In this episode of Good Girls Talk About Sex, we talk with Trystan Reese, a transgender white man in a monogamous gay marriage who is 35 years old. In 2017, Trystan gave birth to a baby conceived with his husband Biff. Their story has been shared in People Magazine, CNN, Cosmo and more. You can find them online at BiffAndI.com.
While Trystan has been living as a man for the past 15 years, he was raised and socialized as a female for his first 18 years. That gives him an intimate understanding of both sides of the gender spectrum – including insight into which aspects are biological or hormonal and which are societal.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)
LEAH: Hi, I’m Leah Carey and this is Good Girls Talk About Sex. This is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. Before we get started, I want to tell you this. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from.me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with the things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: In today’s episode, we’ll meet Trystan Reese, a transgender white man in a monogamous gay marriage who is 35 years old. Tristan is best known for conceiving and giving birth to a baby with his husband Biff. You can find them online at biffandi.com. While Tristan has been living as a man for the past 15 years, he was raised throughout his teenage years as a female. That gives him an intimate understanding of both sides of the gender spectrum including insight into which aspects are biological and hormonal and which are societal.
Our conversation went for well over an hour and there’s so much good stuff that we didn’t have space to include in this episode, but you’re going to want to hear the whole thing. So now is the time to head over to patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex to access all of the full uncut interviews featured on this show. And now, I’m so pleased to introduce Trystan!
Trystan, thank you for doing this today. TRYSTAN: No problem.
LEAH: I’m so excited to be talking to you. [LAUGHTER]
LEAH: So my first question for everybody I talk to is, what is your first memory of sexual desire? TRYSTAN: Oh, V.C. Andrews.
LEAH: Oh man, Flowers in the Attic?
TRYSTAN: Not one of those but one of the like sequels for sure. And I was a voracious reader as a child and so I think it would just make sense that that’s where it could exist.
TRYSTAN: If you know what I mean and if you’re reading, kind of like you’re filling in so much of the story for yourself, which is I think is great for young people. Because then you’re able to go as far as your brain can imagine but not far enough that it’s traumatizing in the way that I think being exposed to porn where everything is literally right there. And I think it felt to me, it felt very innocent and healthy.
LEAH: Let me also say, I’m almost certain to ask some questions that are inappropriate. TRYSTAN: Oh, that’s fine.
LEAH: Or say things that are inappropriate. Please tell me.
TRYSTAN: I will just lovingly correct you.
LEAH: Thank you.
LEAH: Okay. I appreciate that.
LEAH: So when you think back on to that early experiences of desire, do you identify them as masculine desire or feminine desire?
TRYSTAN: No, not either. I mean even in those reading the scenes, it was just about the chemistry that two people have for each other. And it was also they were written by a woman, so it’s very much about the man as well. And I’ve always been attracted and interested in men as early as I could possibly remember. So I think that was also a part of it, that it wasn’t necessarily a woman that was in that situation, but it was a situation involving a man and sex.
LEAH: Yay sex!
TRYSTAN: Even then, it’s literature so it isn’t even super graphic, but it was just like innocent stuff. But yeah, so I don’t ever see it as being one or the other.
LEAH: Do you have memories of feeling something that you can define as feminine sexual desire?
TRYSTAN: I don’t know what that means. I don’t know. Well, I guess I’ll say this. It wasn’t until I started transitioning and pumping my body full of testosterone that I really think I first had what, maybe categorized, as the more masculine sexual desire. Which is and not to insult men, but this is my own experience, how testosterone affected me was the desire to possess. So, as opposed to “I am with you” or “We’re creating pleasure between the two of us”, but like, “I see something that is attractive and I want it.” And that was a huge and a very bizarre shift for me.
LEAH: Yeah and you can date that to the testosterone?
TRYSTAN: Yup, for sure. There is like a, again I don’t want to be reductionist, but the feeling of wanting to conquer like, “Oh, this is a hill to climb. This is a problem to solve. This is a person that I want to notice me and then have sex with me so that I can say that I did it.” And that sort of a conquest type of a feeling was a completely physiological experience.
LEAH: That is fascinating. TRYSTAN: So weird, yeah.
LEAH: I often think about how trans people are the only ones who can explain the gender divide to us, because you are the only people who have experienced it on both sides.
