Sexuality in Transsexual & Transgender Individuals

by Harper Jean Tobin

This site will be moving to

        Welcome to the online home of my undergraduate Honors thesis. I researched and wrote this thesis while I was a junior and senior at Oberlin College, and completed it in mid-April of 2003. It is as thorough and complete as I could make it at the time, but no doubt it leaves much to be desired. I'm making it available online to encourage further discussion and research on this important (well, important to me!) subject.

        I would like to thank everyone who helped me in the course of this year-plus project, first and foremost the survey respondents. Naturally thanks are also due to Bill Norris, my advisor, and to Daphne John in the Sociology Department. Holly Boswell provided a helpful reference or two, and Becky Adelman sent along her own thesis as well as her encouragement. Finally, my warm thanks to Jennifer Dumin, Kathleen Salerno, and Lee McKeever, without whose loving support and occasional editorial assistance writing this thesis, and everything else, would have been much harder to accomplish.

Part I: An Overview of Transgender Sexuality
(The longer, more interesting part; an overview and discussion of clinical, academic and popular literature)

Sections: Introduction & Scope -- Methodological Issues -- Autogynephilia? -- Sexual Orientation -- BDSM & Trans Sexuality -- Between Us -- Trans Asexuality -- Forbidden Pleasures? -- Sexuality and Identity Formation/Affirmation; Learning Manhood -- The Effects of Hormones -- Remapping the Body -- HIV Risk and Safer Sex Practices -- Sexual Violence Against Transpeople -- Conclusions

Part II: Sexual Experiences of Fifteen Trans Individuals
(The shorter part; a nonrepresentative, mostly qualitative survey)



Please address all questions, comments, or exciting tidbits to -- thanks!

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I intend to update this page periodically to note recent publications or websites relating to trans sexuality.

March 24, 2005: Apologies for the very long lag between updates. I write now to mention a fabulous book that's only recently come to my attention. Trans activist and columnist Jamison Green some months ago published Becoming a Visible Man, a book that's part memoir, part manifesto, part primer on trans issues. It's worth a read even if you've read this kind of book before, and one chapter deal with sexuality in trans people's lives with depth and honesty, addressing many of the same concerns and coming as similar perspective as my thesis (and it's shorter and more accessible to boot).

May 29, 2004: I'm very pleased to note that this page has been linked to in a lot of places and is contributing to some very interesting discussions. More importantly, I'm getting married in August! But, enough about me. I recently noted another interesting webpage discussing sexual orientation specifically among transwomen. The discussion here is decidedly unscientific, but nevertheless thought-provoking. The site creator, one Annie Richards, also presents discussions of a variety of other topics relevant to transwomen's lives.

23 April 2004: Something I can't believe I missed when I wrote my thesis: linguist (and author of Biologicial Exuberance) Bruce Bagemihl's weird, brilliant essay "Surrogate Phonology and Transsexual Faggotry: A Linguistic Analogy for Uncoupling Sexual Orientation from Gender Identity." Citing a bunch of other sources I wish I'd found, Bagemihl discusses the resistance of medical and queer communities to accepting gay and lesbian transsexuals, and uses the fascinating phenomenon of surrogate (aural but voiceless) language as an analogy to illustrate how gender and sexual orientation, though related, have no particular, necessary relationship to one another. Beware: there's some linguistic stuff that was over my head. The essay is in a 1997 book called Queerly phrased : language, gender, and sexuality.

24 September 2003: Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment in Transsexual Men by Henry Rubin was recently published by Vanderbilt Press, and while I've just started reading it, it looks fascinating. Rubin devotes much attention to essentialist versus constructionist understandings of identity as they apply to trans men, and has a full chapter devoted to lesbian-FTM "border wars." Unfortunately this book is rather dry and throws around a lot of academese, but at least it's shorter than Devor's 600+ page FTM.

4 August 2003: In my literature review I cited Michael Hernandez's thoughtful article from The Second Coming; thanks to Tristan Taormino's links page (where this page now happily resides as well) I found that he's written a number of other essays on trans sexuality as well as other topics related to masculinity, sexuality, and other topics at his Other Bear site.

I cited a few articles in my thesis from the book Transgender & HIV; the whole collection can be found online in its original form as a special issue of the International Journal of Transgenderism.

3 June 2003: Though it was published well before I completed my thesis, Patrick Califia's book Speaking Sex to Power somehow escaped my notice. In addition to discussing the nonoxynol-9/AIDS-prevention scandal, the mainstreaming of gay liberation, parenting for the kinky, censorship, police repression of the BDSM community, his struggles with fibromyalgia and ableism, psychological aspects of bondage and cutting scenes, and much else of note, this collection of essays discusses in depth Califia's own gender transition and tackles issues of intimacy and sexuality for FTMs more generally, along with an interesting essay on the paucity of public education or action directed at the spread of HIV among trans people.

Also, I talked a little bit about the emergence of porn by transgender and transsexual folks, but I missed a (thus far) one-of-a-kind explicit website called (simply) created by and starring a fella named Buck. The illustrious Tristan Taormino raved about Buck's site recently in her Village Voice column. Despite the glut of exploitative "she-male" porn, I still am not aware of any transwomen creating their own online or video porn. Some of the more provocative shorts by Canadian filmmaker Mirha-Soleil Ross would qualify, but good luck finding them.
I've just become aware of two relevant young Livejournal communities: ftm_undressed and mtf_undressed 1