How Sex Ed Helped My Peers Accept My Family
Originally Published: January 3, 2017
Revised: October 23, 2017
Recently, my mum asked her girlfriend to marry her whilst they were on holiday in Berlin. I texted all my friends to tell them the good news, and they all got super excited, offering their congratulations to both them as a couple and us as a family. A few years ago, though, before our sexuality education lessons, this probably wouldn’t have been the case.
It was in these [sex ed class] lessons that I learned that, actually, many of my friends were hugely in favor of LGBTQ rights…
I remember the first time I found out what homosexuality was. I was in primary school (the British equivalent of elementary school). Some of the boys used the word “lesbian” to describe one of the more reserved and intelligent girls in our class, but they used the term as an insult and not as a way of describing her sexual orientation. As you may expect from a class of 10-year-olds, it wasn’t long before everybody had heard the words “gay” and “lesbian” and how to use them to put someone down. In essence, identifying as gay was seen as “weird” or “disgusting” by the most popular people at school.
Mum’s First Girlfriend
Not long after I first heard about homosexuality at school, my mum introduced my sister and me to a woman she had met. She was often at our house, coming over for dinner and staying late into the evening. She was someone who both my sister and I got along with and who we were happy to have in our lives as she made our mum so happy. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when mum sat us both down on my bed (the place where we always go to have difficult conversations) and told us that they had started seeing each other.
We were both happy that this incredible woman was going to be playing a new and important role in our lives, but I must admit that neither me nor my sister rushed out and told our classmates about the latest addition to our household. However, this was not because we felt ashamed of our family setup but because we didn’t want anyone to think less of our mother, or us, for being happy.
Sex Education Lessons
A few years passed and neither me nor my sister had mentioned that mum was in a same-sex relationship to our friends. We were both in secondary school by this point (a British school for 11- to 18-year-olds) and had begun to receive comprehensive sex education at school. This largely involved debates in class about topics such as whether those under sixteen should be entitled to contraception and, indeed, the civil rights and treatment of the LGBTQ community.
Up until this point, I wasn’t even entirely sure how much my friends knew or understood about homosexuality, as none of us had ever brought up the topic in conversation. However, sex ed class provided a safe, comfortable platform to discuss our thoughts and share our experiences. It was in these lessons that I learned that, actually, many of my friends were hugely in favor of LGBTQ rights and knew a lot about LGBTQ history—some of them even identified as LGBTQ themselves. I was more than relieved to be having these conversations with my friends finally.
So I think it is fair to say that I really do owe a lot to my sex education at school. It is because of these lessons that I felt I could tell my friends about the nature of my family life without fear of being met with negative responses. In fact, when I introduced my friends to my step-mum for the first time, they didn’t even bat an eyelid.
*Eleanor Pearson is a contributor who lives in England.
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