The Wild & Sublime Podcast
Season 4, Episode 8, with host Karen Yates
Learn essential intimacy and communication skills when dating transgender and gender nonconforming people in this lively interview with sex and gender therapist Rae McDaniel.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
S4E8 | Hot tips for dating trans and GNC folx with Rae McDaniel
Rae McDaniel: Why am I asking this trans or non binary person this question because there is this entitlement to knowing information about a trans person or non binary person’s bodies, what their plans might be for any sort of medical intervention, and things like that. And often it’s not the person who’s asking’s business nor is it actually relevant to what they’re talking about.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style. Based on the popular live Chicago show, I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You’ll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I’m sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates. Do you want to date someone gender nonconforming? On today’s interview with therapist Rae McDaniel, we discuss exactly what to say and do to ensure you will feel confident in your dating game. Keep listening.
Are you interested in gaining better sexual communication skills? Go to my website Karen-yates.com to download my free guide “Say it better in bed: Three practical ways to improve intimate communication.”
Hey, folks, today’s conversation is very fun. I’ll be talking with gender and sex therapist Rae McDaniel, who is also the founder of Practical Audacity, a gender and sex therapy group practice. Rae has recently written a book – “Gender magic” – that will be coming out next month. We will be talking about this book later. But a lot of this episode will focus on the specifics of dating, namely, how to confidently and successfully date gender nonconforming and trans folk and also learn some things about yourself along the way. And by the way, in season one of this podcast we had a number of segments that went through basic definitions of gender identity, expression, and more. Check out the show notes to link to those. Now, you might have been eyeing a certain someone when you’re out and about; maybe you’re chatting on an app, you know they’re non binary or trans and maybe you’ve already asked them out. Beyond pre-date jitters, something else is looming in your mind. Namely, what to say if sexy tiime becomes imminent. Are you confused about how to check in with the other person about getting it on? You want to look suave, but caring right? My friend, this episode is for you. Rae McDaniel is going to lay it all out and you will come away with a lot of information and empowering things to do and say. Enjoy.
Rae McDaniel. Welcome.
Rae McDaniel: Finally, we’ve been trying to do this for so long.
Karen Yates: [laughing] I know! I know!
Rae McDaniel: Like, years.
Karen Yates: Literally, literally over a year. I think a year and a half.
Rae McDaniel: Oh my gosh.
Karen Yates: It’s a little ludicrous. But you are a very busy person. And we will talk about why you have been busy in a moment. A lot of irons- creative irons -in the fire.
Rae McDaniel: Yes.
Karen Yates: Well, let’s talk about it a little now. You finished a book …
Rae McDaniel: “Gender Magic”
Karen Yates: …”Gender Magic” will be published what? June of 2023?
Rae McDaniel: May 30, technically, but you can already buy it. It’s up for pre-sale everywhere books are sold.
Karen Yates: All right. We’ll talk about more about “Gender Magic” in the end, because I think it sounds great, super juicy. Before we get into the topic today, which is how to successfully date trans and non binary folks if you’re cis or not. I want to get a little bit into your background. You grew up in the South.
Rae McDaniel: Yes. Yep. Deep South. My grandparents are in West Texas. I went to school in East Texas. So I kind of claim both.
Karen Yates: Okay, okay. And repressive, correct?
Rae McDaniel: Yes. Evangelical fundamentalist Baptist.
Karen Yates: Damn, I don’t think it gets more oppressive than that, does it?
Rae McDaniel: No, I don’t. I can add another layer to it: they were also missionaries. So that is maybe one level deeper of oppressive.
Karen Yates: Okay, right. Right. Because then you have to kind of show everyone how..
Rae McDaniel: oh, yeah.
Karen Yates: Yeah. I heard something about puppets. What’s the puppet angle? What is this puppet angle?
Rae McDaniel: What What about the puppets? It’s always the biggest question. So not only were my parents fundamentalist evangelical Baptist missionaries, they were also missionaries with puppets. So we traveled full time doing puppet shows, kind of Muppet style and also ventriloquism all over the United States for family services at churches and camps and things like that. So yeah, I was a professional puppeteer for about five years.
Karen Yates: So think Sound of Music, the puppet scene, except oppressive.
Rae McDaniel: Exactly, exactly. Nailed it.
Karen Yates: What was your favorite puppet character to play?
