LGBT Sex Education: Why LGBTIQ Sexuality is Conspicuously Absent from the National Curriculum
Any LGBTIQ person that assume they are over the darkest parts of discrimination are deluding themselves. Certainly, there have been major victories. It is no longer acceptable to imprison people for “sodomy” in most civilized states of the world. You also will get imprisoned if you start beating up someone for nothing more than the suspicion that they may be gay…even if some countries actively encourage their citizens to brutalize gay people. However, there are still those subtle forms of discrimination that still exist and will take much longer to deal with.
I was recently looking at different sex education curricula across the states as part of a review into inclusive education. The thing that struck me was that there was a strong dichotomy between the liberal and illiberal states. Whereas the traditionally liberal states were at the very least making an effort to include LGBT sex education themes, our Conservative backwaters were steadfast in their refusal to acknowledge that particular reality. Where the sex education was provided, it was often inaccurate and stigmatizing. Surely people in this century know that not all LGBT people are dying of AIDS?
We Do Not Want to Know about You
In an effort to get to the bottom (no pun intended please) of this, I spoke to one senior education officer who was frank enough to tell me that the worry was about parents complaining. Most of the objections they get are to do with the fear that sex education can inspire young people to “do things”. I replied that it was extraordinary that anyone would think that suddenly a person would turn gay because they had read about gay people. If sexuality was that fluid, many of us would have turned straight long time ago. There is plenty of heterosexual stuff about. The lady was understanding of my position but seemed helpless to deal with the soccer-mum politics of the locality.
I actually do object to curricula that is based on popular opinion. We teach children facts and many of the parents that are complaining about the facts do not really know much about the LGBT community. Most of the stuff they have read from trashy tabloids and ridiculous culture war books. The religious texts are also no good because they are often written as if a repressed old man is preparing all his fantasies of patriarchy to come true. I was even surprised that there were schools that considered using the Bible as the basis for sex education. Honeys…you aint seen anything yet if you think the Bible is going to tell you about LGBT people.
I am concerned that LGBT youth are not being allowed to understand about sex education from their perspective. As a consequence, they find the wrong information in the wrong places. The internet has helped a bit but it is decidedly a mixed back of information that is hardly ever put under quality control. The friends do not know what they are talking about and end up making things up when they are stuck. Porn is a non-starter because it is all a fantasy that bears little resemblance to the lives that people actually lead.
Should LGBT Sex Education be a Right?
I think it should, although I know that some are already in arms about this. Children have a right to know about their bodies. In some cases, the lack of knowledge is the beginning of a huge tragedy. I was once giving a health talk on the use of a condom in a developing country. After our initial briefing, we came back to ask how the session was going and whether people were using the condoms well. The villagers were angry with us. Many of them had been guaranteed birth control if they used the condom every time they had sex but their wives were pregnant. We were accused of all sorts of things that are unmentionable in polite society.
When things cooled down, I realized that in fact the community had been putting the condoms on a banana plant before having sex. It was a tragic mistake. In our demonstrations, we had somehow convinced them that the correct way to use a condom is to put it on a banana. We had to start from scratch to disentangle this nonsense before it started costing lives. Young people are at risk. Quite often the ones that get serious diseases are “innocent” in as far as they do not know how to use protection. That night fumble can turn out to be the biggest mistake of their lives. Not providing them with accurate and timely education is a crime and a serious dereliction of duty in my opinion.
Existing studies have shown that less than 10% of LGBT school children in the USA are receiving positive and helpful LGBT sex education. Of course we are past the Victorian era in which sex was only done under the protective covers of Holy Matrimony. These days everybody is getting a piece of the action and the sex educators can hardly catch up with the need for support. The problem is that as the heterosexual community has been given some information, the LGBT community continues to lag behind. We are the ones that are expected to find our own way and to hide our sexuality because it could offend someone. Worst still, those who are in the closet and young will hardly get any support.
A Curriculum Based on the Biomedical Model
It seems as if doctors are writing these sex education lessons. I do not deny that doctors have important contributions to make but my problem is that those contributions do not reflect the full diversity of the psychosocial issues that are at play in human sexuality. We are teaching about anatomy, puberty, pregnancy, contraception and STDs. Less focus is based on mental health, gender based violence, hate crime, gender-reassignment, dating, gay marriage and even sexual dysfunction. I am not saying that anatomy lessons are not important (some of use need a map to get to where we want to be): but they should also address the issues that are relevant to the LGBT community.
Teaching children from a purely biomedical model is as silly as talking to prostitutes about abstinence as a form of contraception and HIV prevention. You know that it is never going to work and you are wasting your time going down that route. Why then do you invest your time and money in such a Quixotic scheme? The answer lies in the type of people that design the curriculum. These are often teachers of a certain class who are overwhelmingly white, married and straight. Therefore, they write about their normalcy because that is all they know. The corners and intricacies of gay life are treated as if they were some threatening exotic fruit that must not be mentioned by name.
Then you have the descriptions of family life that completely discount the experiences and requirements of gay people. The family is straight and assumed to be straight. Everyone is expected to be married by the time they are forty. We also expect them to have children in the “natural way”. These are things that are all very well and appropriate for a generalized education service but they do not address the things that are important to LGBT youth. They miss the mark and allow myths to continue prospering.
I was shocked by a person who told me that one of the best ways to avoid “catching AIDS is to keep your food safe and not allow sick people to get near it”. I kid you not…this was a seemingly intelligent person in 2017 who was perpetuating some of the worst stereotypes ever known to man but all done with the innocence of blissful ignorance. I did not know whether to laugh or cry. I could write about the strange things I have heard from teens about sex, particular gay sex. It all shows that there is a need to review the curriculum.
A Possible Way Forward
I believe that the starting point is for the educational authorities to recognize the fact that they have neither the power nor the mandate to be able to alter people’s sexuality. That is something that is innate and one that is part of their DNA. They should even stop trying at all. It is so unfair and silly to assume that just because a straight kid hears about gay sexuality, they will immediately turn. We surely have moved on beyond that level of ignorance.
The next important step is to create a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum which includes facts, all the facts and nothing but the facts. Make sure that the curriculum is age-appropriate and then teach the children about it. You will help reduce teenage pregnancies, STDs and a general explosion of ignorance. I might also add, that you need to get sex education experts on those boards so that they can really shake them up.