Although condoms and birth control are stressed in sex education courses and on campuses, less discussed is safe sex between individuals who have vaginas. Whether you’re transgender, lesbian, or bisexual, it’s important to take precautions against STIs and bacterial infections even when you can’t feasibly get pregnant. Here are some ways to ensure safe, Sapphic sex:
- Get tested
This is important regardless of the anatomy of your sexual partner. Getting tested ensures that both you and your partner stay healthy. Getting tested means you can catch infections early and treat them as soon as possible. Although it may feel awkward to ask your partner if they’ve been tested too, it’s an important question to pose before becoming sexually involved. Going to the clinic together may even help ease some of the awkwardness.
- Visit the gynecologist annually
If you’re financially able, make regular, annual visits to the gynecologist. There you can get tested, ask questions, and keep your uterus, vulva, and vagina in peak health. You also generally need to speak to your gyno before getting hormonal contraception; even if you don’t need to prevent pregnancy, contraception can help regulate or even eliminate periods.
- Use dental dams
Dental dams are thin sheets of latex used to practice safe annilingus (oral-anal sex) and cunnilingus (oral-vaginal sex). It’s still possible to catch STIs through oral sex, and dental dams are not only very available (they’re usually available at health centers like Planned Parenthood for free), but they can come in a variety of flavors. If you don’t have one on hand, then you can make one by cutting open a condom.
- Clean your toys
It’s important to clean your toys with soap and water after each use, both to prevent infections (like UTIs) and for the longevity of your toy. It’s also important to clean them before you share them with a partner. Putting a condom on a toy can also prevent the spread of STIs (just remember to change out the condom before it exchanges hands/vaginas!).
Talking about sex can be difficult, but safe sex means being open with your partners. Discuss what you like and don’t like , discuss past sexual partners, discuss other current partners, discuss test results. Communication keeps everyone informed, safe, and happy. Any awkwardness will disappear with candor, and talking is guaranteed to improve your sex life. Furthermore, even just talking about sex to your queer friends and community can increase awareness of tips like these and the resources that provide condoms, dental dams, and STI testing. When people are aware, everyone is better off.
Safe sex isn’t reserved for cisgender, heterosexual couples. Regardless of your anatomy and who you love, having the safest sex possible is good for you, your partners, and the community.
***Also remember that safe sex isn’t just about preventing STIs; it’s about emotional health too. If you or someone you know has or is being abused, you can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, or to local resources for help.