Piercings and Gender Affirmation: A Transfemme Experience
The following is a beautiful piece from one of my amazing clients Happy. They have been getting piercings from me for a little over a year, and for them, piercings have been a healing, empowering, and affirming experience. This piece discusses the intimate ways genital piercings can give gender euphoria, function, and confidence. Everyones experience with piercings may be different, and different piercings may work out uniquely for each individual. My hope in sharing stories like this is to open ideas about gender, what defines our gender, and how we as nonbinary and queer folks can utilize piercings in empowering and affirming ways.
Having been inspired by a recent piece written by Lynn Loheide titled “HRT & Trans, Non-Binary & Intersex Experiences in Relation to Body Piercing” I want to share my experience with genital piercings in regards to my gender identity.
My name is happy 🥰 I’m a 32yo transfemme amab person. I came out as non-binary / gender queer in May of 2020. And I got my first piercings from Melody in June of that year.
From the beginning, my body modifications were directly tied to my internal sense of self. I spent a long time being perceived a certain way and I’m not ashamed to say I got my first piercing to send a message. A message to my inner child saying it’s ok to be yourself. But also a message to the world saying I’m done playing the game of fitting into your cis/het-male pigeon hole.
My PA piercing is different in some important ways. I’m going to speak specifically to my experience as a transfemme non-binary person. And how I relate to my body, and how my body is perceived by others. Content warning ⚠️: There will be specific mention of body parts, if that makes you uncomfortable I suggest not reading this piece.
One thing to note is that I do not currently feel transitioning medically is necessary for me. And it’s worth pointing out that while I use the label non-binary, i see myself as vastly more femme than masc and I present “overtly feminine”. That is, I wear clothing and fashion my appearance in a way my community unequivocally associates with “women”. FWIWI live in a tiny town in conservative rural America.
This left me with a strange predicament I have not heard spoken to by other transfemme amab people. I don’t identify as female, but I could never, ever even begin to imagine going into a men’s restroom wearing a dress. Maybe in places where gender non conformity is acceptable. I would be able to. But here in rural Tennessee that is NOT an option.
This left me with big questions about what I want/need to feel safe. And the reality that (as has been true my WHOLE LIFE) despite not seeing myself as male, others do. And. so I run the risk of making someone uncomfortable, or even being seen as a predator.
You never realize how often you need to piss in public until there’s no where to go where you feel safe.
I knew i needed to use the “women’s” bathroom but I felt like my penis, or at least the lack of hormones etc, meant I didn’t have a right to do that.
I began to realize just how much my own perception of my anatomy was still rooted in transphobic ideas about people’s bodies.
This issue arose for me as I was discovering the power body modification had to fundamentally change the way I relate to my body. I am extremely fortunate to have a very supportive partner and to have made some new Friends who would become important parts of this journey of self acceptance.
I wanted, no. I NEEDED to do something extreme. I needed to do something dramatic. (Sure among the world of body mods PA’s are by no means extreme, but it sure as hell was for me)
I needed a ceremony. A coming of age, a right of passage that I never got. In the absence of elders to construct such an ordeal I took it upon myself. I endeavored to create an experience that would impact me such that I’d never be the same. That from then on I would be a new person. Not better, not wiser or more enlightened. But simply able to take the temple that is my body for what it is.
I needed that experience to help me break through the mental chains I carried that always made me feel like being myself was asking for trouble.
The “Prince Albert” piercing (with its unfortunately gendered name) came with a particular advantage. This piercing enters the body directly below the glans of the penis and exits through the urethra. Naturally this has an impact on the way urine is expelled and this creates issues for people who stand to pee. There are ways to work around this but it was this fact that made me know I wanted to get this piercing.
More than the aesthetic, even more than the psychological rewiring through ritual, the direct change in the function of my penis was what I knew I needed. I felt I needed that physical modification to justify existing in spaces reserved for women. It serves as a physical manifestation of my queerness. This was something I needed at the time. And that I may not always need.
When I first had it done I knew there was a chance or would come a time I may have to retire this piercing. Today is exactly one year. from the day I was pierced. And while I havnt considered retiring her yet, it isn’t something I feel I need now. I keep it because I want to, not because I have to. And when or if the time comes it won’t matter because the impact it had was so much more than skin deep.
This would not have been possible without my both my partner who has supported me in my oath of self discovery even when she didn’t understand.
And my dear friend who got me into body piercing and actually performed my PA. I had the great good fortune of meeting Lynne Loheide during a time in my life where I really needed a ray of hope. And while we were both in the middle of grappling with big life changes we formed a friendship that has been really special to me and is what made this experience possible.
I’m sure Lynne would pass the credit on to those who educated them but she opened the door for me to get nerdy about piercing. From the science aspect of doing it safely, to the history of and deep cultural significance of body modification. They are a wealth of knowledge. But more importantly they are a thoughtful person who was there for me in a way no one else could have been.
I hope you experience this type of freedom at least once in your life.