TRYSTAN: Yeah, and I think that the only part of where it starts to become problematic is that some trans people are like, “No, I never had a female sexuality. I was a boy just in this different kind of body.”
And I don’t feel that way. I feel like, “Okay, maybe”, but what can I learn from that experience of okay, having the body where estrogen was the primary hormone in my body and I was also socialized and treated by the world as a woman. So for me, that’s indistinguishable from, yes, I do see that I was a girl. I do see that I was a young woman, and I do see that I transitioned, and now I’m living my life as a man.
LEAH: How old were you when you transitioned?
TRYSTAN: I mean transition is a murky process. There’s like lots of stages.
TRYSTAN: But I think it was more like in the 18-22 range, so I was a young adult.
LEAH: Okay. You had a chunk of years where you were like you said socialized as a female.
TRYSTAN: That’s right, and dating certainly, and falling in love as a girl. Yeah, so I do think that I’ve had both of those experiences.
LEAH: So what are the differences between falling in love as a female and falling in love as a male?
TRYSTAN: The experience of falling in love is no different. But there are lots of dynamics that are very different and feel really frustrating and new for me post-transition.
Because for me, I really appreciated the dynamic of being with a man who is strong that I’m like, “Cool, you got this.” Like being safe in the world is already a big scary place and just feeling like at night, I could sort of be with someone, and there was that more caretaker thing.
And quite frankly, I appreciated the ability to utilize a certain manipulative power that came from the men that I was with who wanted more sex more than I did. And so that sort of meant, “Okay, well I have a piece of leverage in this relationship.” Hopefully, not in an unhealthy way. But just there’s a dynamic there and I’m like, “Okay, I have a certain leverage.”
And then also, I really appreciated that I could wear a certain thing and boom! There’s desire. And that is not true in my current relationship at all. He didn’t give a shit about what I wear. And so, I can’t just put on something sexy and be like, “Whoo!”
TRYSTAN: “How’s this?” He’s like, “If you think that that underwear looks good, that’s great but I don’t care about that.”
TRYSTAN: And I’m not able to manipulate him in the same ways.
LEAH: And is that do you think a facet of your particular relationship? Or is it a facet of it being a male- male relationship?
TRYSTAN: I think both. What I have observed is that just the power dynamic is so different between two men. And I think that’s when I start to see frustration with sort of like the modern ideas of gender equality is.
Because you see a movie like Call Me By Your Name, where it’s an older man and a younger man. And people are like, “Oh sure, that’s fine if it’s two men. But what if it was a man and a woman? That would be considered manipulative.” And I’m like, “Cool, it’s not. It’s not between a man and a woman. The dynamic is different.” The social dynamic is different and for me, having been a young woman, the lengths that I would go to impress and please and not upset a man, there was no limit.
LEAH: Can you talk more about that?
TRYSTAN: I mean even in my feminist family, I still feel like it was my job to make my partner happy, content, whatever. And I was always scared to say, “I don’t like that. I want to do something different” because I always felt like, “Well, he’ll just break up with me and find some girl who will do these things.”
TRYSTAN: So I just had to do those things. LEAH: Yes.
TRYSTAN: And I think the expectations put on men are so different. They’re so different and gay male culture, before sometimes you even meet each other in person, you’ve already been texting back and forth saying, “I’m willing to do this. I’m not willing to do this. Oh, cool, we’re not a match. Bye.” Instead of like, “Well, I’m here with a man who quite frankly could probably hurt me if I don’t end up being into whatever he’s into”, so you just kind of go along with it.
And that’s not gay men culture at all. At all. They just have no problem saying, “I’ll do this but not that. I’m not into this but I’m willing to try it with you.” That’s all on the table and way ahead of time, way ahead of time. And the moment dudes have no problem being like, “Yeah, this isn’t working for me. Let’s just do something else.” And I’m like, “What?”
I could never imagine doing that even as a young woman and even I mean it really is frustrating to my partner because there is still sometimes wherein I’ll say, “I don’t actually like that thing.” And he’ll be like, “What? We’ve been together for 8 years. Why didn’t you tell me 8 years ago?” And I’m like, “I’m so sorry, but it’s really hard for me to say I don’t like that or I’d rather be doing this”. Which he wasn’t socialized as a girl, so he was like, “Why? You don’t trust me? Like I should be a safe person that you can come to me and say I don’t actually want to do that thing ever again.”
