Top surgery has caused me to lose feeling in my erogenous zones. What can I do?

Q:

I'm FtM transgender. I had my top surgery 6 months ago and no longer have feeling. It was my erogenous zone, other than my neck. My spouse no longer tries to do anything for arousal for sex and just wants to stick a finger in. Even talking to my spouse about it, hasn't changed. What can I do?

A:

Loss of sensation after any surgery is common and equally disheartening if not traumatic. We often hear from our doctors that it is a possible side effect only in passing which causes many folks to not fully understand how much feeling can be lost or how that will really impact them. The loss of feeling comes from nerves being cut during surgery, sadly, this means that it is most likely permanent. This leads to people to feel conflicted about their decision to receive top or gender confirmation surgery. The good news is that change in one's experience doesn’t have to mean a worse sexual life for your future.

For some folks, sensation may progressively increase over time. Remember to talk to your surgeon about your loss of feeling and what to expect as far as overall healing. For people still exploring top surgery, there are certain surgical approaches which said known to retain the most feeling in the pectoral region, but nothing is guaranteed.

The best approach to dealing with this change is to re-explore your body and figure out what feels good now. It is ok to mourn the loss of something you once found pleasurable, but remember that your body is still wired for pleasure and satisfaction and different doesn’t mean worse.

Take time during solo-sex to find out what parts of your body feel good to be touched, often when we lose sensation in one area our body will compensate for in another. With your partner, you need to take the time to re-learn each other’s bodies, something that is both fun and exciting. Tell your partner that sex isn't a single act and that you need to explore what feels good for you as a man and as well as a couple. Most trans folks find that even with some loss of feeling overall sexual satisfaction increases after gender-confirmation surgery, but a supportive partner is crucial to this experience. If your spouse continues to not want to discuss this I would connect with a sex therapist to work with you on increasing communication.

Our bodies change sexually with so many life experiences-aging, childbirth, surgery, etc. But we can learn that many of these processes can become pathways to understanding and appreciating the miracle of our bodies and sexuality all the more. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for the care and intimacy you deserve.

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Written by Laura McGuire
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Dr. Laura McGuire is a nationally recognized sexuality educator, trauma-informed specialist, and inclusion consultant at The National Center for Equity and Agency. Dr. McGuire earned her bachelor's degree in social sciences from Thomas Edison State University and her graduate degrees in Educational Leadership for Change from Fielding Graduate University. Her experience includes both public and private sectors, middle schools, high schools, and university settings. In 2015, she served as the first Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program Manager at the University of Houston, and in 2017, she became the first Victim Advocate/Prevention Educator at the US Merchant Marine Academy.

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