The Sexy Times | America needs a sex ed revolution

The Sexy Times is The Pitt News’ biweekly sex blog written by Genna Edwards.

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By Genna Edwards, Senior Staff Writer

With the recent news that England now mandates sex ed that includes LGBTQ+ topics in high schools, it’s become even more prominent that America is lagging behind. Our sex education system fails all students, especially those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and school districts and the government both fail to show any interest in changing it for the better.

In high school, I had only a handful of teachers who openly discussed and encouraged discourse about the realities of sex for LGBTQ+ people. I never learned about consent, birth control options or other factors of safe sex from school-mandated teachings. All of my knowledge came from teachers who risked coming under fire for, like, not being homophobic or transphobic. The irony stings, I know.

As of 2017, only 13 states require sex education to be “medically accurate.” I’m sorry — what? Shouldn’t that be the minimum requirement, that our sexual education be medically accurate? This is abysmal. But wait, there’s more.

Out of America’s 50 states, only 38 of them have sex education laws, with 30 states teaching abstinence until marriage as their primary sex ed. The United States has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted infections.

We can’t keep relying on outdated forms of teaching that focus on scaring students with tales of STIs and teen pregnancy statistics. Out of all of America’s sex education models, only comprehensive sex education teaches students that sex is OK and normal and provides them with the needed resources to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

Of course, many others have been saying what I’m saying here for years. It isn’t a new concept that America’s sex ed may be harming far more than helping our youth learn what it means to be sexual, what it means to be in relationships with others.

I’d love if America could have mandatory LGBTQ+ sex ed, but considering that the guidelines don’t even mandate “medically accurate” info, considering many states rely on outdated, fearmongering abstinence teaching, we have so terribly far to go.

Likewise, there are different concerns about sex education when it comes to people of different socioeconomic statuses. Abortions are easier to access if you’re rich and/or live in a place with abortion clinics — but let’s say you have to drive five hours, and you can’t get a day off work, or you’re stuck living with an abusive partner because of monetary needs. What are these people supposed to do?

Understanding the intersectionality of how bad sex ed affects different communities is key to working on a plan to fix these issues. We can’t ignore that LGBTQ+ youth are at more risk of being kicked out of their homes, or being impoverished. We can’t ignore that Black trans women are at the highest risk of violence against them. Currently, Black LGBTQ+ youth face some of the worst consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

We can’t keep teaching intolerance and hate. What we learn in school — and largely, what we don’t — trickles down into all aspects of our lives.

If I hadn’t had open-minded teachers while I was grappling with coming out, I’m unsure if I’d even be here right now. America is failing all of its students, for sure, but there’s another special kind of harm against anyone who isn’t cisgender and straight. I wasn’t ever told it was okay to like women, I wasn’t ever told about consent — both of these things have had lasting impact on how I hold relationships and engage in sexual activity.

Among queer communities and with my friends, we talk a lot about how we feel our growth has been stunted. I didn’t have my first kiss until 17, while many of my straight peers were engaging physically with others at far earlier ages. I haven’t had as much experience in large part because I didn’t know how, I wasn’t told how. If no one ever taught you that what you want is OK and how to go about it, what are you to do but freeze for years?

According to Planned Parenthood, seven states either prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in their sex education or mandate that teachers frame LGBTQ+ people and relationships in a bad light. This stigmatization and lack of information leaves LGBTQ+ students without any sort of guidance or help when it comes to their relationships and sexual health.

Simply put, we need to do better. Contact your state and local legislators — they shape the sex ed protocols in your region. If you are a parent or teacher of an LGBTQ+ student, let them know that their sexual and physical health matters. Let them know their desires are OK.

Above all, educate yourself and others whenever you can. The more we talk about these issues, the more we can work to dismantle the heteropatriarchy from inside our own homes and schools. On that note — the Marsha P. Johnson Institute is one organization that helps Black trans people, and you can donate to its cause.

Spread the knowledge, spread the love.

 

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