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gal-dem

AN ONLINE AND PRINT PUBLICATION COMMITTED TO SHARING PERSPECTIVES FROM WOMEN AND NON-BINARY PEOPLE OF COLOUR

LELO: sex toys and prosthetics have been key to my sexual liberation

Melz explores their journey to reclaiming pleasure and finding peace in their body as a trans masculine person.

Credits: Photography by Theodorah Ndlovu

The header image for this article features Melz Owusu, the writer, smiling in an orange long-sleeved top, with a thin chain around their neck. They have their hair in locs, and are smiling wide enough for you to see their teeth. The background is a hazy blend of purple, blue, and orange, and it seems like Melz is glowing in the centre. The image is a happy one.

Supported by LELO

I think I was about 13 when I realised, I would never grow a penis. Puberty is difficult for anyone, but for many of us trans folk, it is a deeply confusing and disorientating time in our lives. Reclaiming my body by connecting with it through pleasure has been key to my healing and ability to connect with self. This is why I was excited to take part in gal-dem tries LELO, exploring self-pleasure through LELO’s sex toys as a trans masculine person. LELO sent over the SORAYA WAVE, the SONA 2 Cruise, and the SMART WAND 2 and asked me to enjoy the toys over the course of the week. Needless to say, I had an excellent week.

Pleasure has been something I had to discover all alone, the sex education we receive during these pubescent years is never centred on the power that is held in the erotic as a site of healing and a profound way to come into communion with one’s self. It never spoke of toys, or prosthetics, or queerness or transness, it only served to further entrench the rigidity of cis-heteronormativity and this idea that pleasure is something that does not belong to us. 

Growing up, I navigated this disconnect by convincing myself that I was going to experience both streams of puberty, that even though I would develop breasts, other things would grow too, that my body would take on the form of many. During a week  I had a sore throat that Strepsils and serums wouldn’t relieve, I resolved that, yep – my voice is breaking. I was so excited, and so ready! 

Now when I think back to these times, I marvel at the beauty and expansiveness of a child’s imagination. Not once did it cross my mind that there was anything different about what I believed would happen to my body, let alone anything “abnormal”.

An experience of puberty that sits outside the strict ideas of binary gender wasn’t a reality that presented itself in the physical realm – but in my mind and in my spirit it was true. 

“freedom exists outside of the possibilities that the world teaches us are true”

These were imaginings of how my body, my voice, my presence would contour into ways that made me feel most embodied. It was me as a child crafting and creating possibilities that existed outside of what we are told is possible, claiming a space of radical possibility and foreclosing the roads around me that taught limits were a thing I should ever live by, or even recognise.

This is the radical Black imagination; it is Black feminist speculative science fiction. These are routes to believing that freedom exists outside of the possibilities that the world teaches us are true. As Black people, we can take on any form to escape harmful and oppressive structures both within, and without.

As I got older, with the weight of a transphobic world holding me down, I resigned myself to the physical body of the gender I had been assigned at birth. Though the only way I could do this was by disassociating from it, not even recognising it as my own. A body that carried me, but a body that I was unable to connect within a meaningful or sensual way.

My body became a site of war, a site of hatred, and gender dysphoria was inescapable. In order to experience self-pleasure in a way that was actually somewhat pleasurable, I would have to imagine my body as “otherwise”. By otherwise I mean something that was different to the physical body I was assigned at birth, a body that existed only in my mind, a body that affirmed who I was and who I am. Something that was not located in the physical, but something I could imagine in the beyond, regardless of whether it felt like a medical possibility. 

“As queer people we have had to educate ourselves and each other about sexuality in every single way”

A few years ago, I decided that I needed to realise what I held within my imagination, into my physical body. I wanted to transcend and transform what carried me through this lifetime. I sometimes think of trans people as butterflies; breaking through every barrier that encases us to be freed and embodied just as the butterfly leaves the cocoon. To transition was to choose life, and to choose embodiment, to choose connection to self in physical and sensual ways. 

It came with so many fears, especially fears around the desirability of a penis-less masculine body. I couldn’t get my head around it. It almost felt like a trade-off – that I would find peace in my own body, but I would no longer experience desirability in intimate ways. Now I know that is not true, but I had to understand for myself what was desirable about my trans masculine body. I had to be the closest observer and the closest carer for the ways in which my body was slowly changing and to love it at every stage of this journey.

Sex toys and prosthetics have been key to my sexual liberation, as a queer and trans person they quickly became second nature to my intimate experiences, and so I began to incorporate them into my personal pleasure life. As queer people we have had to educate ourselves and each other about sexuality in every single way, and toys are indeed one of those ways. I feel blessed to be in community with people I can speak to about these topics, ask for advice, and insight. When I first used the SONA 2 Cruise I was really unsure about it, and so I spoke to a queer friend about their experience with it as they had owned one for some time. They were quick to reassure me and give me a few tips on how to maximise pleasure, this is the sex education we need!

How I felt about my body was changing, what I enjoyed was changing, how I expressed myself was changing. Self-pleasure came to play a vital role in me finding peace, recognition, and the fullest sense of embodiment in the form my body was taking on. It gave me space to intimately learn and understand myself in my new, and in my old.

The freedom I feel as a queer person to explore both pleasure, and self-affirmation, in the multitude of ways offered by sex toys has been freeing on every level. The week I spent with LELO’s sex toys gave me a chance to deepen my exploration with different modes of pleasure and therefore deepen my connection with self. It gave me a space to recognise, and continue recognising the depths of desirability, and the power of intimate connected self-pleasure, that trans masculinity holds for me.

LELO sent us some toys to review! If you’re in the market for a new gadget or are just curious about how they stack up, here’s what Charlie, Sophia and Melz had to say about them. 

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