Transgender Sexual Health Guide: Safer Sex

Apicha Community Health Center Sep 09, 2016  

Apicha CHC - VICE

When it comes to sex, there’s a serious lack of resources available to transgender people that talks about their bodies and their needs in a relatable and respectful way.

Our friends from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation created an amazing guide to safer sex for trans bodies. So we wanted to join the conversation by outlining a few key points and reconfirm the different methods to maintaining or improving transgender sexual health.

Related: Transgender Resources: 8 Tips for Making Pelvic Exams Easier for Men of Trans* Experience

What did you just call me? A note on language:

We use the word “trans” to include people who might call themselves any of these words: transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, nonbinary, female (MTF), male (FTM), agender, two-spirit and many more.

More often than not, there are many terms and phrases that are loosely thrown around when the conversation of transgender arises. We've included a few that are highlighted in the guide mentioned above.

Don't assume that every person you meet - trans or otherwise - will use or even understand these words. In most cases, the best thing you can do is ask which words a person uses to describe their body. 

  • Trans: Anyone and everyone who feels they are part of the transgender community, including folks who identify outside of the gender binary. Being trans does not necessarily mean that you have had surgery, want to transition or use specific pronouns. It’s all about how you understand yourself.
  • Transfeminine: Anyone who was assigned male at birth and now identifies with femininity.
  • Transmasculine: Anyone who was assigned female at birth and now identifies with masculinity.
  • Parts: Many people use this word when they're talking about genitals or sexual anatomy of any kind.

Get to know yourself: Masturbation

There’s plenty of advice out there about how to have “the best sex” or “the right kind of sex,” but a lot of it simply doesn’t work for our bodies. Luckily, one of the most laid-back ways to explore sexual pleasure (and incidentally, also one of the safest) is by yourself.

Masturbation allows you to experiment with how your body responds to touch: Do your parts like vibration from a favorite toy? Do they like soft, light touches or firm pressure? Are other areas of your body, like your chest, your neck or the creases of your elbows, also sensitive to touch? Taking the time to explore your own body can be liberating. Just be sure to keep up on your sex toy maintenance.

Lets talk about sex, baby: Talking about it with your partner

The first step toward having safer, more enjoyable sex with your partner(s) is to talk about it. Many of us are told from an early age that sex isn’t something you should discuss. However, talking to your partner(s) about the kind of sex you want to have—and the steps you can take to protect yourself—is an opportunity to build trust and lessen concerns. 

  • Turn-ons: Talking to your partner(s) about what gets you excited can be great foreplay! There’s such a wide menu of options in the world of sex, and giving your partner(s) some ideas about what turns you on will help you both have more enjoyable sex.
  • Boundaries: Your boundaries are the things you don’t feel comfortable with and want to establish as clear “no-go” zones. Thinking about and communicating boundaries might be particularly important with transactional sex partners. 
  • Consent: Consent is the enthusiastic, mutual and voluntary agreement to do whatever activity you’re discussing. Giving consent is an ongoing process: You always have the right to say “yes” or “no” to any sexual activity regardless of whether you’ve done it before, whether you know your partner really likes it or whether you’re in the middle of doing it.

Is this risky?: STIs & safer sex activities

STIs can and do happen, which means there’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you contract one. What’s important is that you get treated right away and notify your sexual partners so they can get treated too.

Unfortunately, many people contract an STI but never know it because they never experience symptoms. Sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV can go months or even years before the infection becomes active. That's why it's so important to know the early signs of HIV.

Additionally, taking precautions like using a barrier during sex, getting vaccinated and having STI tests done regularly can significantly lower your chances of contracting or spreading STIs. There are a lot of STIs out there—that’s why it’s so important to talk to your healthcare provider about the kind of sex you are having, to get tested regularly and to get treated if necessary.

Practicing safe sex:

  • External condoms: An external condom, sometimes called a “male condom,” is rolled down over a strapless or a dick as a barrier to prevent STI transmission and pregnancy. 
  • Internal condoms: Internal condoms, sometimes called “female condoms” (or FC2), are polyurethane condoms that can be placed inside of a front hole, vagina or anus before sex.
  • Dental dams: A dental dam is a stretchy, flat latex barrier that can be placed over top of a front hole, vagina or anus for oral sex.
  • Gloves: Latex or nitrile (latex-free) gloves can be used when putting fingers or fists inside a front hole, vagina or anus. Wearing gloves reduces the chance of contracting or transmitting STIs through tiny cuts on your hands or fingers, and it also prevents you from scratching your partner(s) and exposing them to nasty bacteria under your fingernails. 

Transgender resources:

We can't cover everything you can do to practice safer sex as a transgender individual, but the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has provided a variety of resources with additional information. You can also download Safer Sex for Trans Bodies if you are seeking more information.

Transgender Resources

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