Community + Activism / School

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“How can I ask my school to include LGBTQ health and sex education in classes?”

Question Submitted by Anonymous

Dana Says:

Hey! So I love love love that you want to get LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed in your school because a lot of the time, this doesn’t really cross the minds of our educators—or even us as LGBTQ people! I know that as an 8th grader in an introductory health class, I had absolutely no idea what a “dental dam” was and I probably wouldn’t have known about it in my 10th grade health class either if I hadn’t already searched it up. In any case, LGBTQ individuals deserve inclusive sex ed, so damn it, we’ve gotta try our best to get it.

Before you ask your school to get an LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed curriculum, you need to have all your arguments, evidence, etc in order, so I’ve compiled a badass list (if I do say so myself) to help you do so!

Evaluate the current state of your health curriculum
Odds are that if your school is enforcing abstinence-only education, they’re probably not going to be so keen on considering LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed. You can do this by simply asking health students what they have learned, or referring to your old health notes if you have already taken the class. If your school is able to educate students about the ol’ penis-in-vagina method, then they should be able to teach them about other forms of sex as well.

Check up on your state’s standard health education curriculum
Go online to your state’s department of education website to find out whether your school is actually following the state guidelines. This has the potential to contribute a lot to your argument for LGBTQ-inclusive health classes; if the state says LGBTQ-inclusivity is the standard health curriculum, then why isn’t your school’s health curriculum up to par? If you find that your school is indeed failing to follow the guidelines, you should TOTALLY take that information to your state’s Board of Education.

Gather some queer-er data!
A great way to see what your health curriculum specifically needs is by asking your queer peers what they want to learn. Maybe they want to learn about anal sex, or oral sex, or the different ways you can protect yourself from STI’s when in a same-sex relationship, because oftentimes a lot of us queers have no clue how to go about understanding all of that. So ask away!

Gather your troops
By this, I mean gather a few of your friends who are just as passionate about the cause so you can set up a meeting with your health teachers and/or the administration to talk about it. If you know any supportive parents or faculty who will join you in setting this meeting up, that will definitely add much-needed fuel to the fire!

Start a petition, get attention!
If the administration refuses to meet with you, start a petition among your student body, and perhaps even reach out to the local news outlets. Go nuts!

Ask LGBTQ health-related questions
If you’re asking questions that require answers, your teacher(s) will be forced to come up with an answer (or find that they lack one entirely). More often than not, health teachers don’t have enough knowledge on safe sex to provide students with accurate answers. In the asking, you’ll either be getting more information for all of your peers, or alerting your teacher to the fact that they need to learn more about LGBTQ issues!

Take matters into your own hands
You can’t teach in your school because you probably don’t have any kind of teaching degree, but you can reconvene with your troops and study up on as much you can find about LGBTQ sexual health. If the teachers aren’t going to teach, then you are going to have to spread the word about safe, sane, and consensual queer sex (say that five times fast!) as best as you can. Laci Green on YouTube, Autostraddle, Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon, Scarleteen, and even your state’s LGBTQ research center (if you have one) are all great resources to get you started btw! Rather than proclaiming “the prostate gland is often found in AMAB (assigned male at birth) individuals and can be a major pleasure center if stimulated!” down a crowded hallway, educate on smaller levels, like at a GSA meeting. A lot of the kids who want/need LGBTQ-inclusive health education are probably already in the school GSA.

When playing GSM (Gender/Sexual Minority) Jeopardy with my school GSA, I slip in a lot of random LGBTQ health facts so they learn something in a fun and lighthearted environment. For example, one of the questions was “What is a dental dam (or what I like to call, a dental “damn” ;D), and how is it used?” Because none of them knew, I ended up explaining what it was and its purpose, which definitely opened up their eyes to the world of STIs and sexual safety. Smaller-scale things like this definitely make a big difference if your school is consistently refusing to incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.

Last but not least, be patient yet still persistent
A lot of school officials aren’t as ready and willing as you are to get an LGBTQ-inclusive health curriculum for a multitude of reasons. The administration may be afraid of angry parents demanding why their teenager came home wanting to know more about safe anilingus, or the administration could be controlled by the state government, making it even more difficult to alter the curriculum, or perhaps they’re just not supportive of anything LGBTQ-related. The bottom line is, stay patient and stay persistent.

If all else fails, civil disobedience in the form of a sit-in at your school could definitely raise some eyebrows (and probably some blood pressures). That’s just my personal endgame, though, haha. Anyway, best of luck!

