‘My neo-vagina felt like the confirmation that I had been born transgender’
I love how your book is called Queer Sex, and yet in the intro you reveal that you haven’t had sex in years—for me, this immediately flips the expectations of sex positivity, where we’re all supposed to be having such amazing sex all the time. Tell me what drew you to frame the book through your own longing.
Juno Roche: I framed the book this way because it felt like the only way I could do it. I couldn’t write a book about sex, trans bodies and genitals, or the changes we make without being honest about my own inability to get it right or at least explore it openly and with self-respect. I wanted and want intimacy, sex, and pleasure and I felt that I needed to go on a journey to find out perhaps what baggage I was carrying that might be getting in my way, to find out how I viewed my own body and sexuality. So, it felt like the only way to do this was to own my feelings openly. I love conversations and community, [so] it felt right that I might find some answers or space with others.
I try to have a policy throughout all of my writing, which is that I take the chances first. I become vulnerable first. I become open first. I think it especially matters if you want other people to accompany you on that journey. Who really wants a book on sex from someone who is absolutely getting it right? The places where we learn and move on and perhaps disrupt are often gaps, fractures, hairline cracks. It’s important that I step off first of all, and in this book I do it by the end of paragraph one. I own being middle-aged and wanting sex—not needing but wanting—and I excitedly move off to take advice from others. That’s challenging to me, but also it disrupts my silence around sex and as someone who describes myself as queer it feels important to be able to shift my parameters.
Often, we’re led to believe that sex is the pinnacle of embodiment. Yet several of the people you interview describe having much more sex before transition but feeling much more embodied after transition. What do you make of this?
It’s a strange thing really the way we as people have a hierarchy of touch and intimacy that ends in two bodies coming together and having a good fit—an easy fit. After I transitioned, I struggled to find an easy fit with the cis men and their dicks that I had before—it wasn’t essentially physical, more emotional and spiritual even. I wanted to find my fit or fits. After I had my cock and balls upcycled into a neo-vagina I felt that I had a queer core. Ironically, I’d assumed that a vagina would be simplistically binary and answer all those questions, but she didn’t; she came complete with really interesting dilemmas and openings and potential. It just took me by surprise; I think it does with many of us. Many of the people I interviewed talked about surgery becoming an embodying, almost philosophical process rather than one that ended with simple straightforward sex. Trans is a wonderful identity, but I think we are told by society that it isn’t one we should linger in for too long, whereas my neo-vagina felt like the confirmation that I had been born transgender. For me that felt exciting.
Image by Kevin Dooley