Queering sex education in school

Nicole F. Anderson, News and Co-Managing Editor

You can tell people to not have sex but if both parties are consenting, sex is going to happen. But what do LGBTQ+ students do when they want to have safe sex and were only taught about heterosexual sex?   

In the United States, only 24 states and the District of Columbia require sex education. Of the 24 states, only 12 require sexual orientation to be discussed during sex education. Nine of which are required to be inclusive and the other three require only “negative information” on sexual orientation, according a study the Guttmacher Institute completed.

Illinois laws do not require that all school districts have sex education nor do they have to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities. If a school decides to create a sex education program for their students, then all course material must “teach honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.”

In 2015, GLSEN published a call for action titled, “A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education,” which urges policymakers, educators and advocates to take action on creating an environment for all students, especially LGBTQ+ students, that is safe and effective to learn proper safe-sex procedures, destigmatize LGBTQ+ sex and provide guidance.

For example, in Seattle, Oregon, teachers use Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) curriculum which takes different sexual health lessons and breaks them up into age appropriate lessons. Fifth graders learn about the reproductive system, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy and gender roles; middle and high school children learn about addressing gender roles, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Furthermore, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that the students surveyed felt that when reflected in curriculum and affirmed in their learning environments it can challenge the “institutional discrimination that compounds the challenges faced by at-risk youth, can shift the tide.”

However, Illinois’ law on sex education is from 1989 and is soon to change as of July 2019 with the Inclusive Curriculum Bills, SB 3249 and HB 5596, which will mandate that all public Illinois schools include diverse and inclusive textbooks for students’ education. The bills would require that a portion of education includes a “unit of instruction studying the significant role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society.”