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Why we need inclusive sex education

March 28, 2018

Do you remember your high school sex ed class? During my freshman year, we had a health class that met once every other week. In the whole year, there was only one day that was dedicated to sexual orientation and gender identity. It would have been great to have LGBTQ topics integrated throughout the entire health class, but my classmates and I were grateful that they were discussed at all. However, the information was outdated and limited. So, along with my school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), I revamped the sex ed lesson plan. GSA members and adults began to teach this class together, making the students at my school part of the  5.7% of students who have been taught positively about LGBTQ people in a health class.

This year, Indiana state legislators introduced a bill that sought to require parents to “opt-in” in order for their children to receive sex education and ANY information about sexual orientation and gender identity at school. Opt-in sex education bills like this are incredibly dangerous and seek to prevent students from receiving sex ed which can help them make informed, healthy choices and learn about their own identities. While the extreme anti-LGBTQ language was ultimately removed the version that passed is still a clear effort to restrict access to vital information about sexual health.

All students deserve access to sex education and especially sex education that discusses and affirms LGBTQ people. Many young LGBTQ students are not out to their families so they may not feel comfortable asking their parents to opt-in or their parents could refuse. LGBTQ students are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and are more likely to have sex when they are younger, in part because there is little access to inclusive and useful sex education. Depriving these students of this education in Indiana could result in negative consequences that could have been easily avoided if inclusive sex education was available in schools.

With sex education that strictly focuses on heterosexual sex, pregnancy, and the physical aspects of sex, LGBTQ students feel isolated. With LGBTQ inclusive sex education that discusses healthy relationships, consent, and STI prevention methods for all types of bodies, LGBTQ students feel supported and informed.

The benefits of inclusive sex education extend beyond just learning about STI prevention. LGBTQ inclusive sex education could teach about the safest practices of chest-binding or it could discuss LGBTQ friendly resources and how issues, like intimate partner violence, might look different in an LGBTQ relationship.

Inclusive sex education is important for all students. It helps students support their LGBTQ friends, family members, and co-workers. It fights the systemic erasure of LGBTQ identities by openly talking about them. It reduces the stereotype that there is one correct way to have sex that only happens between two people with specific types of bodies. It also puts a greater emphasis on consent and understanding the emotional effects (positive or negative) of having sex or being intimate.

With #MeToo stories saturating our communities online and in real life, it is important to create a culture that fosters conversations about sexual safety, regardless of one's identity. All students deserve access to sex education that discusses how to make informed choices, have safe sex, and is inclusive of the LGBTQ community.

To take action in your community, please continue to check out our student-activist-led campaign, revamp, as GLAAD’s Campus Ambassadors share insights on how to make your activism more inclusive and effective.

Zipi Diamond is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and sophomore at St. Olaf's College studying Sociology/Anthropology & Women's and Gender Studies. Zipi has worked with GLSEN Maryland and the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore to create safer school environments for LGBTQ students.

the voice and vision of a new generation