Posted on: May 22, 2023
There's something in the activist communities we talk about - nothing for us, without us, and so much of what has been produced has been for us and without us.
Despite the increasing visibility of trans and non-binary folx in media, political representation, and popular culture, their sexual lives and erotic embodiments are woefully under-attended-to in both scholarship and clinical practice. - (Excerpt from Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments.)
We spoke with Lucie Fielding, therapist, sex educator, and the author of ‘Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments,’ to discuss the lack of trans and non-binary folx within mental health and why this is an issue. Representation is vital to feeling seen and heard and pertains to all areas of life.
Trans and non-binary people can often face unique challenges in clinical settings. Unfortunately, psychotherapists often exhibit an insufficient preparedness for their trans and non-binary gender identities, resulting in overt discrimination and microaggressions that compromise the client-provider relationship.
What drew you to this research? Why and how did this book come to be?
Many projects come about because of rage, a very clarifying rage - rage at injustice, broken systems that don't serve folx, and oppressive systems. So therefore, 'Trans Sex' emerges from lived experience both as a trans provider and client. And so, this book came to be from interacting with the training I received and observing how it didn't serve or wasn't designed to serve trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive folx. And through lived experience as a trans client and a trans patient who navigates these systems built by and for CIS people and that characterize trans folx from without.
And so, experiencing the ways that the information and the guidance that I was receiving forced me to extrapolate from CIS experiencing or was unnuanced or just plain wrong, I wanted for my clients and for my community to have different experiences, to have more affirming experiences, in which they could feel seen and heard and held in a client-provider relationship.
Also, as a trans fem and trans-misogyny-affected fem, I began my exploration of gender with a lot of questions that couldn't be answered by the providers I was working with or with the great sex education and sex therapy books that were available. And there were, of course, community resources. Resources like "The Great Zine fucking Trans Women" by Mary Bellwether or Alison Moon's. "Girl Sex 101: the trans sex scene". These were community resources, Yet I wanted to see more. I want more folx to dream and experience erotic embodiment.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Our bodies are polymorphously perverse playgrounds of wonder, capable of near-infinite expansion. Yet we grow up. We move through cultures that would seek to tell us what is a good body, what is a bad body, what is beautiful, what is not, what is sex, what is good sex, what is bad sex, what is too much sex, what is too little sex? And I want readers to come away from the book able to empower their clients, to dream outside of those stories and cultural scripts, and to find pleasure and joy and gender pleasure in their bodies and their relationships and dynamics. I want to see playfulness.
I also want to revise the client-provider relationship radically. And although the title says clinical approaches, I want to see an expansion of who is considered a member of a multidisciplinary team of providers serving trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive clients. It's not just mental health folks, it's not just medical folks, but it's also pelvic floor therapists, surrogate partner therapists, professional dominance therapists, and so on. So there is a wide range of professionals, providers, and ancestral healers. And I want them to be able to see themselves and see approaches for working with trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive folx in the most affirming and gender-pleasurable ways.
Inequality research shows that white, middle-class, non-disabled CIS men predominantly built our systems across STEM, economics, business, politics, and everything in between. And this is one of the main reasons trans and non-binary patients face challenges in clinical settings.
Our systems were largely built by CIS men writing and conceptualizing sexuality and gender in central and Western Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And there's something in the activist communities we talk about nothing for us, without us. And so much of what has been produced has been for us and without us. I want to see change.
I want the systems, the ways that we work, and the ways that we dream to be steeped in what trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive folx want for themselves. And for clinicians, whether we're CIS or trans, to be guided by those visions to co-create within and through those visions.
How would you describe the book?
Trans Sex is a book that I designed to be for us, by us. However, the title is somewhat misleading. First of all, clinical approaches. I don't mean it to just be for clinicians. I don't just mean it to be for mental health folx. I want educators and other providers outside of mental health and medical context to be able to use this book. And I've also been heartened that the community has drawn inspiration and love from this book. They have felt seen in this book in a way that other books haven't seen them. That is the greatest gift of all to feel like I'm serving communities I care so deeply about because I'm a member of them.
I also don't want folks to think that just because it says Trans Sex in the title that it is only for trans and nonbinary folx. I wanted to see a radical revisioning of the ways that we work with trans and nonbinary folx, but also the ways that we work with CIS folks and CIS straight folks.
Because one thing that we know is that structures of oppression harm not only marginalized groups but dominant groups as well, who enforce them and who are steeped in them. I want to see all bodies celebrated again for their polymorphously perverse characters and how beautiful that is.
Could you talk us through your experience getting your book published? Are trans and non-binary folx well represented by today's publishers?
Trans and non-binary folx are still under-represented in writing, especially in academia, and those that have published within academia before transitioning often have a difficult time updating the name on their publications to reflect their transition.
This was my first book, and I hadn't written much of it before it was proposed. There are publishers with trans lists, but I was not seeing adequate or culturally humble treatment of trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive sexualities and erotic embodiments. And what I saw was also very cognitive and top-down. And as much as some of my clients come to me for talk therapy, it's not what has served me as a client or patient. It's been somatic approaches. Yet the approach of embodiment and image I wasn't seeing anywhere.
I had the pleasure of meeting with a Routledge editor at AASECT in 2019, and we had a lovely conversation. It took me a while to build the courage to submit a proposal. And I got back such enthusiasm from Heather, the editor I was working with, and have continued to since.
And then, the pandemic happened. And so, I had written half of the book, drafted half of the book, and then the lockdown started, and I was lost. I didn't know what to do or how to hold what was happening because I was not okay. My clients were not okay. So, we were in the midst of a collective trauma event that forced us to radically rethink what we're doing, how we show up, and why we show up as providers. And my editor, Heather, was so supportive in that, giving me a little bit more time to read through drafts and giving a lot of excellent feedback on the writing, on how I was structuring the argument, and also checking in with me periodically. So I felt supported in writing this book and felt like, as a first-time author, my hand was being held a little bit in that process, and I appreciated it.
Once the manuscript was in, I also appreciated how much advocacy she had had throughout. For example, Routledge has never submitted a book to the Lenda Literary Awards. And Heather advocated for that. She advocated for the beautiful cover of this book. And I'm just so thrilled that Heather joined me in co-creating a vision for this book that was mine, my voice.
A lot of the advice I kept getting from other clinicians as I wrote this book was, "No one's going to want to read something this theoretical or this literary." "You're too literary. You're too image based. People want to see workbooks, and they want to see interventions".
And my vision was that if somebody wants to read that book, they can write it. But that book would look like every other book on the market written about trans and nonbinary folx, not written by us or for us.
And so I wanted something different, something that was built from the trans up, something that was radically queer and steeped in our stories and lineages.
Connect with Lucie
Lucie is committed to providing resources, information, and support to enhance the experiences of trans and non-binary folx who offer and receive treatment in a clinical setting. Lucie Fielding has a website called luciefielding.com - Sex Beyond Binaries, where you can find out where she will be giving talks and teaching classes. You can also use Lucies' website to contact her directly for gender-affirming, relationship, and therapeutic consultation.
Award-Winning Author Lucie Fielding Talks Trans Sex Clinical Approaches
Many projects come about because of rage, a very clarifying rage - rage at injustice, broken systems that don't serve folx and oppressive systems...