Quick Tips on Gender, Sexuality, and Inclusive Sex Education

Date: March 1st, 2017
By:

Gina Desiderio

Assuming someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation based on how they look, assuming that all young people are only attracted to the “opposite” gender, teaching that there are only opposite genders (boys and girls, and ignoring others). These are all examples where sex education may make youth of different identities, genders, or orientations not feel included.

These assumptions relate to several areas of people’s identities and experiences, including sex, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender roles, gender identity, and gender expression (see definitions and distinctions, below).

Inclusive sex education means a change both in thinking and in language for these identities and experiences. Sex education that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ people can help young people learn in a more accepting environment that acknowledges more identities and different experiences among all students. Queer young people’s identities are affirmed, questioning youth are given the space to explore their identities, and straight, cis youth gain the knowledge they need to respectfully interact with and advocate for their peers.

Here are some quick tips for inclusive sex education:

  • Avoid making assumptions about young people’s identities, bodies, or behaviors.
  • Always assume that there are LGBTQ+ youth in the room.
  • Use inclusive language, such as gender-neutral pronouns (e.g., “they,” “xy,” and “ze”).
  • Use language that describes the anatomy itself, rather than equating it with a gender identity.
  • Create a respectful place by respecting pronouns and identities and avoiding stereotypes.
  • Include scenarios and examples that acknowledge a wide variety of people and relationships to affirm all identities.
  • Ask questions to increase your understanding.
  • If you make a mistake, apologize, correct yourself, and move on.

Does this raise more questions for you, or do you want more information on these tips? Check out our new tip sheet on Gender, Sexuality, and Inclusive Sex Education.

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About the Author

Gina Desiderio, Healthy Teen Network Director of Communications, has over 10 years of capacity-building and project management experience, supporting professionals to provide programs and services to empower youth to thrive.

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