Transgender and non-binary people have sex in many different ways. This means there are lots of different ways for them and their partners to prevent STIs. These depend on the kinds of sex they want to have and the body parts involved.
Talking about sex can be hard for anyone. This is a big part of why sometimes people don’t have safer sex. Sometimes talking about sex can be extra hard for trans and non-binary people. This is sometimes because it can be hard to find information about their bodies.
Some transgender or non-binary people transition physically while others don’t. A physical transition means that someone changes their body. This can include taking hormones, having surgery, or both. Some might transition in other ways, or not physically transition at all! This means that every transgender person’s body is different.
Some STIs can spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. These are medical terms. Some trans people prefer frontal hole sex and rear hole sex, rather than vaginal and anal sex. Other STIs spread through skin-to-skin contact through activities like dry humping and kissing.
There are many ways that trans and non-binary people can lower their risk for STIs:
Lube can decrease the risk of STI infection. It reduces friction so that there’s less chance of tears or cuts happening during sex. Lube can also prevent condoms from tearing. Trans or non-binary people on testosterone can have less natural frontal hole lubrication and may need more lube during sex.
There can be a higher STI risk when trans women who have had bottom surgery have frontal hole sex too. Depending on the type of surgery a person has had, a vagina may not naturally lubricate. Plenty of water-based lube helps prevent tearing and makes sex more comfortable.
Safer penetrative sex
Sometimes trans or non-binary people don’t use barriers, like condoms or dental dams, because these can cause dysphoria. Using condoms or dental dams as a barrier is the best way to prevent STIs. But, there’s still a chance of getting an STI even if people use barriers.
There are external and internal condoms. An external condom goes on a penis or dildo before penetration or oral sex. An internal condom goes into frontal or rear holes before penetration. Both kinds can prevent STIs as well as pregnancy. There’s a risk that a condom can break during sex. Wearing a condom correctly, making sure it isn’t expired, and using lube can help make breaking less likely. If it does break or slip off, it may be a good idea to get tested.
If a person has cuts or sores on their hands and they touch someone else’s vagina, penis, or anus, there’s a risk of getting or passing an infection. Gloves can be used as a barrier to lower your risk if you’re using fingers for touching or penetration.
Penetrative sex also has a higher risk of HIV transmission. If someone wants to protect themselves from HIV, they can take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, also known as PrEP. This is a pill taken every day to lower HIV risk. PrEP doesn’t prevent other STIs.
Safer oral sex
People can use a dental dam for oral sex. A dental dam is a square of latex. It can go between someone’s mouth and their partner’s frontal or rear hole. You can make one by cutting off the closed end of a condom and making a slit down one side.
Some trans people have a clit made bigger by testosterone, or a neophallus. For oral sex with a neophallus, you can make a barrier with a glove. You can do this by cutting off the fingers, cutting up the side without the thumb, and sliding the thumb over the neophallus.
Other ways to prevent STIs
There’s a risk for passing STIs when sharing sex toys with partners. You can lower this risk by using a barrier with toys. Condoms are good for toys that involve penetration and dental dams are good for ones that don’t. Cleaning sex toys often, sterilizing them between partners, and storing them properly can also help prevent STIs.
You can also help protect yourself and your partners by getting tested on a regular basis. Some STIs don’t show up on tests right away, so it’s recommended to get tested after 3 weeks, and then again after 3 months. Since many STIs don’t show any symptoms, testing is the only way to know whether you have one.