The Importance of LGBTQ+ Representation in Sexual & Reproductive Health Education
The LGBTQ+, or the lesbian, gay, transgender, queer community, have experienced huge leaps forward in media, society, and culture. TV shows like Queer Eye, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Pose, and even our beloved Tiger King have shown many different facets of the queer experience. I am proud and happy to be a part of a generation that continues to support and accept the LGBTQ+ community. But what about having discussions regarding inclusive, reliable, sexual health education? The misinformation and stigma that is attached to the LGBTQ+ community continues to be prevalent to our marginalized and under-represented youth. Far too many LGBTQ+ youth are sitting in classrooms where their teachers and curriculums fail to appropriately address their identities, sexual orientations, and personal experiences.
Sex education standards vary widely across the country, and most of Texans seem to think that we are an abstinence only state (check out what Texas law DOES say about sex education), but the message remains the same within curriculum: heteronormative and cis-gendered. Sex education can be one of the few sources of information about identities, sexuality, and sexual health for youth. With the State Board of Education (SBOE) entering its final week on deciding the curriculum standards in sex education starting September 8th, it is important to address and advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.LGBTQ+- inclusive sex education is not available for most youth in this Country, with only 12 states requiring inclusive discussion of sexual orientation. The GLSEN 2017 National School Climate Survey reported policies in school particularly target transgender and gender nonconforming students in many ways such as preventing them from using their preferred pronouns, and requiring them to use bathroom and/or locker room of their legal sex. Leaving LGBTQ+ youth out of sex education implies that they are not worthy of inclusion, or worse, that their identity and their being is ‘wrong’. As a queer LatinX sex educator, I see firsthand that we are doing our students a disservice by not teaching comprehensive inclusive sex education. Studies show that LGBTQ+ youth have few trusted adults in their lives with whom they can talk about sexual health, leaving them to seek information from peers or online. Most online sources are not age appropriate or may not be medically accurate and their friends can be misinformed.
Along with misinformation, LGBTQ also experience disproportionate negative health outcomes in comparison to their heterosexual/cis-gendered peers. Perhaps the reason the LGBTQ+ community experiences these disproportionate negative health outcomes is not in the result of their sexuality but the lack of information and the refusal to discuss the topics with youth.
Inclusive education builds inclusive communities that are more accepting of different people and backgrounds. There are ways we can all play a part in improving the experiences of our LGBTQ+ youth. Check out the different ways to help below and check out TexasIsReady.org Literally every student who offered testimony to the SBOE demanded accurate, thorough and inclusive education. Don’t let Texas ignore them.
Sign the petition to ensure all young people have access to quality sex education
Find out who your SBOE Member is HERE and ask them for their support
Ensuring that schools and workspaces are safe and accepting for LGBTQ+ students- such as creating Gay Straight Alliances in schools.
Ileana Cruz is the Assistant Program Director and sex educator at Ntarupt. She studied neuroscience and psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has worked as an educator for 4 years serving Spanish-speaking families, teens, and youth-serving professionals. She hopes to combine her love of research and activism to empower students and families to advocate for themselves and their health.
Healthy Futures of Texas, The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and the North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (NTARUPT) have teamed up to form Texas Is Ready, a movement advocating for improved sex education curriculum standards for Texas youth. In November 2020, the State Board of Education will update the basics of sexual health education in Texas, and leading up to that decision, representatives from each of the organizations making up Texas Is Ready will release regular blogs explaining the broad range of issues related to sexual health education in Texas.