Rae McDaniel: Oh my gosh, I had this really cute little skunk that was named Chanel.
Karen Yates: Already already, there’s drumbeats in the background, “The skunk was named Chanel…”
Rae McDaniel: Nailed it.
Karen Yates: The other thing I was wondering is, you know, I was looking in your bio, and it said, you felt called to help LGBTQIA folks from a fairly early point in your life. And then it said, and then you came out as queer. And I was like, oh, did the desire to help these marginalized communities come first? And then your dawning awareness? Is that how it worked?
Rae McDaniel: It did. It’s been really interesting in my life, I think partly because I had so much to unpack from my upbringing, that my personal identity development came a little bit slower. And maybe cuz I’m a double Capricorn. I don’t know, but things about my work. Oh, you are too!
Karen Yates: I’m not a double. I am a Capricorn. Yes.
Rae McDaniel: I love my Capricorns. But maybe because I’m a Capricorn, my interest and work has often preceded my personal identity development. And that’s been really interesting to me. So I did feel called at a very early age to work with LGBTQ folks, probably since I was a sophomore junior in undergrad. And when I had pretty much all of my friends were the gay kids in the theater department. And I watched them struggle in a very oppressive environment with their own identity development, and dating and sex and religious oppression. And so when I was beginning to fall in love with psychology, I also was beginning to feel the calling to help people like my friends, who were struggling in very specific ways related to their LGBTQIA identities.
Karen Yates: Wow, this makes so much sense. I mean, I, you know, have a long background in performance and theater from way, way, way, way back. And so I could see that even within your upbringing of this kind of very straight-laced environment, yeah, if you’re in the theatre department, you’re going to be coming, you know, shoulder to shoulder with folks that are, are going to be, you know, expressing differently.
Rae McDaniel: I was always drawn to that world, even from a very young age, probably like third or fourth grade. And I’m guessing that that is part of the reason.
Karen Yates: It’s so interesting. We’re just living in such a crazy time, about, you know, the new oppressions, and GNC, trans folks, genderfluid folks, nonbinary folks, what’s your take on why now? Is it just simply the rise of the extremist Right? Is that what this is?
Rae McDaniel: My take, generally, on the rise of the extremist Right, and in particular, with trans folks with LGBTQ folks, is because we made a bunch of progress. And this is a backlash. And I think we see that happening throughout history a lot. And I think we’re in the middle of that backlash right now. You know, trans and nonbinary folks are getting more visibility in media. We’ve reached, you know, according to Time Magazine, the trans tipping point, if you will. And I think with that visibility also comes danger in a lot of cases. And we’re seeing that with all of the oppressive laws that have been passed, or that people are trying to get passed, I think we’re seeing a lot of this backlash coming at things that are low- hanging fruit. So trans kids, for example, sports bathrooms, and that it’s an attempt to control a narrative that the oppressive and fundamentalist Right is losing control of.
Karen Yates: Right. Right. So let’s move on to happier topics like dating.
Rae McDaniel: Let’s do it. Yeah.
Karen Yates: Dating, which has its own trials and tribulations. It doesn’t matter where you are in your your gender expression, trials and tribulations there. But I want to talk a little bit, you know, first you had a group called Gender F*ck the Club and what was this group all about? And how long did it run?
Rae McDaniel: So the group ran for probably two, two and a half years. I started it a few months before the pandemic hit, and it was a group coaching program for trans and nonbinary where we met live a couple times a month to do group coaching. There was also a very big course, that’s probably 10 to 12 hours worth of course material, that eventually became the foundation of “Gender Magic.”
Karen Yates: So I’m assuming that things like issues around dating and how do you express yourself to a new partner? All of that was part of the mix. Correct?
Rae McDaniel: It was, yes, as a sex therapist, I do talk a lot about sex. And it’s one of the topics that always comes up when I work with folks is how do I navigate dating? How do I navigate relationships? How do I navigate sexuality?
Karen Yates: Of course, so I have a big umbrella question to kind of kick us off, which we will parse out as it may be: what don’t cis folk typically understand when dating someone that is gender nonconforming? Or trans?
Rae McDaniel: Such a big question.
Karen Yates: I know is such a big question! [laughing] We’ll just begin!
