Meredith Talusan: How I Learned About Sex

Sex may be a universal human experience—but how we think, talk, and learn about it can vary greatly depending on our gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and even nationality. And there are few people who understand that as well as Meredith Talusan, a queer, non-binary trans woman who immigrated to the States at the age of 15.

Born to teen parents in the Phillippines, Talusan’s youth was split between her grandparents’ home in rural Talacsan and her parents’ in urban Manila. Talusan, who describes herself as “a ridiculously nerdy, curious person,” didn’t have much exposure to frank conversations about sex in the deeply Catholic Phillippines. But she still managed to piece together a basic knowledge through bits and pieces of information gathered in the usual and less usual ways—stumbling upon a children’s book about sex, discovering her dad’s condom stash (“I just thought they were balloons,” she says), and, of course, porn.

“My grandfather—who was actually a wholesome, nice man but was a local politician—sometimes entertained less nice men. And one of the things that they liked to do was watch softcore Filipino porn together,” Talusan tells SELF. “But none of them knew how to operate the VCR except for me. It was like, Let’s just make sure that it all works—while Meredith sneaks a peek.”

Today Talusan is the senior editor of them.us, a new site from Condé Nast that covers culture through an LGBTQ lens. (Condé Nast also publishes SELF.) We chatted about figuring out sex in a highly repressive culture, coming out as a gay teen in a deeply conservative part of California, and why even straight cis people can benefit from trans-inclusive sex education.

What is your first memory of hearing about sex?

My very, very first memory of having some notion of sex was when I was 5 or 6 years old. My mom worked at a printing press, and she would leave me in the sample room of the printing press for really long periods of time. The printing press reprinted a bunch of American books for a Filipino audience. I had basically free reign of the printing press sample room. When I was about 5, I found a kids’ book about where babies come from. It didn’t really explicitly talk about the sex part, but that was when I was introduced to the concept of mating, of your mom and dad doing something together and this thing happens and a kid comes out at the end. I remember that being very exciting, and I remember telling my friends about it, because they didn’t have access to that knowledge. That was one touchstone moment.

When I was 8 or 9, I found my dad’s porn stash. That made me very proud to have learned how to read English. He had Penthouse, and I wasn’t attracted to women at the time, so I just read the Penthouse Forum letters. I don’t think I really knew what the mechanics of everything were, but I at least knew that men and women did things to each other, and there was pleasure.

I was the kid who, because of the fact that I was always near or at the top of my class, could always get away with stuff. The nuns couldn’t reprimand me in the same way as the other kids because they were holding me up as a model of scholastic achievement. I remember in religion class—I must have been 12—bringing up the concept of whether men were required to keep their semen after they masturbated, because, in Catholic doctrine, any sex-related thing needs to be accounted for and procreative. And I remember that I learned about that concept because I had read this Penthouse Forum essay about a woman who kept the ejaculate of men and used it as face cream because it had protein in it.

At any point in these formative years were you asking your parents or your grandmother about sex?

No! Of course not. There is no way. That is not allowable in a Filipino context. There is no talk, “the talk” does not exist. The talk might happen the day before you get married, but there is no talk. Absolutely no talk.

There were a lot of major things that I didn’t understand about sex. It took me a really long time—until I was maybe 12 or 13—to understand that come is different from piss, that those are two completely different phenomena. I don’t think I understood the mechanics of how it worked until I was in the States. In the Phillippines you’re expected not to know anything about how it actually works until you’re married. No self-respecting person loses their virginity before that point.

Did you have any American sex ed classes once you got to the States?

I went to high school in San Bernadino County, which is a conservative part of California. We had a civics class, but the principal ordered that the entire sections of the state-mandated book that had information on contraception and homosexuality be excised. We had books that had these entire sections missing. My high school ended up being abstinence-only.

At the time I was a cis gay man, and knew that I was a cis gay man. I accessed gay porn when I was in high school—I either got a friend to buy it for me or a shoplifted it. That was how I was introduced to gay sex.

When you started having sex, did you feel at all prepared?

I first had sex within two weeks of college. I just wanted to get it over with, because I felt like I wanted my life to begin. I didn’t want to sentimentalize it. It’s not that I regret doing that, but the person that I first had sex with turned out to be kind of an asshole. I didn’t want my virginity to be precious, but I also realized that I prefer to have sex with nice people.

I didn’t figure this out until I medically transitioned, but I had a really strong aversion to anal sex. I was just not into it, even the idea of it. It was until I actually medically transitioned and had a vagina that I was like, “Oh, this is the body part that makes sense.” I identify as genderqueer, and I also don’t think in retrospect that I needed to medically transition, but one of the effects of medical transition was that I became comfortable having penetrative sex.

What can we do to make sex ed more trans-inclusive?

Sex ed is not even gay and lesbian sensitive. There’s this notion that the way that queer people have sex is already too adult for high school, which I think is total bullshit. The ways that we as a community intuitively want to have sex is viewed as not suitable for minors, which I think is really terrible. It contributes to this entire perception of queer and trans sex as alternative, when it’s only alternative in the sense that more people have heterosexual sex.

If I were an administrator designing a trans curriculum, I would just have a separate unit on how queer people have sex, and a separate unit on how trans people have sex. Even if there are no queer or trans people in your classroom, people who are straight need to really understand that gay sex is just a form of sex, nothing more, nothing less.

And the chance of a straight person at some point being in position to have sex with a trans person is relatively high. I don’t want to be a living sex ed class for every person that I sleep with.


Lux Alptraum is a writer, sex educator, comedian, and consultant. Past gigs have included serving as the editor, publisher, and CEO of Fleshbot, the web’s foremost blog about sexuality and adult entertainment; editor-at-large for Nerve; a sex educator at an adolescent pregnancy prevention program; and an HIV pretest counselor. She’s on Twitter at @luxalptraum and pens a weekly newsletter featuring all the best in sex.


Source Article from https://www.self.com/story/how-i-learned-about-sex-meredith-talusan