Our Perspective: Sex Ed that is Far Overdue - Inclusivity for the LGBTQ
Without comprehensive sexual education, all students are being harmed. However, some groups of students suffer more than others from a lack of education and resources in their schools. Students identifying as LGBTQ are being disadvantaged when schools refuse to provide them with any more than the bare minimum information that we often see being taught in sex ed. classrooms. Most sex ed. classes strictly discuss heterosexual sex and relationships, disadvantaging LGBTQ students. Even programs that aren’t strictly abstinence-only often don’t address these students’ needs, with only about 12% of sex ed. curriculums around the country addressing non-heterosexual sex.
Sex ed. for LGBTQ students is a greater need than most schools and programs are currently recognizing. Studies show that about half of our country’s sexually active teen women report some same-sex sexual activity. This means that even students who don’t necessarily identify as LGBTQ or are not yet publicly out could benefit from sex ed. that wasn’t strictly heterosexual. Additionally, LGBTQ teens are statistically more sexually active than their heterosexual peers, reporting their rates of sexual activity being double that of heterosexual students. This means there is a great need to provide information about same-sex sexual relations to students in order to keep them informed and safe.
In Utah, a policy was recently amended in its sex-education laws to prevent discrimination towards LGBTQ students. The revised policy requires schools to provide high-quality sex ed. free from discrimination. This change is in contrast to Utah’s previous laws, often referred to as the “no pro homo” or “don’t say gay” laws that banned schools from talking about or protecting LGBTQ teens. Utah was not the only state with laws like these, and many states nationwide still have rules like these in place. Utah has made a great step in the right direction and set an excellent legal precedent for these policies; now it is just time for other states to follow suit.
If all schools were to adopt sex ed. policies that were non-heteronormative, we would see a variety of positive impacts for LGBTQ students. First and most obviously, there would be safer sex in the LGBTQ community. Teaching about the importance of condoms and other protective methods is important even for teens whose sexual behaviors might not risk pregnancy. The STI rates could be lowered and sex would be overall safer. Additionally, teaching about non-heterosexual sex in the classroom could provide a sense of normalcy and safety for LGBTQ teens. Normalization will help lead to acceptance by others and self-acceptance for teens. We see incredibly higher than average rates of suicide, substance abuse and violence from LGBTQ teens, stemming often from feelings of isolation and not being accepted by themselves or others. Providing quality and inclusive sex ed. is important to keep all students safe sexually, physically and psychologically.
By Claire Kueffner
Claire is currently a senior at Tulane University pursuing a degree in Legal Studies in Business and Gender and Sexuality Studies.
- Studies Show That LGBTQ Sex Ed Is Virtually Nonexistent In America’s Classrooms Good Education (October 6, 2017)
- Equality Utah, state schools settle lawsuit over anti-gay sex-ed policies Salt Lake Tribune (October 06, 2017)
Our Perspective contributions are written by the interns from Tulane University working with Lift Louisiana to advance reproductive health, rights and justice.