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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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“I am the president of the GSA at my high school and I’d like to do some volunteer work with the club related to LGBT issues. We live in a small, rural area and we can’t really travel to a larger city. I’m having a hard time finding much. What kind of stuff can we do?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dana Says:

Firstly, nice job landing president of your GSA! Now lets get into it.

You don’t have to travel to a larger city in order to do LGBT related volunteer work because there are volunteer opportunities all around you– you just have to think a bit further out of the box. For example, you could collaborate on projects with other school GSAs in the school district. Most schools have their own websites that detail all the aspects of the school’s academics, athletics, and extracurriculars, so perhaps search up a few schools around you, browse their sites, see if any LGBT related clubs are in their club listings, and then figure out how to get in contact with any GSAs you come across. Then, discuss with the student leader(s) how you’d want to volunteer or start a project together.

Now, I understand that when someone says they want to do volunteer work, they usually mean that they physically want to do something (i.e. volunteering at a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, etc). However, I’ve learned that volunteering doesn’t always need to be 100% hands on; raising awareness and support goes a long way. A school in my area holds an annual “Café Night” to raise awareness and money for LGBT issues and organizations. The whole event is basically dinner and a show; the members of the GSA and any volunteers cook food, bring drinks, decorate the gym, the whole sha-bang. Then, there are signups for performers to showcase whatever talent they have, be it slam poetry or avocado juggling. During the week leading up to the night until the night itself, there are ticket sales, and all the proceeds go towards whichever organization they choose. It’s pretty damn cool honestly and I think it works really well in most schools. BUT if you’re having doubts about whether it will work for your school in particular (because of the GSA size or school size or tolerance level), let me wrench out some more ideas for you.

Day. Of. Silence. The Day of Silence is definitely something that will raise a TON of awareness at your school. If you don’t know already, the Day of Silence is an annual event created by GLSEN in which people (mostly adolescents) take a daylong vow of silence to bring attention to LGBT youth who have been silenced due to bullying and harassment. Having your GSA partake in the Day of Silence is definitely a great form of LGBT volunteer work. I currently run a GSA and have been doing so for the last two years, and we also did the Day of Silence. It started out with only the club members taking the vow of silence, but as the day progressed, more and more people wanted to take the vow as well (there were also some bandwagoners but oh well what can ya do).

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Pictured: me holding up a “What will You do to end the silence?” poster, also holding a sharpie and roll of duct tape in my right hand for people who wanted to participate last minute, and also sweating profusely because it was a lot of damn people.

Another great thing you could do is help out (and of course, raise awareness for) LGBT homeless youth. Life is hard, man. Parents disown, kick out, and cut off their children all the time simply because they are queer and/or trans, and that’s not okay. This is where LGBT homeless youth centers come into play. They’re really helpful in providing a safe place for youth to sleep and eat, but a lot of the time they could use an extra hand, and that’s where you come in. Have a bake sale (rainbow cupcakes are a must, I’d assume) or some other kind of food sale to raise money for a particular LGBT homeless youth center! Rather than just donating the money to the center, use it to purchase ample supplies for the kids living there like school supplies, warm clothes (if you live in a cooler area), gloves, socks (these are really overlooked when it comes to necessary clothing) etc, all in which can be shipped/ brought to the center of your choosing on your GSA’s behalf.

Last thing (I swear): Put your heads together. Whether there are five people or fifty people in your GSA, brainstorming volunteer ideas is always a good way to really understand what the club’s limits are in reference to what you can and cannot do. I bet you guys have great potential and you seem like a pretty rad leader, so I wish you all the best. Good luck!

