There will be various points in many trans and nonbinary survivors’ healing journeys when we become curious about exploring something new as a part of our reclaimed sexualities. This can be a daunting part of the healing process, so it’s no wonder why incredible survivor-oriented books like my previously reviewed Learning Good Consent dedicate ample time to reclaiming sexuality in our bodies and minds.
One tool some writers in Learning Good Consent strongly advocate for is learning our own bodies, really experiencing what feels good to us and getting to control all the sensations and fantasies, through masturbation. This can feel really exciting to some trans and nonbinary survivors, and to others unleash terrifying waves of trauma and dysphoria. That’s why I think it can be really helpful to have a guide as we build this skill and tolerance for self-exploration, just like any other new muscle we’re learning how to use in our healing.
Towards that end, I’m excited to recommend Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 5 as an excellent guide into the erotic. While having “lesbian” in the title may feel like it shuts some trans and nonbinary readers out, don’t let that fool you! Edited by Sinclair Sexmith and featuring an astounding contribution by my good friend K.J. Drake, this book overflows with gorgeous trans and genderqueer representation exploring all kinds of sex and sexuality. You can get to know these writers, including K.J. Drake, in an Autostraddle article here– like me, I’m sure you’ll be pumped by the trans, disabled, polyamorous, and neurodiverse representation among the authors, and rest assured that these qualities stay visible on the page.
This collection of erotica is one we’re meant to really bring our full, over-worked and under-paid, weird and wonderful, trans and nonbinary, and even our survivor selves to. It’s a safe and creative way to dive into new fantasies about BDSM like through the piece K.J. Drake offers us, or to simply get our feet wet in softer pieces that may show us consent and good, gentle touch for the first time.
There is no right or wrong way to use erotica as a tool for healing as long as we’re listening to the cues of our bodies and minds. Here are some suggestions for making your reading experience as pleasurable and safe as possible:
- Only read erotic material when you are physically and emotionally safe from harm and not during flashbacks. To the best of your ability, don’t imagine unsafe or traumatic material happening to you while you read. This is now, not then. You are in control of something that’s struggling towards joy.
- If you start having a flashback, stop reading for the day and do what’s needed to take care of yourself and come back to the present. Make a commitment to come back to the book in a time that feels safe for you. Your therapist or support group might have good feedback on pacing sexual healing skill building.
- Keep a comfort item with you when you read.
- Make a plan ahead of time for how long you want to spend with the book per sitting. You can quit whenever you want, but having a cap is important to prevent erotica from becoming an escape from daily life, a way to self punish by denying other wants and needs, or a race you’re trying to beat. There is no race. This should be engaged with real life, a way to deepen our relationships with ourselves and further our healing, and a gradual strengthening of a new muscle.
- Tell important people in your life about this work. It’s crucial for trans and nonbinary survivors to have support and community. Sharing with people you trust about this healing work you’re doing prepares them to support you if you get more activated. If you’re in trusting sexual relationships, telling your partners a bit about what you’re exploring can help them accompany you on your sexual healing journey if things come off the page and into the sheets.
- Consider an app like Plantie (IOS) or Forest (Android) for when you read so you can really concentrate on the healing work at hand without digital distractions. Plantie and Forest also gives you a nice dopamine kick after you finish your concentration period by letting you plant pretty trees, and those extra pleasure endorphins will help cement to your body that reading erotica and exploring sexuality can be a good, safe thing.
- Be intentional about whether you get a digital or print copy. While some readers need one over the other for accessibility reasons, this suggestion is for those who buy a book format purely out of habit. Consider if being able to hold, throw, or cry on a physical copy feels important to you, or if you want to write safety numbers or healing quotes in the flap to keep you grounded. Consider if you feel comfortable with others possibly seeing you read or own a collection of queer erotica, how transportable you want it to be, and if you’d feel safer being able to close an entire app instead of just the cover of the book if you get overwhelmed and want to symbolically contain the material.
With these tips in mind, I’d highly recommend getting a copy of the Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 5 featuring my friend K.J. Drake to add to your sexual healing toolkit today!
Disability and Youth Trauma Specialist
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Tristen Taggart is an agender antiviolence activist pursuing their Bachelor’s Degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University. Tristen joined FORGE as a Policy and Programming Intern in 2018 and now works as the Disability and Youth Trauma Specialist. Tristen is a queer survivor, community activist, scholar, and direct-support volunteer with an evolving focus on the intersections and divergences of queer survivorship, disability justice, and abolition in the lives of young people. They are thrilled to bring their passion and curiosity to FORGE from their hometown in Richmond, Virginia.