TRYSTAN: And I’m like, “Yeah. I need you to just step out of your own experience and imagine what it may be like to have been told that your pleasure is actually not important in a sexual relationship.”
TRYSTAN: And that’s just like impossible for him to imagine, yeah.
LEAH: Yeah, that’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, is this when you or I get myself into a situation where maybe no has to be said, especially when a no has to be said after a yes has been said.
LEAH: And brings up so much fear about, “I have to figure out how to say no that makes it okay for them so that they don’t angry at me and attack me and I end up being the one who’s physically hurt in this encounter.”
TRYSTAN: Or even emotionally hurt.
LEAH: Or that too.
TRYSTAN: I mean setting down a basic boundary like, “I’ll do this but not that”, and having a dude who’s like, “Oh, I don’t understand why you would be into that” or “Well, you seem like you would be” or like, “Oh, well.” There’s so much defense that all of a sudden you’re in that position of comforting them.
TRYSTAN: And you’re like, “Cool, all I did was say this but not that.”
TRYSTAN: It’s not like I told you that your dick is small, you know what I mean.
TRYSTAN: But I will say the flip side of that is now having inhabited a body that I would now consider a man’s body for like 15 years, it also really sucks being completely governed by your hormones.
It completely sucks to have to navigate the world and to navigate your relationship having physical needs that are far greater than your partner’s, and having it feel really, really hurtful when someone rejects you in that way. And even though of course, it’s just someone saying “I don’t want to do that thing”, it’s really hard not to feel like an attack and like you’ve done something wrong.
There’s so much shame too for men around being able to say, “I really want to do this thing. Oh, you don’t want to do that? No problem. We can do something else.” That is just not a skill that’s taught men either. So yeah, it sucks.
LEAH: It’s interesting hearing you talk about the “I’ll do this and not that” conversation in gay male culture. It’s something that, I’m a wild Dan Savage fan.
TRYSTAN: Totally. Use your words. [LAUGHTER]
LEAH: Use your words.
TRYSTAN: That’s what he always says, yes.
LEAH: And he has talked about how gay men must have these conversations at the beginning because there’s no default.
TRYSTAN: There’s no default, that’s right, yeah. And it’s a great part of gay male culture, I think. LEAH: It’s phenomenal.
TRYSTAN: And I really loved navigating gay male culture as a transman because there was even more of that feeling of like, “Cool, I don’t know anything about what to do so will you teach me? Will you show me what you like?” And it’s like what is literally ever been sexier than someone saying, “Show me what you like”?
TRYSTAN: Straight men would never do that.
TRYSTAN: Straight men are like, “Cool, I know exactly what to do. I got you.”
TRYSTAN: And it’s such a better dynamic embarking upon or entering a sexual relationship with someone who’s like, “Cool, show me what to do.” That’s super hot.
LEAH: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: And that’s something that I think, I mean there’s a lot from queer culture that straight people can learn from, and that’s definitely one of them.
LEAH: Yeah. What was sex like for you as a female? Was it pleasurable?
TRYSTAN: I mean, so that’s difficult because of the timeline. Because you think who, underage 18, is really having mutually beneficial, fulfilling, empowered, intimate relationships?
LEAH: That is extremely fair. TRYSTAN: Very few.
TRYSTAN: So it’s hard for me to parse out what is post-transition hormones? What is post-transition feeling really comfortable in my body and being able to advocate for myself intimately? And what is just coming of age body maturing stuff? I have no idea. No idea.
But I mean I think that even in my teen years, I feel really comfortable and confident that I had really fun delightful, mutually respectful exploration with boys, and I was a girl. I had some that were not that way but like who hasn’t? And I certainly had just as many as a man.
LEAH: Did you ever have same sex girl-girl experiences?
TRYSTAN: Yeah, I definitely tried that. And it was not for me. And certainly in my early years of trying to figure out who the hell I was, like 15 and up, certainly I was like, “Okay, I can’t actually be a gay man because I’m a woman so maybe I’m a gay lady.”
So I definitely tried that relationships with women but it was truly, truly like kissing my sister. It’s like there’s nothing there. And I would like them immensely as people and want to hang out with them, and I could see that they were aesthetically pleasing, but there was just like nothing there in terms of my attraction for them.
