LGBT teens need a voice in sexual education

By Mary Ma

When Cartoon Network aired Korra’s lesbian relationship with Asami in The Legend of Korra, parents lashed out at the channel, claiming it was “inappropriate” for children. The only scene to air was a kiss, much like the one Cinderella shares with Prince Charming in the G-rated movie, Cinderella. These same objections runs through many educators’ minds as they create health curriculums. We all remember the diagrams of ovaries and fallopian tubes, the grainy videos of abstinent straight couples, but most of us don’t remember a system that doesn’t assume heterosexuality, questions the gender binary and addresses LGBTQ+ relationships. Most of us don’t know a curriculum that is truly inclusive. In this rapidly changing world, sex education is stuck in the past.

It’s reasonable to assume that middle school and high school health are perfect places to introduce LGBTQ+ relationships and identities. But these issues aren’t a part of the system for a reason. There are seven states that have no promo homo laws, laws preventing the promotion of homosexuality in health education. Many of these state laws require teachers to portray the LGBTQ+ community in a negative light, to prevent kids from “becoming gay.”

Educators need to realize that being queer is not contagious. The superstition of LGBTQ+ people being “infected” is very present in our society, especially in media. By this logic there shouldn’t be a LGBTQ+ community at all. Despite being force-fed pop culture portraying only straight, cisgender characters all their childhood, gay kids are still gay, trans kids are still trans. This misconception and lack of representation only serves to tell these kids that what they are feeling is wrong.

For many students struggling with gender and sexual identity, school is an everyday battlefield.

So, what happens to these kids? For many students struggling with gender and sexual identity, school is an everyday battlefield. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that lesbian, gay, or bisexual U.S. teens were bullied on school property three times more often than their straight peers. LGBTQ+ students face this vicious social situation alongside confusion about identity, relationships and other topics for which straight kids have an arsenal of resources. Fighting both institutional and social rejection, it’s no wonder that LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide.

Media and society are already unfriendly to the queer community. Lack of inclusion in health education is salt on the wound. As a confused teen, I remember how alienated I felt in middle school, where not even the school curriculum that constantly preached about diversity acknowledged my existence. I remember how afraid I was of my classmates knowing, of my teachers knowing. Schools need to teach every teen about remaining safe and healthy. Stop the silent suffering of queer teens.

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