It's common knowledge that American sexual education is sorely lacking, so while public policy makers and educators attempt to shape up the system, how can they design a LGBTQ inclusive sex ed program? A recent article by Think Progress asks this very question, suggesting that one way to combat prejudice and foster solidarity is to introduce kids to the full spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations early on.
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, LGB students are 91 percent more likely to be bullied than their cisgender/heterosexual peers, beginning as early as the fifth grade. Those statistics don't even address the variety of issues that young trans people face, including high rates of suicide, which only further underscores the fact that sexual education needs to come to the rescue of both the bullied and the bullies.
While there are already a variety of unique sex ed programs across the country that succeed in imparting empathy and knowledge beyond the basic birds and bees, these beacons of sex positive learning are few and far between. Here are five ways that American sex ed could be made more inclusive of LGBTQ issues:
1. Address Diverse Family Structures
Just as it's important to make note of single parent homes and adoption, it's also crucial that sex ed doesn't assume a cis, hetero, two-person, married household when talking to children about what makes a family or a valid partnership.
2. Talk About The Gender Identity Spectrum
Whether you identify as genderfluid, masculine-of-center, butch, femme, or whatever, children should be taught that gender expression is a separate identity from their sexual orientation.
3. Talk About Sexual Orientation
As Think Progress suggests, it's vital children understand sexual orientation not in terms of gay and straight but in terms of a continuum. "Bi-erasure" happens too often, and for young people questioning their sexuality, learning that there are viable options beyond the binary can be life-changing.
4. Have A Dialogue About Trans Issues
With all the representations of trans folks in the media, from I Am Jazz to Transparent and I Am Cait, children today are exposed to trans issues through a variety of channels. An inclusive sex ed program would use this kind of media to broach discussions about the transgender community and coming out as trans.
5. Discuss Relationships Beyond Monogamy
Depending on their age and grade, children should ideally be introduced to different ways people can interact and love each other as they begin to have romantic relationships of their own. While sex ed shouldn't promote one type of arrangement over another, even a brief discussion about the ways monogamy is socially constructed could allow children to choose their own form of relationships in life, instead of letting society do it for them.
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