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"Hi there.. I was at a gsa meeting recently and one of the other attendees said that it must be so hard for me to be out as queer "because black people are more homophobic than white people….. right?" I don’t think her intentions were bad but that statement was confusing and upsetting to me. Why do people think that’s true??"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by J Mase III as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

J Mase III Says:

I remember when Barack Obama was voted into office the first time. My favorite columnist at the moment was Dan Savage and every Tuesday, I would faithfully download his podcast before my work day and listen to it while I hammered away at my computer. Then 2008 happened. The same night that Barack Obama was elected into office to become our first Black President, Proposition 8, a ban against same sex marriage in the state of California also passed- and there was Dan to give us all his real world analysis on why these things happened. You see, it was black people. At least that was what Dan said. In his podcast he described an America in which the homophobia of black people prevented LGB folks from getting their right to marriage. It didn’t matter that more white folks had voted in that election. It didn’t matter that the Mormon church poured a small King’s fortune on ensuring the ban would pass. None of this mattered. We as black Americans had simply not done our part to promote justice and equality for all. I lost an idol that day.

This sentiment is something that many people articulate every day, be they white or people of color, unfortunately. Black people are seen as being inherently more trans/homo/biphobic than their white counterparts. Where does this idea come from and what purpose does it serve that this very old idea gets paraded around? One of the biggest deceptions I think we are taught is that we are individuals with free will and access to any dream we push ourselves towards. The reality is that we are of course part of a larger system of power and privilege.

The fact that we exist as LGBTQ people does not separate us from the global history of white supremacy and colonization. When we look at mainstream LGBTQ organizations, they are primarily run by middle to upper class white cisgender folks. The narrative in this country about LGBTQ people is often by folks very segregated from black and brown people. What ends up happening then is black & brown folks are seen as the mysterious and dangerous other when we speak our minds for or against LGBTQ people. Rarely do folks who speak about black people in particular being more homophobic consider that the anti-LGBTQ laws we have had (and continue to have) on the books comes from a legal and judicial system that is primarily white. We ignore systems. We are taught to. If we look at systems and pay attention to the inherent racism in a statement like that and we pay attention to the lack of representation of people of color in leadership positions, change would be required.

Of course your classmate did not think about the larger implications of what they were saying. They merely stated something they perceived to be a fact. Unfortunately, the dismissal, degrading of black and brown people is a fact that rarely goes unchallenged regardless of how dangerous the implications can be.

As you navigate spaces in which the whole of your identity as a queer black person is not valued, I hope you are paying attention to spaces around you made for and by queer folks of color. If there are no physical spaces in which you feel this is happening where you are, I hope you look at online spaces like the Trans Women of Color CollectiveBlack Trans MediaBlack Girl DangerousSon of BaldwinElixher and others. There is also a slew of qpoc specific conferences popping up all over the country that your school may even have some funds to support you with in going. If you need someone to help you facilitate conversations, on what it would look like to address structural racism where you are, feel free to check out an organization I run called awQward. The point being in all of this, is there are so many places where you can have your black and queer identity validated. It is important that white supremacy in our concepts of queerness be addressed. We as people of color are more likely to not only identify as LGBTQ than our white counterparts, but also, more likely to face discrimination in the larger community because of it. The queer community has a responsibility to talk about the ways we perpetuate violence through these limited ideas of queerness, and you as a young black person have a responsibility to take care of yourself and find spaces you feel safe.

PS: If you’re interested in some further reading that addresses your question, check out this article!

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“Hi, my friend Martin and I are looking to start an LGBT youth group in a small town in Georgia. We both had GSA’s in our high schools when we lived in Wisconsin and want to start one here since neither of the high schools have one here. It will be outside school; we are looking into using library space. We also won’t be asking for donations, so we won’t have to claim as a non-profit. But one challenge we do face is that we are 19 and 20. Do you have any advice for us?”

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

Sara says:

Thanks for writing! I think it’s great that you’re looking to start an LGBT youth group, especially in a rural area where access to information about LGBT communities can be limited or nonexistent. Your idea about using a library space is a good one. Libraries are a great place to meet for free or limited cost, and they provide good cover for any youth who isn’t out or has homophobic family. I mean, what parent wouldn’t want their child to go to the library more?

