In many US States it remains illegal to teach about same sex lifestyles and issues in schools. Many conservative parents support this arrangement and won't fill in the gaps for vulnerable, curious and sometimes confused and frightened youth. But what if it could save tens of thousands of children's lives?
A study of nationwide (US) data from January 1999 to December 2015 revealed that the establishment of same-sex marriage is associated with a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among children, with the effect being concentrated among children with a minority sexual orientation, resulting in approximately 134,000 fewer children attempting suicide each year in the United States. That's 134,000 less attempted child suicides, folks… and just surrounding that one issue. What if we dealt with our broadening sexuality openly instead of shutting down the conversation? Could we save many more? I think it is worth considering how we seek common ground around factual, objective education.
Individuals can research online, of course. But what if they don't know to do so, or where to turn, or they go onto sites that are not reputable? Netflix has recently released two separate educational series. They are not openly for or against the conservative or progressive viewpoint, although being prepared to broaden the conversation is clearly more progressive than some would like. Despite being often accused of promoting gratuitous sex and violence in their shows by some viewers, could Netflix help fill in some educational gaps?
One of the series, "Sex Education", is set in an American College style campus (although everyone seems British), and the male protagonist - a nerdy type - is the son of a sex therapist. When the street smart 'school tart' is desperate for help she discovers his unusual font of secret knowledge and benefits accordingly from some psychological support. Then she realises she can monetise him and the series is a tongue in cheek succession of adventures about the pair helping kids through the very messy world of sexual problems of a modern day college or university.
"Sex, Explained" is a new docuseries narrated by Janelle Monáe, an American singer, writer, rapper, actress and producer. She announced she is queer in 2018. In five episodes the series takes a modern walk through Fantasies, Attraction, Birth Control, Fertility and Childbirth. It reflects on non-hetro relationships and the complications we are unravelling today.
What is the state of sex education in our schools? On the one hand, in the UK in September 2020, new regulations will come into effect allowing primary school children to learn about different types of families including the LGBT+ ones. But this move does not have unanimous community support. Birmingham City Hall, for example, experienced a deluge of protests claiming that it is not cool to teach about anal sex, pedophilia and trangenderism.
In the USA on the other hand, only 29 States require sex education to be taught. Only nine States require discussion of LGBT+ identities, and seven Southern States ban the discussion of LGBT+ issues, or even answering questions about it. Some even require schools to “frame LGBTQ identities and relationships negatively.” I just took a break from writing this blog and my newsfeed coughed out that drag queens in Louisiana have just announced a protest march to highlight that libraries are prohibited from allowing minors from withdrawing books on LGBTQ+ issues. So topical.
So by jurisdiction the rules around sex education are as confused and inconsistent as ever, even though the world has recognized and begun to better define new layers of human complexity. We've even created a language allowing us to separate things like birth gender from sexual orientation from sexual preference. And I've just been talking about sexual identity and orientation here, but I think the same questions apply to the types of sex experienced within traditional as well as these newly defined relationships, too.
Will the increasingly conservative supreme court move to pass progressive laws to help? And if they do, US States have a history of ignoring federal edicts on such things, anyway. It took 15 years of State by State court battles to remove local administrations blocking the Federal directive on same sex marriage. There are still 11 States with anti-sodomy laws on their books, and even though convictions are rare today in those States, those lingering laws are used to harass people whose preferences are offensive to the more conservative types.
I know it is easy for me to suggest more education is the way to go, and I know others think that that it is better to ban all such education. If you think such topics are the devil's work and lead to pain, suffering and the weakening of essential social value, I get why you want the subject suppressed, just as I don't want schools to teach how to build bombs and chemical weapons to our kids. I can make an argument that sexuality and weapons are different, but the problem is I'm arguing against people whose views on sexuality are part of their faith. Faith, by definition, means they believe in something when there is no factual support for it, and in some cases the facts are against it. So any argument is moot.
This sad conflict has many years to run, but I'm glad there are more and more mainstream outlets for thoughtful and helpful information to inform choice for those with open eyes and minds. I just wish schools did a better job of teaching critical thinking so people can effectively put these new resources to work and are better equipped to evaluate what they hear whether from the parents, pulpit, peers or the media.
I do believe there should be mandatory, objective and balanced fact-based education for all on what makes us human, and what we need to know to understand others and show tolerance. It seems a shame we have to rely more on commercial enterprises like Netflix and Youtube than the leadership of our countries.