The Importance of Queer Sex Education
Author: Jasper Ryan (He/Him)
October 23rd, 2020
Section One: Social Issue Identification
If one were to look around at the average health class taught in the United States, one critical piece would be missing: coverage of LGBTQ+ related sex education topics. Instead of queer teenagers receiving informative sex education, often times “no promo-homo” laws and curriculum are put in place instead, which fosters an unsafe environment for gay teenagers, and quote, “leave[s] them without the information they need to protect their sexual health, putting them at greater risk for STDs, pregnancy, and unhealthy or abusive relationships.” (Planned Parenthood). Currently, only 12 states require curriculum to include LGBT sex ed (Sager), while 49 states still have anti-gay curriculum laws (Rosky).The status quo regarding sexual education encourages homophobia, as The Outline states in an article detailing the social effects of these laws. “GLSEN has conducted research on no-promo homo laws. Its report, which pulls from several data sources, including a survey of LGBTQ students, a survey of secondary teachers, and the CDC’s 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, concludes that LGBTQ students in states with no-promo homo laws have worse experiences than students in states without such laws. Specifically, [the report found] that students in those states are less likely to find peers that are accepting of LGBTQ people, more likely to hear homophobic remarks, and more likely to face harassment and assault at school.” (Valeii). While this is primarily an issue within conservative areas, this pressing issue has run across the States for decades, which is why it is crucial to take action now and end this cycle.
Sources: (Planned Parenthood), (The Atlantic), (The Outline), (Columbia Law Review)
Section Two: Overview of Events Timeline
The history behind LGBT sex education started being documented in the 1960’s, with the rise of the Religious Right’s campaign toward a more Christian America. By 1978, their organizations had paved a way for Anita Bryant to begin the first coalition towards an anti-gay curriculum. In 1981 Reagan introduced funding for this movement, specifically towards “abstinence until marriage” education, which discouraged homosexual behavior as it could not exist within a legal marriage. However, with the 80’s amplifying the HIV and AIDs crisis Dr. Koop recognized the need for education on these subjects, and shocked the public as well as government officials by releasing a report in 1986 that advocated for the education of STDs and homosexual relationships as early as third grade. Three years later in 1989 the chair of a school board passed a “policy that prohibited any instruction or counseling that had “the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.”” (Rosky). As a response, students wore armbands and buttons and organized the cities first queer rights rally at the school and ultimately got the policy repealed. Over a decade later, Washington state passed the Healthy Youth Act, which mandated equality in sex education regarding race, gender, sexuality, and disability. In 2009, after his electoral success, Obama set to repeal all of Reagan’s abstinence funding programs, and any subsequent funding, but was unsuccessful. In 2012, Minnesota students settled a lawsuit regarding a local school board's policy of prohibiting discussion of sexual orientation, which violated the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX. More recently, in 2019 parents took to the streets of California in protest of the new curriculum which included discussion of gender identity (Salahieh and Abovian). As of 2020, California is the only state in which all “no promo homo” laws have been repealed.
Sources: (PFAW), (Columbia Law Review), (KTLA), (Planned Parenthood)
Section Three: Differing Viewpoints
In regards to both Planned Parenthood and the Religious Right, Planned Parenthood has been more successful in its endeavors. While the Religious Right was much more effective during and prior to the 1980s, more recently the general public has turned to scientific research rather than objective morality when deciding upon laws and curriculum plans. Because Planned Parenthood is able to provide scientific and medical reasoning behind their motives, they have surpassed the Religious Right and convinced a majority of the public to vote in favor of their quest towards LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education.
Sources: (Planned Parenthood), (Georgetown University Press)
Section Four: Solution and Reflection
In order to foster a more welcoming community as well as solve sexual health crisis’ within the queer community, it is necessary to first repeal the existing “no promo-homo” laws currently in effect. Secondly, in order to create essential change, activists, leaders, and educators must gather together and push for LGBT inclusive sexual education curriculum. If these communities advocated for America to follow in California’s footsteps and children were taught these subjects from an early age, the rates of hate crimes, suicides, STDs and bullying would decrease significantly, as backed by Hannah Slater of American Progress (Slater). At best, if change is not created the status quo will remain and LGBT children and teenagers will go without needed knowledge. At worst, the country will revert back to its roots of homophobia and hatred.
Source: (Center for American Progress)
Within my research, I've come to the realization that history is not as beautiful as it is painted. While many people romanticize the 80’s, it was a time of devastation for the queer community. Repeated attacks occurred on our rights and the government justified it under the guise of morality. However, despite this bleak past I understand that my role is to be an educator, a leader, and an activist. Through learning about these laws and practices from the past and present, I have concluded that it is vital for each and every person to educate themselves and broaden their point of view. Hate is taught, so by informing others of our histories mistakes and by rallying behind greater change each and every one of us can make a difference within our society.
Deckman, Melissa M. “School Board Battles : the Christian Right in Local Politics.” Internet Archive, Washington, D.C. : Georgetown University Press, 1 Jan. 1970, archive.org/details/schoolboardbattl0000deck.
“‘No Promo Homo’ Laws.” GLSEN, www.glsen.org/activity/no-promo-homo-laws.
Parenthood, Planned. “Sex Education Laws and State Attacks.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/sex-education/sex-education-laws-and-state-attacks.
Rosky, Clifford. “ANTI-GAY CURRICULUM LAWS.” Columbia Law Review, 27 Oct. 2017, columbialawreview.org/content/anti-gay-curriculum-laws/.
Sager, Jeanne. “How Some Schools Are Making Sure Sex Ed Is Relevant to LGBT Youth.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 17 July 2017, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/the-power-of-inclusive-sex-ed/533772/.
Salahieh, Nouran and Ellina Abovian. “California Parents Protest New Controversial Sex Education Guidance.” KTLA, KTLA, 17 May 2019, ktla.com/news/parents-to-protest-new-controversial-sex-education-guidance-state-wide/.
Slater, Hannah. “LGBT-Inclusive Sex Education Means Healthier Youth and Safer Schools.” Center for American Progress, 28 June 2013, www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbtq-rights/news/2013/06/21/67411/lgbt-inclusive-sex-education-means-healthier-youth-and-safer-schools/.
“Teaching Fear: The Religious Right's Campaign Against Sexuality Education.” People For the American Way, 16 Jan. 2017, www.pfaw.org/report/teaching-fear-the-religious-rights-campaign-against-sexuality-education/.
Valeii, Kathi. “LGBTQ Students Suffer When Schools Leave Gender out of Sex Education.” The Outline, The Outline, 23 July 2018, theoutline.com/post/5503/lgbtq-students-suffer-when-schools-leave-gender-out-of-sex-education?zd=1.