Women who have sex with women (WSW) may experience poorer health outcomes than heterosexual women due to discrimination, stigma, homophobia and transphobia. WSW includes lesbians, bisexual women, queer women and transgender women.
These experiences may result in:
You have the right to honest and judgement-free health care. This means your health care provider affirms who you are and does not make assumptions about your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
For help finding LGBTQ-knowledgeable providers, visit the NYC Health Map.
Learn about your rights with the LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights. If you experience discrimination in a health care setting, call 311 or 718-722-3131 to file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
Sexual health and pleasure involve open communication with your partner(s). That includes talking about all aspects of your physical and emotional health.
To stay sexually healthy:
If you are a transgender woman, there are local tips and resources available for you.
Safer Sex Practices
Stay safe while you have sex by following the below tips.
To reduce the chance of injury and infection when fingering:
To reduce the chance of transmitting STIs, use dental dams as often as possible during oral sex.
Oral and genital herpes can be transmitted during oral sex. Try to avoid oral sex if there are cuts or sores on your or your partner’s mouth or genitals.
When you find a toy that is right for you, follow the manufacture’s instructions for storage, use and cleaning. You can avoid injuries by checking for any damage before and after use.
You can also use condoms on toys. Be sure to change condoms when changing partners or locations on the body.
Studies have found WSW are at higher risk for being overweight or obese. This can lead to discrimination, sizeism and social stigma in everyday life and medical treatment. You have the right to be treated by doctors and medical professionals who will not mistreat or misdiagnose you based on your weight.
WSW are also more likely to smoke and have heart disease.
Routine cancer screening is the best way to prevent cancer. Talk to your health care provider about which screening tests are right for your body.
Pregnancy and Growing Your Family
If you are thinking about growing your family, you have several options, including adoption, pregnancy and surrogacy.
If you are considering having a baby, talk to your health care provider about your fertility options. This might include having a doula — a trained professional who can provide educational, emotional and physical support before, during and after childbirth.
There are a variety of ways you can have a baby or become pregnant, including:
WSW may face issues that impact their mental health, such as stigma, prejudice and discrimination. As a result, WSW are more likely than heterosexual women to have anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. This is especially true for younger people and bisexual and transgender WSW.
If you or someone you know could benefit from counseling or other mental health services, contact 988 for free confidential support.
A traumatic incident can include verbal harassment, physical violence or sexual assault. If you or someone you know has experienced trauma and are looking for help, speak with a health care provider or contact 988 or local authorities.
Stigma, isolation and stress can lead to the use and misuse of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Substance misuse can have both immediate and long-term health effects.
If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. If you are ready to quit, check out our resources to help you drop the habit.
Binge drinking and excessive drinking can lead to immediate and long-term health risks. Learn more about how to manage your alcohol consumption and find help if you are concerned about your drinking.
If you are concerned about your drug use, learn more about New York City’s drug and alcohol use services, including syringe access and disposal and opioid overdose prevention.
WSW can face abuse from anyone of any gender. If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing intimate partner violence, help is available.
If you are in an emergency situation, call 911. For other situations, call 311 and ask to be connected to an NYC Family Justice Center near you. You can also call the City’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (800-621-4673), or visit NYC Hope to learn about immediate safety planning, shelter assistance and other resources.
WSW may need specific support for queer-, transgender- or gender-based violence. If you have experienced any kind of assault and need LGBTQ-specific resources, visit LGBTQ Anti-Violence Project or call their hotline at 212-714-1141.