Rae McDaniel: Great. So I think some big overarching basics would be making assumptions related to gender norms. So assuming that whoever they’re dating is going to look, behave, want to have sex in a particular way, based on their gender. And that’s just false. That’s false for cis folks, that’s false for trans folks, that every one is unique, and your gender really has no bearing on the way that you like to have sex. So that would be a big one.
Karen Yates: And by gender, how you’re expressing gender?
Rae McDaniel: Yeah, well, your gender identity as well as how you’re expressing identity, your gender, because that might not match up with societal expectations, either.
Karen Yates: Okay. So you might say, I am a woman, and I express, you know, I express myself by wearing Carhartt jackets and big boots and facial hair.
Rae McDaniel: Exactly. Ask any lesbian.
Karen Yates: [laughing] Right? Right. Okay, so, so number one, assuming gender norms, let’s just kind of like knock some of these out, and then we’ll come back. So what are some other assumptions here?
Rae McDaniel: I think some of the biggest assumptions would be around how someone likes to use their body during sex and what activities that they enjoy. So assuming that because of a particular gender identity or expression that someone, for instance, wants to be a top or bottom, or a penetrative or receptive partner, or wants to call their body parts by particular names. Now that is different for a lot of different folks, regardless of identity. Another one that I hear a lot, which I push back on every time is this idea of energetics in the bedroom and in sex. In particular, folks like to use terms like “masculine energy” or “feminine energy.” And frankly, I think those terms are bullshit. And we’re talking about things that we can get a lot more specific about. So are we talking about receptive energy? Are we talking about soft energy or fast or powerful, none of those things are gendered. And I think people assume that you’re going to bring particular energies based on the way that you’re expressing yourself in the world.
Karen Yates: This is really interesting, you’re bringing this up, because before I did my somatic sex training, I did tantric training. So Tantra, for the most part, I know it’s changing, but it falls a lot along these masculine/feminine lines, right. And that’s one of the biggest things people have issues with in the tantra world is that it can’t get out of this binary. And when I got to somatic work, it was all about how can you identify what’s going on in your body without using gender or energy? Like, can you describe what is going on in your body, like, instead of like, I feel masculine energies, it’s more like, I feel I feel bubbles in my stomach, or I’m feeling tingling in my shoulders, or I’m feeling hot in between my legs. So just taking it out of these norms or these ideas was so important for me, you know, so important. So I’m really glad you’re bringing this up.
Rae McDaniel: Absolutely. And your listeners can’t see me right now. But I’m nodding vigorously. [Karen laughs] Yes, absolutely. And here’s the thing about what you just said, If someone says, “I’m feeling masculine energy,” we really don’t know what that means. That can mean 1000 different things. The way you were describing, describing bodily sensations is much more precise, it gives us much more information. And so I come from a place of describing things as feminine or masculine energy is actually quite lazy language. And we can get a lot more information by stepping back and asking ourselves, what do we really mean by that?
Karen Yates: Well, and the other thing is, I just had this thought, you know, the more precise you can get with what you are experiencing yourself, the more you’re in your body, the more you’re really in the moment and the experience. And that’s the critical part.
Rae McDaniel: Yes.
Karen Yates: All right, let’s go back to the first thing, and I’m sure I know, there’s a ton more assumptions. But you’ve listed some out, let’s take it from the original query at the beginning of a person is cis and they want to date someone that’s trans or GNC, what is the best way to move into a dating scenario? Without gender norms? Or how do you defuse that?
Rae McDaniel: Curiosity is a great place to start. Which is kind of the opposite of making assumptions. So if we’re trying to de-gender dating, if you will, first, I don’t think we can completely take gender out of the equation, because it’s so inundated in all of us.
Karen Yates: Oh yes.
Rae McDaniel: But being curious about what are ways that you or your partner is showing up that don’t actually feel authentic to you. So there’s nothing wrong with being say, a trans woman or a trans femme person who likes to have doors open for her. But it is if that’s an assumption. So how do folks want to show up individually? And how do they want to show up together? And are there ways that they’re behaving that just don’t really feel authentic to them? And those are there things that you can start to shift? So I think asking good questions, doing things like asking either or questions? Would you like to do this? Or would you like to do this? Do you want me to pick up the check this time? Or do you want to, to split it? And stead of making an assumption about what it is is going to happen there?
Karen Yates: And it would seem to me that of course, you know, this is a dialogue and it can bring up issues for both partners, right?
