We need to do better: Abstinence-plus sex ed is most effective when it’s inclusive
By Eva Rangel
This is Texas, and education, like many things, is politicized, but our health and choices regarding our own bodies should not be. It’s not fair for us, as young people, to be taught from curricula that waste resources emphasizing abstinence-only. It’s unrealistic and damaging to withhold information regarding sexual health rather than allowing us to receive it from trusted sources. We are the future - why shouldn’t the future be healthy?
I received almost all my sex education while attending schools in San Antonio’s North East Independent School District. It was obvious that sex ed wasn’t a priority for any teacher who taught it to me. While relationships, STIs, contraceptives, and condoms were discussed to a decent length, consent and LGBTQ+ topics were rarely, if ever, talked about. Although the content of my sex ed qualified as abstinence-plus, elements of shame and fear remained.
In my experience with non-inclusive sex ed, I noticed a major emphasis on abstinence with abhorrent judgments made about people who didn’t wait. Relationships were always discussed in a heteronormative manner, and when sex was brought into those discussions, there was often an effort to instill in us the fear that sex would always lead to an STI. Due to this, contraceptives and condoms were loosely touched on and presented as unnecessary because youth shouldn’t be having sex.
While I wish I’d learned more about contraceptives because I am likely to use them, I most certainly wish I had learned more about LGBTQ+ topics. It would have benefited me to understand of LGBTQ+ issues and experiences. Inclusive sex ed would’ve made me, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, feel more comfortable with myself as well.
To me, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed means making such an important part of someone’s life less taboo. It is crucial for LGBTQ+ youth to have access to information that will keep them safe. It means allowing young people to know what is healthy for not only their bodies but their relationships, too. It means lessening the vignette of discomfort LGBTQ+ youth have about sex and allowing people who are not a part of the community to be more open and understanding of LGBTQ+ people. There is nothing wrong or immoral about teaching something that will only benefit the health of all our youth.
Being an advocate for sex education access means fighting for an opportunity that everyone deserves. Sexual health is just as important as general health - it’s a part of it. I would like policymakers to understand that we are not toddlers. If we are competent enough to take standardized tests and to make decisions regarding our future, we are most certainly competent enough to receive comprehensive, inclusive, and medically accurate sex ed. As a stakeholder, I am calling on policymakers to push for in-depth lessons about contraceptives, consent language, and to include LGBTQ+ topics such as how gender identity and sexual orientation affect contraceptive use, consent, and relationships.
Eva Rangel is a member of the Healthy Futures Youth Advocacy Council and a native of San Antonio. She is currently a junior at a magnet school that focuses on global citizenship, and sex education is just one of the many things she advocates for. Her other political passions include mental health and immigration. Despite a deep dedication to her studies and work, Eva also enjoys flexing her creative muscle by creating visual art and playing music. She is a person of many talents!