“Is it a trans characteristic to wear a cock?”: Cock-centricity and Gender Identity

September 17, 2009  |  advice, essays

Back in April, for Sugarbutch’s third anniversary, I offered up an “ask me anything” thread where readers could ask any burning questions that they’d like for me to answer.

is it a transgender characteristic to wear a cock (with anatomically accurate balls) and feel more complete or like yourself when you are a biological female? you self ID with a lot of labels, but trans isn’t one of them. have you explored this idea? – reader

There’s two parts of this question I’d like to explore: first, my personal identity, and my relationship to “trans”; second, gender’s relationship to cocks, and my personal thoughts on that, too.

I do identify with the term “trans,” to some degree. That’s complicated, because I am not transitioning, and I do not identify as male. I feel strongly that it’s important for me to be female, a woman, lesbian-identified, and to behave and look the way I do (i.e., masculine). But insofar as people with my biological sex most often have a feminine gender presentation (setting aside the societal compulsory prescription of the feminine gender presentation), and I do not, I feel as though I am transgressing gender boundaries by my claim to masculinity and by presenting in a way that is seemingly in conflict with the (societally prescribed) sex/gender assumption. I – me personally, my identity, my work, my discussions – defy rigid, polarizing gender norms, and queer gender. I believe in taking this and that from any sorts of presentations around us and re-creating onesself in ways that make us feel good, empowered, strong, sexy, expressive, and authentic. I think we can all transcend our prescribed roles – no matter what they are, gender or familial or societal – and become ourselves in larger ways.

I don’t usually include “trans” in my list of identity descriptors. When I refer to myself as trans, it’s usually very couched in other things, like “my particular kind of genderqueer masculine-identified trans-ness.” I guess I feel like my use of trans and my inclusion in the trans communities is a bit controversial, as there are plenty of people who will jump (and have jumped) in to correct my use of this term, saying that my use of it invalidates the experiences of “real” trans people who are FTM or MTF and who are transsexual, transitioning fully from one gender to another.

So I tend to claim butch, whole-heartedly and fairly simply, really, and leave it at that. Because that’s what I am (right now, anyway, not that I anticipate that changing, but who knows, it could), and though I do think that the identity of butch includes a sort of trans-ness or a genderqueer-ness of occupying more than one gendered space at once, ‘butch’ accurately describes me much better than the term trans.

Now: about cocks.

Specifically, about cocks with anatomically accurate balls, about realistic cocks, about flesh-colored cocks and really feeling it and claiming it as MY cock, about having a cock as someone whose body doesn’t quite have one, not in the same way that other bodies have one.

I want to disrupt this idea that cocks specifically and penetration in general is a male, masculine, or man’s trait. I mean I get it: when considering human genitalia, the man is the one with the penis, the woman is the one with the vulva. But men have holes that feel good when penetrated, too, and women have fingers and tongues and sometimes clits big enough to penetrate, and a long history of dildoes, and then of course there’s the strap on cock, for when we really want to feel what it’s like to swing from the hips.

I was at a sex blogger tea party here in New York City maybe two years ago, discussing cock-centricty, when I believe Chris of Carnal Nation said (something like): “I know I’m a guy and all, but I’m not as cock-centric as you are. When I fuck, it’s with my hands, or my mouth. I don’t identify with it the same way you do, and it’s not my central sex act.”

This seems like a rather rare perspective for cis men, especially given that our entire (American, white, dominant) sexual culture is pretty much built around penises and penetration and the male erection, etc, but I think it’s more common than we’d expect.

Likewise, I have known some femmes who have been some of the most cock-centric people I’ve ever met. They drive a mean strap-on, as they say. And I’ve known some butches and trans men who are not cock-centric at all, despite that it would seemingly align with their masculine gender to be so.

