By Planned Parenthood of Arizona Education Team

If you are a middle or high school student in Arizona you are probably not getting sex education in your schools. If you are receiving sex ed, it is often abstinence-only, not fact-based, and not inclusive of all identities- specifically LGBTQ+ students. If you are getting comprehensive sex ed in your schools (in other words , you learn about topics such as birth control methods, STD’s, relationships, reproductive anatomy, abstinence, etc.,) typically it will be more inclusive of all identities and experiences. Regardless of the type of sex ed you have in your school- when it comes to discussions of pregnancy prevention and choices, LGBTQ+ students are often left out of the conversation.

Before we dive in. Here’s a quick review of key terms (provided by the GLSEN website):

  • Cisgender: a person whose gender identity and expression align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Gender Expression: the multiple ways (e.g. behaviors and dress) in which a person may choose to communicate their gender to oneself and/or to others.
  • Gender Identity: how a person identifies in terms of their gender. Gender identities could include, “male,” female,” “transgender,” “genderqueer,” “gender non-conforming,” etc.
  • Sexual Orientation: The inner feelings of who a person is attracted to emotionally and/or physically, in relation to their own gender identity. Some people may identify as “asexual,” “bisexual,” “gay,” “lesbian,” “pansexual,” “queer,” “straight” and many more.

When people talk about pregnancy they often slip into language that assumes (straight and cisgender) identities and that doesn’t acknowledge LGBTQ peoples’ experiences. We all have a gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual behaviors that we engage in- sometimes those pieces line up in a way that is ‘predictable’ and then oftentimes, they don’t. For example: in working with a student who is a cisgender girl- many will often assume that she is straight, that she will then be having vaginal/penile sex, and therefore at risk for unintended pregnancy. Cisgender, straight kids are the target of pregnancy prevention information because we assume that they are the only ones having vaginal/penile sex. This is inaccurate. We need to create space in our language to acknowledge that not all kids are straight and anyone with a uterus can get pregnant and anyone with a penis can create a pregnancy. Moreover, LGBTQ+ youth face similar or greater risks for adverse sexual health outcomes as their cisgender, straight peers, such as STD’s, intimate partner violence, sexual violence and unintended pregnancies. Ensuring that all young people have access to quality sex education is necessary so that every person has the information they need to make the best choices for their sexual and reproductive health. The key is delivering this information in a way that is inclusive of all identities and experiences.

If you don’t have any sex education in your school- or you are looking for sex education that is more accurate and/or inclusive, there are some great resources out there for you! Scarleteen is an awesome, fact-based website that has lots of great information about sexuality, is inclusive of all identities, and is targeted to teens specifically. For a more formal version of sex education, Sex Ed School, has several short, inclusive, and fact-based videos that are targeted to middle school students and cover various sex ed topics like puberty, kissing, sexual orientation, and digital safety. Lastly, the Planned Parenthood YouTube channel, has many fact-based, short, and fun videos on different sex ed topics. It’s a great resource if you have a specific sexuality topic or question in mind as it is packed with helpful information on topics such as birth control methods, consent, sexual health, etc. Finally, if you are looking for ways to help your school become more inclusive for all students, GLSEN Phoenix is a great resource. They can help you start up a student club for LGBTQ and allied students, provide training to teachers and staff on how to be more inclusive of all students, help administrative staff design policies that promote respect for all students, and help faculty design (all) curriculum to be more inclusive of all identities. If you are looking for ways to get sex ed in your classroom- or get better sex ed, Planned Parenthood Arizona can help. We have an external affairs team that can help district staff adopt comprehensive sex ed policies and an education team that can help train teachers, staff, and families on how to have supportive and inclusive conversations around sexuality. Regardless of the type of sex ed you receive in your classroom- just know that there are lots of great resources out there that can help you get the information you need and deserve to take care of your sexual and reproductive health and to make the right choices for you.