Rae McDaniel: Absolutely.
Karen Yates: You know, like, I – as say the trans person or the GNC person– is like, “oh, okay, I need to think this through. How do I feel about this? Around the issue of like, say, pulling out the chair for dinner, or opening the door, the super chivalrous kind of things, is it simply a matter of saying, “Hey, I’m feeling this urge to open doors for you? How do you feel about that?” Is that? Is that a valid question?
Rae McDaniel: I think that’s absolutely a valid question. Personally, as a nonbinary person who shows up in the world the way that I do, I like to have a little bit of balance there. So instead of having the conversation explicitly, I’ll often just open a door, and then maybe the next time wait for somebody to open a door, and just kind of switch back and forth. And that feels really affirming to me.
Karen Yates: Yeah, yeah. I’m loving where this is going. Because I am really into this idea of expressing fluidly based on you know, day-to day-feeling. But I honestly am like, well, how does that really work? And to hear you say, well, sometimes I like the doors open for me. And sometimes I’m gonna open the door. It’s like, that’s the easiest way to move yourself out of binaries, correct?
Rae McDaniel: Absolutely.
Karen Yates: By just tuning into yourself.
Rae McDaniel: Yep, you nailed it.
Karen Yates: So let’s just touch on the basic issue of pronouns. It’s still… it’s still a hot potato.
Rae McDaniel: You used the phrase “ye olde pronouns” before we started recording. And I love that because we’ve been talking about this for so long, y’all. So long. [Karen laughs] Super basic pronouns, very simple. Ask people what they are. And when they tell you, use those pronouns. It’s honestly that simple. If you are struggling with it, practice. Also very simple. And I would say practice when your person is not around so they’re not hearing you make mistakes. As you learn, everyone is going to make mistakes. As a trans person who works almost exclusively with trans people, I still will sometimes screw up somebody’s pronouns, it’s human nature. And when you screw up, learn from it and try not to make that same mistake again. If you’re realizing you’re struggling with it, take time and effort to practice using someone’s pronouns correctly.
Karen Yates: And I’ll also add this other aspect, like if it’s bringing up emotions in you about… because it seems to bring up anger in the cis folk who are being asked to do it differently, right?
Rae McDaniel: Yes.
Karen Yates: And I think what I would say is, if it’s bringing up irritation and anger and you know, huffiness, then that’s your issue. That’s not the other person. That’s your issue. And yeah, I felt like I just had to say it has nothing to do with the other person.
Rae McDaniel: Yeah, I really appreciate you saying that. Because that is true. People have big reactions to pronouns. And there’s, you know, a million things that we could get into about why that is. But the important thing is that it is not outlandish, or even a huge deal of any type for you to use someone’s correct pronouns. And referring to somebody by the name, and the pronouns that they choose is simply human dignity. That is not a big ask, that is a basic first two minutes of making an introduction to somebody, information that you you get and use.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Yeah. You talked a little bit about the assumptions of gender norms in dating. Is there anything else you would like to say around hetero cis normativity that seeps into everything and is so hard to get away from? One of the first questions we got at the very first live show that we didn’t have time to answer at the panel–and I’ve never forgotten it–This is like, I think the first time that like, I’ve been able to wheel back to that question four years later–sorry, the person who wrote this– but it’s like “How to break, when you’re in a relationship, as a gender nonconforming person, how do you break these conventions?” Which seem so locked? I’m kind of seeing it already in culture, like it’s sort of this new casualness or this new, like, Hey, we’re just rolling along with it. But I don’t know. Do you have thoughts about this?
Rae McDaniel: It’s a big question. Because like you’re saying gender is so integrated into everything about our culture, and we get gendered based on our sex assigned at birth, or even a projection of what sex we will be assigned at birth prior to being born, you know. There’s research that shows people talk differently to a belly with a baby in it, whether or not you tell them that baby is a boy or girl, which is wild. So we’re, we’re very, very inundated in this. And the answer is simple, but not easy, which is simply awareness and mindfulness. And looking for “what are the ways that I am performing gender” like I’ve said earlier, “that don’t feel authentic to me?” So there’s nothing wrong with any particular way of expressing your gender, no matter what that gender is. The problem comes in when we do it automatically, without thought or reflection. So I think unpacking how do I get out of these boxes that I have been put into? The first thing is to be aware of what the box is, which takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and there’s no easy button for it. And it’s just becoming aware of what feels good in my own body when I show up in certain ways and what doesn’t quite feel right to me.
