Opinion

Opinion: More states are teaching LGBT inclusive curriculum, but intolerance is still alive

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

As parts of the world become more accepting of the LGBT community, some places are also beginning to integrate LGBT history and sex education into their schools. This creates a much more inclusive learning environment for students who often, in many other circumstances, feel alienated and unrepresented. 

Starting in September of 2020, England began including LGBTQ-inclusive sex education to its students. 

“This is a landmark step forward,” Josh Bradlow, the policy manager at Stonewall said. “For me, it would have been life-changing to receive this education.” 

Four states in the U.S. also mandate a curriculum of LGBTQ history in their schools. California, New Jersey, Colorado and Illinois have all passed mandates requiring LGBTQ history to be taught throughout their public school system. 

Despite the slowly-increasing amount of states passing these mandates, LGBTQ sex education is not as often taught. Many schools throughout the nation will include LGBTQ sex education on their own, but there are no laws that require comprehensive LGBTQ sex education.

[Photo of LGBTQ letters made in clay]
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon | Pexels

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a call-to-action, stating that “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth need and deserve to learn in settings that are inclusive of their experiences and that give them the education necessary to stay safe and healthy.”

It should not be a lot to ask of educators to provide inclusive sex and history education to their students; teaching in a manner that only benefits one demographic of students is harmful and creates a bubble of intolerance with no one to pop it. Sex education across the states tends to assume that all students are heterosexual and cisgender, leaving LGBTQ youth with no concept as to how to navigate healthy relationships.

Iowa Safe Schools stated that “not seeing yourself represented in basic classes like health and sex education can complicate high school even more. By establishing inclusivity in these courses, students may see themselves and be more confident in themselves, and their heterosexual, cis-gendered peers will be more likely to accept differences of identity.”

Six states have laws actually banning any positive teachings of LGBTQ history, people or topics. Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi all hold policies often called “no pro homo” laws. Arizona formerly had a similar law, but in 2019, lawmakers voted to repeal the 1991 law prohibiting education that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle.” 

Research by GLSEN shows that states with these laws create an even more toxic and dangerous learning environment. Students are much more likely to hear derogatory terms and slurs towards the LGBTQ community tossed around. LGBTQ students are much less likely to feel supported by teachers and even experience curriculum spotlighting the LGBTQ community in a negative manner. 

There is absolutely no excuse for these laws.

LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide three times the rate of heterosexual and cisgender youth. Along with that, each time an LGBTQ student is physically or verbally harassed or abused, their likelihood of self-harm increases 2.5 times. When these environments of intolerance are not only existing but mandatory, the dangers surrounding it are not minuscule. 

LGBTQ youth often do not have a helpful support system that they can turn to; a study found that one-third of LGBTQ youth experience parental acceptance, one-third does not and one-third do not even come out to their parents. These students facing unacceptance at home have to go to school and face further unacceptance and deal with harassment and bullying at a dangerous rate. 

Intolerance is not acceptable or normal; it is taught to students through the media and more importantly, the actions of adults around them. 

Including LGBTQ history and sex education in school curriculums promotes inclusivity and leads to tolerance among students. Those of you who are white, cisgender and heterosexual have no problem finding yourself and your identity represented in a vast variety – and majority – of education. LGBTQ youth, especially Black LGBTQ youth, do not have the same experience.

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