LGBTQ+ people deserve to have pleasureful, healthy, affirming, and safe sexual lives and experiences. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people are systemically prevented from accessing quality sexual healthcare, or sexual health education that is relevant to our bodies, relationships, and desires. This lack of access, combined with the impact of systemic oppression, stigma, and marginalization on our lives and bodies leads to significant disparities in sexual health between queer and straight people, and transgender and cisgender people.
This page serves as an introductory resource and reference for LGBTQ+ sexual health information but is by no means comprehensive or an appropriate substitute for medical advice. Rather, it is the summation of several interviews with LGBTQ+ sexual health educators who are active in Maine.
Swab where you Swoon: Sexual Health Screenings and Testing
A strong relationship with an LGBTQ+ competent sexual health provider can greatly improve your sexual health and the quality of care you receive. One example of the value of a knowledgeable provider is the rate of Gonorrhea infections among queer men in the United States. 70% of gonorrhea infections go undiagnosed among queer men. Why? Because gonorrhea is a localized infection, so you need to swab the part of the body that is infected. Most medical providers swab the genitals, but most gonorrhea infections among queer men are located in the throat or anus. A competent sexual health provider will ask their patient which parts of their body they use during sex, and base their health screening and tests off of that information.
If you are working with a provider and you are unsure if they are competent, it is best to make it clear what parts of your body you use sexually. For example, people who are receptive to anal sex should generally receive anal Pap smears. If getting a Pap from your provider is uncomfortable, ask them about self-administered paps!
But generally speaking, if other people touch it to make you swoon, get it tested.
Lube! Lube! Lube!
Queer people have a wide variety of kinds of sex. But many of these types of sex involve sticking things inside other things that don’t self lubricate or don’t self lubricate as well as they used to. This matters to sexual health, because STD/ STI’s are transmitted through sexual fluids and blood that interact in tears in flesh. Tears happen when there isn’t enough lubrication or when the flesh involved is more fragile. Tearing is especially common during anal sex, but can happen during vaginal sex (especially with trans people, see below), and oral sex.
Generous use of lube can help prevent tears, and is one of the most important ways you can reduce your risk of disease while also increasing pleasure! Using the right lube matters. In most cases, water-based lube is a safe bet. For anal sex, there are anal lubes available. They are often silicone-based, and generally “stick” better where you put them than water-based lubes, which can be helpful.
When using silicone-based lubes, be careful about mixing them with silicone-based toys (silicone can ruin the toys!) Putting a condom on a silicone toy can keep them safe.
It should only hurt if you want it to! Queer folks like it in the bum:
Although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, queer people have more anal sex than any other group. This is especially true among gay/bi/queer men, and transgender women who have sex with men. But anyone can enjoy anal sex if they want to! There are some unfortunate stereotypes about anal sex out there: that it’s dirty, that it hurts, and that it isn’t fun for the receptive partner. None of these stereotypes have to be true! Proper preparation of the anus through douching or diet can keep you mostly clean! (Shit sometimes happens, adults are nice about it). Proper relaxation, foreplay, and generous amounts of lube can make it so receiving anal sex doesn’t hurt. And many, many people take pleasure in anal sex (no one is complaining about a shortage of bottoms) as it stimulates the prostate or G-spot. For more information about anal sex, we recommend this great guide by Teen Vogue!
Protections without Pricks!
Although a penis can be good fun for some, lots of people enjoy sex without one involved. Unfortunately, the sex education available to most Americans is incredibly focused on pregnancy prevention and ignores any kind of sex not involving a cisgender man. Although these other varieties of sex and play don’t carry a risk of pregnancy, they do involve the risk of STD/STI transmission, and injury.
Queer/lesbian/bi women, for example, have higher rates of Hepatitis B, and later diagnosis of cervical cancer than straight women. This is partly due to types of sex, and partly due to poor screening practices by incompetent providers. The use of barriers (like condoms and dental dams), and regular testing are still valuable.
Some sexual practices, such as fisting, or the use of strap ons, can cause tearing or injury. Once again, it should only hurt if you want it to. Otherwise, you’re doing something wrong.
Bump it with Barriers!
One of the most commonly known ways to protect your sexual health is by using condoms. Condoms are great! But there is more nuance to using them with queer sex and more options than just condoms available! A few tips:
- Never, ever, double up your condoms. It doesn’t make you safer, it makes it more likely that both condoms will break!
- Flavored condoms are for oral sex only. They should not be put in any part of the body other than the mouth.
- Insertive condoms (they go inside a hole, not on a shaft) are a great alternative to penetrative condoms! You can buy generic versions at most pharmacies, but latex-free versions are hard to come by.
- Anal specific condoms exist and add additional protection useful for anal sex.
- Dental damns are a great barrier for oral sex, going down on someone, or rimming. They can be hard to come by sometimes, but cutting a condom or glove in half is a good alternative.
- Using a glove while fingering or fisting can increase safety and make cleanup easier!