Karen Yates: Yeah, it seems to me and I don’t know if you have been experiencing this as a therapist, but it seems like to me there has been this reset that’s happened during the pandemic, where we all had to go inside and like be ourselves by ourselves. And now coming out into the world. It’s like, Well, who am I now? And how do I want to express myself now? It’s like the giant eraser thing on the board. It’s like, okay, and I’m seeing that in myself of like, you know, I stopped dyeing my hair, and I’m like, okay, so you’re gonna show the grays? That’s great. What do I want to do about makeup? Like what feels… what do I want to do here? How do I want to dress? What’s going on? Have you seen any of that in your practice?
Rae McDaniel: Oh, 100% and I think it’s been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, is that folks have had like you’re saying this eraser and this stripping away of I need to be out in the world. And you kind of let things fall away, and then you get an opportunity to rebuild in a more intentional way. And I’ll use myself as an example. I also had a lot of kind of up and downs when it came to my hair and makeup over the pandemic. So I stopped wearing makeup for most of 2020. And now coming out of the pandemic, I’ve discovered new makeup that feels better to me and a new routine for how I like to do that. But don’t feel as much pressure to wear it if I don’t want to. And when it came to my hair, you know, I’ve had short hair for years and years now. And I had a thought over the pandemic of, well, maybe I want to grow out my hair, maybe I want to do this new thing with how I present myself. And it was a disaster. absolutely hated it. I think I had some existential crises, like there was crying and gnashing of teeth. And so I discovered I actually really like short hair. And now that was a great experiment for me. But I would not have known that if I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to explore it.
Karen Yates: Yeah, I mean, getting back to one of your earlier comments of like, you have to be aware of the box, you have put yourself into it. That’s the critical part. Because I’ve seen myself throughout my life performing, you know, femininity, I’ve seen myself do it, and actually get into it, and then recede from it. I was like, Okay, that was cool. Performing it as the cultural standard, you know, what the culture is saying this is, quote, unquote, what being a woman looks like, okay, adhere to our standards. And I think there was a point when I wanted to adhere to the standards, you know?
Rae McDaniel: Yeah. And that’s okay.
Karen Yates: Yeah, it’s okay if you feel commensurate with it, right?
Rae McDaniel: Yes, absolutely.
Karen Yates: [to listeners] We’ll return to the conversation in a moment. Did you know we have some very cool affiliate partners? Bookshop.org features all the books mentioned on our podcast. And when you purchase a book there, you help independent booksellers and Wild &, Sublime. Plus, we’re affiliate partners with Trans Essentials, a place that features gender affirming gear for all. And if you want to support Wild &, Sublime in another way, become a member of our Patreon membership program for as little as $5 a month. Find all these links in our show notes. We now return to the second half of the episode where Rae and I discuss exactly what to say when exploring intimacy with a trans or gender nonconforming individual. And guess what? Everybody can use these suggestions! enjoy.
[to Rae] Let’s talk a little bit about sex and how to communicate during sex or more importantly, before sex when you’re dating either trans folks or GNC folks or cis, trans, whatever the combo is. And I’m aware that this can apply to everybody doesn’t really matter. What are some things to keep in mind?
Rae McDaniel: You know, I mentioned earlier curiosity. And I think that is the operative word here as well. My friend Lucy Fielding wrote this book called Trans Sex. It’s mainly for practitioners, mental health, physical health practitioners. But I’ve also seen a lot of people who are lay folks read it and get a lot out of it. And one of the things that she says in there is about ethical curiosity. And I think that applies here of asking ourselves, a nice a ourselves putting myself in the shoes of sis person, for example, why am I asking this trans or non binary person this question?
Karen Yates: Oh, god, so good. Yeah.
