I had sex with a transgender woman – what to do now?

Dear Dr. Milrod:

What should I do – or how should I feel, after the fact that a lady I really enjoyed spending time with is actually a post-op transsexual?

Glen or Glenda

Dear Glen or Glenda:

The acceptance of someone else’s gender seems to be correlated with the acceptance of one’s own. Many men who are very uncomfortable – almost phobic – toward gender variance have been found to have deeply rooted defense mechanisms in place to cement their own fragile sense of masculinity. For instance, there are those who commit violence after finding out that their sex partner is TG. These men become enraged at what they perceive is a “deception” and/or “betrayal.” Transgender people are victims of violent hate crimes at a much higher proportion than even gay men. Usually the perpetrators are young males who are in the throes of establishing their sense of their own masculinity. Gender ambiguity is so threatening to them that they psychologically (and literally!) want to destroy that which destabilizes that frail and emerging sense.

On the other hand, if you are secure in your perception of your sexuality and gender/gender role, the fact that the lady is a post-op transgender woman might evoke feelings of surprise, maybe even initial shock; however, you should be able to separate your own sexuality from that of hers. N.b. that you perceived her as a “lady” and that she indeed is, after surgeries, hormone treatments, etc. Hormonally, she now has the same levels of estrogen/progesterone as the average female; her genitalia have been altered to reflect her inner sense of being female; and, the most important issue – her behavior and the way other people see her is now gender-congruent. The only issue making her slightly different from female-born females is her chromosomal makeup. Most likely, she was born XY. But I surely hope you weren’t just enjoying her set of chromosomes? That would have been a monumental waste! As to the research on transsexuality, there are now studies showing that male-to-female transsexual brains are more closely related to those of natal women than to those of natal men. We still don’t know exactly which or what genes are responsible for these genetic expressions, but we have found some hypothalamic similarities and also similarities in the corpus callosum of TG and natal women. But again, I would hope that you continue enjoying spending time with her while not focusing on her brain structure!

In all seriousness, you may wish to see this lady as someone with a birth defect that has been corrected. Transsexuality is not a choice – it’s a lifelong biological condition. We try to help the patient in the best way possible with the means available to us at this time. It’s likely that in the future, there will be a pre-natal test for gender variance. If parents will choose to test for it is a political hot-button question. Until then, hormones and surgery is the best we have. This also relates to people who are born inter-sexed. They may have chromosomal issues or be born with ambiguous genitalia. Because new parents can visually see the genital area, many choose to operate on their infants. [This is another hot-button issue that is not directly related to your question, so we’ll skip it for now.] But if said parents also were able to see into the brains of their newborns and found out that s/he had a transsexual brain orientation, perhaps the problem would be corrected at a much earlier stage. After all, we provide hormones to little girls who are afflicted with AGS (adrenogenital syndrome, meaning that they were exposed to the mother’s hormonal intake during gestation, and their brains and genitalia masculinized.) Or, we do the same with boys who have Klinefelter’s syndrome (males born with an extra X chromosome, 1 in about 700). We don’t do anything to TG babies, because we can’t “see” the transsexual problem in the neonate.

My feeling is, that if you look at her problem from a medical perspective, rejoice in the fact that she was able to take care of it in such a positive way. She most likely has suffered great psychological trauma as a child and as an adolescent. She has been able to overcome other people’s reactions to her gender reassignment and she has had to endure great pain, both emotionally and physically to get where she is now. Since you enjoyed your time with her, I’m assuming it wasn’t just physical. If anything, she is a very unique lady who has seen life from both sides of the gender coin. If you really found her lovely, continue your contact with her. If not, then just go on and marvel at the many twists and turns among us human beings.

Christine Milrod, Ph.D.

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