I came out as nonbinary in 2019. Never feeling wholly female, I began reexamining what gender meant through my own lens, unlearning femininity through what society had taught me. I dipped my toes in slowly, shedding dresses and buying more blazers than my closet could handle. I embraced what nonbinary looked like to me—decentralizing male validation as a means of security and diving into my own version of masculinity (purchasing boxer shorts and stuffing said shorts for a bulge).
I never considered how this new identity might translate to my sex life.
I started dating my first girlfriend in the summer of 2020. Having never been in a queer relationship, sexuality came up often as a topic of conversation going forward into uncharted territories. Early on, I realized I leaned towards feeling like the sub in our relationship, nervous to take the reins yet empowered by the energy a bottom yields. As I researched more into what a sub does online, I discovered cuckolding, which is the practice of seeing a partner have sex with someone else. My curiosity turned into desire—hypothetically, this could help affirm my trans identity.
Derived from the old French word “Cuckault,” the term “cuckolding” came from the practice of female cuckoo birds laying eggs in other birds’ nests. Prior to the 21st century, cuckold also had a negative connotation, usually referring to a man whose wife is sexually unfaithful. However, with time, the practice of cuckolding became a popular consensual fetish between partners. As the fetish gained steam, the most common cuckolding scenario became a man sexually aroused by the fantasy (or reality) of his wife having sex with another man.
Mostly, the fetish centers around the man.
“Evolutionary biologists have tried to explain this phenomenon through a theory called the ‘sperm wars,’ which suggest that the cuckold’s arousal and sperm count might be higher when he perceives competition for his partner,” says NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist Dr. Dulcinea Pitagora. “I don’t think modern sexuality is necessarily tied to that reproduction, though.”
As time went on, the definition of cuckolding expanded. Closely tied to BDSM, cuckolding typically exists between three people—the cuck, the bull, and the cuckoldress. The bull (typically someone that a partner would feel inferior to) has sex with the cuckoldress while bullying the cuck. However, with time, the genders who fit said terms have evolved.
“People in relationships might not assign gender or sexual orientation to the cuckold the way they used to,” says Pitagora.
Now, cuckolding has evolved to fit several areas outside heterosexual, monogamous relationships between cis-het men and women, growing popular in the gay male community as a means of breaking straight norms. The field also opened up in recent years to include queer couples more willing to experiment in their relationship.
“Part of what makes cuckolding arousing for heterosexual men is that they tend to view it as a taboo act,” Ian Kerner writes for CNN. “But for gay men, cuckolding isn’t quite as taboo because the norm of lifelong monogamy isn’t so strong in the LGBT community.”
Cuckolding hyper focuses on the male in the situation, potentially explaining some draw for me, a nonbinary individual with female sex organs. Even today, most articles on cuckolding center the male narrative, drawing in those looking to be humiliated instead of empowered. However, as the conversation around gender expands, so does our definition of sexuality, fetish, and sex education. For someone like me—who fantasizes about seeing their girlfriend be penetrated by a man as a means of extension and desire for a penis—this can be gender reaffirming and, in the likely event I do transition, a great way to see what my partner likes.
“One reason a trans-masc might feel affirmed by seeing their partner having sex with a cis man is if they’re worried their partner is only attracted to women or more feminine people,” says Pitagora. “Seeing them enjoy sex with someone more masculine could be affirming for someone thinking of transitioning to become more masculine.”
Not much research exists on Google regarding the subject of cuckolding in a queer context. Outside of the occasional Quora and Reddit post wondering if cuckolding is a psychological perversion or means of understanding the trans experience, the conversation surrounding cuckolding and its relation to trans affirmation is seemingly nonexistent. And with such a patriarchal fetish, it’s hard not to feel like an outlier. Where do trans people, specifically women, fit into the practice?
“Though cuckolding often involves a threesome with mixed genders, the cuckold traditionally identifies as straight,” says Pitagora. “Now, however, they might identify with any orientation, such as heteroflexible, bi, queer, or pansexual, or no orientation at all. Cuckolding does not have to be and is not limited to any particular sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As I begin to understand my gender identity more deeply, I wonder what cuckolding could do in terms of healing the dysmorphia I’ve lived with my entire life. A strap on—which is essentially wielding a plastic dildo to satisfy someone else—only does so much, and I can’t help but imagine the kind of catharsis I could feel watching someone who isn’t me utilize sex organs I don’t have.
Only time will tell where this path will take me, whether that’s transitioning or bringing another partner into my life. But there’s one thing I will always know for certain—my gender is my own to define, cuckold and all.