Women's Programme Sexual Health

Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender, sexual health is important. However, research shows that over half of lesbian and bisexual women have never gone for STI testing. Additionally, the Government Equalities Office found that over 80% of trans people had never attended a sexual health clinic.

But isn’t oral sex risk-free?

Oral sex can be a great way of being intimate with your partner, but it isn’t without risk. Herpes, syphilis and gonorrhoea are some of the more common infections that can be passed on through oral sex. If you have any cuts, abrasions or ulcers, you are at greater risk of contracting an STI.

Heard about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), but don’t know what that is?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection and the cause of almost all cervical cancers. HPV is passed on by skin-to-skin contact including fingers, mouths and genitalia. HPV can also be transmitted via sex toys.

Cervical screening is one way of identifying HPV. However, a study in the North West found that 37% of lesbian and bisexual women had been told by a healthcare professional that they didn’t require cervical screening because of their sexual orientation. This is incorrect. All people with cervixes and over the age of 25 are eligible for cervical screening.

“I’m so grateful that the nurse acknowledged my sexual orientation. It’s really empowering to know that I am entitled to the same protection and screening as heterosexual women”

For more information about HPV, click here.

To learn more about cervical screening, check out Joe’s Trust; a UK-based charity that provides a range of signposting about cervical screening.

Barriers for LB+ women

Assumptions about relationships and gender mean that LB+ women are often misinformed about sexual health or have their specific health needs overlooked entirely. We know that for many LB+ women, this can be a barrier to accessing sexual health services or seeking advice from your GP. Other barriers to accessing sexual health services might include:

  • Fear of discrimination or negative reaction to disclosing your sexual orientation or trans status
  • Misinformation about risks. This could be from previous healthcare professionals or partners
  • Concerns or internalised negativity relating to sexual health. This may be a particular barrier for people of faith or people of colour

Lack of visibility e.g. posters showing only cis, straight couples or non-inclusive language (e.g. boyfriend rather than partner), can also compound feelings or anxiety and feeling excluded from mainstream services.

How can I look after my sexual health?

There are a number of ways you can take care of your sexual health. Some examples include:

  • Go for regular testing – this could be at your local GUM clinic or LGBT Foundation offer testing that is free and inclusive for all LGBT people
  • Use dental dams – these are thin pieces of latex used to prevent transmitting infection during oral sex and rimming. You can make a dam from a condom, click here to see how
  • Use condoms if having penetrative sex with a partner(s) or using sex toys
  • Talk with your current partner(s) about STIs, sexual history and any risk – being transparent with one another can help you to make informed choices and develop trust in your relationship
  • Get informed – if you’re nervous about asking questions, google is your best friend and can direct you to a wealth of LGBT inclusive information on our website, the NHS website and other organisations such as CliniQ

What support services are available for me?

LGBT Foundation have a number of really clear, inclusive and accessible guides relating to oral, vaginal and anal sex. Each guide will give you tips on how to stay safe and find what works right. To view, clickhere.

For information on women having sex with women, click here.

For sexual health information relating to trans women, click here. Or see CliniQ’s guide here.

For information about sexual health testing and COVID-19, check out our Essential Guide for LGBT People and COVID-19.

If you have questions about sexual health, feel free to contact us at sexualhealth@lgbt.foundation.