The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced plans this month to launch a coordinated campaign to bring LGBTQ-inclusive sex education to queer youth across the country. These efforts are likely to include digital resources for LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum plans, and efforts to kick start renewed national conversations on the value of sex education that reflects the needs of all young people.
All other things being equal, LGBTQ youth are often more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Faced with societal norms of heterosexuality and often pressured by peers, LGBTQ youth often engage in sex without much guidance, often failing to use protection. As a result, lesbian and bisexual young women have twice the risk of unintended teen pregnancy as their peers, HIV rates are climbing among youth gay and bisexual men, and transgender youth are often provided conflicting, inaccurate information on sex and gender identity.
It’s exactly this knowledge gap that PPFA and the HRC Foundation have identified and committed to closing.
As HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador Thomas Davis told The Boston Globe: “It’s not right for people to limit the knowledge that students can receive. When I’m not given information, I’m forced to learn on a trial and error basis, and there are some errors that you really can’t fix.”
Despite their good intentions, PPFA and the HRC Foundation face an uphill battle. In the United States, only 22 states mandate some form of sex education, only 12 of which require instructors to even say the phrase “sexual orientation.” Perhaps even more unfortunately, only nine of those 12 states require teachers to be inclusive of LGBTQ youth who might find themselves in their classes.
Jay Robinson-Lynch, former HIV Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, echoes Davis’s claims that offering students LGBTQ-inclusive sex education does anything more than prepare LGBTQ youth for long, healthy lives.
“Before we had a gay rights movement, people sat in isolation wondering what was wrong with them.” He continued: “By telling them that who they are attracted to is normal, all of a sudden a child feels that can be in school and be engaged and be OK. When you remove shame, you build a healthy individual.”