by Claire Goodman
Health is a hot topic right now, from the passionate punditry of opponents of Obamacare to the multi-billion dollar business that runs behind several health schemes across the States. It’s virtually impossible to run into a fiery controversy when the topic comes up, whether it’s an inherent fear of socialism and disintegration of the system, changing state laws regarding abortion, or Planned Parenthood. In fact, discussion of sexual health is virtually off limits in several spheres of life – whether it is in the classroom or on television. Coherent and accessible discussions regarding the subject are immediately placed into the off-limits category, and many parents strongly oppose its integration into the curriculum.
While the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped in the US, adding to empirical evidence that an increase of information available to adolescents and teenagers is having a positive impact, experts argue that there is still a long way to go. There continue to be reservations regarding the use of contraception in religious communities, both due to the anti-abortion stance and emphasis on procreating as well as pre-marital and casual sex, states medical expert Kwikmed. But even within the generic lay-out of comprehensive (vs. abstinence-only) sex education programs which can start as early as 7th grade, there remains a significant portion of the population which is often overlooked: the LGBT community. One could argue that due to various social and individual development factors, many adolescents may yet hesitate or even consider identifying themselves with this community – though the increasing openness and acceptance of same-sex relationships means that more teenagers are coming out, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals come out during university years and after. Yet equipping the emerging generations with the appropriate information, regardless of sexuality, is key.
Discussing same-sex education will not encourage people to experiment in same-sex relationships as some opponents may protest, but rather encourage an approach to sexual relations which is conscientious and safe. Many people who are discovering their sexuality or merely experimenting often find themselves in a situation where a sexual encounter is imminent and fail to raise the proper questions and take precautions, leading to potentially dangerous consequences.
Misconceptions About Same-Sex Relations and STDs
While some programs do focus on topics such as LGBT health, abuse, abortion, and STDs, these topics are not requisites on the sex education curriculum. Even within a community which is now far better informed thanks to various health campaigns which are promoted via university campuses, LGBT community organizations and health clinics, there is a significantly large misconception that LGBT members are less likely to contract certain illnesses. With the danger of accidental pregnancy taken out of the equation in a same-sex encounter, there is, for some, less pressure, but the reality revolving around the risk of contracting STDs remains virtually the same though it will vary. Within female same-sex relationships, for example, “many lesbian and bisexual women believe that only heterosexual women are likely to become infected with a sexually transmitted disease,” according to a report that focuses on this particular topic.
Opening Up Discussion
When relying on misinformation from ill-informed peers, media, religious backgrounds, specific cultures within the LGBT community, and first encounters, then a certain habitual neglect of sexual health ensues. Not only this, but sexual education as a whole in many programs also lack another fundamental core which is also applicable to the LGBT community – the treatment of gender and identity and the roles that people play in relation. Countering body image stereotypes, heteronormativity and prejudice is something which should be discussed not only by the health nurse, physical education teacher and classroom instructor, but should be formulated into a guided and open discourse among the class as a whole. This can venture into problematic themes of today’s society such as marriage equality, abortion, pressure on women to fulfill a certain physical and mental role, and the increasing misogyny under the guise of banter and accessibility of pornography which is proving harmful to younger generations.
While some of these topics may seem alarming as venues for discussion among a potentially young crowd, in reality, these are topics which among young groups have already been addressed but without the guidance of a mentor, sometimes formulating their own decisions regarding perceptions of sexual education without having the proper information. By carefully conversing and debating these issues in a safe and monitored setting, then emerging generations have a better chance of a healthier lifestyle, and the concerns of the LGBT community can be focused upon with an unbiased and inclusive perspective.