LGBTQ advocates and experts have unveiled a new report detailing the harm of sex education programs that exclude LGBTQ youth.
The report, “A Call to Action: LGBTQ+ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education,” reveals that fewer than eight percent of LGBTQ youth have received sex education that is comprehensive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, according to GLSEN’s Research Institute’s National School Climate Survey. The report notes that without these teachings, LGBTQ youth, especially students of color, are more vulnerable to misinformation about their bodies, face increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, and can be subjected to anti-LGBTQ harassment in schools. Since releasing the findings, advocates have proposed solutions for creating sex education programs that comprise the LGBTQ community.
“It is essential that LGBTQ+ youth are able to not only learn but thrive in their educational settings,” Christine Soyong Harley, the CEO of SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, a sex education advocacy coalition, said in a written statement. “To make this a reality, sex education curriculum must be culturally responsive to the unique needs and realities of LGBTQ youth — and LGBTQ+ youth of color in particular — to ensure they can make informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health and future.”
In a press release, advocates said they are pushing to repeal legislation that prevents LGBTQ-inclusive sex education programs, add more safe spaces for LGBTQ students, encourage family discussions about sex and sexuality, and integrate queer sex education online and in the community. Additionally, researchers asserted that abstinence-only education is fueling anti-LGBTQ stigma in schools and reaffirming outdated gender stereotypes that prioritize heterosexual marriage and shame attraction to queer and transgender individuals.
“Young people must receive this instruction in classrooms that move beyond shame and stigma to celebrate and affirm the identities of LGBTQ+ youth to create a classroom culture that’s inclusive of all young people,” Soyong Harley said in a written statement. “Policymakers and educators must take action now to support LGBTQ+ youth through undertaking the proactive recommendations of the LGBTQ Call to Action.”
The Human Rights Campaign’s data analysis from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System notes that 23 percent of LGBTQ youth have not been taught about HIV/AIDS in schools, compared to 18 percent of non-LGBTQ youth. Sexual health experts said these disparities primarily target Black and Latinx communities, who are facing the brunt of new HIV/AIDS.
“Time and again, statistics reflect that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately impacted by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and a lack of access to LGBTQ-affirming prevention and treatment services,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement. “This is particularly true for Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth. We must address these disparities at their root — inaccurate and outdated sexual health education.”
The findings were compiled by Advocates for Youth, a non-profit promoting sexual health rights; GLSEN, an organization fighting anti-LGBTQ harassment in schools; the Human Rights Campaign; the National LGBTQ Task Force; and other LGBTQ and sexual health advocacy groups.
The report comes as Democrats in the House and Senate reintroduce the “Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act,” a bill that would reform sexual health programs and offer funds to organizations that provide LGBTQ-inclusive sex-ed. Last month, New York lawmakers and advocates called for the passage of a similar bill that would require sex education curriculum that is medically accurate, age-appropriate, and LGBTQ-inclusive for students in grades K-12.
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