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Interview: Experiencing chemsex as a transman

Aleksander Sørlie interviewes "Even"
Translated by James Armando Dickson

Illustrations: James Armando Dickson
Trans men who have sex with men are a group that is often excluded, forgotten or made invisible in conversations related to sexual health and drug use. This particularly applies to topics related to men who have sex with men (MSM), such as in HIV prevention work and within sex work. Trans men are often assumed to only sleep with women, or to have male partners who are heterosexual. In reality, transmen have always been part of queer male communities, although they often go under the radar. In this article, Aleksander talks to another queer trans man about being trans and engaging in chemsex.
" I feel less anxiety when I take chems
"Even" is a trans man in his late thirties. After over 15 years on testosterone, Even is masculine in both appearance and expression, and is read as a cisgender man in most settings. He agrees to be interviewed about sexualised drug use, with the provision that everything is anonymised.

Can you tell us a bit about why you started chemsex?

- I'm a guy who is interested in both drugs and sex, so it felt natural to combine them as well. At high school, it was common for people to smoke weed, drink home-brewed alcohol and fuck. As a queer man, poppers are a natural part of sex life and I made my sexual debut when I was drunk. So it didn't feel like a very big step to mix fucking with other drugs as well.

What is your motivation for engaging in chemsex?

- To change the feeling of sex. I probably experience a lot of anxiety when meeting others, which is lessens when I get drunk. Alcohol also has some of that effect, but I feel that alcohol intoxication is the worst when it comes to weakening my ability to consent, so I'm not too happy about it.
"Even" says that the most harmful and risky sex he has had has been with alcohol. During the conversation he is keen to mention that intoxication from alcohol can also have many disadvantages, which often goes undiscussed when considering why some people choose intoxication through illegal drugs.

- I want a feeling of intoxication when I fuck, but without getting as "lost" as I get from drinking. Although I get horny when I drink, I also feel that alcohol makes everything awkward and that I hardly know my body. And you can't last long. On some drugs, it's the opposite: I feel more pleasure and that I can be high without completely losing control.

Illustrations: James Armando Dickson
In a recent survey, it was discovered that trans men and trans women get drunk much more often than queer cis people do. Do you think trans men have different motivations for getting high than cismen?

- Both yes and no. It probably depends on how long you've lived as a man and how relaxed your relationship with your history is, but I really feel that most trans men get high for the same reasons as cis men.

"Even's" story is very much recognizable in the larger narrative of queer cis men and how and why they get high in sexual settings. At the same time, he believes that transmen more often struggle with low self-esteem or complexes linked to their own body in sexual contexts, and that this could be a possible reason why they get more intoxicated.

- It's better now but when I was younger, I had much lower self-confidence when meeting queer men, and much of that was linked to the fact that I'm trans. Getting high is definitely a way to gain better self-confidence in a sexual setting.
I have a lot of experience from situations where queer men who, while they wouldn't be transphobic while sober, could suddenly become really crazy when they'd gotten high.
How do you feel chemsex communities relate to transmen?

- I haven't had any very negative experiences linked to transphobia in a chemsex setting specifically, but I have a lot of experience from other situations where queer men who, while they wouldn't be transphobic while sober, could suddenly become really crazy when they'd gotten high. This also applies to men who want to sleep with me. It's perhaps the most uncomfortable combo - when people are clearly trying to sleep with me while saying lots of transphobic things.

Yes, it's an experience I think many queer trans men have. Why do you think some men who want to sleep with us are so anti-trans at the same time?

- I think it's about the shame associated with being turned on by trans people. They think they only like men with dicks, then they meet a handsome guy and find out he has a pussy and can't handle the fact that they're still gay. Maybe they even think the idea of a guy with a pussy is extra hot, and have a little identity crisis. Most queer cis men cope with it just fine, but some of them blame trans men instead of engaging in some self-reflection. And that combination of being horny for us, but at the same time despising us for making them horny, can be really scary.

"Even" says that such experiences have made him more careful in relation to who he gets high with, and that he rarely engages in chemsex with complete strangers.

- I primarily have chemsex in settings where someone I know is present, and who I know is not a jerk when it comes to trans issues. If I don't know anyone from before, I simply feel too insecure.
Is there anything else that you think trans men experience differently in chemsex settings than cis men?

- One thing I think a lot about is dosages. I feel that I have to be more careful about just uncritically accepting drugs from cis men, because they often don't think that I might need another dosage. In those settings, someone can present lines or has made capsules or something, and they're made considering cis men. I feel like I have to think more about doses and whether it is safe for me to take the same as others.
For transmen, it is generally difficult to find information on how to dose different drugs because the reason for gender differences in dosages is rarely given.
"Even" is concerned that, as a trans man, it is generally difficult to find information on how to dose different drugs because the reason for gender differences in dosages is rarely given.

