Camilla Collingsworth, Sidwell Friends '15

I remember when I began to learn about pregnancy, STDs, and everything else that comes with the territory of sex. My grade had begun to embark on its journey of the 7th grade science sex-ed curriculum. At the beginning of the unit, my science teacher announced to the class that the unit would be inclusive. Apparently, this meant that when we talked about HIV/AIDS, it would be emphasized that the virus infects many men who have sex with other men (MSM), and that at one point, a dental dam would be waved around in the air, and then put aside.

I was not told during my freshman year of high school that the mandatory sex ed class I would be taking was all-inclusive. It still was pretty progressive in that the information we were being given was medically accurate—only thirteen states require this—and abstinence was not emphasized as the most reasonable form of birth control. It was mentioned again that there are a disproportionate amount of MSM who are infected with HIV/AIDS. There was an assumption that everybody in the room was going to have sex, and everybody was going to have sex with somebody of the opposite sex. Any ideas that deviated from this assumption were, at most, tangents.

I’m not going to write this as if the lack of representation deeply affected me—it didn’t, although I do not intend to speak for everybody when I say this. Once I realized I had a hilariously rudimentary understanding of how to stay safe and healthy as a gay person, all it really took to catch up to my peers was an internet connection and about an hour of my time. I suppose I was a little bit annoyed by the fact that I had to be proactive in learning how to keep myself safe, but inconvenience is hardly the primary part of this issue. Non-inclusive sex-ed sends the message that people in the LGBTQIA+ community are abnormal, and (however unintentionally) promotes the idea that less-common sexual identities are unworthy of acknowledgement. Only twelve states (not including DC, Maryland, or Virginia) require that sex education must include a discussion of sexual orientation, and of those twelve, three states require that said discussions must regard non-heterosexual orientations negatively. Eight states have instituted “no homo promo” education laws, which essentially mean that teachers cannot talk about homosexuality, and absolutely, under no circumstances, can they imply that being gay is a good thing. Of course, this leads to mentally exhausting environments for LGBTQIA+ students.

Sex is, for a majority of the population, an integral part of the human experience. I think the reason why so many schools teach sex ed is because these schools believe that knowing about how to safely have sex—or, in some regions of the country, knowing to absolutely never have sex outside of marriage—is a right that students have. Just like marriage, being able to visit your loved one in the hospital, not getting fired for your sexual orientation, or joint child custody, education about sex should not be a strictly heterosexual privilege. By teaching inclusively in sex-ed settings, you are not only affirming the identities of LGBTQIA+ students and contributing to everybody’s long-term sexual health, you are teaching and contributing to equality.