***

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“The work you guys do with Everyone is Gay is an on the ground, active, accessible application of queer and feminist theories. That is fucking awesome. How do you reconcile the work you do with the theory side of things which in academia can be SO theoretical, intellectual, and jargon bound that it oftentimes seems to exist more for itself rather than any real world application? As someone who struggles to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical I find this endlessly frustrating.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

A big part of me wants to scream ‘THANK YOU FOR NOTICING.’ Another part of me wants to scream ‘WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DO IT THO?!!’

I struggle with this because I don’t come from an academic background. At all. I just straight up don’t understand most queer and feminist theory. I do, however, understand that the world around us has a massive impact on how we see ourselves and how we treat others. That’s a life experience I chose for myself. I decided to step back and examine why I felt so grossly uncomfortable in dresses and why I felt even more uncomfortable saying I didn’t want to wear dresses. I took the time to realize that I’d spent my growing up only seeing one type of family on TV and in movies and in magazines. That’s how I realized “holy shit, of course I feel weird wanting to marry a girl, I have never even seen it HAPPEN!!” I lived so much life feeling like being a feminist was gross and embarrassing and it took year to realize that simply thinking it was embarrassing was the exact reason it was so necessary.

It’s so hard to explain. I think if you took every queer and feminist theory and broke it down, you’d realize that what’s being said is, “we all deserve the same rights. The right to love who we want, the right to dress how we want, the right to explore sexuality the way we want, the right to the same careers, the right to feel safe when we’re alone at night, the right to voice our opinions, the right to speak up when we have been disrespected, the right to live life to the fullest and not be torn down. BUT Y’ALL we don’t all have those rights and that is fucked up, so let’s talk about why and where it came from…”

I think we can all agree and I think we all wanna make a change, sometimes it’s hard to talk about with big words, though, I’ll be real.

Kristin Says:

God I LOVE this question.

Unlike Dannielle, I was heavily immersed in feminist and queer theory when we began Everyone Is Gay – I was about a third of the way through getting my queer-theory focused Masters Degree, in fact. At that point, I felt just like you, Anonymous. How in holy hell would I ever be able to take what I was reading and make it accessible? How would the things I saw happening in real-time be affected by the piles of words I was sifting through by Kristeva, Foucault, Butler, and the rest of the theory-crew? I felt at once fascinated and passionate about the way my brain was being cracked open through the readings and the class discussions and overwhelmed and distraught at how to take it outside of those classrooms.

Everyone Is Gay was the place where I learned that the brain-cracking affect of all of those theories was the exact point of those theories. I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old who was scared and angry and start with, “well, you see, gender is performative so what you are experiencing is heteronormativity (bigwordsbigwordsmorebigwords),” and then hand them a copy of Derrida. What I could do, though, was see the existence of so many of these discourses and theories in their question and in their experience, and use what I’d learned to help guide me in answering responsibly. And by responsibly I mean two things: 1. Responsible in respect to their needs (aka not sourcing Derrida on our first conversation), and 2. Responsible in respect to larger discourses that are often nearly invisible (which I had only been able to see because of reading those theories).

Somewhere in my academic journeys I learned the word praxis, which was explained to me as the place where theory meets real-world practice. It was a legit lightbulb-moment for me, where I realized OHHHH OKAY, SO I DON’T NEED TO ACTUALLY LIVE OUT THESE THEORIES VERBATIM! And, Anonymous, neither do you. In fact, if you are only living theory, then the theory does begin to exist only for itself (and for your handful of friends who will geek out with you on feminist texts). What you do is let those theories crack your brain open, over and over and over again. Geek out with your friends and dig deep with those big words if that helps you expand even further in that crazy theory-spiral. Then, give yourself permission to let it go, and to learn from the world around you just as much as you’ve learned from those theories.

I hope this helps!
<3

***
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"So, hi. I just arrived at college. I hadn’t really been nervous at all until now realizing: I AM SO UNPREPARED IN MY GAYNESS. I haven’t kissed a girl / ever had a girlfriend, and I’m starting to freak out a little. Help?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

You and EVERYONE ELSE, you know!?!? It doesn’t matter who you have or have not held hands with, kissed, slept with, been heartbroken by, etc, college is a whole different ball game. You feel so prepared until you stand in front of someone you like, someone NEW, someone you are soooooo attracted to, someone who likes you back, BREATHE BREATHE PASS OUT RINSE REPEAT.

