Gaps in LGBTQ+ Sex Education Could Force Youth to Seek Dangerous Advice Elsewhere


According to new research from Northwestern University published in the Journal of Sex Research, young people across the country who identify as LGBTQ+ say the sex education they receive lacks essential information to make informed decisions about their sexual health, which could force them to seek potentially inaccurate or dangerous advice elsewhere.

Data from this national, peer-reviewed survey, shows among the over 800 youth aged 13 to 17 who were surveyed, most believe crucial topics surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity are lacking from sexual health-education programs.

“LGBTQ+ youth expressed a strong desire to learn more about topics related to their sexual orientation and gender identity, highlighting a critical gap in existing curricula,” Erica Szkody, a postdoctoral research associate at Northwestern University who led the data collection for the study said in a press release.

“Despite the well-known benefits of comprehensive sexual health education, the majority of school sexual health-education curricula in the U.S. is non-comprehensive and excludes LGBTQ+ students. Our analyses underscore the extent of this exclusion.”

The report notes that the commonly observed theme in answers from respondents highlighted the general absence of LGBTQ+ related content in sexual health education curricula. One anonymous respondent spoke to the invisibility of LGBTQ+ identities in sex ed saying simply, “If you are not straight, you don’t exist.”

Authors of the survey wrote that in lieu of comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education curricula, young people are likely to seek information on their own through research online, via pornography or by seeking their friends’ advice, “which can lead to reliance on potentially unreliable sources…receiving unreliable sexual health information could be life-threatening to all youth.”

The survey also gave respondents the opportunity to share their recommendations for change regarding sexual health education. They offered suggestions to add more LGBTQ+ content into sex ed programs, provide more information on diverse forms of relationships and consent. Respondents also suggested offering safe and supportive spaces to discuss LGBTQ+ specific topics, and creating more reliable, more accessible options for independent learning online or on mobile.

“I wish others understood that while the anatomy-related knowledge is important, we need sexual [health] education that is relevant to today’s world,” an anonymous respondent said. “This involves sexual [health] education [about] dangers and safety on the Internet, [same-sex/gender] relations, and education geared towards attraction and feelings rather than a lesson only [regarding] heterosexual procreation. I wish they took our real-life experiences and insecurities into account.”

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Tags: health, lgbtq, sex, sex ed, sexual education, sexual health

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