Friday, January 30, 2009

SEX ED Abstinence Only is Out of Touch

From NGLTF "Creating Change", Denver
Friday - Part 1

Passing Notes – Sex Ed in School.
Youth Advocacy Center

A twenty-something leader opened by telling us that in Alabama, where he went to school there was nothing but Abstinence Only Sex Education. Now he is HIV positive. He’s hoping he can stop some others from being in the same position.

The only sex education funded by the Federal Government is Abstinence Only Sex Education(AOSE). One Hundred Sixty-Six Million Dollars spent for AOSE ($50 million from Title V and $116 million from Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE)) and not a dime for Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE). Currently about half of the states refuse this money because of the restriction, but times are getting harder.

The audience, mostly youth leaders, was asked to react to how AOSE effected youth and specifically queer youth

The most prevalent reaction was, “It’s out touch with reality.” The stats are this: 46% of all high school students and 68% of seniors are sexually active, 95% of the population of the US have sex before marriage. AOSE has not turned the rising trend. And these are not the only statistics that are ignored. In Sweden where CSE is mandated K-12, for instance, teen pregnancy rates are dramatically lower than in the US.

For queer youth specifically sex ed, as it exists offers no role models. There is presentation that responsible dating is an option, as opposed to casual hook-ups. And in 48 states marriage is not an option. AOSE sets marriage as gold standard of relationship that is not available to queer youth. Sex Ed is focused on behaviors and acts, not identity, further distancing queer youth.

Nationally organized through Advocacy for Youth, various inclusive curricula are available. The Unitarian-Universalist curriculum, OWL (Our Whole Lives), was specifically mentioned.

What can youth leaders do?
- Talk to legislators.
- Look for loop-holes; when you talk about safer sex, which is mandated in many states, you have to have to talk about sex.
- Teachers must be trained. (This came from attendees)
- Make it clear that CSE includes abstinence…
- Peer-to-peer sexual health ed: It usually has to be off campus and not sanctioned.
- Provide Sex Ed 101 in other established group meetings
- Make tie in with World AIDS day, National Coming Out, Day of Silence.
- Many Youth Centers have their own programs
- Find out what IS being taught
- Partner with GSA
- Meet with teachers and TEACHERS’ UNIONS.
- Talk with doctors… Don’t try to do it on your own.
- Use anonymous peer surveys to highlight the problem.

There are good online resources, but they must be vetted. Find the ones that support CSE, Here are some that were recommended:
Youth Resources
Go Ask Alice
Scarlet Teens
Teen Wire
Mysistuhs (Women of Color)

The Queer Youth community needs to talk with a focused message:
- Abstinence only sex education “makes us feel invisible,” and not a part of society.
- Sex education, like all education needs to be inclusive and reality based. “We feel ‘different’ and not in a good way.”

Preident Obama has been a supporter of CSE in IL. As a US senator his record was not so good. Supporter of CSE must call him to task need to keep on him.

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