Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one's sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people.
Far too many LGBTQ youth are sitting in classrooms where their teachers and textbooks fail to appropriately address their identities, behaviors and experiences. Nowhere is this absence more clear, and potentially more damaging, than in sex education.Sex education can be one of the few sources of reliable information on sexuality and sexual health for youth. 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.1 For LGBTQ youth to experience comparable health benefits to their non-LGBTQ peers, sex education programs must be LGBTQ-inclusive. Inclusive programs are those that help youth understand gender identity and sexual orientation with age-appropriate and medically accurate information; incorporate positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, romantic relationships and families; emphasize the need for protection during sex for people of all identities; and dispel common myths and stereotypes about behavior and identity.Whether legally barred or simply ignored, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is not available for most youth. The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.2 Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12 percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.3In qualitative research conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, LGBTQ youth reported either not having any sex education in their schools or having limited sex education that was primarily or exclusively focused on heterosexual relationships between cisgender people (people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth), and pregnancy prevention within those relationships.The research also showed that LGBTQ youth have a limited number of trusted adults they feel comfortable talking with about sexual health, so they frequently seek information online or from peers. Much of the sexual health information online is neither age-appropriate nor medically accurate, and peers may be misinformed.Sex education ought to help close this gap. Both public health organizations and the vast majority of parents agree and support LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. 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.4 Sex education is a logical venue to help all youth learn about sexual orientation and gender identity, and to encourage acceptance for LGBTQ people and families. When sex education is another area where LGBTQ youth are overlooked or actively stigmatized, however, it contributes to hostile school environments and places LGBTQ youth at increased risk for negative sexual health outcomes.
These guidelines include talking to kindergartners about gender identity, using language that is inclusive of the LGBTQ community and advising youth about safe sex, masturbation, contraception, navigating relationships and recognizing signs of abuse. 2b1af7f3a8