- Queer sex is rarely part of the conversation in sex education classes, even for schools that teach beyond abstinence.
- Insider spoke to Dr. Sara C. Flowers of Planned Parenthood and Gina Desiderio of The Healthy Teen Network about LGBTQ sex facts commonly left out of sex ed classes.
- There are also many issues that don’t pertain directly to sex, like dating violence, emotional abuse, and how to come out to your family members, that should be taught in schools.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Comprehensive sex education in the US has been a point of contention for decades, with former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders even being asked to resign from her post in 1991 for endorsing sex education and masturbation.
While some states have moved away from an abstinence-only curriculum, only 29 states mandate some kind of sex education curriculum.And the problem of proper sex education is even worse for LGBTQ teens.
According to Dr. Sara C. Flowers, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, only 9 states and the District of Columbia include LGBTQ-inclusive sex education in their curriculum.
“Queer young people are often left out of the conversation altogether,” Flowers told Insider. “This can result in a lot of misinformation about their identities, bodies, and health â€” leaving them without the skills or resources they need to have healthy relationships or safe sex, if and when they make that decision.”
Gina Desiderio, director of communications for The Health Teen Network, told Insider that not only does this do a disservice to LGBTQ youth, it actually worsens their mental health.
“Research shows that LGBTQ+ young people report disproportionate experiences of depression, bullying, and feelings of unsafety at school â€” and these experiences are even more common among LGBTQ+ youth of colour,” Desiderio said. “However, queer youth that do receive inclusive sex education are less likely to feel unsafe and report lower levels of victimization because of their identity.”
Insider compiled a list of the most critical queer sex education facts left out of the classroom.
Some people using hormones aren’t sure what protection to use, but there are some creative solutions.
Barriers like condoms are not just used to prevent pregnancy. They serve an important role in preventing the spread of STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
According to Flowers, they should be used regardless of you or your partner’s genitalia. However, oftentimes condoms are framed as the only option. Dental damns, latex gloves, and other alternatives can better suit the needs of different people.
“If you or your partner has an enlarged clitoris from taking testosterone, you can create a barrier method using a latex glove by cutting off the fingers and placing it over the clitoris, or by cutting the glove or a condom into a dental dam that leaves extra space in the thumb for the clitoris,” Flowers said.
Even if you’re performing non-penetrative sex, these kinds of barriers should be used.
Use barriers on your sex toys as well.
Barriers are important even if you’re using a sex toy on a partner.
If you use sex toys on multiple people (like yourself and your partner), putting a condom on them can help keep everyone involved safe.
“Condoms can also be used on sex toys to reduce the chance of passing STIs between partners,” Flowers said.
You can still get pregnant even if you or your partner are taking gender-affirming hormones.
Sometimes, trans and non-binary people undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and take gender-affirming hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
While these hormones change the body, affect fertility and even eliminate periods for some, they are not a form of birth control. People on HRT can still get pregnant or impregnate another person.
“People taking gender-affirming hormones like testosterone and estrogen can still become involved in a pregnancy,” Flowers said. “To prevent pregnancy, consider non-hormonal birth control options, including the copper IUD or barrier methods like external or internal condoms, which still work while taking gender-affirming hormones.”
There is a difference between gender, sex assigned at birth, and sexuality.
While the LGBTQ+ umbrella is often talked about as one entity, there is a distinct difference between gender, sex, and sexuality.
Gender refers to how someone identifies, whether that be man, woman, or another gender, whereas biological sex is the gender you were assigned at birth due to characteristics like genitalia.
Sometimes, our gender doesn’t correspond to the sex we were assigned at birth. Being transgender refers to a difference between someone’s assigned sex and their gender.
Being trans doesn’t say anything about someone’s sexuality. Sexuality refers to what types of people someone is attracted to. For example, women who are attracted the other women may identify as lesbians, regardless of what sex they were assigned at birth.
Intersex people exist, and are more common than redheads.
Being intersex refers to people who are born with physical characteristics like genitalia that do not fit into our definitions of what it means to be biologically female or male.
The physical characteristics of an intersex person can look a variety of ways; it is an umbrella term for people whose bodies fall outside the sex binary in some way.
Historically, forced surgeries would be performed on intersex children to make them fit into the male or female category, though that is now falling out of favour.
Sex toys are a valid part of sex, and which ones you pick are important.
Sex toys can be used in all kinds of sex, regardless of gender or sexuality, but they are especially common in queer sex. According to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 78% of queer men use sex toys.
Sex toys can make sex more satisfying for both you and your partner (or partners). Learning how to choose the right ones for you is important.
Tops, bottoms, and switches are all valid preferences for having sex.
In queer sex, top and bottom can refer to sexual preferences.
While being a top, bottom, or verse can look different for each person, at their core, they refer to the exchange of power during sex.
