Nobody answered my questions like, How does it feel to be naked with someone for the first time? Why didn’t anybody tell me how weird our bodies are? Why do our bodies make so much noise during sex? Am I a bad person for having sex or even for craving it? Will I still be a good person after having sex? Can I get an STI from kissing? How do I tell a partner how I like to be touched? How do I figure out what I like during sex? How do I ask for consent? What do I do if I had an experience didn’t like or didn’t want? How do I know if I’m normal?
After more than a decade of figuring it out as I went along, I married another trans person. Together, our sex is amazing. Nobody told us how to do it, but when two trans people have sex together, something magical happens. It doesn’t even matter exactly what happens during sex. We are two people who are doing what feels good and loving each other’s bodies just the way they are. There is absolutely no expectation that someone should be doing something specific during sex or not doing something because of our bodies. There are no rules. My wife and I came up with our sex together.
I’d like to see more comprehensive sex education being taught that answers all the questions I had. Sex education should also encompass everyone who isn’t cisgender and heterosexual. It took me a long time to get to where I am now and there were a lot of mistakes along the way, and I don’t want other people to go through what I did. If I was more properly educated, I may have hurt myself and other people a lot less along the way.
Atticus Ranck (he/him/his pronouns) works in the Education and Training Program of the AIDS Institute for the New York State Department of Health. Atticus identifies as a trans man and he is married to a trans woman. Together, they are raising two puppies and a cat and happily live in rural upstate NY. Previously, he was the Director of Transgender Services at SunServe in Wilton Manors.