Many people equate sexual education to the awkward teen years, where they had to learn about puberty, genitalia, menstruation, pregnancy, and the opposite sex. According to Planned Parenthood, 93 percent of parents support teaching sex ed in middle school, while 96 percent support teaching it in high school. It seems relatively common to start teaching sex ed as the average American teenager reaches adolescence and starts puberty.
“Adolescence is marked by the emergence of human sexuality, sexual identity, and the initiation of intimate relationships,” read report released by the Journal of Adolescent Health.
This past week, however, the California Department of Education elected to begin teaching sex ed to children as young as the kindergarten grade level. This new curriculum would include teaching children about sex trafficking, sexual orientation, and how to support gay and transgender students in their classes. This has lead to many parents protesting, complaining it was too much, too soon for their children to be learning about this so-called sensitive topic.
So far as actual sex education goes, this curriculum is incredibly progressive and has the potential to save lives. Learning how to be safe when it comes to sexual intercourse from a young age can prevent unwanted pregnancies and diseases. The only other option would be abstinence-only education, which has proven to flawed to its absolute core.
Abstinence-only education may mean well, but it is inherently misguided and, in some cases, dangerous. Instead of actually informing America’s youth how to be safe, abstinence-only education elects to protect teenagers sexual purity, which leaves them open to diseases and teen pregnancy.
“Programs that promote abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) or sexual risk avoidance are scientifically and ethically problematic and — as such — have been widely rejected by medical and public health professionals.” a released by Journal of Adolescent Health stated. “The weight of scientific evidence finds that AOUM programs are not effective in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse or changing other sexual risk behaviors.
Thus, AOUM programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life. Young people need access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information to protect their health and lives.
As for how to approach these subjects with your children, Planned Parenthood has a wonderful guide on their website on age-appropriate ways to talk to your children about these topics. These, at-home lessons, can be used in tandem with the school’s teaching in order to give children a wide variety of opinions and facts to take and make their own decisions with.
Sex trafficking is a hardly talked about subject, even among high schoolers learning sexual education. There is still a misconception that it is something that does not happen here in the United States, when in reality, it is a lot more common than anyone thinks it is.
ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), an anti-trafficking agency, says that sex traffickers target girls as young as 12-14 years old, with some cases as young as 9 years old. The highest areas of sex trafficking include the Super Bowl and the Atlanta Airport, where there is a lot of people in a small space. It makes it easy for these children to get picked up by traffickers and be taken away from their families.
Teaching our children about the dangers of sex trafficking and how to avoid becoming a victim, including recognizing warning signs from adults who may want to traffick them, can save the lives of many children. Not to mention, it gives children currently being molested or groomed, a chance to realize that what they could be experiencing is not okay. They will learn there are people these children can reach out to that can help them.
For the final point in the curriculum, teaching children sexual identity and how to support trans and gay students will serve as an important life skill. The fact of the matter, that many parents may not want to hear, but definitely need to hear, is that children are also gay and trans. Being gay and/or transgender is not something that happens when you are an adult. According to Planned Parenthood, there is no clear reason why people are gay, but research is showing that it may have to do with biological factors that take effect before birth. Meaning that being gay is completely out of a single person’s control.
Gay and trans youth deserve support from peers and family members. Anti-transgender violence is on the rise, with signs that it may continue being an epidemic. As of November of 2018, there were 22 transgender homicides, with 82 percent being transgender women of color.
Inside the home, transgender teens who feel supported by their families are less likely to commit suicide than those who are not supported. In fact, not being supported by family can lead to three times the risk of transgender people committing suicide, or turning to alcohol and other substance abuse.
Being gay or trans is not a sexual threat against children. Straight children have childhood crushes, and no one sees any problem with it. However, once a gay child has a crush, it is seen as sexual and deviant behavior. Gay romance is always seen as something sexual because it is a topic people do not talk about until sexual maturity. If young gay kids are taught from a young age that being gay is okay then we can create an environment where they can grow up safe and accepted into happy, healthy and– most importantly– living adults.
We owe it to our gay and trans children to give straight children the tools they need to support and protect their peers. We owe it to our straight children to give them straightforward unbiased sexual education that can prevent disease and pregnancy. We have the resources, and we need to use them to keep our children safe, instead of electing to fuel their childhood ignorance in favor of their sexual purity.