Tops generally like to take the more active role in sex and being the person “doing,” whether that be penetrating, giving oral sex, or other sexual acts. Bottoms generally like to be the person “receiving,” whether that be getting penetrated, receiving oral sex, or being at the getting end of other sexual acts.
Versatiles, which make up the majority of queer people, generally prefer to switch in the power dynamics, sometimes giving, other times receiving. Some verse people do lean towards the top or bottom end of the spectrum.
There’s more prep to anal sex than porn would have you believe.
In porn, anal sex can look like a breeze. No lube, no prep, just spontaneous sex.
While some people can have spontaneous anal sex, this isn’t the case for many people. Anal sex takes preparation beforehand for the person who is receiving or being penetrated.
Experts recommend using the restroom to poop 30 to 60 minutes before you have sex in order to clear your bowels and prevent any accidents. After you use the restroom, you should take a shower and wash the area thoroughly.
If you want, you can also use an enema, which can provide a deeper clean by flushing your rectum with warm water.
After you prepare the area, make sure to use plenty of lube and protection.
You don’t need to have sex to know if you’re queer.
Queer teens can know they are queer before ever having sex in the same way straight teens can know they are straight before having had sex.
If you are bisexual and have only had sex with someone of another gender, it does not invalidate your attraction to people of the same gender or your queerness.
You can get STIs even if you aren’t having penetrative sex.
STIs can impact all kinds of sex, not just penetrative sex. That’s why it is important to use protection with people, even if you are not having penetrative sex.
Dental dams, female condoms, and even saran wrap can be used as a barrier to make oral sex or anal rimming more safe.
‘Losing your virginity’ isn’t necessarily penetration between a penis and a vagina — it can look like many things.
Oftentimes, sex and losing your virginity is framed as having penetrative sex between cisgender man with a penis and cisgender woman with a vagina.
But sex and losing your virginity can look like a variety of ways for people and certainly doesn’t have to involve penetration.
In addition to penetrative sex being centered, sex in many sex ed classes is oftentimes from as a means to an end to have a child. Not only does this undermine the importance of pleasure in cisgender heterosexual sex, it completely erases many queer people who cannot have sex that results in a pregnancy.
“Too often, sex education casts all adolescent sexual activity in the narrowest, most sex-negative of lights: potentially dangerous at best, and catastrophic at worst,” Desiderio told Insider. “This failure to integrate sex positivity matters to queer and straight, cisgender young people alike.”
Desiderio told Insider instead educators should be openly talking about pleasure in the context of sex.
“Having frank, open conversations about sexual pleasure acknowledges people have sex for reasons other than reproduction, affirming the identities of LGBTQ+ people too often erased by curricula infatuated with the nitty-gritty details of when sperm meets egg,” Desiderio said.
It’s important to be aware that homophobia and transphobia can drive low self-esteem. And that can affect relationships.
According to Flowers, dating violence is oftentimes mentioned in the context of cisgender and straight relationships, but it’s crucial for LGBTQ youth to understand dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identity, presentation, or sexual orientation.
In fact, because LGBTQ people are at risk of being rejected by their family and facing homophobia or transphobia in their day to day life, they are more at risk of falling into toxic relationships.
“LGBTQ+ young people deserve sex education that helps them learn how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, teaches them about consent, and lets them know they deserve to be supported if they are in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship,” Flowers told Insider.
These are some good techniques to consider when coming out to your family.
While the decision to come out differs from person to person, having the proper language to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity is necessary for a young LGBTQ person to talk to their family.
“Including tips for coming out about gender identity or sexual orientation in classroom instruction is one way to de-centre heteronormative relationships and ensure all young people are getting what they need from sex education,” Flowers said.
Here are some tips Flowers suggested that can make you feel more comfortable and prepared:
- Choose a private location
- Plan what you’re going to say ahead of time
- Prepare for questions about your sexuality or gender identity
Pay attention to politics. Race, gender, ability, and class all affect your access to sexual health.
The way we have sex, and access sexual healthcare, can be greatly impacted by our gender, sexuality, or race. For example, HIV/AIDs still disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx queer men in the United States.
That’s why it’s important to understand the challenges you personally face in life, beyond in the bedroom, according to Desiderio.
“These factors combined affect the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming youth, as evidenced by high rates of attempted and completed suicide, unplanned pregnancies, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection diagnoses,” Desiderio said.
At school, Desiderio says, there should be open discussions about each child’s identity, so they can be prepared for oppression and the barriers they may face in life.
“Institutions organised for the dominant population too often marginalize, ignore, or erase the LGBTQ+ experience and queer sex,” Desiderio said. “Young people face vast systemic inequities and structural barriers to ensuring their health; affirming, inclusive sex education is one way we can support and empower young people to thrive.”