Q & A: Why should we talk about sexual orientation in schools?
November 4, 2022
Totally something that a lot of people have feelings about. There’s lots of reasons why this is – historically people of orientations other than straight have been marginalized, bullied, hurt, killed, or essentially seen as “invisible” because their orientation is not represented in school.
Public schools are places where diverse people come to one common place. So talking about any sort of cultural, sociological, or identity is important in order for us to understand who we are within a population. Schools are also a place to learn and to learn to understand things. Ignorance or denial of sexual orientations other than straight could lead to confusion at the least, and violence at the most.
Statistics and polling vary a lot, but taking a couple samples from UCLA and Gallup in 2020, it is estimated that between 5% – 10% of the adult population identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This percentage is higher for Millennials and Gen Z-ers. Interestingly, in Gallup’s 2020 poll, 86.7% of people said they were straight. Possible explanations for this disparity in percentages is that some respondents do not know, are questioning, or because of internalized homophobia. Either way, this means that at least 1 in 10 people fall under the LGBT spectrum, which is a large portion of a school’s population. Furthermore, those that identify as gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or trans are victim to violence and bullying more often and more severely than their straight peers.
In our sexual health classes, we recognize that there sexual orientations besides straight, and so students who are bi, gay, lesbian, etc. need to have access to the same information that applies to them, i.e. staying safe from STIs, pregnancy, sexual violence, and especially being safe from shame. True, it is no one’s business but their own to share their sexual orientation, and so everyone – no matter who they are attracted to – deserves the same education that will help them make better decisions, stay healthy, and be free from harm that results from ignorance and hate.
If this is something that you feel passionate about, talk to your schools and ask for more LGBTQ+ inclusion in the curriculum. Some states are already mandating that these histories are taught, like learning about how the AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected the gay community and still remains a stigmatizing factor for the gay community today.
One could also look at this through the lens of civil rights. Discrimination in the workplace, for housing, and offering service to people based on race, ethnicity, and biological sex have been civil rights issues since the beginning of our democracy and, by extension, issues addressed by public school. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are relatively newer to the stage of civil rights discussions (not that they haven’t existed forever) and changes are often slow to come. Public Schools were established to be taught not only the sciences, math, and writing skills, but also our shared history and current culture. Part of that shared history and current culture includes sexual orientation, because of its personal, cultural, and historical significance to us as a people.