Maybe this perspective of mine is also partly as a result of coming out as queer into a lesbian community which questioned cocks constantly. I have absolutely heard girls say, “If I wanted to get fucked with a cock, I’d date a man!” (Who I, duh, didn’t sleep with. More than once.) So coming to my own desire for using a cock and my own cock-centricty, while at the same time coming to a butch identity though not transitioning to male, I claimed cocks as a certain sex act that I separated from any particular identity.

Because anything two lesbians do in bed is lesbian by nature of the definition, no matter what act it is.

Unless, you know, it’s not – I certainly don’t want to devalue the experience of being in lesbian relationships and doing a whole lot of cock-centric activities, and for one of them to later come to a male identity. Perhaps for folks who go through that, the act was not exclusively lesbian, but was also male in a way. My point is, I want to squelch the fear that lesbians can’t use cocks in their sex play because it’s “not lesbian.”

That is not to say that strapping on or identifying with a cock is genderless. It interrelates to gender identity, presentation, and celebration – but which ways it interrelates depends on the individual. For me, it absolutely plays on my gender fetish and the way I see myself as embodying a masculine gender, and I LOVE to play with that during sex (as, uh, the entire Internet knows). And femmes who strap on cocks and play with them have told me that they see cocks as part of their gender, too – that part of the turn-on awesomeness of the whole experience is that it supposedly misaligns with their gender, that their sparkly pink harness and dick is all the more sexy to them because it’s femme.

I suppose there are a few kinds of cock-centricty, right – because I’d say Kristin is fairly cock-centric, but she isn’t into wearing one and fucking with one the way I am. For the most part I’m referring to folks who want to be the wearers here, who identify with it as a part of them.

If you’re cock-centric, you’re cock-centric; I don’t think that necessarily should dictate your gender identity. Cock-centricity is not necessarily a masculine or male trait. Gender identity may be totally related, somewhat related, or not related at all – I think that just depends. For me, the interplay of gender and my cock is important, and I love the way it feels to use it, the way I feel when I’m packing, the way it feels to get off while fucking with a cock, the turn-on of dirty talking about my hard dick, the ways it drives me wild to get a blow job. It is part of my masculine sexuality, but I have many other parts of masculinity that are not necessarily sexual, and I’ve explored the line between butch and trans enough that, for now, I know I’m pretty firm where I’m at. I still struggle with some descriptors like “girl,” “woman,” and “daughter,” but the other options of “son,” “man,” and “boy,” don’t fit either. So, for now, I’m sticking with butch.

I’d love to hear what some cock-centric (or non-cock-centric) gay boys have to say about this, I’m not sure how it translates (though I have some guesses). I will have to ask around.

comment on this
 

Want more? You’re insatiable.

Highlights, announcements, workshops, and sometimes even exclusive smut. Plus, get the password for protected posts.


12 Comments


  1. Huh. Funnily enough, I've been thinking a lot about this kind of thing lately, and posted something about it yesterday.

    I guess intellectually, I know that anything two lesbians do IS inherently lesbian. E.g., two women fucking with a cock doesn't mean we're imitating heterosexuality, and the one wearing it isn't trying to be a man.

    The thing I do kind of have trouble with is a different kind of cock-centricity — the kind that doesn't involve a cock at all, but involves *imagining* one. Like how when my girlfriend goes down on me I imagine she's giving me a blow job, even when she's licking my clit. Or how when I'm getting her off, rubbing her clit, she gets off by imagining (and I fuel it by talking as if) her clit is a cock. What's THAT about?

    Anyway. That's off-subject. Thanks for the post!

  2. Alphafemme, thank you! The fastest way for me to get off as well is imaging my girlfriend is giving me a blowjob while she's going down on me. And it always felt really weird to me. I suppose that is a sort of cock-centricity as well… when I watch straight porn I get off on identifying with the man and his cock. And I'm neither butch nor male-identified. Sometimes I wonder how much that has to do with being socialized into accepting male pleasure as the norm, or at least as easier to come by. I dunno, but it made me happy to see that my experience is shared by others :)

  3. I just want to say Thank You. i have been having trouble dealing with questioning whether i am trans or not. I pack and use a strap on and often i was worried that because i feel whole when packing that it ment i was trans. i dont want to lose my lesbian idenity. For the most part i thought i had to pick a side and stick to it. This post has given me some real insight in dealing with my thoughts

  4. Hi!

    I love your blog, and I'm delurking cos I really love what you say in this post.

