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What Transgender Folks Teach the Rest of Us  About Sex and Relationships

Many women complain that men are obsessed with sex, and many men complain that women talk too much. Transgender folks show the rest of us that our desires for both sex and conversation are more hormonal than many of us believe.

What Changes for Male-to-Female Transsexuals

I’m acquainted with a few male-to-female (MtF) transgender women, and we’ve chatted about the changes they’ve noticed as they’ve transitioned. Uniformly they’ve noticed two significant differences:

• Less interest in sex. “When I was a man,” one told me, “I thought about sex a great deal. I experienced my libido as a driving force that sometimes felt irresistible. And if I didn’t get sex, I masturbated. I masturbated a lot. Now that I’m a woman, I still enjoy sex, but I think about it a lot less and don’t masturbate much anymore.”

• More interest in conversation. “When I was a man,” this MtF trans-woman continued, “my wife used to complain that I was emotionally distant, not open to talking with her and not a very good listener. But as far as I was concerned, I was present. I talked. I listened—just not as much as she wanted. Now that I’m a woman, I see what she meant. I find men to be aloof. Now, given a choice between having sex or talking with my girlfriends, most of the time, I’d choose a good conversation.”

What Changes for Female-to-Male Transsexuals

I’m not personally acquainted with any female-to-male (FtM) trans-men, but in 2011, the New York Times interviewed one of the most public FtMs, Chaz (nee Chastity) Bono, the child of singer-actress Cher and the late-singer-politician Sonny Bono. As Chaz Bono has transitioned, he’s noticed two main changes:

• More interest in sex. He says he thinks about it much more than he did as a woman and “needs release much more often.”

The research bears this out. In studies of life after FtM transitioning, the single most consistent finding is that trans-men express much more interest in sex, masturbate considerably more—and are often shocked at how horny they feel.

• Less interest in conversation. “As a woman, I used to really enjoy conversations with the girls. As a man, I have less tolerance for women’s talking. I’ve noticed that Jen [his girlfriend] can talk endlessly. But there’s something in testosterone that makes that really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. And when she talks, sometimes I just zone out.”

It’s Nothing Personal. Just Hormones

Many women have difficulty with men’s sexual appetites. To be sure, not all men badger women for sex. When couples consult sex therapists for desire differences, in about one-third of cases, it’s the woman who has the greater libido But two-thirds of the time, it’s the man who wants more nookie, and in the cultural stereotype, the word that follows horny is guy.

Many women don’t understand this. How can you want sex so much? As the experience of trans-people shows, libido is largely hormonal. MtF trans-women take estrogen, suppress testosterone, and quickly feel less sexually driven. So ladies, your horny guy is not perverse, he’s simply responding to his hormones.

Meanwhile, many men complain that women talk too much, and many women complain that men don’t listen. To be sure, not all women are motor-mouths. Some are quite reserved, while some men can’t shut up. But Louann Brizendine, director of the University of California, San Francisco's Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic, asserts that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day, while men utter only 7,000. Other researchers have disputed these numbers, but in the cultural stereotype, the phrase is not Chatty Charlie, but Chatty Cathy.

Many men don’t understand this. I listen. But you talk so much that I can’t decide what’s worth listening to. As the experience of transgenders shows, the drive to verbal expression is also hormonally mediated. FtM trans-men take testosterone, suppress estrogen, and quickly quiet down and get annoyed by women’s talking.

No doubt women will continue to complain that guys are insufferable horn-dogs, and men will continue to complain that women run at the mouth. But trans-men and -women show us that neither gender is perversely out to drive the other crazy. It’s nothing personal, just hormones.


San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, has written about sexuality for 45 years. For five of them (1991-95) he answered the sex questions for the Playboy Advisor. He currently publishes

Michael Castleman © 2018

Michael Castleman writes and publishes


Wilson, C. “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model,” New York Times, May 6, 2011.


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