Juno Roche’s Queer Sex: A Trans and Nonbinary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships may have “guide” in the subtitle, but in the introduction Roche writes, “This isn’t a guide book but it is a book in which I hope to honestly lay myself bare and share stories and experiences from others and to celebrate the potential of our wonderful bodies and lives.” And lay herself bare she does, not just in the intro, where she writes openly of her “vaginal landing” as a trans woman after surgery, but also of her fantasy that her “neo-vagina” would allow her to magically enter a world of glorious and uncomplicated heterosexual sex, a fantasy dashed once she experiences, instead, “a deconstruction of all of me.”
It’s this deconstruction that Queer Sex celebrates. Roche writes, “I’m left in bits and pieces which I can now put back together in any chosen structure I like.” In order to figure out what structure might work best, she interviews other trans and nonbinary people in England (where she lives) about sex, desire, intimacy, and relationships. Here I talk with Juno Roche about challenging expectations around sex and gender, resisting binary norms and subcultural hierarchies, strategizing for self-invention and autonomy, and the radical potential of trans bodies and lives.
I love how your book is called Queer Sex, and yet in the intro you reveal that you haven’t had sex in years—for me, this immediately flips the expectations of sex positivity, where we’re all supposed to be having such amazing sex all the time. Tell me what drew you to frame the book through your own longing.
I framed the book this way because it felt like the only way I could do it. I couldn’t write a book about sex, trans bodies and genitals, or the changes we make without being honest about my own inability to get it right or at least explore it openly and with self-respect. I wanted and want intimacy, sex, and pleasure and I felt that I needed to go on a journey to find out perhaps what baggage I was carrying that might be getting in my way, to find out how I viewed my own body and sexuality. So, it felt like the only way to do this was to own my feelings openly. I love conversations and community, [so] it felt right that I might find some answers or space with others.
I try to have a policy throughout all of my writing, which is that I take the chances first. I become vulnerable first. I become open first. I think it especially matters if you want other people to accompany you on that journey. Who really wants a book on sex from someone who is absolutely getting it right? The places where we learn and move on and perhaps disrupt are often gaps, fractures, hairline cracks. It’s important that I step off first of all, and in this book I do it by the end of paragraph one. I own being middle-aged and wanting sex—not needing but wanting—and I excitedly move off to take advice from others. That’s challenging to me, but also it disrupts my silence around sex and as someone who describes myself as queer it feels important to be able to shift my parameters.