Partnering through transition: Managing Shifts in Sexual Interaction


The passage below is excerpted from Reaching for Hope: Strategies and support for the partners of transgender people.


Managing Shifts in Sexual Interaction


Sexuality is an intensely important part of the human condition and varies from person to person and couple to couple. For most people, gender plays a significant role in how we engage sexually, and so transition impacts this key aspect of our lives.


Trans people may struggle with dissociative experiences during sex prior to coming out.[1] Deep intimacy can be hard to achieve, since they can’t connect with the other person as their authentic selves. Escaping from these patterns once they’re free to express their gender can take time.


Shifts in your beloved’s gender presentation could impact your experience of physical intimacy with them. Being raised within purity culture introduces special challenges, for example, you may question whether it’s okay to be in a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender. Sexual trauma further complicates things. If you’ve experienced abuse or assault, you may have a hard time acclimating to sexual intimacy if your partner is the gender of the perpetrator.


Depending on emotional state, hormonal interventions, and other shifts, your partner’s interest in sex may decline, their sex drive might increase, and/or their way of initiating and communicating about sex may change. A transitioning person may question their role as initiator versus recipient of advances and feel unsure about how they’re “supposed” to act.


All of these things can create relationship disruption. We tend to feel vulnerable about our bodies and sexuality, so discussions about these issues require intentionally sensitive handling. Some couples find that not thinking of penetrative sex as the main event can be helpful, instead, considering all the ways of giving and receiving physical pleasure as full parts of satisfying sexual engagement. Genital-to-genital contact is wonderful, but your entire body has the potential to be a sex organ.


Sexual excitement and attraction to a spouse or long-term partner waxes and wanes over time in all relationships. Lulls can occur during emotional states like mourning or stress. Sex drive can lessen when you’re so busy that you’re exhausted, which is common during the early years of parenting. Sexual interaction can also decrease as the years pass and our bodies age, becoming more intensely centered around the unity, comfort, and pleasure you create together rather than the steaminess of earlier romance. Variation in sexual desire is nearly universal. For a couple that includes a transgender partner, the shifts simply come from additional causes.


Not all relationships can survive the storms. But moving through this together can lead to unexpected healing of sexual brokenness, simply through the act of facing issues that have not been dealt with.

We should all seek to connect not merely our bodies through sex, but also our hearts, minds, and spirits. If the two of you can push through the challenges of shifting sexual desires, you can reach new levels of intimacy through lovemaking.[2]


It is not always easy to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.

Dorothy Day

[1]Depersonalization in gender dysphoria: widespread and widely unrecognized, www.genderanalysis.net, 2017. [2] Check out my Sex With God devotional for a deeper exploration of the interconnection of sexuality and spirituality.



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