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Why I, as a gay man, was let down by my sex education at school

Why I, as a gay man, was let down by my sex education at school

A photo of writer Topher Gen - talking about sex education

‘Who can tell me what these are?’

Our teacher held a box out in front of us, shaking it vigorously.

‘Anyone?’

He left the question open to the class, his words hanging in the air.

We all knew what he was holding; it was a box of condoms, yet we sat anxiously clutching our desks. A minute later a boy yelled, ‘Rubber johnnies!’ and the class lapsed into fits of laughter whilst the teacher marched him out of the room.

Teachers had to be tough or they’d get walked all over – teens pounce on weakness. Asking a 14-year-old to stop chewing gum in class was one thing; asking them if they knew what a condom was quite another.

Ignoring LGBTI sex issues

As our first sex education class went underway I had two thoughts. The first was I’d rather be made to box at gunpoint than sit through this class. The second: why is our teacher not just skimming over the LGBT side of it, but ignoring it all together?

I felt my back stiffen every time the mechanics of sex between a man and women were discussed. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with: just don’t rub it in my face.

But what I was more confused about was why they weren’t covering the guy-on-guy, or girl-on-girl side of it?

Why was everything done by gender? Why was the teacher using such sickening cutesy-poo language? This wasn’t educating me in the slightest.

Fast-forward a decade and LGBTI-inclusive sex and relationship education isn’t yet compulsory in British schools. What’s more, sex education not only excludes LGBTI-youth, but can also promote prejudice against them.

Sex education classes currently leave LGBTI youth vulnerable

High schools can be hostile environments, particularly for LGBTI youth. This hostility can often be amplified by lack of awareness and education on same-sex relationships.

Without properly exposing teens to LGBTI-inclusive sex education classes, we run the risk of spreading ignorance, perpetuating negative stereotypes and leaving LGBTI youth vulnerable.

Right now, puberty is typically addressed in public schools by mundanely separating the genders, telling girls and boys what will happen to their bodies as they begin to grow up. But, what if you aren’t cisgender? What if you don’t identify to the sex you were born?

By excluding vital pieces of information transgender teens won’t properly learn what puberty will look for them and, more importantly, how to handle it.

Body parts do not have genders, so hearing them talked about in a way that associates them with a gender they don’t identify with can not only be upsetting, but can lead to serious health issues – both mental and psychical.

Education on puberty specifically talks about males having a penis and women a vagina. How jarring is that for a trans youth?

If they already feel uncomfortable in their own body, then that kind of language can be extremely detrimental. You don’t have a male arm or a female leg: they’re just body parts.

‘Why isn’t this a compulsory part of the curriculum?’

Schools should educate on what happens to body parts during puberty, not genders.
According to a survey published by Stonewall in early 2017, the report found that nearly half of LGBT pupils (45%) are bullied for being LGBT during school. Those figures are thankfully down on previous years, but it also found that four out of five trans young people, and three in five LGB young people self-harm during their time at school.

By denying teens LGBTI knowledge schools are effectively making the subjects seem taboo.

So, why isn’t this a compulsory part of the curriculum? The Conservative UK government cited ‘concerns’ from faith schools as one reason, but I fail to see how faith is more important than the well-being of LGBTI youth.

I refuse to believe that the heterosexual and cisgender pupils of faith schools would be shocked or their minds polluted by LGBTI-inclusive sex education classes.

Let’s be real: most teens are armed with smartphones and internet access. If they want information they can get it. So, unless those concerned parents want to start exorcising their child’s iPhone then they need to let their children be properly educated.

‘I did not choose to be gay anymore than my brother chose to be straight’

The health and safety of LGBTI youth shouldn’t be held ransom by the ‘God doesn’t like it’ mob. Sexuality is not an opinion: it is an immutable fact.

I did not choose to be gay anymore than my brother chose to be straight, yet he was afforded a more lucrative education about sex than I was.

All I took from sex education classes was how to put on a condom on various vegetables and that I couldn’t get pregnant. I spent most my high-school life thinking condoms were optional for gays. It wasn’t until I gained some traction from real-life encounters with guys that learned the real risks and dangers (also that most guys typically don’t have a cock the size of a cucumber!).

If schools refuse to add LGBTI-inclusive sex education classes, then they should fall foul to poor ratings.

@TopherJGen

See also

‘The pressure and prejudice we have about body image in the gay community is toxic’