Written by Yesi, RSEI Educator | Published July 1st, 2019

As youth serving professionals, educators, adults, and the wider community, we have a responsibility to provide comprehensive sex education that not only includes conversations and information about the diversity of sexuality and genders that exist, but it must also be informed by the lived realities that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth face daily. Too often LGBTQ people are left out of sex education. LGBTQ youth are not seeing themselves in examples of healthy relationships (sexual, romantic, or platonic) and they are not receiving adequate safe sex practices to make informed decision for themselves. Being left out of sexual health conversations and research has led to disproportionate risks for negative health outcomes that may affect the current and lifelong overall health of LGBTQ folks.

Whether intentional or unintentional, LGBTQ youth are shamed and stigmatized rather than being supported and connected to resources. LGBTQ youth can feel this shame and stigma when they don’t see themselves reflected in sex ed curricula as well as when the focus is only on penetrative sex and pregnancy prevention. LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable to internalized messages that frown upon any deviation from mainstream understandings of gender and sexuality. This can lead to youth developing self (internalized) stigma and a diminished ability to envision a hopeful future.

Here are three ways you can start to make your sex ed more inclusive:

  • Don’t make assumptions about how a young person identifies. Many children and teens are very sure of their identity, while others are in the process of discovering or questioning. Trust they know their own experience.
  • Remain open so that you can be approachable as an ask-able adult. Listen to what LGBTQ youth are asking and saying.  Encourage young people to express their feelings and thoughts. 
  • Gender neutralize body parts by separating gender from conversations that you are having about body parts or sexual and reproductive anatomy.
    • Here at RSEI we have shifted our language from “female” and “male” to “person with a vagina” and “person with a penis.”
    • Sex educator Dr. Nadine Thornhill does a great job of showing how this can be done in her video “Five Ways To Make Sex Ed More Queer Inclusive”. Dr. Thornhill explains how this can also be done with biological processes – instead of saying “when girls get their periods” saying “people who menstruate” or “when folks get their periods”.

Want to learn how to be a proactive ally to LGBTQ youth? Reach out today to schedule our SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Gender Expression) 201 training lesson: “Supporting LGBTQ Youth through Proactive Allyship”. To better support young people in our classrooms, youth groups, and in the larger community, we must create safe and inclusive spaces for everyone. Many LGBTQ youth navigate heteronormative assumptions in sexual health, as well as homophobic and transphobic microaggressions from their peers, family, and adults in their life. These daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights and remarks contribute to creating an environment that is unsafe and can create isolation. Through SOGIE 201 you can learn about the effects of unpacking heterosexual and cisgender biases and how these biases are linked to addressing the health needs and access to care of LGBTQ people.

For more information, check out the resources below! You can also text us your questions by sending SEXED to 57890.