By Marissa Thompson
The state of sexual health education in America is mediocre at best. Abstinence only curriculums are norm and many curriculums fail to address the importance of contraceptives and birth control. The standards for what constitutes a “comprehensive sexual health course” varies widely from state to state, leaving gaps in education in topics such as healthy relationship skills, anatomy and consent. One of the most abysmal failures of many sexual health education programs today is the erasure and overlook of the LGBTQ+ community.
The bottom line is that every student deserves a chance to learn comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education regardless of their location, gender and sexual orientation.
Currently, a majority of curriculums available are taught with a heteronormative bias. This means, the curriculums only cover sex that occurs between a man and a woman. The statement previously is problematic in itself as we know that individuals who identify as a man, may not have a penis or someone who identifies as a woman, may not have a vagina. Many curriculums taught will not touch on the nuance of sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, some curriculums will only speak on these matters with a negative connotation. This not only leaves LGBTQ+ students out of the conversation but in some cases can lead to bullying or discrimination.
Why LGBTQ+ Students Need to be Included:
Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ students are disproportionately affected by negative sexual health outcomes. Young men (13-29) who identified as gay or bisexual, made up for two-thirds of new HIV cases in 2018 (CDC, 2019). This number also reflects a racial inequality as well, with the majority of these men being black or latino. In addition, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience unplanned pregnancies, STIs, coerced sexual contact and dating violence. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that transgender and nonbinary (often called gender nonconforming) students also experience high rates of dating and sexual violence, with a disproportionate amount being youth of color. The data overwhelmingly proves that LGBTQ+ students are at a higher rate for negative health outcomes related to sex and relationships, meaning these students should be targeted in appropriate safe-sex curriculums. Additionally, someone’s sexual orientation may not always align with the behaviors they participate in. For example, it’s entirely possible for someone who identifies as a lesbian to have sex with a man with a penis. In this case, it’s important for the youth to know about pregnancy prevention such as condoms and birth control even though they identify as a lesbian. Healthy relationships, boundaries and lessons on consent are applicable to all relationships, no matter sexual orientation, the label or number of partners. These subjects are important to any comprehensive sexual health education curriculum since human sexuality involves relationships of many kinds. In general, it’s also important to be aware of ways to prevent STIs by using dental dams, external condoms, internal condoms and the importance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) testing. Through safer-sex curriculums, LGBTQ+ students can learn to make healthy decisions for themselves in their relationships.
There have been multiple studies that conclude that “safer-sex” curriculums are far more effective at preventing teen pregnancies and STIs than abstinence-only curriculums. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) states that a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum “should be appropriate to the age, developmental level, and cultural background of students and respect the diversity of values and beliefs represented in the community. Comprehensive school-based sexuality education complements and augments the sexuality education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and healthcare professionals.” This means that students should be learning not only of the positives of abstinence, but of the practicality of birth control, consent, relationships, LGBTQ+ sex and condoms. The bottom line is that every student deserves a chance to learn comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education regardless of their location, gender and sexual orientation.
Learn More about the LGBTQ+ Center at Kenneth Young: