Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (The "Q" can stand for either). No matter where you fall on the spectrum of sexuality, it is important to remember that safety, consent and respect are crucial components to any and all relationships - both intimate and platonic.
Know Your Risk
Having unprotected sex puts you at risk of getting and/or transmitting an STD no matter who you are, but did you know that:
- Guys who have sex with guys are at a higher risk for STDs. Engaging in unprotected anal sex is especially risky when it comes to transmitting STDs, including HIV. This is because it’s easy to make small tears or cuts in and around the rectum where STDs and HIV can easily pass through.
- Girls who have sex with girls are at risk for STDs and pregnancy. STDs like Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or HPV (genital warts) can be passed through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, which puts lesbian or bi-identified girls at risk too. Studies show that many lesbian-identified women will have sex with a man at least once in their lifetime, and are more likely to have unprotected sex. Having unprotected sex - even if it's just one time- can put you at risk for pregnancy and STDs, so it’s important to be safe and prepared every time.
Using protection every time you have sex, whether it be male/external condoms, female/internal condoms, dental dams, or even plastic wrap (for oral sex only!) can help protect you from contracting a STD.
Yes Means Yes
Sex must ALWAYS be consensual among all partners. Consent means, "to agree to do something or give permission." When we talk about consenting to sex, it means that EACH person is actively, affirmatively and enthusiastically agreeing to have sex with one another. Read more about consent here. Did you know that LGBTQ people experience sexual violence at similar rates or higher than people who identify as straight? LGBTQ stigma in society, often times stemming from shame and homophobia, can lead to increased rates of intimate partner violence. Access more resources for LGBTQ victims of sexual assault here.
Respect is Everything
Every person - Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, heterosexual, cisgender, pansexual... deserves respect. No matter where or how a person defines themselves, we can express love and respect for them by acknowledging where they’re at and supporting them. One of the best ways you can do that is by being informed. Educate yourself on sexuality, contraception, your sexual health status and what it means to be in a healthy relationship.
If you do identify as an LGBTQ teen, coming out to your friends and family can be tough to do. Make sure you're ready and prepared, and that your own personal safety and security is your priority. Check out Danika's blog post on exploring your sexuality and for more advice on coming out.