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High schools need to include LGBTQ+ in sexual health class – Marin Independent Journal

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Far too many students sit through hours of sexual education classes where none of the content actually applies to their lives.

When teachers and textbooks neglect students’ identities, sexuality and experiences, countless teenagers lose one of the few reliable sources they are exposed to regarding the significant topic of safe sex. When they do learn about it, it is usually heteronormative and cisgendered, often receiving information that stigmatizes LGBTQ+ youth or excludes them entirely.

This is why it is crucial to have an inclusive sexual health curriculum where teenagers of the LGBTQ+ community are able to be given the resources to learn about sexual education where their experiences are included.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 19% of U.S. secondary schools provide a curriculum or supplementary sex education materials that are LGBTQ-inclusive, which not only leaves teenagers feeling like they are unequal and an insignificant part of the school community, but also unprepared for maintaining healthy relationships and knowledge of safe sex. Nowhere is this absence more clear than in sex education.

As of September 2020, elementary and high schools in England are required to teach LGBTQ-inclusive lessons on relationships and age-appropriate education on sexual health. They also provide information on contraception, consent and online safety.

Although this was a landmark step forward for the LGBTQ+ community in England, it is now time for America to follow those footsteps in order to have students feel safe and welcome in their school environment. The United States currently has no national standard or federal legislation that mandates LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual health or history education. This is a consequential problem the curriculum must overcome.

Diversity in American sexual education classes is severely lacking.

“Health and sexual education courses are one of the most natural and common classes in which students can learn about LGBTQ topics in a positive way,” Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Director Joe Kosciw said. “However, less than 5% of LGBTQ students were taught about it in a positive way in health class.”

In fact, there are six states that completely ban the “promotion of homosexuality,” where some simply stipulate a restriction of any representation of homosexuality.

Education on LGBTQ+ safe sex is not promoting homosexuality. It is creating a safe space for students to become educated on this topic. This clearly separates LGBTQ+ students from the rest of the school population and creates a damaging rift within the community; not only with students, but also with the teachers and administrators.

A Redwood High School survey concluded that more than half of the student population haven’t learned about LGBTQ+ safe sex in any of their classes. Nearly a quarter claim they can somewhat recall learning about it, but can’t explain what they know. Furthermore, 42% of students answered that there is a noticeable absence of representation of LGBTQ+ ideas, experience and people in the Redwood curriculum, and 42.7% said there is not much inclusion of the LGBTQ+ experience in the curriculum, even if they do not actively notice it. That’s around 85% of students who are not seeing substantial inclusion of LGBTQ+ representation.

This lack of LGBTQ+ representation in sexual education needs to change. An educational curriculum that is all-inclusive would consist of teachings on healthy relationships and safe sex that accurately reflects LGBTQ students’ lives. Teachers should approach the subject with sensitivity, confidence and an open mind. It should weave the issues of LGBTQ+ people throughout the curriculum without judgment or stigma. Teenagers will absorb the information and it will encourage heterosexual and cisgender students to view their LGBTQ+ peers as equal.

By creating an inclusive sexual education curriculum in American schools, we will fight the systematic erasure of LGBTQ+ identities by openly talking about them and reduce the stereotype that there is only one “correct” way to have sex. Education should give all students the opportunity to increase awareness and break down stereotypes. It should not further instill prejudice in developing young minds.

Kana Kojima is a student at Redwood High School.

https://www.marinij.com/2021/04/02/marin-voice-high-schools-need-to-include-lgbtq-in-sexual-health-class/

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