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Comprehensive sex education in the US has been a point of contention for decades, with former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders even being asked to resign from her post in 1991 for endorsing sex education and masturbation.
While some states have moved away from an abstinence-only curriculum, only 29 states mandate some kind of sex education curriculum. And the problem of proper sex education is even worse for LGBTQ teens.
According to Dr. Sara C. Flowers, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, only 9 states and the District of Columbia include LGBTQ-inclusive sex education in their curriculum.
“Queer young people are often left out of the conversation altogether,” Flowers told Insider. “This can result in a lot of misinformation about their identities, bodies, and health — leaving them without the skills or resources they need to have healthy relationships or safe sex, if and when they make that decision.”
Gina Desiderio, director of communications for The Health Teen Network, told Insider that not only does this do a disservice to LGBTQ youth, it actually worsens their mental health.
“Research shows that LGBTQ+ young people report disproportionate experiences of depression, bullying, and feelings of unsafety at school — and these experiences are even more common among LGBTQ+ youth of color,” Desiderio said. “However, queer youth that do receive inclusive sex education are less likely to feel unsafe and report lower levels of victimization because of their identity.”
Insider compiled a list of the most critical queer sex education facts left out of the classroom.
Some people using hormones aren’t sure what protection to use, but there are some creative solutions.
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Barriers like condoms are not just used to prevent pregnancy. They serve an important role in preventing the spread of STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
According to Flowers, they should be used regardless of you or your partner’s genitalia. However, oftentimes condoms are framed as the only option. Dental damns, latex gloves, and other alternatives can better suit the needs of different people.
“If you or your partner has an enlarged clitoris from taking testosterone, you can create a barrier method using a latex glove by cutting off the fingers and placing it over the clitoris, or by cutting the glove or a condom into a dental dam that leaves extra space in the thumb for the clitoris,” Flowers said.
Even if you’re performing non-penetrative sex, these kinds of barriers should be used.
Use barriers on your sex toys as well.
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Barriers are important even if you’re using a sex toy on a partner.
If you use sex toys on multiple people (like yourself and your partner), putting a condom on them can help keep everyone involved safe.
“Condoms can also be used on sex toys to reduce the chance of passing STIs between partners,” Flowers said.
You can still get pregnant even if you or your partner are taking gender-affirming hormones.
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Sometimes, trans and non-binary people undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and take gender-affirming hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
While these hormones change the body, affect fertility and even eliminate periods for some, they are not a form of birth control. People on HRT can still get pregnant or impregnate another person.
“People taking gender-affirming hormones like testosterone and estrogen can still become involved in a pregnancy,” Flowers said. “To prevent pregnancy, consider non-hormonal birth control options, including the copper IUD or barrier methods like external or internal condoms, which still work while taking gender-affirming hormones.”
‘Losing your virginity’ isn’t necessarily penetration between a penis and a vagina — it can look like many things.
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Oftentimes, sex and losing your virginity is framed as having penetrative sex between cisgender man with a penis and cisgender woman with a vagina.
But sex and losing your virginity can look like a variety of ways for people and certainly doesn’t have to involve penetration.
In addition to penetrative sex being centered, sex in many sex ed classes is oftentimes from as a means to an end to have a child. Not only does this undermine the importance of pleasure in cisgender heterosexual sex, it completely erases many queer people who cannot have sex that results in a pregnancy.
“Too often, sex education casts all adolescent sexual activity in the narrowest, most sex-negative of lights: potentially dangerous at best, and catastrophic at worst,” Desiderio told Insider. “This failure to integrate sex positivity matters to queer and straight, cisgender young people alike.”
Desiderio told Insider instead educators should be openly talking about pleasure in the context of sex.
“Having frank, open conversations about sexual pleasure acknowledges people have sex for reasons other than reproduction, affirming the identities of LGBTQ+ people too often erased by curricula infatuated with the nitty-gritty details of when sperm meets egg,” Desiderio said.
It’s important to be aware that homophobia and transphobia can drive low self-esteem. And that can affect relationships.
According to Flowers, dating violence is oftentimes mentioned in the context of cisgender and straight relationships, but it’s crucial for LGBTQ youth to understand dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identity, presentation, or sexual orientation.
In fact, because LGBTQ people are at risk of being rejected by their family and facing homophobia or transphobia in their day to day life, they are more at risk of falling into toxic relationships.
“LGBTQ+ young people deserve sex education that helps them learn how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, teaches them about consent, and lets them know they deserve to be supported if they are in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship,” Flowers told Insider.
These are some good techniques to consider when coming out to your family.
While the decision to come out differs from person to person, having the proper language to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity is necessary for a young LGBTQ person to talk to their family.
“Including tips for coming out about gender identity or sexual orientation in classroom instruction is one way to de-center heteronormative relationships and ensure all young people are getting what they need from sex education,” Flowers said.
Here are some tips Flowers suggested that can make you feel more comfortable and prepared:
Choose a private location
Plan what you’re going to say ahead of time
Prepare for questions about your sexuality or gender identity
Pay attention to politics. Race, gender, ability, and class all affect your access to sexual health.
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The way we have sex, and access sexual healthcare, can be greatly impacted by our gender, sexuality, or race. For example, HIV/AIDs still disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx queer men in the United States.
That’s why it’s important to understand the challenges you personally face in life, beyond in the bedroom, according to Desiderio.
“These factors combined affect the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming youth, as evidenced by high rates of attempted and completed suicide, unplanned pregnancies, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection diagnoses,” Desiderio said.
At school, Desiderio says, there should be open discussions about each child’s identity, so they can be prepared for oppression and the barriers they may face in life.
“Institutions organized for the dominant population too often marginalize, ignore, or erase the LGBTQ+ experience and queer sex,” Desiderio said. “Young people face vast systemic inequities and structural barriers to ensuring their health; affirming, inclusive sex education is one way we can support and empower young people to thrive.”
Read the original article on Insider