    I hate it when people expect that trans is this one monolithic way of being, and that being a lesbian or butch is totally different, or its a 'spectrum' with feminine straight woman at one end, and masculine straight trans man at the other end.

    I'm one of those femme, fagtastic tranny boys who is not quite 'really trans' enough for even other trans folk to always respect my pronouns.

    Anyway, because I have little attraction to packing anything that looks realistic, and like my dildo's to come in colours like 'raspberry' and 'midnight swirl', I've had to really reconsider what being 'trans' is to me. Also, I'm an activist, which means I have a constant stream of gender questioners asking me if I think they are 'really trans' and how can one tell if they are 'really a man inside'? Epic questions that I honestly can't answer.

    In the end, I tell people that instead of focussing on how well they match a check list of things that they think describe trans men, why not think instead about *what they want their body to look like, and feel like*?

    Then they can work on that, whether that means getting a gym membership, top surgery, hormones, or phalloplasty. It might even mean none of those things, and just buying some new clothes, a binder or a packer. They can figure out what words they need to use to explain, or accomplish those tasks later.

    We only live once, and figuring out if one is 'really trans' or 'really a man' is hard work, and often takes a lot more time than figuring out whether or not one wants top surgery. I understand people's need for self definition, but I also think that there's a lot of detritus floating around about what you have to 'feel' to be a 'real trans'.

    Epic example: Drunken lesbian telling me that she's not trans because she's not a 'man trapped in a woman's body', she's a woman who really wishes she had a mans body. Like thats totally different!

  5. Alphafemme – I think that's totally on the subject, and related. The brain is the biggest source of turn ons, after all, so the dirty talk and imagining has all the more power to get our juices going. I *love* gendered dirty talk and often imagine the same kinds of things, especially when someone is going down on me (without being strapped on). I think it's related – it might not be a certain cock-centricty, but it's a gender fetishization, and for whatever reason, it turns us on. You could over-analyze it (goodness knows I do) but you could also just accept that it's something that makes you hot, and as long as it's not doing damage, things that make us hot are good to know about. I mean why does any of what turn us on turn us on? Who knows?

    april – I have definitely asked myself whether I was trans, both in the context of loving having my own cock and in other masculinity things. And I think it's perfectly fine to ask the question, perfectly fine to question it, to really ask, to really give it some equal consideration, but it's also fine to come to the conclusion that no, I'm not trans, or I don't know, maybe someday I'll want to do more to alter my body to be masculine, but not immediately, I'm good where I'm at for the time being. So asking the question is good and important – but if both options are not adequate answers, it's not really a fair question to begin with.

    radicalyffe – I need more femme faggy trans boys like you in my life. Thanks for that comment, and for that perspective on gender, and more cock-centricty … this stuff is complicated, but I'll admit, I love it. I definitely agree that "trans" is not this singular, monolithic way of being, and the more I feel like there's room for that, the more I feel like there's room for *me* under the trans umbrella. I do identify as trans to some degree, but I don't usually state it publicly unless I can back it up with my understanding of what that means – I guess it's more complicated than just claiming the label. Ah, isn't it always.

  6. I've meant to ask this question before, but your two (fabulous) "ask me anything posts" have made it imperative for me.

    You've defined butch/femme, and even male/female, to varying degrees. But I'm still a little fuzzy on this: what, to you, are "masculine" and "feminine"?

    Thank you for having these conversations at the best level and with the most productivity I've seen anywhere…

  7. Thanks for this post, Sinclair. I identify with you quite a bit in the identity area. I definitely consider myself butch, and for now I'm happy with where I'm at – happier than I have been in my entire life, in fact.