I suggest you begin by thinking about what your group will look like. What do you want the youth to get by attending your group? Do you want an educational space? Social? Activist? A mix of all three? Early on ask your youth members what they’d like to get out of the meetings. Your youth members’ needs may be different from your own. Pay attention to that. As Youth Leaders, you should attend to your members’ needs first; their needs are most important.

I asked a few students from my GSA for their advice, and they told me that they think you should start your youth group slowly. Don’t jump right in and start talking about really heavy topics like bullying or depression or suicide, even if your group wants to talk about those kind of topics right away. Get to know your members and build a trusting community first. My students said that their favorite thing about our GSA is that we are a very close community because we spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year playing games and doing ice-breaking activities to get to know one another. Even though some of my students were confused why we weren’t doing more LGBT related things, they understood by the end of the school year how important that getting-to-know-you process was. Once we created a positive and supportive group, then we moved on to heavier things.

Also think about how to create a safe space for your members. I recommend you create some norms and expectations to read at the beginning of each meeting so that the youth will understand what behavior you expect from them. Things like “What’s said at the meeting stays at the meeting,” or “Pay attention and be respectful when others are speaking,” or “Speak your truth and assume good intentions,” or “Everyone is at different levels of learning and sharing.” And maybe create a contingency plan for any drama or conflict that might occur and what you as leaders can do to resolve conflict.

Don’t let your age or lack of experience deter you from making a great youth group. Use the knowledge you gained through the GSA’s at your high schools to guide you to create the space your youth members need it to be. Your meetings don’t have to be formal or even strictly planned out for your members to get a lot out of them. A sense of community, camaraderie, and support are the most important things you can provide to your youth members.

***
Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!

Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

share:

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“Hi, my friend Martin and I are looking to start an LGBT youth group in a small town in Georgia. We both had GSA’s in our high schools when we lived in Wisconsin and want to start one here since neither of the high schools have one here. It will be outside school; we are looking into using library space. We also won’t be asking for donations, so we won’t have to claim as a non-profit. But one challenge we do face is that we are 19 and 20. Do you have any advice for us?”

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

Sara Says:

Thanks for writing! I think it’s great that you’re looking to start an LGBT youth group, especially in a rural area where access to information about LGBT communities can be limited or nonexistent. Your idea about using a library space is a good one. Libraries are a great place to meet for free or limited cost, and they provide good cover for any youth who isn’t out or has homophobic family. I mean, what parent wouldn’t want their child to go to the library more?

I suggest you begin by thinking about what your group will look like. What do you want the youth to get by attending your group? Do you want an educational space? Social? Activist? A mix of all three? Early on ask your youth members what they’d like to get out of the meetings. Your youth members’ needs may be different from your own. Pay attention to that. As Youth Leaders, you should attend to your members’ needs first; their needs are most important.

I asked a few students from my GSA for their advice, and they told me that they think you should start your youth group slowly. Don’t jump right in and start talking about really heavy topics like bullying or depression or suicide, even if your group wants to talk about those kind of topics right away. Get to know your members and build a trusting community first. My students said that their favorite thing about our GSA is that we are a very close community because we spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year playing games and doing ice-breaking activities to get to know one another. Even though some of my students were confused why we weren’t doing more LGBT related things, they understood by the end of the school year how important that getting-to-know-you process was. Once we created a positive and supportive group, then we moved on to heavier things.

Also think about how to create a safe space for your members. I recommend you create some norms and expectations to read at the beginning of each meeting so that the youth will understand what behavior you expect from them. Things like “What’s said at the meeting stays at the meeting,” or “Pay attention and be respectful when others are speaking,” or “Speak your truth and assume good intentions,” or “Everyone is at different levels of learning and sharing.” And maybe create a contingency plan for any drama or conflict that might occur and what you as leaders can do to resolve conflict.

Don’t let your age or lack of experience deter you from making a great youth group. Use the knowledge you gained through the GSA’s at your high schools to guide you to create the space your youth members need it to be. Your meetings don’t have to be formal or even strictly planned out for your members to get a lot out of them. A sense of community, camaraderie, and support are the most important things you can provide to your youth members.

***
Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!

Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

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