Rae McDaniel: Yeah. Because there is this entitlement to knowing information about a trans person or non binary person’s bodies, what their plans might be for any sort of medical intervention, and things like that. And often, it’s not the person who’s asking things business, nor is it actually relevant to what they’re talking about. So having some self awareness of why am I asking this question? Is this a question that I can Google or is this actually something that I need to know? Because we are about to engage in a sexual encounter? So things that I would say are not very relevant to those would be asking about plans for medical intervention or surgeries. So that isn’t generally relevant. If you are about to imminently have sex with somebody or engage in a sexual encounter, you don’t need to know that. I would say asking about sex from a gender roles perspective doesn’t really feel great for most people. And what I mean by that is asking questions that are framed like. And to put it super bluntly, I’m sure most of your listeners would not ever ask questions like this. But “do you want to be the man or the woman?” Obviously, that doesn’t land well Things like, “Oh, do you want to do X because you’ve now transitioned?” So do you want to be penetrated in a particular way because you’ve you’ve now transitioned? When watching assumptions around that, that feels very different than asking “what sorts of sexual activities really turn you on?” Does that difference make sense?
Karen Yates: Mmhmm. Absolutely. It takes it takes all the assumptions. I mean, it’s basically a conversation. It’s like the best sorts of conversations to be having with anybody around sexuality before you’ve engaged with them. I mean, it’s just open-ended curious, not freighted with meaning, or your own hang ups. It’s just like, conversation.
Rae McDaniel: Exactly. And I can share I had this question asked me once, and it gave me some pause. I was with a cis person who asked me, and we’ve known each other since before I transitioned, and they asked me, Oh, do you want to be on top now you’re into that sort of thing now? And then now meaning now that you’ve transitioned? And it felt like a very weird way to phrase a question that is legitimate, like, do you want to be on top, but wrapping it up in gender in a way that felt really icky to me.
Karen Yates: How did you respond? If you don’t mind me asking.
Rae McDaniel: oh, gosh, how did I respond? I think I said something non committal, like, “I guess,” and like moved on.
Karen Yates: In the clutch, it’s like, I’ll tend to giggle or like, [laughing]
Rae McDaniel: Yeah, I think I probably giggled, I don’t know what I said. My internal dialogue was very different.
Karen Yates: Right right! The discrepancy between external and internal. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. What about dealing with when you have a partner that might have some aspects of dysmorphia? About their genitalia? How do you have sensitivity? How do you ask about that? Not making any assumptions. Do you ask? Do you allow the other person to lead you like, what are your thoughts there?
Rae McDaniel: I think asking is generally a good course of action. Because here’s the thing, a lot of trans and non binary folks feel like they are putting people out to ask for their needs. Because we’ve been made to feel like that and a lot of aspects. You know, we talked earlier about pronouns. Simply asking someone to use your pronouns can become a huge deal, much less asking for what you really want during sex. So it can feel really encouraging for a partner to ask good questions before you are having sex. So questions like “What words do you like use for your body? Or your you know, your chest? Or you know, your genitals? What feels good? What words do you want used while we are playing or while we’re having sex?” Especially if you’re doing any sort of roleplay? “Do you want to be called Daddy or Mommy, do you want to be a good little girl or good little boy? Do you want to be both and have me switch? What does that look like?” Other questions that I love? “What makes you feel amazing?” You know, not everything needs to be framed from this, oh, I need to tip toe around this person. Like the point of it is that you want to know what makes them feel incredible. So ask them that. You can ask folks things like what are you excited to explore? Is there any body part or activity that’s off limits? Or doesn’t feel good? How do you like to be touched? Are there any particular ways that for example, you like to receive oral sex? You know, we make assumptions about if someone has a particular body part, then we engage with it and this particular way, but who says right? You know, Lucy Fielding again, uses the example of bobbing or swirling on genitals and often we think that we need to bob on someone that has penis and using anatomical terms for now just for clarity. And without we swirl on somebody that has a vulva. But there’s no rule that says we can’t switch that up and do the opposite.
Karen Yates: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Rae McDaniel: And you asked about dysphoria and what to do their questions like, what would it be helpful for me to do? If you start experiencing dysphoria? How do you think you’ll communicate that? And what would feel reconnecting to, you know, do we need to pause? Do we need to back off of whatever we’re doing, and maybe massage your back for a little bit, or rubbed your head? And one of my favorite questions that I took from Midori is what will I see and hear if you’re having a great time? And what will I see and hear if you’re having a bad time, which can speak to consents on that more bodily level, instead of always only relying on people to to vocalize what they’re experiencing, which might be difficult for for some folks.