    And you make a good point about cock-centricity. In my case, it's definitely reciprocal; being with a woman who wants to get fucked by my cock equally as intensely as I want to fuck her with my cock is imperative. This give-and-take arrangement is powerful and absolutely essential to the health of my sex life. To bring it full circle to the issue of gender, I liken it to what it does for my butch identity to be with a femme; her feminine qualities just draw out my masculinity, and vice versa.

    Hopefully that makes sense, because I'm now realizing that I really need to get some sleep.

  8. "Epic example: Drunken lesbian telling me that she’s not trans because she’s not a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’, she’s a woman who really wishes she had a mans body. Like thats totally different!"

    I actually do think that is totally different. Feeling like your body is already and always has been male (i.e. having a male brain-sex which gives you the experience of having male-assigned parts, which doesn't conform to what you see when you look at your body) is really different than experience your body as female and wishing it were male. I think that varioius trans and non-trans people have both those sets of experiences, but acknowledging the difference seems important.

  9. Wow, I can't thank you enough for this post, Sinclair (and others who've commented). The perspective that cock-centricity is not necessarily a feminine or masculine trait, though at the same time can be quite related to one's gender identity and presentation is an interesting one.

    Cock-centricity as being not necessarily trans is a rather affirming statement for my identity. I've often struggled with whether or not my gender identity is more aligned with trans, butch, or something else, or if I will eventually transition. One central theme of that has been exactly what you describe as being cock-centricity. I think I feel somewhat as April does, in that I often fear it may be a signifier of an identity other than butch (i.e., trans). Further, I struggle with my own cock-centricity as being shameful in some way.

    When I pack, get a blow job or fuck with a cock and get off, I feel much ambivalence. On one hand, it feels great, and I feel confident and affirmed in my identity; however, many times I am also ashamed for feeling that way. This post has been so meaningful in, from my perspective, legitimizing all of parts of my own sexual and gender identities, in a world that breaks it down daily. Reading the words – particularly the words of another butch – that are very aligned with feelings I've always had difficulty expressing verbally has given me a new and positive way to think about those feelings – including the shame. Thank you so much for your insight.

  10. Jesus, I remember being with this obnoxiously straight transphobic homophobic guy (I don't know how I get into these things) who made me question a lot about myself at a time when I just did things (aka, wanted to wear a strap-on) with the simple, straightforward motivation that it made me felt good. He did a lot to wreck my concepts of freedom of identity and self confidence- made me feel like everyone was tied down to a simple equation of "If you do this, then you're ____." After leaving him, I straightened out my personal relationship with my own gender identity and have felt very comfortable with being a transguy for a long time, but (in a sort of paradoxical way) this post is really the final release of permission to be myself and not define my gender by what I do in bed. Thank you for writing this.

  11. I'm a ftm who is not cock-centric. I appreciated your mention of this category, because the moment I read it, I realized that I've felt pressure and assumptions that because I id as a boy, I must own a dildo or like using them. So, I felt legitimized. Thanks for disentangling the connections between gender, sexuality, and cocks, while still recognizing their links! Great article.

  12. I'm an ftm (another effeminate gay trans boy) who's enthralled by my partner's cock, not my own or the idea of my own, and most definitely not by substitutes for my own.

    Now, it would have been nice to come with one factory-installed, but more for the basic feeling of comfort in my own skin. I'd like to use it for its more…mundane…purpose, and am not especially interested in it as a phallic, penetrating tool, though I'm not averse to the idea either. I just don't think I'd ever want to use a penetrating toy on someone else.

    Nor am I interested in other people's toys being used on me, because I'm just not psychologically aroused by the whole phallic/penetration thing from either side – I like interacting with my partner's cock because it smells nice, does cool things and makes him feel good.

Trackbacks

  1. Year In Review On Sugarbutch: 2009 – Sugarbutch Chronicles

Leave a Reply