Em-URGE-ing Voices

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The Consequences of Poor Sex-Ed

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November 3, 2015

meangirlsRecently, I stumbled on a sample of the abstinence book we used in my freshman health class in high school. Beside the fact it has not changed a single bit of content since 2003, its content is completely inaccurate. It hasn’t even changed the legal definition of marriage. It also provides small glimpse into the heteronormative conditioning that our inconsistent sex-education standards brings out.

Starting with issue of even receiving some type of education, only 22 states require some type of sex-education curricula. Of those, 12 cover sexual orientation, and 9 have “no promo homo” laws that require open discrimination against queer youth. There are many school districts that also discriminate without help from their government. This fosters a hostile school and community environment for a teen who is out, considering coming out, or questioning.

Because discrimination and hate are expressly stated in many school curricula, queer teens experience higher rates of bullying. This can explain why queer youth are 4 times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than their heterosexual, cis gender counterparts. Queer teens are also 4 times more likely to have a mood disorder (depression, bipolar) or anxiety. Risk of sexual assault and rape increases based on gender identity and sexual orientation as well.

Before college, I couldn’t tell you what a dental dam was; I couldn’t even tell you how two people with vaginas have sex. Queer youth are deprived of vital information about personal health choices, and this causes higher rates of infections.

On the flip side, these same studies have found students who go to a school where queerness isn’t negatively talked about, or at least mentioned, experience the above psychological issues at a much lower rate. This kind of curriculum is what is widely considered as comprehensive (enough) education. The rates of suicide and other psychological conditions are even lower if the school provides positive and comprehensive sex-ed about sexual-orientation. While this seems like the right way to be teaching, transgender representation wasn’t found in any of the research.

What does this all mean exactly? It means that school districts are killing queer teens even if they make an attempt at being inclusive. It means when working towards comprehensive sex-ed reform, we need to fight hetero- and cis-normative tendencies. It means that despite same-sex marriage being legal, the fight is far from over.

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