Over the course of my seven years of secondary education we had numerous sex education lessons involving bananas, condoms, and those animated sex-ed videos that make everything seem so mechanical. Tab A goes in slot B. There were no talks on abortion, consent, foreplay, intimacy, or anything related to non-heteronormative sex. Things may have changed in the last 25 years, but even so, there is a purposeful lack of sex education that covers the spectrum of queer people’s sex lives. This puts queer people both in danger from unprotected and possibly dangerous sex, and at risk of having unfulfilled sex lives because they do not know the steps through which pleasure and enjoyment can be achieved.
Queer kids and youths have a paucity of formal sex education that is filled up with Youtube, porn, and anecdotes, much like their straight and cis peers. However, queer teenagers enter a sexual environment that has deliberately been shrouded in mystery and ignorance by the mainstream media due to political and cultural reasons, and their sexual identities are practically seen as taboo. By relying on themselves to find the information, it can lead to ignorance both about their bodies and what makes for safe and enjoyable sex. In turn, this impacts on self-identity and anxiety about sex and intimacy in general. Yes, cis and straight folk often go through the same steps, but society is more geared towards dealing with straight and cis anxiety that it is with queer sexualities.
Trans sex education is even more taboo, especially as trans bodies are both fetishized in porn and highly regulated by the state. What resources are available are bodies of work created by passionate sex educators and unless you know the links are difficult to locate. If a trans or non-binary person is searching for information often they are forced to rely on porn, Reddit, or other forums that may give a mis-leading and possibly dangerous picture of trans sex. On the flip side, the peer-to-peer support trans folk create within the community also leads to grounded and practical resources that allow trans people and their partners to explore their holistic sexual identities.
Obviously, there is a wider conversation to be had about protestant notions of sex and sexual expression, with all genders and sexualities being bounded by the tabooing of most conversations about sex and sex education. Our societal reticence contrasts with countries like France and the Netherlands where they have a more open policy, which in turn reduces teen pregnancies and STDs. However, no country is perfect, especially when it comes down to LGBTQI+ sexual resources. While it may make some squeamish to think about teenagers have sex, it is critical that our queer kids are equipped with the knowledge that allows them to understand consent, have healthy sexual relations within the bounds of the law, and have safe spaces within which to learn and discuss these issues.
The net benefit of these is the breaking down of queer sexual taboos in the media, and the normalisation of queer relationships. Yes, in the last decade LGBTQI+ relationships and sex have become more prominent in the mainstream, but without it being treated on par with heteronormative sex in schools and sex education it is still treated as something other and almost dirty. Steps are being taken in the UK and other countries to normalise LGBTQI+ education, so if we want our queer youth to have pride in their sexual identities and sexual health in their adulthood we must ensure they are educated and equipped with the knowledge that allows for this.
Safe, consensual, and healthy sexual relationships benefit everyone involved. Society is far broader than many people realise, and by being LGBTQI+ positive in our sex education we empower all our children to be accepting and understanding of people outside their own identities. This in turn will play a part in overcoming homophobia and transphobia, and give room for sexual positivity without any taboos.