Last June, comedian and filmmaker Lewis Hancox wrote a piece for BuzzFeed called "18 Things Trans Men Are Tired of Hearing." After the piece was published, Hancox received a number of comments from readers about No. 8: "How do you have sex?"
Although the question is undeniably rude — "Would you ask a non-trans stranger that question?" Hancox posited in his piece — readers "were commenting saying I should be educating them with details rather than telling them off for asking questions," Hancox told Mic. "To be honest, I agree with this to an extent. Misconceptions are never going to be challenged if we don't open up."
That's why, last week, Hancox posted a more comprehensive response to the question on YouTube. In his frank and funny video, "How Do You Have Sex? (As a Transgender Guy)," he describes what it's like to get it on as a trans dude.
Hancox opens by making one thing perfectly clear: Asking a trans person you barely know what they do or don't do with their genitals is never OK.
"You should never ask such a personal question to someone you barely know," he told Mic. That said, he makes the important point that "everyone likes different sexual acts, trans or not" — and not everyone only wants to have penetrative sex.
He also adds that because not all transgender people have had surgery, he can only speak for himself and his own experiences. But when he and his girlfriend first started dating, he hadn't had any surgery, and it took her a while to get used to his anatomy (which was actually in the process of changing, due to the effects of testosterone).
At the time, Hancox says he wasn't large enough to have penetrative sex with his girlfriend, but they still found other ways to get each other off. "After our first time, my girlfriend was amazed by how natural it felt," he says.
After undergoing a metoidioplasty, a sex reassignment procedure that extends the length of the clitoris to about 4 to 6 centimeters, Hancox says sex with his girlfriend is even better, because he feels comfortable in his own skin. In fact, he says, his genitals are virtually non-distinguishable from those of a non-trans male.
"Every person likes different things, and there will always be ways to please each other," Hancox told Mic. Additionally, "as I explain in the video, trans guys' genitals really aren't very different at all from non trans guys — in the way that everyone's bits are different."
Hancox told Mic he made the video in part as a response to people who interrogate him about his relationship with his own girlfriend.
"There have been a few times when people have found out my girlfriend is straight, they say: 'Well, how does that work?'" Hancox said.
Even though he finds such questions disrespectful, Hancox acknowledges they come from a lack of education about transgender issues and a curiosity about transitioning procedures and sex. His video, he hopes, can be a way to lift the curtain and demystify transgender people's sex lives.
Part of an ongoing conversation: While transgender rights are experiencing a positive surge, thanks to high-profile celebrities like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, the subject of sex remains a misunderstood one. Transgender people's anatomy and sex lives are still subject to prurient interrogation from the press, most notably in Katie Couric's uncomfortable interview with Cox in 2014, in which Couric asks Cox whether she's had bottom surgery.
"I think the preoccupation with transitioning and with surgery objectifies trans people, and we don't get to really deal with lived experiences, the reality of trans people's lives," Cox replied to Couric.
Jenner is the latest trans celebrity to have her sexual orientation questioned. While many people assume Jenner and other male-to-female transgender people are attracted to men, Jenner has repeatedly emphasized gender and sexual orientation are not one in the same. "I've only been with women," Jenner, who has repeatedly stated she is attracted to women, asserted in a recent promo for I Am Cait. "I have bigger things than an orgasm to worry about."
Correcting the false assumptions, however, will go faster with some education. For his part, Hancox said he wanted his video to shine light on some of the common misconceptions associated with transgender sexuality — and in doing so, prevent people from asking those pesky questions about his sex life to begin with.
"Every guy is different, regardless of being trans. And trans guys aren't really that different from non-trans guys," Hancox said. "That's what I wanted to prove with the video, and also give other trans guys hope too."