Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
One of the many things the LGBTQ community has had to endure for years is the unknown. Never truly understanding how to be safe, whether that be with significant others, in school, in their homes, as well as in society. Something that could help our the future of LGBTQ youth is integrating inclusive sex education into public schools. Without proper education in our public schools there is a larger chance for sexually transmitted diseases to be spread amongst youth, LGBTQ youth developing poor mental health because of their sexuality being hidden and shamed in society, and violence and harassment plaguing their lives due to ignorance developed in adolescence.
Sex edcuation in schools is poor as it is. Heterosexual teenagers barely know what they are doing when it comes to safe sex, but gay teenagers are completely in the dark. In current Sex Ed classes there is passive and active silencing. Where teachers will either not speak about LGBTQ issues in class, or when asked a question by a student they ignore or move onto a different subject.
When asked how lack of representation made LGBTQ students feel during Sex Ed they said it “was perceived by some participants as making them feel like ‘freaks.’ As one young man stated: ‘It kinda makes it seem like they’re [LGBTQ individuals] freaks … like aliens or something.” (Gowen, L.Kris & Winges-Yanez, Nichole, 2014) In some schools there are Gay-Straight alliances, generally started by other students which in theory is a great idea, but in less progressive areas there could be determental effects.
Besides the internet, which can lead to unrealistic, inaccurate, and inappropriate information, there is no safe environment to learn and discuss these issues for students. Which leads to the question, are LGBTQ issues addressed at all in schools? Only when it comes to two specific diseases; AIDS or HIV. When talking about these diseases most teachers and teenagers will only relate them to LGBTQ communities, which is not only inaccurate but also a breeding ground for bullying and isolation during discussions.
Not only is this damaging to heterosexual students who think they are immune to this STD, but it makes LGBTQ students feel ashamed and uncomfortable as insults are targeted towards their community. LGBTQ students, reported higher levels of victimization leading to depression and suicidal feelings compared to their heterosexual peers (Birkett, Espelage, & Koenig, 2009). Heterosexual students have grown up using gay slurs as insults and associating it with something shameful and degrading, and were groomed into believing being gay is wrong.
With a more inclusive curriculum and open discussions starting in the classroom there could be a significant decrease in bullying among LGBTQ youth and a more positive and open mindset when it comes to sexuality. Not only does this benefit LGBTQ students, but it also benefits heterosexual students. Going more into depth with other sexualities and gender identities could clear up confusion and help questioning students realize what they are going through is normal.
Generations prior have thought it was wrong to teach these things for many different reasons, religion being a top contender. Public schooling is supposed to be void of religion, and if a parent does not agree with how things are being presented they can transfer their child to a different school with similar beliefs. Not every student is straight nor will be be abstinent until marriage and catering only to those students would be harmful to the majority of high schoolers. The world is progressing and changing and we need to be able to keep all teenagers safe in all aspects of their life, they deserve to be informed and educated.
Now, how do we make the environment sustainable for schools and make sure teachers follow through with providing important knowledge to their students? It should be required that teachers take a course on gender and sexual identity and be able to teach it. Make sure there is at least one club that is for LGBTQ students and allies.
With an inclusive sex curriculm teenangers of all sexualities will engage in safer sex and will be able to tell others useful and accurate information when asked. It will provide a safe space for students to have a conversation and learn more about different types of people. It teaches tolerance and allows students to feel more comfortable and learn about themselves in a safe environment with teachers who have been trained and are ready to help and teach.
In a day and age where sex is treated so casually, everyone should be able to protect themselves and have knowledge that pertains to them. Sex education is extremely important in todays society. Not only should it help you figure out who you are, but it also should guide you and leave you feeling more confident in yourself. It should not be something that is shameful to discuss and something that is only available for one type of person. Sex education needs to be inclusive because every teenager deserves to feel represented and heard without prejudice and judgement.