Sex Ed as a Gay Teen
Originally Published: October 3, 2018
Revised: January 3, 2019
I felt like I didn’t belong. It was like I was listening in on a conversation about everyone else but me. My teacher clicked on a PowerPoint, the guys in the back of the class giggled on cue, and I sank in my seat as I braced for an hour and forty minutes of my teacher describing sex—that is sex between a man and a woman. As a queer teenager, it did not take me long to realize that sex education is not always inclusive; being in sex education class was a reminder that LGBTQ people are still pushed to the margins.
Since middle school, sex education has been a brief part of my science curriculum. I have had good and bad encounters with sex ed, but I have always felt like I’m watching through a window.
No Mention of LGBTQ People
In middle school sex ed, I was taught that sex is exclusively oral or vaginal penetration between a man and a woman. While I was first coming to terms with my identity, this made me feel like my sexual attraction was unnatural and against science. This also prevented me from knowing how to stay safe.
Far too many LGBTQ youth do not learn how to practice safer sex.
My experience in middle school parallels that of other LGBTQ teens across the country.
“Many queer teens don’t know what is necessary to stay safe when engaging in non-hetero sex,” explains Zachary Beer, 15, of Parkland, FL, who identifies as pansexual. “Schools do not teach anything about it.”
Students like Zachary and I are often overlooked as part of the sexual health conversation, even when teachers try to achieve inclusivity.
Trying to Be Inclusive Without the Resources
Contrasting my experiences in middle school, my freshman year teacher was pretty LGBTQ-inclusive. He facilitated a conversation about the history of HIV/AIDS and talked about why same-sex couples should use protection.
However, he explicitly told us that he disagreed with the curriculum provided to him and was going against it by telling us about safer sex for same-sex couples. My teacher had to dig into his own knowledge of sexual behaviors in an honest attempt to be LGBTQ-inclusive because he did not have the information in a curriculum.
My teacher’s moral compass and kind heart inspired him to want to teach a sex ed course that included all of his students. If he’d had the proper training, then he could have given necessary information and resources to LGBTQ students. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be many resources to pull from. The repercussions of this neglect can be dangerous.
In a 2015 survey of millennials, only 12 percent report that their sex education class covered same-sex relationships. Far too many LGBTQ youth do not learn how to practice safer sex. Often, teens don’t know where condoms or other safer sex methods belong in sexual behaviors unless they do their own research. I should not have to look up my sexual health concerns online.
What We Can Do
It is essential that we call for an inclusive environment in sex education. We need to start talking about LGBTQ safer sex. We must address the differences and health needs of LGBTQ teens.
Many states and schools have different policies, and unfortunately many curricula are biased and still promote abstinence as the only solution to the risks of sex.
However, school boards, administration, parents and community members have the power to influence how schools approach sex ed. Communities can and should come together, including teens, to promote LGBTQ-inclusive curricula.
I have seen this work firsthand. LGBTQ lessons will soon be taught in all of the science classrooms in my own school district as a result of pressure from a council of students and organizations like Planned Parenthood. Finally, my LGBTQ peers and I will feel included in sex education.
Our voices carry value, and it’s our duty to fight for change. Inclusion in society starts with inclusion in education.
To advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed, read this guide, “A Call to Action.”
*Michael is a contributor who lives in Florida.
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