Few people in the general population have heard of Sexological Bodywork. It is likely that more are familiar with the related practices of Tantra, Erotic Massage or conscious kink. The modality is exciting and pioneering and becoming increasingly recognised around the world.
I am a Certified Sexological Bodyworker (CSB), and I also work with trans young people, am involved in LGBT community organisation, and have trans partners. Through these experiences I know that there are many unmet needs for trans (including non-binary) people around their bodies and experience of sexuality. Many of the most distressing experiences are also the most taboo and unreachable in a talking therapist’s room.
“I have never talked about sex to my therapist, I just can’t!”
These aspects of human sexual experience are ones that a trans-aware CSB can open their arms to. I believe that Somatic Sex Education and Sexological Bodywork has a huge potential benefit to trans and Intersex people in so many ways.
What can a trans-aware Sexological Bodyworker offer trans people?
1. A PRACTICE SPACE
A safe, professional, ethical space to ‘practice and learn’ and to grow in comfort and confidence around sex and intimacy, outside the pressure of relationship sex. The skills and confidence people learn open up many possibilities for enhancing relationships or increasing confidence to enter them.
‘I’m not ready to be in a relationship, but I know that doing this work before I do will change everything.’
2. EXPLORING IDENTITY
CSB’s can witness and honour the client as they are, how they wish to be acknowledged and where explorations of sexual and gender expression can be given room to breathe and flourish.
‘Having a space to talk about sex and explore my male side has been really amazing…I now feel that the way I experience my arousal, fantasy, my packer and my body is OK’.
3. SCAR REMEDIATION
CSBs are trained in scar remediation and massage, which can be helpful to many trans and intersex people who may have scarring from gender confirmation surgery or from self-harm. We work with scars in a holistic and embodied way; physically scar work can improve mobility, reduce pain and increase sensation and pleasure, and emotionally it is often the case that there is emotional release from contact with scars and the opportunity to tell the story of the scar or the body part as it arises. I did additional training in Sharon Wheeler’s ScarWork to be able to offer more of this work. See ScarWork – a new body-based healing adventure! and Using ScarWork® for scars caused by self-harm.
4. HELPING TO CONNECT TO THE BODY AND INCREASE SENSATION
CSBs are all about ‘Embodiment’, a growing discipline increasingly evidenced by neuroscience, which is all about our mind and body becoming more deeply connected. We can work with dissociation, lack of body sensation and genital numbness, using techniques such as breathing, body mapping, somatic awareness and careful, consensual touch.
5. BODY DISCOVERY
We can explore together the whole landscape of the body and nervous system, and fantasy, often for the first time, with an attitude of curiosity. For many people, this might be a ‘changing body’ due to hormones or surgery. It can be hugely supportive to work with a professional on the vital work of becoming connected to the body and its potential.
‘After surgery there isn’t any support from the system; even if things go wrong and it’s not working right, there’s the attitude of ‘you wanted this, you’re on your own’.
6. COMMUNICATING NEEDS
CSBs are dedicated to client led work at all times underpinned by embodied consent and honouring of the yes and no in the body. Our whole approach is based around communication and the client is active in their own experience. CSBs help people get tuned in with and ask for what they want, based on the reality that the best sex doesn’t happen between people with mind-reading abilities!
‘I can’t believe I just asked for what I wanted! That is so new to me!’
7. DEALING WITH TRAUMA
CSBs work in a trauma informed way and will recognise the myriad of ways trauma impacts the body, mind and life of a trans or intersex person, who is more likely to have experienced PTSD, abuse, transphobia and medical trauma. CSB’s will be careful to ask the right questions to ensure that client has sufficient support, has engaged in therapy and does not have significant unresolved trauma before working with them.
8. DEALING WITH SHAME
CSBs are sex positive and intend to help people recognise and release themselves from the impact of sexual shame in their lives, including the shame that is rooted in growing up in a cissexist and heteronormative environment.
‘In this work I have realised that there is nothing wrong with me and how I get turned on. Four years of counselling hasn’t been able to touch the shame and sense that I was repulsive. This is all changing now.’
9. BODY CONFIDENCE
CSB’s can help people to grow in confidence and comfort in their own skin, often as an effect of becoming more relaxed and experiencing increased pleasure and positive somatic experiences, but from the transformational relationship with the bodyworker, witnessing, mapping and mirror work.
10. HELPING RELATIONSHIPS
CSBs can work with individuals or couples, or others in intimate relationships. CSBs can work with individuals or couples where sexual identity or experience of sexuality, pleasure or desire is in flux, perhaps because of social or medical transition.
‘I have been with my partner for nearly a decade and using the exercises you suggested I couldn’t believe I discovered new things about what she likes! It has given her the opportunity to ask for sex that is more congruent with her gender’.
11. FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING
People don’t just want to be pain and dysphoria free; they want to fulfil their erotic potential and find joy and pleasure in their connection with themselves and others. I believe that our erotic and sexual existence is inextricably linked to other aspects of our life and well-being. Trans and Intersex people have as much right to this as anyone else: It’s your birth-right.
Q. How can the client make sure they are safe?
A. CSBs adhere to guidelines of ethical conduct, wearing gloves for intimate touch, the CSB being clothed and one directional touch from bodyworker to client.
Q. Are CSB’s insured?
A. CSB’s can be registered and insured with ASIS (Association of Somatic and Integrative Sexologists) and can get insurance to practice through other companies too. Complaints or issues can also be addressed through ASIS.
Q. What can you do that a counsellor or sex therapist can’t do?
A. Touch! CSB’s are trained in bodywork, anatomy and somatic sexual education and bring the mind/body connection directly into the session. Also many people fear that sex therapists and counsellors view sexuality through a normative lens and have sex-negative assumptions and values. It’s also a great complement to the work a client might do in talking therapy, especially in the case of trauma and abuse.
Q. I just want to have more fun and pleasure, or variety in my sex life, is a CSB right for me?
A. Yes! We have a whole toolbox of fantastic techniques and practices we can coach or do with you, including erotic and gender neutral erotic massage, all about pleasure, arousal and increasing your sexual and sensual options.
A. How can I make sure a Sexological Bodyworker is trans aware and can meet my needs as a trans or intersex person?
A. This is a very individual and personal decision, a bit like shopping around for a therapist, but there are a lot less Certified Sexological Bodyworkers than therapists around! Read what they say about themselves and what impression they give on their website. Contact them and ask them about their experience and make sure you are happy with their understanding of the issues and the language they use. Attending a workshop they are facilitating is a good way to check out if you will be comfortable working with a practitioner. Ask other trans people or contact me for recommendations. My hope is that we will see an increase in trans including non-binary people training as Sexological Bodyworkers!
Q. What should I do if I want to know more?
Look at www.sexologicalbodywork.co.uk and www.the-asis.org where you will find practitioners in your area.
Or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free, confidential 30 minute Skype consultation or phone call.
Thanks for reading,