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British Liver Trust
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Changes in sexuality post transplant

Hi all

I have read about people having a reduced or non existent sex drive when suffering with cirrhosis and after transplant as well. My experience is a bit more complicated. I'm a bisexual man, happily married to a woman and until a year ago I was happy keeping my feelings for men to one side. Initially following the transplant, everything seemed fine but since last year, every sexual act with my wife has been a disaster. I seem to have completely lost any interest in women but the attraction to men is still there. Am I alone in this?

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Hello Confused,

From a male's perspective I think it's a common side effect which unfortunately isn't spoken of much. I guess there is a very British taboo surrounding this particular subject. Sadly there's appears to be very little information on the internet (From UK websites especially) about this subject. I myself had emailed Doctor Patrica Lalor back in April this year, but sadly never received a response. (Dr Lalor is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the QE, and we have in the past year exchanged a number of emails).

I too sadly suffered from erectile dysfunction after liver transplantation, sadly I can't go down the Viagra route due to possible angina, and high blood pressure.

From what little information I have read, there is some suggestion that a cirrhotic liver can cause problems to both Testosterone and Androstenedione. So rather than problems arising post transplant, they could have already been there before hand. There defiantly needs to be more research carried out on this subject, and more information widely available. There could also be a connection between this problem, and of the possible side effects of all the drugs we are now having to take.

One of the main reasons to carrying out a liver transplant in the first place is to improve quality of life, but this subject is never spoken of at the transplant selection stage, or at any of the post follow up appointments. I personally would welcome some more information. I should also point out that this can have a profound effect upon a mans self-esteem and confidence. It can also put an enormous strain on a relationship.

Sadly I can't comment on this from a woman's perspective, but would welcome a chance to understand more.

Well done is raising this question, I hope we both find the answers we're looking for.

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I should also have a look at the possible side effects of steroids. We are put on these for a while post transplant, and while the dosage can be low, they may produce side effects. It's Just a thought.

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Thank you for replying Richard. Just to clarify, I can still get and maintain an erection, just not with women. I read somewhere a couple of months back about a guy claiming painkillers turned him gay. After my experience I believe that's not as far fetched as many may think although I think he must have had some kind of inclination to start with. Whilst I admit I've always been bi, I now seem to have turned exclusively gay. Not sure if that's due to medications or the transplant itself. In certain situations that wouldn't be an issue, you simply come out but when you're married with kids, it's not easy.

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14 months in and all is ok in that respect for me. The whole erectile dysfunction thing is a nuisance. My hubby is a diabetic so I know the problems it can cause.

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Hi confused, I've no experience of this whatsoever but I'll throw my thoughts out there anyway. Are you sure it's not that you've subconsciously come to see your wife more as just a caregiver/companion rather than your lover and a sexual being in her own right?? X

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Hi Stacie

Maybe but that doesn't explain the profound change in my sexuality. If that were the case, I'd still be attracted to other women but I'm not.

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Hi Confused,

I think Richard makes some great points. I am a heterosexual male and madly in love with my wife of 37 years. I too suffer from erectile dysfunction and Viagra gives me a double edged sword, it works (sort of) but leaves me with the headache from hell, so we have experimented with “adult toys” because she still has needs. Occasionally I get to orgasm but it is a sensation only.

We have laughed our way through this and I have been reminded that I once said “ if I couldn’t have sex, life wouldn’t be worth living” now I would love sex but living is so much more important.

None of this explains anything really, but I do remember being told that liver disease would effect my libido, certainly not to the extent it has.

You seem as if you are happy to discuss this further, why not speak to the transplant team, they are more likely to have come across this before.

Good luck

Ray

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Hi, I wonder if your close shave with the reaper has made you reevaluate your sexuality, even if subconsciously?

You do hear of people making incredible changes in their outlook and actions following life threatening trauma.

Maybe you've been attracted to men more than women all along?

Perhaps it might just be time to come out and accept that's how you feel now? And to just be honest with yourself, and obviously your wife.

G

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Hi Gary

I have indeed been more attracted to men than women all my adult life and in a way this has reinforced that feeling. Still doesn't change the fact that coming out now would be terribly unfair on my wife (whom I still love with all my heart) and kids after 15 years of marriage.

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Please discuss this with your doc or liver team. Within a hitherto great relationship, the effects of unmet needs can cause no end of problems. It is not unknown for a relationship to be killed off on account of the partner you love now “standing in the way” of having your sexual needs met.

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Hi Confused0

This is very interesting. I don’t think it could be because you physically had a life saving operation. You may have just re evaluated your future life because of the operation . You looked death in the face before the operation and now your life has changed. You are not alone though. There are many cases of people changing there sexual identity later in life. I have personally known a few transgender people who were happily married for over 20 years with grown children and grandchildren. It just took them that long to discover/realise and come to terms with who they really are. It’s very traumatic for everyone in this situation but denying true feelings isn’t good either. Just remember that you are not the first and by no means the last person to be going thru this.

There are lots of UK based support groups out there. Sometimes it’s nice to chat with someone who can relate to your feelings and what you are going thru.

I hope my message helps you in your life journey.

Cheers,

Brett

P.S. I was born gay and could never understand this heterosexual thing lol

Edit.

Sorry, I wasn’t implying that you wish to have a sex change. I was just using that as an example of people coming to terms with themselves later in life. I hope I didn’t cause offence mate.

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Don't worry I never thought you were implying that 😊. I've been trying to work out this heterosexual thing for nearly 40 years, still none the wiser 😉

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Hi Confused0, I'm so sorry you are in such turmoil. I agree with the others who feel this is unlikely to be a physical change, but more likely a psychology one. I'm in no position to offer advice, but as a married woman I think regardless of the longterm impact this may have on your life you really need to talk to your wife.

You say you still love her, for many people this is enough to give them a happy life, but others may feel they need the sexual attentions and desire from their partner. By not discussing your feelings you are depriving both of you of making decisions about the future.

Your wife may already know you are more attracted to men, she may have accepted it many years ago? She may support you to have the life you've craved.

If it was me, I'd want honest open communication. I don't know how I'd react, or how your wife will feel,, but a marriage has to have honesty and trust in order to work.

I wish you very good health, and hope you have the strength to do what you feel is right for all your family!!

Best wishes

E

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Thank you for the reply E. I do agree I really need to discuss this with her. She would most likely understand but I just know it would break her heart. After everything we've been through together, I feel this would be a slap in the face even though it's something I can't control. It's not about craving a life with a man either. If that was something I ever wanted to do, I would have never married her.

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I remember seeing a documentary years ago about transplantees taking on new traits and those of their donor I wonder if this may be what's happening with you? I think you need to explain all to your wife and then to a transplant specialist.

Good luck.

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