In the last 15 years, I’ve been able to come into myself and feeling, I think even fairly early on my transition really like 23, 24, I can’t ever remember a time where I was like, “Ugh, I wish that I had been born traditionally male.” I can only remember times where I was like, “Cool, I’m super different from other dudes and some guys are really going to be into that.”
And so that’s what Dan Savage talks about like if you have something different about yourself, you don’t roll it out like it’s cancer. You roll it out like, “Hey, this is something that’s super cool that I’m pretty sure you’re going to be into.”
And I figured that out really early on, that truly if you roll out to somebody like, “Oh, I have something terrible to tell you and I don’t know if you’re still going to like me when I tell you I’m transgender, but don’t worry, I’ll never make you go down there.” You know what I mean if that’s how you say it, you are truly positing someone to be like, “Oh, ugh, I don’t know if I’m into that.”
Which is very different to if you roll it out as like, “Oh, you know one thing we haven’t talked about? I’m trans. So I was born female, so I have probably a different body that you’re used to working with. How do you feel about that?” Way different. Because usually I mean truly, 90% of the time they’re like, “Oh, cool, so how will that work?” And then we’re having this sexy conversation.
LEAH: Right. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: And not a, “Hey, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to go on a second date with me” kind of conversation.
LEAH: You’re right.
TRYSTAN: So I found for me that attitude shift of being like, “Hey, here’s something really cool” and even then if it doesn’t go well, it signs them up to be like “Oh, you know, I don’t think that’s going to work for me.” And then you’re like, “Cool, no problem. I assume the next round of drinks is on you then and then we’ll part ways and maybe I’ll see you and we can say hi.” You know what I mean, it just sets them up to have the full range of experiences or approaches to it.
LEAH: I feel like that could be such a useful trick, not trick, but a useful tool for us in so many ways.
TRYSTAN: So many ways. And that really opened up for me when I was young, and I had been in a play. I’d been castmates with a man that was also in the show and I had actually known that he was HIV+ through some other means like maybe he was a little bit like an activist or something.
But we were sort of interested in each other. So he was like, “Oh, after rehearsal next week do you want to come to coffee with me?” And I was like, “Okay.” So I’m having an experience of driving to coffee, first date with this very cute guy, being like, “Oh god, does he know I’m trans? How am I going to tell him?” Right, he’s having a parallel experience, “Oh god, does he know I’m HIV+ how am I going to tell him?”
So we’re literally having parallel experiences coming to this coffee shop rehearsing in our heads, “How am I going to tell him? Is it going to be a big deal? Is he going to be into it or not? Is it going to be a dealbreaker or not?” And of course, I already knew and he already knew.
So when we got on the date, I had the awkward thing of being like, trying to casually put it in the conversation, which is how I usually would always do it, in passing. And they can pick it up if they want or they can leave it if they don’t. And he had to do the same exact thing about being HIV+. So I was like kind of interesting, kind of like when you have some sort of a body thing that maybe are different than what people are projecting onto you. You do have that thing where you’re like, “Okay, how am I going to roll this out?”
TRYSTAN: In a way that invites them to have an authentic reaction to it without presuming that it’s going to be negative.
LEAH: Even though it’s a radically different experience because a woman that carries a lot of weight, that’s just visibly obvious, but I feel like just that internal conversation of, “Hey, I have extra flesh for you to grab.”
LEAH: Is a totally different conversation than, “Are you going to be okay with the fact that I don’t have a
TRYSTAN: Right. And I’ll also say that the switch is when a person comes into dating someone who is trans or HIV+ or plus size or whatever. When they come in and they see someone who is confident and assured, they know that it’s not emotionally treacherous territory.
And I know that for my partner when we first started dating, he said that was one of his biggest fears. Dating a trans person was not my body, but it was more my relationship to my body. So like, “What if I touch in a way and that’s going to freak you out and it’s going to be seen as a violation. And I’ve hurt you, I didn’t mean to, but I didn’t know.” And so I think when I’m able to say, “Yeah, cool, I’m trans and here’s the awesome things about that”, that sends them the message that “I am empowered. This is going to be a super fun experience for both of us.”
TRYSTAN: It’s not going to be treacherous. And I think it’s the same if you have a plus size body, if you come to someone and say, “Yeah, look at how amazing I am, they know that you’re going to be safe and fun.”