It doesn’t matter. You could think you’re super-over-prepared and you will learn very quickly that you are not. So, you’re actually ahead of the game by being AWARE that you are not prepared. Most of us are just acting like we know what we’re doing and then being slapped in the face by all things new. Most of us watch two episodes of the L Word and we’re like “oh, i get it, Shane looks like she doesn’t care but SHE REALLY DOES… that’s what I’ll do” so we sulk around wearing lots of necklaces and everyone thinks we’re mysterious, but really it’s just confusion and nerves all bundled up inside screaming to get out in the form of ‘OK I ADMIT IT I HAVE NEVER KISSED A GIRL.’

So, own it. Own that fear and those nerves bc nerves when meeting someone new are kind of great. PLUS, regardless of how prepared you might have thought you were, it wouldn’t matter. We’re all underprepared for new loves. Stand up straight, ask a girl to dinner, kiss her if you feel like it and be okay with the fact that you might tremble with nerves the entire time.

Kristin Says:

Listen. I legit have nothing to add to this — Dannielle has given you the truest words of wisdomy wisdom that exist: no one is more or less prepared than anyone else, and the best thing you can do is know that you are currently surrounded by swarms of people who, when confronted by the prospect of interacting with someone they really like for the first time, are like:

image

So, with that in mind:

Take it one moment at a time, one kiss at a time, one heart-flutter at a time. Be as open with yourself as possible. Know that exploring and discovering things for the first time is magical, even when it’s comical or terrifying or everything all at once.

<3

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"I am gay and about to graduate. My teacher is gay and recently divorced. We spend a lot of time outside of school together and she regularly talks about visiting me in college and how she’s gonna miss me so much. I can’t tell what her feelings are, but I know I am in love with her. Should I just ignore my feelings and see if it goes away once I leave?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

Thanks for your question! This is such a tough subject, with many separate issues to consider.

First, I think it’s important to understand that teacher/student relationships are very tricky to navigate from both sides. An essential part of a teacher’s job is to build relationships with their students, to be a mentor and support them as best they can. But when that relationship crosses the line from professional mentoring into something more, things can get tricky. I think you are walking a very fine line here, one that has the potential to get both you and your teacher in trouble personally and professionally. Given the sentence about not knowing how your teacher feels, I’m going to assume nothing inappropriate has happened between you both yet. Do everything you can to keep that from happening. Careers and lives can be ruined by crossing that line from student/teacher to something more romantic.

Full disclosure, I had a teacher in high school who was caught allegedly texting inappropriate things and soliciting sex from one of my classmates. This has influenced my opinion on teacher/student relationships.

There are power dynamics in a teacher/student relationship that must be considered as well. A teacher is in a position of power and influence over impressionable children and teenagers, and as such, teachers must be cautious when developing close relationships with their students. In the “mainstream” society, the fear about LGBT teachers “influencing” children still exists, and I believe LGBT teachers (and all teachers for that matter) need to be cautious in their actions, if only to protect themselves from untrue accusations. I recognize this is probably an extreme point of view, however I think it’s the reality of the world we live in. Obviously students are bound to get crushes on young teachers, but I think teachers should discourage that from happening as much as possible. Especially as a lesbian, I am very aware of the boundaries I set up with my students because of a potential situation like this arising. While working with my students, I make sure that my interactions with them are always appropriate and professional.

In addition, there are many ways teachers can mentor and support their students, but it sounds as though your teacher has been relying on you for support after her divorce. Please understand that a teacher’s work should be to support their students, not to receive support from them. Your teacher needs to find a more appropriate means of support for herself, so she can support you while you prepare for your transition into college.

Since you’re off to college soon, start looking ahead at all the excitement and adventure waiting for you. Maybe your college has an LGBT group you can join. Maybe your future college roommate has a friend from her hometown who would be perfect for you. Maybe there will be a wonderful, gorgeous stranger in one of your exciting college courses, and your eyes will meet from across the classroom and… Anyway, my point is, there are so many possibilities out there. Don’t hold yourself back because of your teacher. Jump in feet first to the college life of 10 A.M. classes, afternoon naps, midnight cram sessions, and house parties! Do everything you can to enjoy this part of your life. You’re only young and in college once.

Hopefully once you immerse yourself in college life, your feelings for your teacher will subside. If you’re so inclined, you can keep in contact with your teacher while you are in college. As a young adult, it can be helpful to have a mentor to guide you through the tricky parts of being a young adult and entering the work world. (Networking! Am I right?) But please, keep it cordial but not intimate. As you venture out into the world, it’s important for you to be able to distinguish a professional relationship, like those with a mentor, teacher, boss, or coworker, from a platonic friendship. This relationship should stay strictly professional.

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Sara Kost is an out, queer Educator in Minneapolis, MN. Read more about her and her work on our Second Opinions page!

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