Karen Yates: As you’re talking, this last part here, I’m also thinking about trauma. Same thing applies for trauma, if ,you know, you’ve been traumatized. And that you might get triggered during sex. These are the same questions. A partner can ask you, you can also be proactive and say, Hey, this could happen. I’m gonna let you know, this is what it’s gonna look like. Because I think it’s important at this moment to just jump in and say the burden isn’t always on the on the other person, right? It’s like…
Rae McDaniel: Oh, absolutely not.
Karen Yates: This is a two way street. And the more each person knows themselves, you know, and I am aware, like, these are pretty high level conversations, like you are outlining, like, best practices. And like, if you get 50% of this, you are golden.
Rae McDaniel: You’re doing great.
Karen Yates: You’re doing great. Because, you know, and listening to you, Rae, I’m thinking, Well, yeah, if you can squeeze out one question, it’s gonna lead, hopefully to other questions or other matters. So you’re not just sitting there with a shovel, like digging into the dirt doesn’t have to be as laborious. Right?
Rae McDaniel: Exactly. It can be playful, it can be fun. These are questions that help you have better sex regardless of who you’re talking to. And that’s a good thing. This is the opposite of a buzzkill.
Karen Yates: Right, right. Yes. Like this, this whole pre interaction thing, because we have again, these cultural assumptions that, oh, you’re with someone and there’s so much attraction and you just swirl around the bed and then you you fall and it was so wonderful, and you don’t have to plan anything and you don’t have to talk about anything. It just happens and like God, that is when the worst disasters happen.
Rae McDaniel: Yeah.
Karen Yates: I shouldn’t say that. But it’s like to talk about it can be erotic. It can move you it can transition you into, you know, groovy states of sensual enjoyment, not something to shy away from.
Rae McDaniel: Exactly.
Karen Yates: Speaking of being transported to groovy areas of sensuality, you know, when I went to your site, you’re like, I love talking about this, and I love talking about this and you’re talking about like, queer eroticism. And I was like, oh, let’s talk about queer eroticism. What does that look like? versus, you know, I’m not even gonna say hetero normative eroticism, but I mean, I can but like, you know, what’s your version? When you say queer eroticism? What do you mean?
Rae McDaniel: First of all, when I say queer eroticism I’m not just talking about eroticism for queer people. I’m talking about the active verb of queering eroticism. So this is applicable to everyone. So some ways that we can queer eroticism are number one, decentering genitals, you have an entire body of skin.
Karen Yates: Hallelujah! Let’s make a puppet show out of this.
Rae McDaniel: Oh my gosh. I would actually have a lot of fun doing that.
Karen Yates: No, I would too. I would too. All right.
Rae McDaniel: Yeah, so there’s this entire body of skin and yet we focus on these very particular areas when it comes to eroticism. In particular, we focus so much on on genitals, and so part of queering eroticism is expanding our definition of what that means to include yummy sensations on our entire body, which is great. Another thing that queering eroticism means is decentering orgasm, for the same reasons. You have an entire being that is capable of sex. total pleasure. And yet we focus on racing towards this perceived goal instead of enjoying every step along the way. Whether or not those steps lead to orgasm. Some things specific to trans–Well, you know what, I’m gonna take that back. None of these are super specific to trans folks, but they are fun to play with. So eroticism in gender play, so playing with things, I call them adaptive devices, like packers, or wearing a binder during sex, you know. I had a client who was trans- masculine and really had a hard time with their their chest and how their chest looked during sex. It was very dysphoric for them. So we talked about a very simple solution, which was them wearing a binder during sex. And it’s something that they hadn’t considered, but was so simple, and tremendously helped their sexual pleasure. So things like that, or things like breast forms, or even talking during sex, which there’s these magical little underwear called Lorels that are one-time-use latex underwear that fit tightly. They’re super stretchy. So they fit a wide variety of bodies. And they’re really awesome for somebody who wants to talk and still experience sensations of oral sex. Hmm, those are super fun. Using things like strap-ons for any body type, regardless of what genitalia you have, you can use the strap-on for penetrative sex, if you don’t want to use whatever body part you’ve got for that.
Karen Yates: Wow.
Rae McDaniel: There are also fun things like thigh strap ons, and face strap ons and a million ways that if you would like to penetrate somebody you can do so I would say exploring new ways to experience pleasure more broadly. So I like to use the this or that game, especially with partners of having a partner try one sensation, and then try a different sensation. And asking, do you like this better? Or do you like that better? It it’s kind of like that moment in the eye doctors.
