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14 Sep

How persons are using genital piercings to affirm their

How persons are using genital piercings to affirm their

Many trans people discover a profound sense of healing through ‘genital biohacking’, with piercings which can be difficult to find elsewhere

If the phrase ‘genital biohacking’ incites visions of sex robots or a unadorned Gwyneth Paltrow in her laboratory, it’s not your fault. A fast Google search reveals results which can be, at best, weird and, at worst, stuff Edward Scissorhands would find hard to swallow. In point of fact, biohacking covers any DIY practice done for biological performance or health enhancement, including modifying your genitals with piercings.

This isn’t just “a latest weird thing young persons are doing”, Lynn Loheide, a non-binary skilled piercer and ‘body modification historian’ tells Dazed. Genital biohacking “can range from simply getting genital piercings and modifications, to taking hormones to alter the scale, shape and performance of our genitals to create anatomy that higher suits our purposes”. 

People have been getting their junk pierced for diverse reasons – aesthetic pleasure, enhanced sexual sensation, spiritual and self-expression, body reclamation, novelty, kink and taboo – for hundreds of years. Intimate piercings were discovered on mummified stays of the Dayak tribe from Borneo dating back to 2000 BC and even beneficial for his or her sensual advantages within the Kama Sutra. But recently, rising numbers of trans and gender non-conforming persons are modifying their genitals with piercings for one reason: identity and gender affirmation.

Anatomical specifics, like tissue shape, size, width and length, and developments like bottom growth and bottom shrinkage, are essential to the gender-affirming potential of those piercings, but rarely cited outside a piercing studio or doctor’s office. For a lot of trans people, a genital piercing is a proud marker of successful transitioning and achieving the gender and anatomy they’ve all the time identified with. For others, the aesthetic or physicality of a piercing can mimic the looks or sensation of anatomy they’ve all the time desired to have.

At 18 years old, Loheide boldly went where few had been before: they pierced their very own vertical clitoral hood. “It was an especially empowering and healing experience for me. In 2020 I finally got here to terms with my gender identity after years of struggle and commenced transitioning. I realised how much piercings and body modification were the things that helped me come to terms with my gender identity.” 

Loheide gets regular feedback from their online following and in-person clients concerning the immediate influence piercings can have on gender dysphoria. Plenty of clients select piercings to provide their genitals a more masculine or feminine aesthetic in step with how they discover and, Loheide adds, “to intensify the parts of their anatomy that they do enjoy, or to distract from the parts of their anatomy which will cause dysphoria”. 

Intimate piercings are known to be sensation-enhancing, but their unique physical interaction with genitalia can do greater than improve sexual satisfaction. “For people looking for gender-affirming relief, these piercings can do things like stretch genital tissue, for instance the clitoris, to a big enough gauge and diameter that they’ll feel the load of them,” Tobias, a genderfluid piercing apprentice, tells Dazed. “They’ll provide the feeling of getting the genitals they feel most aligned with.”

Tobias began hormone therapy a yr before getting their first of seven intimate piercings in 2020. They plan to make use of multiple piercings to copy a frenum ladder to create the looks of male genitalia. “The one way I can describe it,” says Tobias, “is that seeing the piercings on myself makes my body look more natural than it did without.”

Intimate piercings have the potential to confront binary pondering and challenge long-standing beliefs that gender exists and is anatomically defined. “What I’ve loved most about collecting genital piercings is that my genitals feel outside of the ‘traditional’ binary,” says Loheide. “Body mods have helped my anatomy tackle an aesthetic that doesn’t feel gendered – it’s something outside the spectrum of traditional gender norms.”

“I would like someone to have a look at my genitals and be barely shocked,” Basilica, a Nashville-based trans-masculine non-binary piercer, tells Dazed. They need to create anatomy that’s neither male nor female, but “biomechanical”. All their piercings have captive bead rings which can be chunky and heavy, a decorative selection that adds to the “biomechanical” character, but additionally comes with an added bonus: “I actually have to walk otherwise to maintain things from pinching or getting caught, which has given me a stereotypically ‘masculine’ gait.”

Many trans people, including Loheide, discover a profound sense of healing through genital biohacking with piercings which can be difficult to search out elsewhere. That is greater than catharsis – especially in a world where health services still make the trans community wait years for life-saving care. “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault and have struggled with trauma and insecurities surrounding my genitals since then. Living with that form of trauma… my body all the time felt ‘unsuitable,’” Loheide says. “Getting that piercing allowed me to reclaim my body.” 

Most individuals utilising genital biohacking of their personal lives achieve this in ways, and for reasons, which can be secure, liberating and life-affirming. Despite body modification and gender-affirming practices’ slow expansion into the mainstream, stigma and misunderstanding linger. Piercers like Loheide are doing socially radical work to treatment a systemic deficit. If healthcare systems worldwide had sufficient gender-affirming care, practices like genital biohacking and intimate piercings might be less about saving lives, and more about exploring humanity’s individuality, beauty, sensuality and innate fluidity.

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