Queer sex education is often left out whenever we discuss sexual health, sex positivity — and well, sex in general. We all know that traditional sex education is failing us all, but the LGBTQ youth in particular are disproportionately affected by this knowledge gap. It’s ignorant of the social realities and personal concerns that queers deal with about identity, their bodies, pleasure, and relationships.
While we are definitely moving forward with more and more people speaking out about issues that concern the LGBTQ community as a whole, not a lot of people know how to start talking about queer sex, especially to teens who are just starting starting to explore themselves.
The Problem with Sex Ed As We Know It
Traditional sex education has always had its roots in attempting to prevent pregnancy through abstinence and employing scare tactics. Though it has inched its way towards relative progress over the years through its inclusion of contraceptives, it still focuses on sex involving one penis and one vagina, when in fact there are a myriad of sexual experiences that don’t just revolve around this heteronormative act.
This is rooted in the misconception that sexuality is inexplicably tied to our bodies. Our notions of biology, bodies, and sexual health are informed by cultural norms more than we care to realize. Plus, the empirical nature of science helps legitimize these unfounded assumptions as absolute truth. This makes sex education a complicated topic to even begin talking about, let alone inclusively teach.
Sadly, bias is the reality of sex education as we know it. This fundamental misunderstanding of sexuality erases, stigmatizes, and in some cases, demonizes the queer community. When you omit important information about queer sex and queer identities, you are essentially invalidating the experiences of LGBTQ youth, making them feel rejected and not worthy of the chance to decide about sex and their sexualities.
If sex education is structured around misinformation and prejudice, it ultimately creates a public health issue for everyone, queer or not. Not to mention that it has a dangerously adverse impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth. Leaving them out of chances to learn how to have sex safely pushes them towards risky situations without the proper foundations, leaving them more vulnerable to negative sexual health outcomes. These include higher transmission rates of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and higher risks of sex and dating violence.
What does a Queer Sex Education look like?
The short answer is that it’s inclusive, encouraging, and judgment-free. This means expanding the pool of knowledge about sexual health and making it easily available to LGBTQ youth from all walks of life, while maintaining an affirmative environment where they’re free to explore themselves sexually in a safe and healthy way. If the sex education of the past fixated on abstinence, queer sex education must have acceptance at its core.
While sex positivity may shed a light on queer sex, this vague encouragement doesn’t necessarily lead to deeper insights, and this spells trouble when creating resources for queer sex education. Not everyone has the same experiences or relationship with sex, so the journey isn’t the same for everyone — and neither is the destination.
Related Read: Hello I’m Gay–Coming Out Again… And Again…
We have to treat queer sex education like a public health issue so we can operationalize frameworks that empower the LGBTQ youth to decide what they think about sex, how they want to have sex, and who they want to have sex with. And sometimes, that means not having sex at all.
Aside from providing more complete information about healthcare options for all the many ways to have sex, queer sex education should also include discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity. This will not only help questioning teens take steps to figure themselves out, but also encourage an attitude of acceptance for all teens of any SOGIE (straight allies included!).
Queer sex education isn’t just about sex. It’s about starting open and honest conversations that are more inclusive of everyone’s experiences. When you do this, you give more teens an opportunity to form healthy relationships with their sexual and romantic partners, with sex, their own bodies, and most importantly, themselves.