Whereas if you come from a place of shame, they’re going to assume and not that they’re not into you the way that you are, but there may be a lot of emotional treacherous territory here because you haven’t done your work, and that may not be a fun carefree experience.
LEAH: I love that.
TRYSTAN: You know what I mean?
LEAH: Yes. I just love that whole direction of thinking, yeah.
TRYSTAN: Yeah, but you have to go through a long journey first before you get to that place where you’re like, “Yeah, this is what I bring and it’s awesome. And if you’re not into it, too bad for you.”
But there were a lot of experiences I had early on where gay men weren’t into it and those felt devastating and shameful and heartbreaking at the time. And it was a long time before I could be like, “Okay, cool. Peace.”
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LEAH: The reason that you are known in the world is because you have had a baby.
TRYSTAN: Thank you. He’s perfect.
LEAH: So what was that experience of having transitioned to be a man, living your life as a man, having to go off the hormones so that you could get pregnant?
TRYSTAN: Yeah, I mean I think about it in a couple of ways. There’s of course the physical experience of just like going off of hormones and having just that stabilizing factor physiologically kind of go away for a bit, which is very different than how did I reconcile my own identity as a man with being a pregnant person? And I do see them as completely different questions.
LEAH: Okay. So let’s pretend I’ve asked them both.
TRYSTAN: Oh, sure.
TRYSTAN: Yeah, and truly, in the subculture of transmasculine people, this is just not an abnormal thing. This just happens all the time and people just don’t tell anyone.
TRYSTAN: Oh yeah, hundreds of times. All over the world. Yeah, so this has been a thing that has been
happening a long time, and there’s been medical data on it. LEAH: Really, of what kind?
TRYSTAN: Oh, showing both sort of qualitative as well as longitudinal studies looking at hormone use and its effect on birth outcomes, all of those things. Yeah, truly showing 100% the same birth outcomes. If you stop hormones and wait for 3-5 sort of normal cycles, same exact birth outcomes as anybody else. It’s just like hormonal birth control. You stop it, your body kicks back into gear.
TRYSTAN: Yeah. Nothing happens. Those eggs are still sitting in there. Yeah, which is not what we’ve been told. Certainly in the 80s and 90s and I still hear, in fact I spoke at a GSA summit, like a queer youth summit, and I still had 17 year-olds coming up to me and saying, “My doctor said if I go on hormones, I can never have a baby.”
LEAH: Right, that’s what I thought.
TRYSTAN: And my uterus is an uninhabitable environment. And like yeah, that’s just not true.
LEAH: Is there a time period like you can do it for 5 years and still be?
TRYSTAN: I was on hormones for 15 years.
LEAH: Wow. And so once the baby is born, you hear about sort of that maternal rush of chemicals the first time that a mother holds her baby. What is that like for you?
TRYSTAN: I mean I don’t think that any of that is maternal. It’s chemicals. But we’ve ascribed the label of maternal to it and like just science. The other parent who is in the room has that exact same rush of oxytocin, all of those chemicals like that’s all there. It’s new life. You know what I mean, so I don’t know why it needs to be maternal or whatever. I think it’s your own experience. And it was bliss. It was just completely divine. Just like this little person and now he’s on my body. It was just amazing.
LEAH: So how long was it before you went back on the hormones?
TRYSTAN: So hormones play like a really intricate role in any healing process in the body for anyone. And scar tissue heals much better with higher levels of testosterone. So if I had a C-section, they would have recommended I go back on testosterone as early as possible, because that helps with the healing process.
Whereas if you have a vaginal birth, estrogen is actually what’s primarily responsible for sending all the signals to what tissues in your body, your vaginal tissues to heal. So because I’ve had a virginal birth, they said, “You should wait as long as possible for your body to really heal itself.” And they can even see looking at vaginal tissue what your estrogen levels are like in your body based on the coloring. Yeah, and so in the post-partum period where I would go and get checked out, they would be like, “Oh, your estrogen levels are still low. You need to stay off. Don’t go back on testosterone for a while until you’re a little bit healed up. So wait for it to heal up.” So maybe like 6 weeks or 2 months.
LEAH: Did you miss it during the conception and carrying the baby and the postpartum, did you miss the hormones?
