“Since you’re gay…”
Sexualities should be taught in school, without it kids are left to educate themselves
February 16, 2017
“Well, when a man and a woman love each other very much…..” The prototypical explanation of sex for young children, the “how babies are made” talk, the beginning of a discussion on sex that will continue through the rest of the child’s school career in the form of sex ed, this one statement begins a life of being told that sex is between a man and woman.
From the first time students take a sex ed class all the way through 9th grade health, this “standard” definition of sex is drilled into kids’ minds: a man and a woman, aiming to make a baby. This mindset, however, can wind up being incredibly harmful, specifically for students who may not fit this mold, students whose sexualities don’t quite align with what they’ve been taught.
Growing up a non-straight child, I remember this image of the nuclear couple being hammered into my mind repeatedly, leaving little room for anything else. There was never a single mention of how sometimes this wasn’t necessarily the case, how sometimes a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman, and, being a queer child, this both frustrated and confused me.
It made it exponentially more difficult for me to sort out my own feelings when I was being told every day in my health class that I was biologically programmed to be with a man, that there was no kind of intimacy outside of straight couples. And I know I’m not the only kid who has faced this issue; I have had friends approach me with questions about their sexuality and about sex that could easily have been covered in a health class, but instead, we are forced to learn through less reliable means, such as each other or the Internet.
This can easily cause a spread of misinformation that can be potentially harmful to the gay community, leaving us in the dark about not only biological sex-based questions such as the spread of STDs, but also simply ignorance of other sexualities that could help teenagers more easily understand the feelings they are having.
Now, I know that this may seem as though it’s attempting to “turn kids gay” or encourage non-straight sex, but that is not the goal at all. Chances are, if a child were to hear about a certain sexuality, they would not be “turned gay” — they would simply find a label for preexisting feelings, allowing them to be more comfortable with themselves and confident in their sexuality, instead of turning being gay into this whole struggle that it currently is. Instead of grappling with the notion of not being straight, wondering if they’ve simply made up an identity, hating themselves because they have been taught over and over again that a man is supposed to be with a woman and vice versa, they could simply realize and accept who they are without the destructive part in between.
And as for encouraging gay sex, teaching about different methods of protection for same-sex couples and why they are important encourages these behaviors just as much as teaching about reproduction and STDs that can be transmitted by straight people does. Both help alleviate ignorance and assist students in avoiding harmful situations should they decide to partake in these activities, no matter their sexuality.
This alleviation of ignorance can apply to straight kids as well; many grow up with misconceptions and simple educational gaps when it comes to the gay community, as parents often don’t teach it at home and straight kids have little reason to seek out this information on their own. This just further ostracizes the LGBTQ community, making us seem abnormal and confusing because we are different and don’t quite fit what most kids know. It’s become almost expected for straight friends to inevitably ask me sexuality-based questions, whether about sex or simply about sexuality as a concept. It’s commonplace for a friend to randomly ask me rather invasive questions, prefaced with “hey, since you’re gay….” While I gladly answer such questions, being someone always willing to help provide information, it’s sad in a way to have so many people repeatedly ask me the same questions, ones that could have easily been answered in health class and thus spread to a much wider base as well. It would prevent the spread of misinformation and ignorance all-around, benefitting any student who is queer, knows a queer person, or has questions regarding queer people — meaning everyone.
Health class is meant to teach all students, not just a select group. Right now, while it does teach certain universal topics, it tends to be focused solely on straight couples. This needs to change. Health classes must cover different sexualities — what they are, what it means, and how to have safe sex outside of simply the basics. Otherwise, kids will continue to struggle in accepting themselves and each other; we simply can not do this to our children any longer. We don’t need to suppress who they are; regardless of one’s views, gay people exist and must be acknowledged, and this begins with educating our youth.