EEUU/February 08, 2021/By: Kody Harrington, Contributing Writer/Source: https://themacweekly.com/
Please be advised the following article contains discussion of suicide and homophobia.
In Trevor Project’s recent survey of LGBTQ+ youth, “40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide.” Not only do we need comprehensive sex education (CSE), but one that is LGBTQ+ inclusive. LGBTQ+ adolescents are at greater risk of adverse adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) outcomes, and there is a debate on how to approach this issue and make changes to fix the problem, though some also argue that no action is necessary. Arguments and debates concerning this issue largely revolve around which type of sex education (such as the debate between abstinence-only, comprehensive sex education and LGBTQ+ inclusive CSE) to utilize, and how to address homophobia in society. We also need sex ed that includes the queer community, as this is a great step in combating some of the discrepancies that we see in suicide rates and health outcomes. Queer inclusive sex education is what can address the gross discrepancies between LGBTQ+ adolescents and their straight peers as it pertains to ASRH outcomes.
Comprehensive sex education has been shown to improve ASRH outcomes, including those of LGBTQ+ youth. Many still worry that comprehensive and queer inclusive sex ed will harm their children. However, comprehensive sex ed has actually been shown to decrease adolescent pregnancy, lessen the spread of STDs and STIs and improve the mental health of LGBTQ+ adolescents. LGBTQ+ youth have a much higher rate of self-harm and suicide than their cisgender-heterosexual (cishet) counterparts. Acknowledging their existence within sexual education programs is a start to tackling the issue of higher suicide rates. In addition, LGBTQ+ adolescents have been shown to have higher levels of STD and STI transmission, as well as pregnancy involvement. These statistics may be shocking at first, most especially the higher pregnancy involvement, but it’s important to look at the social factors that are creating the environment for such facts to be true. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) makes it clear that “when sex education is another area where LGBTQ youth are overlooked or actively stigmatized… it contributes to hostile school environments and places LGBTQ youth at increased risk for negative sexual health outcomes.”
When a LGBTQ+ person is enrolled in a more traditional sex ed program, they are unable to easily learn about themselves and the different issues that affect them. When same-sex relations are not mentioned, LGBTQ+ adolescents may be unsure of how to approach sex in the safest ways possible. No mention of transgender individuals in sex ed leads to trans individuals not knowing about their specific healthcare and sexual needs. Ignoring LGBTQ+ youth in our sex ed programs is failing these adolescents. We need a comprehensive sex education that teaches safer sex methods for all types of sex that includes transgender issues and how these individuals can best access healthcare and talk openly about their sex and reproductive needs. We need a comprehensive sex education that talks openly of LGBTQ+ issues so queer youth know that they are accepted, normal and important. This should not be a controversial statement, rather it is one that recognizes the equality of all persons and the right of all persons to education about their bodies, healthcare needs and sexual needs.
On the other side of the sexual education debate, there are those who argue that traditional abstinence-only type programs are the programs that are best for adolescents. They believe that comprehensive sexual education, especially one that is LGBTQ+ inclusive, will lead their children to “immoral” actions such as being more likely to have sex and/or get pregnant. However, this is not true as the HRC explains how “hundreds of studies have shown that well-designed and well-implemented sex education can reduce risk behavior and support positive sexual health outcomes among teens, such as reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates.” Comprehensive sexual education doesn’t lead to worse behaviors and health outcomes, and the majority of individuals support its implementation as “eighty-five percent of parents surveyed supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in high school and 78 percent supported it in middle school,” according to the HRC. Neither majority opinion nor studies on health outcomes support traditional and abstinence-only sexual education programs; instead, they support comprehensive sexual education.
Looking at recent events in Minnesota, there is a prominent example of harmful sexual education policies. Kevin Molloy writes that “Bishops in Minnesota have adopted anti-transgender policies for Catholic schools in their dioceses that will continue to marginalize and harm the well-being of transgender students.” School policies in these Catholic schools as determined by bishops include not respecting students’ pronouns, not allowing them to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities, disallowing any gender expression that contradicts with their sex assigned at birth and of course traditional sex education that is not queer inclusive. These policies are clearly transphobic and operate on outdated beliefs. Furthermore, these policies directly lead to higher rates of depression and suicide in an already at-risk group. The bishops further state that “the consciences of students and employees will be respected with the assurance of their inviolable right to the acknowledgement that God has created each person as a unity of body and soul, male or female, and that God-designed sexual expression and behavior must be exclusively oriented to love and life in marriage between one man and one woman.” Such antiquated policies are currently in place in the state of Minnesota and are hurting LGBTQ+ students. These policies must be changed in order to protect and value all students and to address the worse ASRH outcomes that are being seen in queer youth. We must demand comprehensive sex education, paired with pro-LGBTQ+ policies in our schools.
Securing comprehensive sexual education that is LGBTQ+ inclusive is an issue that everyone should care about. LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk for suicide, depression, anxiety and bullying, but comprehensive sex ed that is inclusive of their identities would allow them to learn more about themselves while also feeling like part of society. Cisgender and heterosexual individuals learning about LGBTQ+ issues in sex ed would be great too, it would not only be educational for them, but would also make them more empathetic and accepting. Comprehensive sexual education that is LGBTQ+ lowers depression, suicide rates, anxiety and bullying, and also importantly improves the ASRH outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth. Improving health prospects for any group will ultimately improve the health of all people as health is not only a personal issue, but a societal one that impacts us all. This is why everyone should care about this pressing issue.
It’s time we stop running away from these gross discrepancies in health outcomes that we are seeing. It’s time to stop ignoring LGBTQ+ youth. The research is clear: comprehensive sexual education that is LGBTQ+ inclusive not only improves the health outcomes of youth, but also saves lives. Our LGBTQ+ youth are depending on us to improve, and improve we must. All students deserve to feel welcome and safe in school and for their identities to be valued. Stories like the Minnesota case are all too common, with many policies still in place throughout the country that are actively hurting LGBTQ+ individuals, especially LGBTQ+ adolescents. The time for queer-friendly comprehensive sexual education is now.
1 Amit Paley, “The Trevor Project National Survey 2020,” accessed December 16, 2020, https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Introduction, 1.
2 “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education” (Human Rights Campaign), accessed December 2, 2020, https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-call-to-action-lgbtq-youth-need-inclusive-sex-education, 1.
3 “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education” (Human Rights Campaign), 2.
4 “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education” (Human Rights Campaign), 2.
5 Kevin Molloy, “Minnesota Bishops’ Anti-Transgender School Policy Lacks Science, Theological Imagination,” New Ways Ministry (Kevin Molloy) https://www.newwaysministry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo_nwm-1.png, March 3, 2020), https://www.newwaysministry.org/2020/03/04/minnesota-bishops-anti-transgender-school-policies-do-har m-not-good/, 2.
6 Kevin Molloy, “Minnesota Bishops’ Anti-Transgender School Policy Lacks Science, Theological Imagination,” New Ways Ministry (Kevin Molloy), 2.
“LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.” Human Rights Campaign. Accessed December 2, 2020. https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-call-to-action-lgbtq-youth-need-inclusive-sex-education.
Molloy, Kevin. “Minnesota Bishops’ Anti-Transgender School Policy Lacks Science, Theological Imagination.” New Ways Ministry. Kevin Molloy https://www.newwaysministry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo_nwm-1.png, March 3, 2020. https://www.newwaysministry.org/2020/03/04/minnesota-bishops-anti-transgender-school-polici es-do-harm-not-good/.
Paley, Amit. “The Trevor Project National Survey 2020.” Accessed December 16, 2020. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Introduction.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.