TRYSTAN: I can’t say during the pregnancy because there’s so much else happening. You can’t piece that out on top of everything else.
TRYSTAN: And even during the conception period, I didn’t notice a difference. Biff noticed a difference.
TRYSTAN: He’s like, “You’re very different and I’m excited to have the old you that I fell in love with back.”
TRYSTAN: And I do think testosterone is a grounding influence on my personality and does help me see much more even keel, which I appreciate.
LEAH: Even keel sounds not so moody?
TRYSTAN: Yes. I wouldn’t say moody because I feel like that’s really loaded and feminized. Again, it’s associated with emotions. But for myself, what I felt was just much quicker to anger without being able to control it, the way that I appreciate being able to do. Impatience, you know when you have young kids in the house. They’re not young. They’re 7 and 10, but kids are fucking annoying.
TRYSTAN: And I mean my son will take a basketball and throw it against the side of the house over and over and over again, sometimes for like 2 hours. That is so annoying, but when I’m on testosterone like, “Meh, whatever.” But off of it, those sorts of things would really just like, “Oh fuck, you got to stop doing that right now.”
TRYSTAN: Oh yeah, just much more sensitive in general, which I hated. I hated. I really like being able to
control things, be a good partner, not snap at my husband. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: Yeah. And he says that my energy felt different, that there was less of a more masculine dynamic, a little bit more of a feminine dynamic. Yeah, but I didn’t feel that. I was just feeling perturbed.
TRYSTAN: Yeah, so nothing physically really much changed. My beard was the same. My voice was the same.
LEAH: I feel like I’ve asked all the questions that I know how to ask. [LAUHGTER]
LEAH: About your experience of female sexuality. So is there anything that you can think of to talk about or questions that would be useful to ask?
TRYSTAN: I don’t know if I have much to say on female sexuality per say. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: I mean I have a 7 year old daughter, so I’m starting to navigate that. LEAH: Oh yes, that’s interesting. What do you see watching her grow up?
TRYSTAN: She came to us when she was 1 and her brother, our other son, was 3. And even early on, I mean for me being a trans guy and my partner identifies as femme, he’s a femme man. And that was really interesting, because when she first started to come live with us, I was like overalls, cargo shorts, baseball jerseys like a cute little tomboy baby and like cool, she’s 1.
She doesn’t actually have a gender of her own yet, so why would we be removing the options of femininity from her? Riley at age 3 already had a gender. He knew what clothes he wanted to wear, the older brother, she didn’t. So Biff was like, “Why would we be only putting her in tomboy, boyish clothes?” I was like for me, “Because I don’t want to force femininity on her the way that it’s forced upon girls all over.” And he’s like, “Cool, I think that’s incredibly sexist.”
TRYSTAN: Because inherent in that argument is that femininity is bad. So we wouldn’t want to give femininity to her because it’s bad. And he’s like, “I find that incredibly problematic and femme phobic and sexist because she should have all the options available to her including like fairies and princesses because femininity can also be empowering and powerful and wonderful and sacred.” And so I had to some soul searching in myself to be like, “Oh shit. He’s right.”
TRYSTAN: And I’m putting my own experience of femininity on to her, which I don’t have any right to do as her parent. Which is all parenting is, is figuring out when you’re putting your shit onto your kids and when you need to back up and let them have their own experience of the world.
Yeah, so then pretty much from that conversation forward, we gave her the full range of fun things to play with and where and to this day, she’s 7 and a fully, actualized human being who teaches me more than I teach her. And she will totally wear like a Star Wars shirt and a glittery tutu. She’s just like fully, fully empowered across the gender spectrum. Yeah, and she’s like, “I don’t believe in girl things and boy things. There are just awesome things and that’s what I like.”
LEAH: Oh my gosh.
TRYSTAN: That’s her.
LEAH: How much does that come from you talking to her about gender and how much of that is just her personality?
TRYSTAN: Who knows? But some kids I’ve noticed and I have a lot of kids in my life. I’ve always had kids in my life, that it does seem that kids fall generally into one of two categories.
Kids who are really influenced by you and kids who just show up in the world and you just try to be the guard rails to not let them hurt themselves but they’re already themselves. That was her. She’s always just been herself. Whereas her brother is very influenced by the world and by our parenting and what he sees. And we’ll see what the third kid who is now just a baby, so we don’t know what he is yet.
