Sarah Grace Goolden
Sexual education in America is admittedly not up to par. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia actually require it, which on its own is horrifying. Even when sex ed is taught in school, it is not always accurate or unbiased, which is what all teens need. Queer adolescents especially, are often left out of the narrative and left to their own devices.
Not being straight in a culture that revolves around heteronormativity is already tough. But for gay kids, it can be extremely damaging and even dangerous. They face ostracization from their peers, as well as rejection from their families. Pop culture has just started to catch up with the times, but there are still little to no LGBTQ+ representation in kids shows and YA books. Gay kids often have to try to figure out their sexuality on their own. Pretending all children and young adults are straight does not make gay kids go away; it just makes them feel alone.
Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina are actually required by law to only talk about non-straight sexual orientation in a negative way. Yes, that is a real thing. Affectionately nicknamed “No Promo Homo” laws, schools are vaguely told to not promote homosexuality. I’ll gloss over the fact that that implies homosexuality is spread via information. How these laws are actually practiced is different from state to state.
This can include not talking about whatever is deemed ‘gay,’ such as HIV/AIDS, which is a harmful and ignorant untruth. Aside from just ignoring gay sexual health, schools can also go as far as to “emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”
Gay kids are having sex, just like straight kids are having sex. All teens deserve education. Without it, they risk becoming pregnant, getting an STD and being a victim of sexual assault, among countless other things. It’s necessary. Sure, it might be hard to think about underage people having sex, especially for their parents. But ignoring it does not make the problem go away.
According to GLSTN, an LGBTQ+ student rights group, queer kids are more likely than their heterosexual peers to have sex at an earlier age, experience dating violence, contract an STD and are less likely to use contraceptives. That’s pretty scary. This all stems from a lack of information and acceptance. This refusal to educate gay youth is guaranteeing that more are going to suffer and does not guarantee that your child will be straight. These laws hurt kids.
So what does an ideal world look like where gay youth are not stigmatized and discriminated against by their own school system? Teen Health Source gives some great points. It starts by making sex ed inclusive, not just catering it to heterosexuals. It needs to be sex positive. Too many times schools use fear as a means for detering sex before marriage, which has not been proven to delay teens from engaging in intercourse. Let’s stop pretending abstinence-only education works because it does not. Educators and lawmakers need to look at the facts and start putting children’s interests first, not their own.
I want sex education for not only gay and bisexual students, but trans and asexual ones as well. Consent needs to be prioritized. The idea that losing your virginity is equivalent to giving a part of yourself away needs to be discarded. Every single kid deserves to feel included and educated.