The Importance of Inclusive Sex Ed
Proposed legislation in Florida undermining the rights of LGBTQ+ kids is the latest potential anti-gay curriculum laws in the US, which already exist in as many as 20 states nationwide. The harm that even the suggestion of this type of legislation can cause children is deeply troubling, and it is critical to recognize the reality that the effect of these laws do the exact opposite of offering kids the protection they claim to.
As a sex therapist in a culture where sex is viewed as “impolite”, “embarrassing”, or even taboo to discuss openly, I see first-hand the shame that clients can feel around their sexuality. Frequently, a lack of sexual education also creates a barrier between a client and their own body and desires. This same lack of education makes it difficult for them to communicate about sex, in turn creating a barrier between partners. Sex education that openly discusses and educates about desire, pleasure, and communication is essential for sexual health.
For my clients who identify as LGBTQ+, these feelings and barriers can be exacerbated by regular experiences of not being accepted by those close to them and by society as a whole. This can negatively impact not only their sexual functioning and satisfaction, but also their mental health and overall sense of safety in the world. Couple this with their minimal representation in sex ed curricula that are already lacking open, comprehensive dialogues about sex, and it becomes even clearer why we see so much misinformation about LGBTQ+ populations and sexuality.
The need for accurate, comprehensive, inclusive sexual eduction is dire. In the US, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, make a plan to kill themselves, and to attempt suicide when compared with their peers. This ideation is most frequently the result of their experiences of rejection, discrimination, and victimization by family, friends, and society, with just 20 percent of trans and nonbinary youth reporting that their gender identity is accepted by “all or most” people in their lives. Legislation such as what is currently being proposed in Florida only further rejects their sexuality and gender identity as being worthy of representation in sex ed curricula. These kinds of laws harm our kids; they do not protect them.
Without formal discussion and education around sexual orientation and gender identity in what is ideally a structured, nurturing environment (such as the classroom), LGBTQ+ youth frequently turn to other sources of information and community that are often harmful and misleading. In fact, a recent study found that more than half of sexually active gay adolescents have sought companionship and sexual partners through Grindr, leading to more than 100 men facing charges since 2015 for sexually assaulting minors they met on the app.
Banning inclusive sex education in schools further endangers LGBTQ+ youth by tying teachers’ hands when it comes to intervening in homophobic-related bullying. When educators are not allowed to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity at school, they can feel like they can’t step in when they witness or are informed about bullying of LGBTQ+ students.
Sex education in schools is important. Inclusive sex education is critical to the lives of LGBTQ+ youth, and it’s what all children deserve, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or not. Kids deserve an accurate and comprehensive education that includes them and all of their peers, supports their growth, and provides them with the community and information they need to live their most fulfilling lives.