NOTE: This article contains sensitive material including descriptions of sexual acts. If you are uncomfortable with those topics, read at your own discretion.
In most schools across the United States, students are required to take a health class. In class, there is usually a section on sex education. While sex education is beginning to improve on some of its shortcomings, such as abstinence-only sex ed, it is still a very heteronormative subject. So what do you do about intimacy when you’re gender non-conforming?
First, you have to understand what it means to be non-binary. Even those of us who identify as such often have trouble defining it. Being non-binary means that you are not exclusively male or female. There are different types. For example, identifying as gender fluid means that you feel as though your gender fluctuates between male and female on any given. When you identify as non-male or non-female, heteronormative sex ed is easily tuned out.
You have to learn to recognize that sex isn’t just penis-in-vagina; it can happen in more than one way. One glaring problem I face with intimacy as a non-binary person is that on days that I have dysphoria and don’t feel feminine, the last thing I want is any kind of penetration. It feels wrong, like I’m not supposed to be doing it. Dysphoria can already make me feel out-of-body. If you are in a male/female bodied relationship, it can be helpful to sit your partner down and explain to them what you’re feeling. From there, if intimacy is still something you desire, you can decide what to you. One thing that I find very helpful is to find stimulation that allows you to keep your undergarments on. Have a vibrator? Break it out and hold it on top of your panties. This is very stimulative to the female body. It’s a technique called layering.
Sex is a myriad of things. Once you figure out what gets you turned on, you’re good to go.
If you want to go all out, sex toys are another option. For you gender fluid folks, strap-ons could prove to be very useful for days where you feel as though that part of your body is missing.
It may seem unnecessary, but nonsexual physical contact can be very helpful for moving into sexual contact. Give hugs. Cuddle. Sleep in the same bed – nothing else, just sleep – and enjoy being in each other’s arms. The bond this creates can enhance the experience of intimacy and make it easier to move into sexual activity.
As mentioned above, American sex ed is rather lacking when it comes to non-heterosexual sex. This leaves you to educate yourself. Read books, talk to other gender non-conforming people you know, or take to the internet. Make sure you have fully educated yourself on anything you want to try. If you’re interested in a type of kink, I highly recommend talking to someone who has already experienced it. They will be the best teachers.
To the non-binary assault survivors:
Your sexual experience has not been stolen, I promise. It may feel like that, and it can make sex scary because it no longer feels like your own. What happened before was not a consensual act. Now you’re doing it consensually. That’s the first experience that really matters.
Being non-binary in a world that still tries to reduce things to male and female can be daunting. Take things one step at a time, try things out, and let your partner (if you have one) help you. And most importantly, be safe!