Most people support the idea of ensuring safety for all kids, addressing bullying, and including sex education in the curriculum. However, when it comes to actual implementation, we have a long way to go to ensure inclusive and sensible sex education for everyone. In its current state, sexual education standards are different across different states, leading to conflicting information on healthy relationship practices and safe sex. Some states still provide abstinence-only sex education, even though science has repeatedly shown that they aren’t just ineffective but also harmful.
Most sexual education materials neglect sexual orientation and gender identities altogether, making them useless for anyone who doesn’t identify as cis-heterosexual. Some even provide outdated, harmful, or discriminatory information about sexual orientations and gender identities, leading to a culture that persecutes queer individuals. The climate of exclusion propagated by stilted sex education programs makes LGBT+ students targets of constant bullying and discrimination, resulting in depression, anxiety, lack of performance in schools, and other developmental issues.
All kids deserve honest and frank information on sexuality, gender, and healthy sex practices. This article provides arguments on why sex education should be inclusive.
Helpful for everyone, not just LGBT+ individuals
Comprehensive and inclusive sex education reduces risky sexual activities, promotes safe sex practices, and prevents teenage pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. Meanwhile, abstinence-only sex education has repeatedly failed at achieving its goals or even delaying sexual activity, which is its primary goal. In fact, misleading information from abstinence-only sex education also increases the risk of pregnancy because kids are taught to fear all forms of contraception. Most children know little to nothing about condoms and contraceptive pills — this gap in education and knowledge affects everyone, not just LGBTQ+ kids.
Prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth
Most existing sex education programs don’t offer reliable, medically-accurate, or useful information on sexual orientations and gender identities. When they provide information on these subjects, they’re often framed in a negative light, leading to misconceptions and negative attitudes. In some regions, sexual education programs also state that homosexuality is against the interest of the general public. Studies have shown that only 4% of all LGBT students in middle school and high school have access to information on LGBT-related issues and subjects.
Abstinence-only sexual education curricula state that sex is only permitted within heterosexual marriages, an attitude that certainly damages everyone but specifically LGBT+ people who are taught that their desires aren’t normal. Such programs often reinforce the idea that non-traditional relationships and sexual desires are deviant or inferior to traditional heteronormative relationships. Consequently, LGBT students are made vulnerable to bullying, shame, and hostile school environments that stunt their emotional development. Furthermore, by inculcating hateful rhetoric at an early age, non-inclusive sex education also promotes discrimination beyond school walls.
Reducing STI infection rates
Propagators of abstinence-only sex education often state their programs reduce STI infection rates. But that’s not true — all evidence suggests that abstinence-only sex leaves young kids and adults vulnerable to STIs because they don’t know safe sex practices. Some sexual education programs actively discourage using condoms and other contraceptives, contributing to higher risk. Studies from UNESCO and other reputable organizations have found that comprehensive sex education reduces the risk of STDs.
Comprehensive sexual education inculcates a positive attitude towards sexual and reproductive health. There’s no evidence to suggest that comprehensive sexual education increases sexual activity or other risk-taking behaviors. On the contrary, they’re effective at reducing STIs and teenage pregnancies. Studies have shown that sexual education is the most effective when it includes parents and teachers, so everyone is on the same page. Young people deserve the information and resources necessary to develop strong social and sexual relationships with their peers, which can only happen with inclusive sexual education.
Empowerment against sexual abuse and violence
Abstinence-only sex education practices often compare girls who have engaged in sexual intercourse to old shoes, crushed flowers, or other shameful euphemisms that lead to severe shame and anxiety. Promoting these ideas also shames girls and women who might experience sexual violence, making them less likely to speak up for fear of retribution or social stigma. In essence, abstinence-only programs blame women for their sexual abuse.
Comprehensive and inclusive sexual education should promote the idea that a woman’s worth isn’t linked to their sexuality or virginity. It prepares women to face the world, identify potential sexual predators, and protect themselves. Understanding these risks, without internalized stigma, encourages boys, girls, and gender-nonconforming individuals to speak up if someone violates their consent or boundaries. As such, comprehensive sexual education empowers boys and girls against sexual violence.
Sexual education can only be complete if it includes all the colors under the umbrella, encompassing all potential sexual and gender identities. Young people, regardless of how they identify, should feel represented in sexual education. That’s the only way to truly stop school bullying and ensure each child has the resources to grow into a well-developed and healthy individual with positive social and sexual relationships.