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We're bringing you this Q&A from BUST's print magazine's Sex Files, featuring advice from sexologist Dr. Carol Queen.

The FX show Pose taught me a lot about the sex lives of trans people and raised a few questions for me. For example, what are the rules of etiquette for engaging sexually with a pre-op or non-op trans person for the first time? What is the right way to ask delicate questions about gender and genitals while getting physical? –Category Is…Curious

It’s true that some trans people aren’t comfortable with their genitals in a sexual context if they haven’t undergone gender confirmation processes; for that matter, they may not be comfortable with them in a nonsexual context either. Genitals are highly gendered in our society, historically definitive of gender, in fact. Some people aren’t able to get past the idea that a penis doesn’t automatically equal a man or a vulva/vagina a woman, even if those parts are attached to a person who identifies and/or presents otherwise. For some folks, their genitals don’t match their self-perception, their inner identity, or their body as they understand it, and that can make it difficult to get intimate. 

However, there are also trans people for whom this is a much less cumbersome issue. Some are perfectly fine with their pleasure parts, and enjoy sex with all the nerve endings they have. 

The basic rule of etiquette is: Don’t assume. Don’t assume you know what that hottie has in their pants; that they welcome your curiosity about the fascinating world of under-their-pants; that they welcome your sexual interest in the first place. Don’t assume you know what to call whatever parts they have. Don’t assume you know what role or activity they’ll want to engage in if they do want to get sexy with you. Don’t exoticize their nether parts or act uncomfortable about them (or worse). In fact, you shouldn’t be assuming all that about cis people, either. 

That said, it doesn’t have to be such a challenge to get comfortable with a prospective lover who’s trans or gender non-binary. Here are some examples of what you could ask before getting down. “What do you like to do, sexually? Do you have any parts of your body you don’t like to have touched? What parts do you love having touched? How do you want me to refer to your genitals? If I start to do something you don’t enjoy, will you please tell me so I can try something you like better?” Don’t act like the person has arrived from another planet so you can explore their mystery. This is a human who has sensitive nerve endings that they probably like to have stimulated, just like everybody else.

Carol Queen's latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.

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This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

Top photo: JayMantri/Pixabay

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