LEAH: How old is he?
TRYSTAN: 9 months.
TRYSTAN: Oh god, yeah, he’s just everything. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: Yeah, so it’s hard to say. I mean I believe that Hailey, my daughter, would have been the same in any family. We’re just lucky to have her instead of the other way around. She’s not lucky to have us.
TRYSTAN: Because I think she would have thrived and not given a shit in any family.
LEAH: Yeah, I love that. So you brought up princesses and fairies, did you enjoy princesses and fairies when you were a kid?
TRYSTAN: I mean I was raised in a feminist household where we had all the toys and we totally had Barbie’s and we totally had G.I. Joes and we totally had cars, so like we played all of the things.
But I still think my experience of being trans has given me that outsider perspective to be like, “Oh, wow. We really force princess shit down girls’ throats.” And I do think that one of the reasons that it took me so long to come to my realization I was trans is because I really was interested in what other people thought of me and what boys liked. So I was like, “Oh, cool. I can do that. I can put on dresses and makeup and pretend to be those things. No problem.” Without it ever occurring to me that, “Oh, do I want to do those things?”
TRYSTAN: Which I think is a uniquely feminine experience of the world and I didn’t want her to have that. Those expectations put on her, and values placed on her that she was pretty versus other things, whatever. But we try to be super balanced. So like we won’t never tell her she’s beautiful.
And that was my approach when she first came to live with us is I was like, “No this is my parenting philosophy. I only want her to be recognized for how smart she is, how brave she is.” And Biff is like, “That is so fucking stupid.”
TRYSTAN: He was like, “I mean you can do that if you want, but that’s so dumb. I’m not going to do that.”
TRYSTAN: I was just like but she is beautiful on top of all the other things that she is and like why would we pretend that that’s not real?
TRYSTAN: And it is about how she looks but it’s also not how she looks. She’s a beautiful person. She’s confident. She puts energy and effort. She takes care of herself. She bathes. She wants to brush her hair and get a little dyed streak in it. She wants to do fun braids. She takes confidence in how she looks and how she tells the world who she is. So it’s like, “All right.”
TRYSTAN: It’s a good thing I married someone who is super, super smart. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: Because I had a lot of foolish ideas going in but he’s very practical.
LEAH: Are there any resources that you’d like share with people? Books? Movies?
TRYSTAN: Now there’s a really amazing emerging field in sort of like pro-transgender diverse kids’
Yeah, so the one that gets cited most frequently is Cory Silverberg’s What Makes A Baby, and it is a book about where babies come from for ages 3-5, so not intercourse at all. And it’s the first completely gender free book on procreation. So it’s just like you need three things to make a baby. You need sperm. Some bodies have sperm, some don’t. You need eggs. Some bodies have eggs, some don’t. And you need a uterus. Some bodies have a uterus, and some don’t. And so that it’s those three separate parts. And it says, when an egg carries all the stories of all the places it’s ever been, it’s so good!
TRYSTAN: And so does the sperm and when they come together, they do a special dance and at the end of the dance they contain all this stories. Ah!
TRYSTAN: It’s so good. And so raising adopted kids, it’s like you want a way to be able to say, “You can contain all these other stories from your biological family and all these stories from our family too.” And it’s great for surrogacy as well, because it separates the uterus and the eggs so it’s like, “You need these two things come together and they need a place to grow and that’s a uterus”. So if you’re a surrogacy family, and your adopted family, grandparents raising kids, it’s so good.
LEAH: That’s awesome.
TRYSTAN: Yeah, and it does talk about pregnancy and the 9 months. It’s all that science stuff too, which
we still went back to throughout my pregnancy because the kids are like, “What’s happening now?” [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: Yeah, so that’s a really good book. And then they made a second book called Sex Is A Funny Word, for older kids, it’s 7-10. Again, not intercourse but exploring your body and figuring out what feels good and what doesn’t.
Here’s what penises look like and they are drawings in like purple and green as well, so they’re like completely race neutral. So yeah, they show all the different kinds of penises. And here’s what circumcision is, and some look like this, and some look like that, totally value neutral. Here’s what boobs look like. Here’s what nipples look like, and here’s what they’re for. And here’s what buttholes look like, and here’s what they’re for. So that’s a really good one, so we use that. Shit, I need to be using that for Hailey soon.
