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LGBTQ Teens Deserve Sex Ed That Speaks to Them

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By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: May 14, 2019 Revised: June 5, 2019

In many sex education classes, LGBTQ topics aren’t included or, if they are mentioned at all, it’s brief. For instance, in my sex ed class, we spent one lesson learning what the L, G, B and T stand for and what those terms mean. If you’re an LGBTQ teen, not seeing yourself represented in sex ed is bad enough, but it’s even worse not learning sexual health information that is relevant for you and your life.

Over the past 25 years, Sex, Etc. has included the perspectives of LGBTQ teens and evolved to become a good source of information for LGBTQ teens when they want to learn about sex and sexual health that pertains to them. Sex, Etc. has also always included teens who identify as LGBTQ on its editorial staff. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the magazine, I spoke to some former staff members about their experiences being LGBTQ teens, from their own sex ed to what it was like to work for Sex, Etc.

For some former teen staff writers, Sex, Etc. was the first place they had come across LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.

Inclusivity and Representation

Ashley Fowler, 19, of New Brunswick, NJ, was on the Sex, Etc. staff from 2016 to 2017. She learned about Sex, Etc. while at a writing conference for her high school newspaper and was fascinated. “The work Sex, Etc. does seemed immediately meaningful and important and something that had been lacking from my high school education,” she says.

For some former teen staff writers, Sex, Etc. was the first place they had come across LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. “Sex, Etc. is one of the few places young LGBTQ people can see themselves represented in a positive light and where they can have sex education that applies to them as well,” says Sarah Baum, 18, of Hempstead, NY, who was a staff writer from 2017 to 2018 and continues to write for Sex, Etc. as a contributor. (See her latest feature on page TK). “Everyone needs to know about safe sex and everyone deserves to be educated so that they can make decisions that are best for them,” she explains.

A Sense of Community

Sex, Etc. provides LGBTQ readers with medically accurate information and support through the stories of teens who may be having similar experiences. Gillian Hatcher, 20, a teen staff writer from 2014 to 2016 who uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” shares how helpful writing for Sex, Etc. was for them. “I was told many times that my sexual orientation was a phase when I was in high school,” they say. “But at Sex, Etc., I was able to talk about my orientation openly without judgment. Each year that I was on staff, there were other LGBTQ people on staff as well, which made it easier to talk about issues and flesh out ideas. It was always a very open place to talk and bounce ideas off of other people. I always felt heard.”

Some LGBTQ teens have great support at home, and writing for Sex, Etc. was just one more place where they could feel safe. “Sex, Etc. supported me with stories and a sense of community,” says Nick Garafola, 28, of Charlotte, NC, a staff writer from 2008 to 2009. Nick feels grateful to have had support at home when he came out as gay as a teen. “Between my grandparents and parents, I always had at least one person I felt like I could be open with, even if that person was far away. I also had teachers who would listen and understand, even if I felt out of place at my school and in my town.”

Making a Difference

Being a writer at Sex, Etc. helps me feel as though I am helping other teens, both LGBTQ and not. In school, I wasn’t taught much about sexual orientation, gender identity and what impact these parts of my identity have on my sexual health, and I know that many others weren’t either. Writing for Sex, Etc. gives me a sense of purpose. Sarah Baum puts it best:

“I got to write the things I wish someone had told me when I was younger. It gave me hope to know someone else may read this and not feel as alone or confused as I did because of it.”

Sex, Etc. provides us with information and knowledge. It’s amazing that we can then share that with other teens.

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