The “J” Agenda: LGBT+ sex-education should be required to promote understanding reduce health risks

Emma J Nelson, Opinion Editor

During my time at Tualatin High School, I have had a teacher approach me on multiple occasions to ask what the 10 letters in LGBTTQQIAAP stand for, which was my first sign that there was a severe lack of familiarity with the community as a whole by some members of our staff, though I could hardly blame them. I didn’t know the terms either. Upon researching them I was surprised by some of the terms I found: identities that I, a member of this community, had never heard of, especially not in a school setting.

According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network2013 National School Climate Survey, less than 5 percent of surveyed LGBT students stated that they attended health education classes that displayed a positive representation of same-sex relationships. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) goes as far as to report that a limited 12 percent of surveyed millennials in 2015 had sex-ed curriculum that even mentioned those who identify as queer.

By informing the youth of America of only one sexual behavior that is systematically approved by the school district not only endangers the mental health of closeted (or out) LGBT students, but can threaten their physical health as well due to a lack on information on topics as simple as STD-preventative contraception and methods of saying “no” to potential partners.

According to HRC, if current diagnosis rates of HIV continue, approximately 1 in 6 queer men in America will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, and this is largely due to a lack of knowledge on STD-preventative measures among youth.

Tualatin High School’s health curriculum does not inherently discriminate against LGBT students, as most of the topics are ambiguous. For example, discussion of what constitutes a healthy relationship is not stated to be between a man and a woman. However, the videos displayed discussing serious topics such as consent, in my experience, have only displayed heterosexual couples. Just because a program doesn’t state that your rights shouldn’t be protected in a same-sex relationship, it doesn’t mean that the program is promoting equality in subjects like consent. It’s just refusing to comment.

I don’t think that there should be separate curriculum from the graduation-required health classes, such as an elective class, either. Heterosexual students should be taught LGBT sex-education as well, just like men should be taught the reproductive process of women and vice versa. Individuals’ limited exposure to such topics breeds a lack of understanding in the future.

According to Kathy Hollamon, PE and health teacher, the school’s health curriculum has begun to include inclusive vocabulary, such as “gender identity” and “gender expression” as of September 2019. While this is a great start, I’d be curious to know how many individuals who have attended a sex-ed class in their freshman year can tell me what all the letters of LGBT+ stand for and what each term means. Hell, I don’t even know them by heart, but I was never taught that I should.

Tualatin High School is clearly making efforts to have an inclusive health class, and the curriculum is better than most, but it still leaves a lot to be desired by the young LGBT student seeking recognition.