An LGBTQIA+ Guide to Having Safer Sex

a safer sex guide for lgbtqia+

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

When you think back to health class in high school, you might not have realized back then just how heteronormative it was.

Standard education about sex, unfortunately, leaves out the LGBTQIA+ population of youth, with most young people reporting they don't find themselves represented in the education they receive.

Classes are often focused on pregnancy and abstinence in relation to heterosexual intercourse only, with no guidance offered for LGBQTIA+ sexual engagement.

The absence of representation in sex-ed harms LGBTQIA+ youth and can lead them to make less safe choices in adulthood if they don't receive the information that would otherwise have protected them. This disparity plays out clearly in how cisgender men who have sex with other cisgender men have higher than average rates of STIs. They also have higher rates of HIV.

Ahead, we'll review information that can help keep you and anyone who you choose to explore sexual intimacy with safe.

Why the LGBTQIA+ Population Deserves a Separate Safe Sex Guide

Sex can confusing for anyone. navigating other people's bodies is new, and sometimes scary. When youth are only educated about how to engage with members of the opposite sex, the feeling that their gender or sexual identity is "wrong" can be amplified.

Providing safe sex guides for queer people offers all of the same benefits as providing them for straight people—supporting safer sex practices, decreasing high-risk sexual behaviors, and reducing pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

What Does "Safe" and "Safer" Sex Mean?

You may have heard the terms "safe sex" and "safer sex" used interchangeably. In truth, safer sex is the more accurate term because it's impossible to be 100% safe when it comes to any sexual activity.

Safer sex is any action you take that reduces the risk of a negative outcome from sex—specifically, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Safer sex is all about avoiding the exchange of bodily fluids. This plays out with different methods depending on the kind of sex you're having.

Your LGBTQIA+ Guide to Having Safer Sex

In this guide, we'll offer tips that can make sex safer and fun for both you and your partner. We'll also review all of the common ways to reduce the exchange of bodily fluids, thus reducing the chances of unwanted infections and pregnancies.

Consent Is Key

It's not just a buzzword: enthusiastic consent is vital to having sex. By affirming consent, both you and your partner know for sure that each of you wants to be in the situation, doing exactly what you're doing.

There are several ways to practice consent. Here are a few easy ones:

  • Ask "Can I touch you here?" before touching someone in a new place, or "Can I do this?" before doing something different
  • Check-in periodically throughout, such as by asking if your partner is enjoying themself
  • Ensuring that you and your partner are sober before engaging in any sexual activity

Get to Know Your Own Body

Learning how to pleasure other people begins with learning how to pleasure yourself. There isn't any way to really be in touch with human bodies that aren't your own unless you're first in touch with the body you spend your whole life with.

Masturbation provides relief from stress and anxiety, and it is common in all societies of people.

Before exploring other bodies, you'll have the best experience if you know your own first. Knowing what you like and don't like enables you to tell others, making for a more positive experience for both you and your partners.

Hand Sex

Hand and finger sex encompasses touching someone else in their genital area or areas. It can be the act of only touching the external parts of their genitals, or of also putting your fingers or hands inside another person. While this is a lower risk type of sex than some others, there is still risk involved.

To have safer hand and finger sex, wear gloves. Latex is common, but if you have a latex sensitivity or allergy you can use a different material such nitrile or polyurethane gloves.

When using gloves, you'll want to be sure to use lube, as gloves can make things pretty dry otherwise. Always use a different hand (or gloved hand) on yourself than on your partner, otherwise, you'll defeat the purpose.

Oral Sex

Oral sex is the act of putting your mouth on another person's genitals. Because this involves the exchange of bodily fluids, it's a higher risk activity.

To perform oral sex on a penis, using a condom will drastically reduce the risk of STIs. That's because the recipient's semen will be trapped inside the condom, rather than coming into contact with the giver's mouth.

For oral sex performed on vulvas or anuses, a dental dam is the most common safer sex tool. It's a thin sheet of latex that acts as a barrier between your mouth and your partner's sex organs.

Tip: If you don't have a dental dam available, you can use a condom that has been cut open. If you don't have one of those on hand either, plastic wrap is a functional last resort, though it may be more porous and less protective than the other options.

Genital Contact

Sometimes people have sex by rubbing their genitals together. This can be done with penises, anuses, vulva(s), or any combination of those three, and is colloquially referred to as "dry humping," "scissoring", "grinding," "rubbing," and "tribadism" or "tribbing."

If one or both of the organs being rubbed is a penis, a condom should be worn. If one or both is a vagina or anus, a dental dam is your best bet.

While this form of non-penetrative sex might appear to be low risk, it's actually not: you can transmit everything from pubic lice to herpes to a yeast infection this way, so doing it with safety precautions is an excellent idea.

Penetrative Sex With Genitalia

Genital penetrative sex refers to a penis entering a vagina or anus. It may also refer to those who have a long clitoris which can penetrate the vagina or anus of the receiver. The former is the riskiest form of sex because body fluids can be left far inside another person, making it the most important one to exercise caution against.

If a penis enters a vagina, there is also the risk of pregnancy, in addition to that of sexually transmitted infections.

Using a condom is the most straightforward way to reduce risk here. However, there are also measures that can be taken in addition to condoms. PrEP is a prescription medication that drastically reduces the risk of HIV. When taken properly, it can nearly wipe out that risk, offering up to 99% protection against HIV.

It does take time to become effective, so if you are considering a penis going inside you, your best bet is to speak to your doctor about that now. You can also be vaccinated against other STIs, including HPV and hepatitis, which is something else to consider, too.

Sex With Toys

While we think of sex toys as mostly either vibrators or dildos, there are actually numerous types. Sex toys can be gender-affirming for trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people, and can help people with disabilities have sex more easily.

Similar to hands, sex with toys is a lower risk activity. That's because body fluids are rarely exchanged.

The key to ensuring that is to never use a toy on yourself and your partner(s) interchangeably and to always clean your toys well in between partners. If you want to use the same toy on yourself and your partner during a single session, using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams will provide the highest level of safety. For silicone toys, you should always use a water-based lubricant.

A Word From Verywell

LGBTQIA+ people benefit from knowing about and practicing, safer sex. Safer sex reduces the risk of everything from minor transmissions like a yeast infection to major ones such as HIV. With the above guidelines, you can engage in whatever ways you enjoy most, more safely.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Human Rights Campaign. A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.

  2. Everett BG. Sexual orientation disparities in sexually transmitted infections: examining the intersection between sexual identity and sexual behaviorArch Sex Behav. 2013;42(2):225-236. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9902-1

  3. National LGBT Health Education Center. Addressing HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections Among LGBTQ People. 2019.

  4. Planned Parenthood. What's the Difference Between "Safe" and "Safer" Sex?. Published October 14. 2010.

  5. Renshaw DC. Understanding masturbationJ Sch Health. 1976;46(2):98-101. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.1976.tb03099.x

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PrEP Effectiveness. Reviewed May 13, 2021.

  7. Fairley CK, Read TR. Vaccination against sexually transmitted infectionsCurr Opin Infect Dis. 2012;25(1):66-72. doi:10.1097/QCO.0b013e32834e9aeb

  8. Planned Parenthood. Sex Toys.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.