In a landscape of evolving sexual education standards, many LGBTQ+ students find themselves left out and unrepresented. As new restrictions loom, the challenge of accessing inclusive information becomes even more daunting.
Lack of Inclusivity in Traditional Sex Education
In fifth grade, Stella Gage’s class watched a video about puberty, and in ninth grade, they briefly touched on the risks of sexual behaviors in health class.
Stella Gage’s Quest for Relevant Education
However, for Gage, a queer teenager, these classes never felt inclusive or relevant to their identity.
Stella Gage shared, “My parents were mostly absent, my peers were not mature enough, and I didn’t have anyone else to turn to.”
Turning to Social Media for Information
To bridge the gaps, they turned to social media. Gage is now a sophomore at Wichita State University in Kansas.
Education Falling Short
For many LGBTQ+ students, traditional sex education classes have fallen short in representing their experiences and identities.
The Challenges of Seeking External Resources
In search of knowledge about their own identities and cultivating healthy relationships, they often have to seek resources beyond the classroom.
Lawmakers Restricting LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Education
Amidst the changing landscape of sex education, lawmakers in some states are imposing restrictions that could further limit LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the curriculum.
The Push to Remove LGBTQ+ Content
In GOP-led states, laws targeting LGBTQ+ individuals have proliferated. Elected officials, even some vying for the Republican presidential nomination, are pushing for the removal of LGBTQ+ content from classrooms.
Diverse Approaches to Sex Education
Sex education programs vary widely across the United States. While some organizations, like Planned Parenthood, advocate for inclusive sex education, some states explicitly prohibit such an approach.
Conflicting Standards Across the States
For example, Texas’ penal code still states that Department of State Health Services curriculum must label homosexuality as unacceptable and a criminal offense, despite the U.S. Supreme Court deeming such language unconstitutional in 2003.
Turning to the Internet
In reality, many LGBTQ+ students have already turned to external sources for sex education.
Challenges of Online Self-Education
Some have reported peers resorting to pornography, while others have found information on YouTube about identifying one’s sexual orientation or flirting with individuals of the same sex.
Diving Into LGBTQ+ History
As a high school student, Stella Gage struggled to find a safe space to explore their identity.
Turning to online resources, they delved into the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S.
Gage realized that this history was crucial for queer youth to understand.
The limitations and rigid norms society imposed became apparent.
The absence of such knowledge in traditional education left Gage feeling that their identity was inconveniently overlooked.
However, the internet is a double-edged sword, often inundated with false information.
Advocates express concern that students seeking online education may struggle to navigate the wealth of information and misinformation available.
When schools address sexuality, it is typically in the context of disease prevention or anti-bullying efforts.
School-Based Sex Education’s Limited Scope
For LGBTQ+ students, solely being viewed through a negative lens can make school a challenging environment.
West’s Personal Testimony
Tim’m West, the executive director of the LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, can relate.
Growing up as a queer Black kid in Arkansas, he felt perpetually ashamed of his identity.
West Shares More
West shared, “What if you are a boy in high school that knows you like boys, and you sit in a divided room and listen to a teacher explain how not to have sex with girls. You would be sitting there rolling your eyes, because that is not your issue. But you also haven’t been given any instructions on how to protect yourself should you experiment with a person of the same gender”.
Comprehensive Sex Ed for All
West believes that students need comprehensive and relevant sex education that applies to all gender identities and expressions.
Stella Gage’s Advocacy for Inclusivity
Stella Gage, who volunteers with a youth justice advocacy group and serves as president of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action Chapter at Wichita State, emphasizes the importance of comprehensive sex education.
They believe it is essential for all students, regardless of their gender identity or expression, to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
Reflecting on Ashton Gerber’s Experience
Ashton Gerber, a transgender student at Tufts University in Massachusetts, reflected on their own sex education experience.
While they had more sex education classes than most while growing up in Washington, D.C., the lessons were not entirely applicable to their experience.
Educators Guiding Students to Online Resources
Gerber emphasizes the need for educators to guide students to trusted online resources for self-directed research.
Navigating the Journey of Self-Discovery
For many LGBTQ+ students, the journey to self-discovery can be challenging, marked by a lack of acceptance.
Stella Gage underscores the importance of understanding and embracing one’s identity.
Embracing Identity and Rejecting Conformity
They believe that no one should be left feeling misunderstood and pressured to conform in a world that often fails to care about inclusivity and diversity.
Inclusive Sex Education: A Building Block for a Brighter Future
In a world where diversity and acceptance are celebrated, inclusive sex education is a fundamental building block for a better future.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / New Africa. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.