I’m a lesbian, and recently had sex with my girlfriend for the first time. I was excited to lose my virginity, but my best friend told me that I hadn’t really had sex since it was with another girl! Does that mean that since I’m gay, I’ll always be a virgin??

Great question! Virginity is a complicated and emotional subject. The important thing to realize is that virginity doesn’t have any clear definition, so no one can tell you whether you’re a virgin or not. How you want to define virginity—and whether you want to use that concept at all—is totally up to you.

Most people think of a virgin as someone who has never had sex. But what does “sex” mean? Does it include oral sex, fingering, or anal sex? What about masturbation? How do toys fit into this? Everyone has different ideas about what “real” sex is. But even though there are lots of different sexy things you can do with a partner (or by yourself), many people still tie virginity to penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex. There may be cultural or religious reasons that someone thinks about PIV sex differently from other types of sex, but that does NOT mean that PIV sex is “real” sex, and other types don’t “count.” In other words, the sex you have with your girlfriend is no less legitimate than sex with a penis!

As you’ve already experienced, thinking of PIV sex as “real” sex excludes people in relationships where both partners have vaginas, or both partners have penises. It also diminishes the power, pleasure and risk of other kinds of sex. It’s (generally speaking) much easier for people with penises to have an orgasm (or come) from PIV sex than it is for people with vaginas, who usually need direct clitoral stimulation (such as from hands or a mouth) to have an orgasm. So thinking of PIV sex as “real” sex prioritizes guys’ pleasure—which we don’t think is cool at all. And you can still get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from other kinds of sex, though the level of risk varies. This means that you still need to protect yourself when you have oral or anal sex, so make sure you and your girlfriend have been tested, and are using dental dams if appropriate!

Despite all this, virginity is still a powerful idea that can create a lot of shame and anxiety for people. You might want to check out this article, where we talk more about common virginity myths. It sounds like you weren’t just excited to have sex for the first time, but also to lose that “virgin” label. That’s not surprising, considering how much importance our culture places on virginity, but it’s worth asking yourself what “losing your virginity” means to you—and why anyone else should care.