Karen Yates: I was gonna say yeah, yeah.
Rae McDaniel: Where you’re like, can you see better with this one? Or can you see better with this one, and then you just keep doing it. And it’s a really fun game to hone in on certain sensations that he might not have experimented with before, and a very low pressure. And in general, I like to bring a lot of playfulness to it. I talk about tiny experiments, let’s try on a certain persona and see how it feels less try a particular activity. And maybe you break down laughing and it’s a total flop. But then you have a good story about the time you tried that thing, and then you fell off the bed. And that’s, that’s all part of the fun. Right?
Karen Yates: Right. So many great ideas, so many great ideas. And some of them translate too if you have a disability, you know?
The thigh strap on, you know, if mobility issues…some of these ideas that you’ve put out are applicable. They’re so great. I loved I loved this laundry list of potentials. So good. I want to talk a little bit about your book, “Gender magic.” I’m so excited. I can’t wait for this book to come out. What is “Gender Magic” all about?
Rae McDaniel: So “Gender Magic” is about gender freedom. It’s centered around trans and nonbinary, folks. But it’s applicable for anybody who wants to expand and explore their gender, whether they are trans, whether they’re sis, it’s also a really awesome book for anybody who loves trans and non binary people. I think it provides some new views of how to think about gender freedom, things like I’ve just been describing with this or that game and ways to explore eroticism, either with yourself or with a partner, that I think are kind of going to change the game a little bit. And the thesis of the entire book is about how do we create a world where there is gender freedom for everyone, where regardless of what our identity is, and how we express that to the world? How can we do that in a mindful and authentic way so that everyone experiences more freedom and how they show up in the world?
Karen Yates: Oh, so necessary, so necessary. You’re doing lord’s work, you’re doing the work.
Rae McDaniel: Thank you. Thank you. It has it has been a labor of love, that is for sure.
Karen Yates: We will have the link to the pre order of “Gender magic” in our show notes as well. Anything else, Rae, anything else you want to say here?
Rae McDaniel: You know, I think with the idea of gender freedom, my work. And what I am trying to put out there in the world is all about this idea that all of us experience benefits and are more joyful and authentic when we show up in our gender authentically, when we are able to express ourselves in any way that we want to in the world that creates magic for everybody. And this isn’t just about trans and nonbinary folks: it’s about the oppressive boxes that we’ve all been put in, and how we want to break down those boxes so that we can live our lives as the most lit up authentic versions of ourselves. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
Karen Yates: Oh, I love that. Rae McDaniel, author of the upcoming “Gender Magic.” Thank you so much.
Rae McDaniel: Thank you so much for having me.
Karen Yates: To learn more about Rae McDaniel and their work and to get a copy of “Gender Magic,” go to the show notes. Do you want to create a podcast but feel a little overwhelmed? Can I suggest Buzzsprout as the easiest and best way to launch, promote and track your podcast? Buzzsprout is a podcast host with both free and paid plans. By using them. Your Podcast gets listed in all the major podcast directories like Apple, Spotify, Google and more. And you get a website. They are great with analytics and support and I especially loved them because their newsletter and podcast offered tons of tips for growing your pod. A friend recommended them to me and now I am recommending them to you. And if you say that Wild & Sublime sent you by clicking on our affiliate link in the show notes, you get 20 bucks and we get 20 bucks. How can you say no to that? Go to the show notes to begin. Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our sublime supporter full color life therapy therapy for all of you at fullcolorlifetherapy.com Well, that’s it folks have a very pleasurable week. Thank you for listening. You can follow us on social media at Wild & Sublime and sign up for newsletters at Wild & sublime.com. Got feedback or an inquiry contact us at info at Wild & sublime.com. I’d like to thank our design Guru Jean-François Gervais and the Creative Imposter studios, our editing company, the music by David Ben-Porat. Our media sponsor is rebellious magazine, feminist media at rebelliousmagazine.com
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- Rae McDaniel – sex and gender therapist and coach
- Gender Magic, the book. Go to Bookshop!
- Lorels underwear
- Check out Trans Essentials, our affiliate, for gender-affirming gear!
Additional related episodes:
- Sensation Liberation– we discuss gender identity and beyond.
- DIY Gangbang – we discuss transgender
- The sex-positive parent – we discuss nonbinary and fluid identities
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