- For example, it's stated all the time that women can't drink as much alcohol as men, but you're almost never told why. But when you're transgender, it is relevant to know the reason since our bodies work differently. Is it just about body size? Or is it because of hormones, size of liver or metabolising? Because if it is hormones or metabolising then I'm dealing with doses for men, while if it is chromosomes then I have to think about doses for women. If we had more information, we could make a decision ourselves about what's relevant.
"Even" also has another experience, which he himself says is more difficult to put into words.

- A trans experience that I have noticed more in recent years is that I find that men more often fuck me without asking first, and especially without a condom. It's quite common in chemsex environments, but I notice that people who, for example, ask their cis-male partners about condoms, still never do it with me. Or, they don't if they're going to fuck my pussy. If it's anal sex, I feel it's treated equally.

"Even" says that he has had several conversations with other trans men about this topic, and feels that his friends have similar experiences. It makes him feel more certain that there is an actual difference in how queer trans men are treated, rather than it being a situation unique to him.

- It seems that many gay cis men don't think about a condom when they're going to fuck a trans guy's pussy. I don't think it's conscious or due to transphobia, but there's definitely a connection there.
Yes, I've also heard that from a number of trans men who sleep with cis men. What do you think is the cause?

- I do not quite know. Part of it, I think, is the idea about not needing any preparation. That it's easier to remember a condom when you have to find lubricant anyway or spend some time getting someone ready to be a bottom.

in "Even`s" experience you see a similar attitude with cis men who are bottoms and have engaged in sex for a long time at chemsex parties.

- The longer you are in a chemsex setting and the "looser" a bottom becomes, the more often I see that people don't bother to ask permission before they fuck the person and are less careful when they do. And transmen who use their pussy have a body that works that way from the start, he laughs.

Illustrations: James Armando Dickson
" I've sat together with transgender friends who engage in slamming every weekend and who talk as if they think it's something "everyone" does.
Now we have talked quite a bit about being transgender in chemsex environments, but how do you feel chemsex or sexualized drug use is understood in trans environments?

- Hm, I don't know exactly, but I think that the trans community is a mainly queer environment, and has many of the same norms as other queer communities. At the same time, it is probably a bit more common to know other trans people who get high, sell sex or do other things that fall very outside the norm. I guess I've never really experienced that I've been stigmatized by other trans people for taking drugs.

Do you think it is common to mix drugs and sex in trans environments?

- I have several transgender friends who also engage in chemsex or mix drugs and sex in other ways. I would guess that there are more trans people doing it because of marginalization.

At the same time, "Even" says that he finds it difficult to know what is a representative level of intoxication in different environments:

- The older I get, the more I notice that humans tend to seek out others who have the same level of intoxication as ourselves, and that makes it difficult to know what is a "normal" level of intoxication. I've sat together with transgender friends who engage in slamming every weekend and who talk as if they think it's something "everyone" does. But it isn't. It just seems that way to them because they hang out a lot with other people who get high.
It can be chill to not be sober when selling sex
You and I have talked before about experiences selling sex. Is chemsex and selling sex something that you have combined?

- I have accepted drugs from customers when I have sold sex, yes. But I have never brought drugs myself or entered sex-selling situations with that intention. It is always the customer who offers after I have arrived, and I have also taken the same as them.

How do you experience it?

- A bit of both. It can be chill to not have to be sober when selling sex. Many customers are quite tiring to deal with. At the same time, I can find it stressful if a customer is visibly intoxicated because I feel that it increases the likelihood that something can go wrong. But it has mostly gone well so far.

Illustrations: James Armando Dickson
Have you had any negative or positive experiences with chemsex that are not related to the fact that you are trans, either in or outside sex work, that you would like to share?

- I have primarily positive or neutral experiences, really, but have sometimes had a bit of anxiety afterwards because I can forget my boundaries. I've never done anything with someone who has expressed that they don't want it, but especially when it comes to topping in BDSM scenes, I can get a little anxious afterwards that I stepped over someones boundaries without realizing it. Before I started PreP I also had anxiety about contracting HIV. But all in all, I have probably experienced it as more positive than negative.
The Norwegian Patient Organization for Gender Incongruence (PKI)
The Norwegian Patient Organization for Gender Incongruence (PKI) is a patient organization for people with gender incongruence and their loved ones in Norway.
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Publisert 19.2.2023