11 Questions About Queer Sex People Exploring Their Sexuality May Have, Answered By Queer Folks & Experts

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Sex can be a pretty big part of the human experience — one that, throughout history, has almost exclusively been presented through a cisgender, heterosexual lens. That can mean that, for many people who are exploring their attraction to different genders for the first time, there are more questions about queer sex than there are answers. Though some people know from a young age which genders they’re attracted to, if they’re attracted to a gender at all, others may spend years unlearning heteronormative ideas about sex before they’re comfortable acting on their attraction to someone of the same gender — and that’s OK.

“Everyone comes to queerness in different ways,” Louise Head, an associate marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “Most of us grow up constantly surrounded by heterosexual narratives. So it makes sense that when you begin to explore your sexuality, you may feel a little lost or even uncomfortable with yourself and your desires.”

Sexuality and identity are both fluid, shifting things, and it can feel a little scary to acknowledge this after a lifetime of thinking your sexuality or identity are fixed. People have an “ongoing desire to write simple narratives” when it comes to identity, LGBTQ activist and educator Robyn Ochs told Bustle for a previous article about queer imposter syndrome.

Exploring your sexuality may not give you all the answers you seek about your identity — plenty of people identify as queer without experiencing sexual attraction — but it can be a helpful part of the process of feeling at home in your body. Here are 11 things queer folks and sex educators want you to know about queer sex.

1. You Don't Have To Have It Figured Out Before You Start

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Some people think that in order to start having queer sex, you have to come out as a capital-q Queer (or whichever identity label feels like home). But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have to have your identity set in stone before you start acting on your attractions, but your identity might also not be set in stone for a long time — if it ever is.

“People [often] begin to act on their queer attractions before they feel comfortable labeling themselves as queer, gay, lesbian, gender fluid, sexually fluid, etc.,” Head tells Bustle. Part of this may be due to anxiety around what their sexual experiences could mean about their identity, but it’s extraordinarily common.

“I officially came out a year ago to my then-partner, a cis man, and the word queer is where I feel I fit best. I don’t feel particularly comfortable labeling myself as demisexual or sapiosexual, but they are terms I am exploring as I recognize the way my attraction works has always been very different than those of my peers,” Arielle Egozi, a writer, sex positive influencer, and co-founder of Bread, a lab that brings diversity and representation to media and advertising, tells Bustle. "I now understand this as part of my queerness, and part of my queer identity.”

“For a long time, I viewed the umbrella of bisexuality as a safe and comfortable place under which to take shelter while I explored my attraction to other genders,” Rachael, 24, tells Bustle. Rachael says that her decision to identify as bisexual had a lot to do with wanting to “have the option to end up in a hetero relationship,” since her parents weren’t comfortable with a child in anything but a straight-presenting relationship. After meeting her current partner, who is a woman, she realized that that label didn’t suit her and was able to “wholly embrace being a queer person both emotionally and sexually.”

“Trust your attractions and don’t worry if you’re not totally sure what identity fits for you right now. That can come later,” Head says. “How you identify will likely shift many times over your life as you grow and change.”

2. Know That Sex That Isn’t Penetrative Is Just As “Real”

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Turn on any TV show or movie geared towards teens, and I’ll bet you that 75% of the time someone losing their virginity is a major plot point. And this makes sense — doing anything for the first time is a big deal, especially when having sex is built up to be a vital part of coming of age. But I would also guess that 99.9% of the time, “losing your virginity” is implied to be having penetrative, penis-in-vagina sex for the first time. This assumption can be really damaging for queer people, whose sexual experiences don’t always involve a penis and a vagina, but also does a disservice to all kinds of sex.

Rachael says she had to learn that sex can be “anything that mutually or individually feels like sex to the people involved.”

“There are millions of ways to have sex, and we’ve only been taught one of them,” Egozi says, adding that this has measurable, damaging effects. “I had dated a woman when I lived abroad, when I still hadn’t had penetrative sex with a man. I felt that I couldn’t have sex with her because I hadn’t had sex with a boy yet — the gender I had grown up dating.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that’s ever taught in sex ed — or anywhere else. But knowing that “Sex isn’t linear or something that can be contained into a prescriptive definition,” as Egozi puts it, could have helped people feel comfortable in their sexuality much sooner.

3. And It’s Also Not Just Oral

One major myth Rachael heard as she became more comfortable in her identity as a queer woman was that "Lesbian sex is (or has to be) oral sex” — a myth she says couldn’t be further from the truth.

“There are so many incredible things to be done with two bodies, regardless of gender,” Rachael says. “I've had queer sex that has both included and not included oral sex, with absolutely no correlation to how much I enjoyed it, or certainly how ‘real’ it felt to me.”

“Some sex doesn’t involve any penises, some sex has multiple penises, some sex no one’s even touching,” Egozi says. Sex toys, too, can help you explore what feels good, both in partnered sex and on your own. It all “counts.”

4. Self-Love Is An Important Part Of The Journey

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Loving yourself is easier said than done, but it can be helpful to set reminders to be gentle with yourself as you learn more about the many facets of this side of your identity. Dating anyone can be hard work — it’s even harder when you’re figuring out what attraction even means to you.

“Enjoy the incredibly special and unique intimacy of a queer connection,” Rachael says. “You and your partner are two people who are in the process of realizing something important and beautiful about yourselves and you get to do it together, whether it's through a relationship, one-night stand, or anything in between.”

And while acknowledging these metaphysical questions is important, literal self-love can also help expand what sex means or looks like to you. Masturbation with or without toys can help you figure out what feels good, to better to communicate with future partners about your likes, your dislikes, your boundaries, and more.