LEAH: Oh no.
TRYSTAN: I’m in some deep denial about that.
LEAH: Before we let Trystan go, let’s do the Quick Five. Five quick questions that we’d usually be too polite even to ask our best friends.
LEAH: So here we go, favorite sex position?
TRYSTAN: Oh, all of them? I have a very, very fulfilling and satisfying intimate life with my partner so I don’t think that I could pick one, truly. All of them.
LEAH: I love that.
LEAH: Favorite sex toy?
TRYSTAN: Yeah, I don’t even have any anymore. [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: I had a huge box when we got together and then slowly, the box just sort of dwindled and now it just isn’t. And it sounds so boring but like I don’t actually need any more sex toys because I have a skilled partner. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just mean that we happen to be compatible in that way. Probably then, just like lube.
LEAH: How much noise do you make during sex?
TRYSTAN: A lot. It’s a problem with the kids.
TRYSTAN: I have to really tamp it down but when we’re in a hotel I’m like, “Yes!” [LAUGHTER]
TRYSTAN: It’s one of the many, especially for me being raised as a girl, it’s very, very difficult for me to just outright say, “I don’t like that” or even “Yes, I like that.” And so I feel like sounds are another way that I can convey what’s working and what is not working.
LEAH: I am with you on that. I love that answer.
LEAH: Is your sex drive higher, lower, or well matched with your partner?
TRYSTAN: Oh, much higher, yes. It has always been except when I was off of testosterone for a year trying to have a baby.
LEAH: Do you schedule sex or do you prefer to be spontaneous?
TRYSTAN: Both. I prefer to be spontaneous, but we have kids and my partner is a stay at home parent. So he is excellent at managing his own emotional and physical capacity throughout a day, so if by the end of the day, I have not said, “Hey do you think that we can do it tonight?” He just doesn’t just have enough reserves for me. So we have to plan out ahead of time, so he knows to pace himself throughout the day so he has a little left over for me that night.
LEAH: Oh, that’s a fascinating thing. I wonder, because it’s traditionally the female half of the couple is the stay at home parent if someone is, how many women would even know think to do that?
TRYSTAN: Yup. And it does mean like, “Okay, fine. He didn’t do all the laundry that day because he wanted to have something left of himself to give at the end of the night for me. Cool. I will do the laundry. That seems totally fair.” Do you know what I mean?
TRYSTAN: I’m just doing a job, job. I don’t have like human beings literally clinging to my body for a good chunk of my day demanding things from me. Yeah, so I try to fill in those gaps so hopefully he has some reserves at the end of the day. And sometimes he doesn’t and that’s okay too.
LEAH: Awesome. This has been such a pleasure.
TRYSTAN: Thanks. I hope I was okay.
LEAH: Oh my God! I’m sitting here hoping I was okay. You’re fantastic! [LAUGHTER]
LEAH: Thanks for joining me today on Good Girls Talk About Sex. If you have questions or comments about something you’ve heard or if you’d like to record a voice memo for use in a future episode, send
them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, let me know if you’d like to be a guest on a future episode. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at IamLeahCarey. Links to any people and resources mentioned in this episode are in the Show Notes.
I’m Leah Carey and I look forward to talking with you again next week! [MUSIC]
Here are some of the great moments he shared with us:
- 10:20 – The conversations gay men have BEFORE they start dating that other couples don’t (but should!) have
- 17:35 – An important thing we can learn from Trystan’s strategy of revealing that he’s trans
- 21:30 – Why our relationship to our body is more important than the shape of our body when we’re starting a new relationship
- 35:30 – Should we be telling little girls that they’re beautiful?
- 41:14 – How Trystan’s stay-at-home-dad partner manages his energy so he has enough left over for sex
In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:
- Podcast – Dan Savage’s SavageLove podcast
- Book – Cory Silverberg’s book “What Makes A Baby”
- Book – Cory Silverberg’s book “Sex Is A Funny Word”
- Trystan’s website: www.BiffandI.com
The interviews for this podcast usually at least a half hour longer than we have space to fit into an episode. If you’d like to hear the full, unedited version of the interview including a much more in-depth conversation of Trystan’s experience giving birth to his son, join our community at Patreon.
Editor – Gretchen Kilby
Music by – Nazar Rybak