“Be comfortable with having sex with yourself,” Robyn Exton, founder and CEO of the dating app HER, tells Butle. “That confidence can help with figuring out what you like so that you can convey that with a potential partner when the time is right.”

Queer sex can be “a challenge but also adds extra reward, in terms of getting to know your own body and how to enjoy it with another person in playful, lustful, genuine, and delicious ways,” Rebekka, 26, tells Bustle.

5. Part Of Self-Love Is Creating Models For Yourself — And Learning From Them

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Experts tell Bustle that a major aspect of self-love, especially when it comes to understanding your identity, is finding positive models for yourself.

"Do you have a sex positive friend? Or another friend who is LGBTQ+? Even if it's a group, grab some snacks and create your safe space amongst them to talk about your experiences,” Exton says. She also suggests finding local queer spaces through dating apps or social media where you can go and find community. But resources don’t just have to be IRL, either: “YouTube is a great space for advice, a lot of individual channels talk really openly about queer sex,” Exton says. She also recommends JuiceBox’s Slutbot to help learn more. If you have questions about the ins and outs (no pun intended) of queer sex, these online forums can be helpful ways to have your questions answered on your own terms.

6. Put Yourself Out There

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Once you’ve made the decision that you’re comfortable exploring your sexuality in a physical way with others, lean in! Right now, we live in a golden age of ways to meet people, especially for queer folks. Download apps, make eyes at cuties, and have fun. Apps are especially helpful because you can be very explicit about who you’re trying to meet, but meeting people IRL still happens, too! “Let trusted friends know what types of experiences you hope to have so they can hook you up,” Head says. If you’re nervous about meeting other queer people in real life, try seeking out queer-specific spaces where you know others will be welcoming, whether that’s a bar, a run club, volunteer opportunity, or other settings that advertise themselves as LGBTQ safe spaces.

7. But Be Open With Potential Partners*

As you’re talking with new ~friends~ in your life, it’s important to be up front, as much as you’re comfortable, with the fact that you’re still exploring your sexuality. "You don't have to put it on your profile, but being sure to communicate where you're at with a date or partner when the time feels right,” Exton says. It’s important to respect what they’re looking for, whether that’s in a hookup or a relationship.

“When you aren’t out, you have to be aware that what you can offer a partner is limited. And that’s OK!” Head says. “You have a right to explore your sexuality AND you have a responsibility to treat other people with kindness and humanity.” Be mindful about what your potential partner wants out of a relationship, and check in often.

“You might want to consider dating other people who are also not out as this might mean certain expectations about how the relationship will operate will align,” Head adds.

8. *Including Talking About STI Status

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Although not all queer sex can lead to pregnancy, it’s still important that you’re protected against STIs. “If you are sexually active with different partners, it’s a good idea to get tested about every six months to stay updated on your own STD status,” Head says. “This way, you can accurately communicate your status to partners AND you can make informed decisions about your own sexual health.”

Key word: communication. But also, barrier methods! “Use barriers such as condoms, latex gloves, dental dams, etc. to prevent the transmission of bodily fluids from one partner to another,” Head says, in addition to taking appropriate precautions, such as taking PrEP, to minimize or eliminate the risk of transmission of certain STIs.

9. And Check Your Own Internal Biases

It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, but part of opening up about our sexuality is acknowledging our biases that can come from growing up in a homophobic and transphobic culture. And this can take time.

“If you are not comfortable with your own sexuality or gender, you are (unfortunately) not comfortable yet with others’ diverse expressions of sexuality and gender,” Head says. “This is ok! We are all on a journey of eradicating toxic homo/transphobia from our psyches. Just be aware that the natural ambivalence you have about your own sexuality and/or gender can make you susceptible to invalidating someone else’s identity.”

This can take the form of accidental microaggressions, or assumptions about someone else’s experience. Even if these aren’t intentional, they can be hurtful.

“A good way to check yourself here is to start noticing when someone else’s expression of gender or sexuality makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Recognize in these moments that this is a problem you need to work through, not a problem in the person you’re with.” By being mindful of these biases, and actively working to correct them, you can make sure you’re contributing to a safe space for those you are learning from, too.

10. Which Is Why Representation Matters

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It all goes back to this idea of unlearning the “rules” we grew up with, right? If you don’t have models for what strong, queer relationships look like, it’s harder to imagine yourself in that space. This is another reason community is so important.

“Definitely watch shows and movies that have LGBTQ+ characters — but ones that have been made recently (like the last two years) are much better,” Exton says. She also recommends people follow LGBTQ media like Autostraddle, them., or Salty, because they “have lots of real life stories and experiences for people to find advice from.” Finding “affirmative, intersectional models of sexuality and gender” on social media, Head suggests, can also help you expand your understanding of what queerness looks like.

11. Even Though, Ultimately, Everyone’s Model Is Going To Be Different

At the end of the day, everyone is going to arrive at their queerness in different and all equally valid ways.

“Some people report that the first time they have queer sex, something just clicks,” Head says. “Other people tell me they struggled to accept their queer desires, and this made queer sex difficult at first as they worked through the culturally imposed shame that comes alongside it. There’s no right or wrong initial experience.”

“Each person has their own set of steps building in to a journey,” Exton says. But at the end of the day, every queer experience has one thing in common.

"Every kiss I’ve ever had has been a queer kiss,” Egozi says. "Every sexual experience I’ve had, no matter who it’s been with, has been queer, because I identify as queer.”

This post was originally published on May 19 2015. It was updated on June 25, 2019.

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