In the Blog
Queering Sex Ed
image credit: Erin McPhee
I remember in middle school, my 8th grade homeroom teacher put a condom on a cucumber for our sex education unit. To this day it is the least sexy thing I can imagine. I think we can all agree that when it comes to sex education in schools in Canada, the curriculum is seriously lacking. It’s outdated (especially in Ontario); it’s fear mongering, super heteronormative, cisnormative, and vanilla. The thing is, sex looks and means something different to everyone. There’s no discussion about the fun parts of sex, gender identities, the reality and validity of more than two sexes, figuring out who you like, validating that some people are not interested in having sex, working through one’s body image, masturbation, enthusiastic mutual consent, and so many other cool and important topics that we could talk about in classrooms.
It’s condescending to think preteens and teens aren’t able to make informed decisions, so what seems to be happening is the attempt to strike fear into our hearts in the hope we just don’t have any kind of sex. In fact, we can learn a lot about sex from our friends or acquaintances, ad while this information is sometimes misinformed (due to our school system and so many other factors), learning from each other is so undervalued. Who knows what teens need to know better than other teens, especially when they’re taught accurate information from other sources? I think school curriculums do enough to focus on all the potential consequences of sex; so thankfully, there are alternative programs and resources that we can turn to.
Queering Sex Ed is a Planned Parenthood Toronto (PPT) project from 2013, and it is brilliant. On the Queering Sex Ed Tumblr, the project is described as being comprised of queer and trans* youth who are 18-29 and Planned Parenthood staff. Now, 2013’s Queering Sex Ed is called Filling in the Blanks. They are a peer resource about queer and trans* sex ed that is filling in the serious lack of education in the mainstream sex ed curriculum we see in schools.
Queering Sex Ed made a series of videos that touched on topics like people’s experiences being left out of sex ed classes, consent, navigating the often murky waters of interacting with health care providers when queer or trans*, and certain sex acts that don’t get enough play (pun intended), and many more. It’s so refreshing to see youth helping each other out and talk about what sex can look like for queer and trans* folks realistically and share their experiences. This project is so revolutionary and fun and actively rejects the exclusion of queer and trans* people’s sexual experiences in school curriculum for sex ed.
This is just one program Planned Parenthood has to offer when it comes to peer resources about sexual health. There are also programs like Teen Health Source where people can call, text, email, or chat with peer volunteers anonymously about any sexual health questions they may have. Teen Health Source is based in Toronto, but anyone can contact the service, even if you’re outside the GTA. There are also peer education programs like T.E.A.C.H., which stands for Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia, where volunteers go all over to schools, community centres, health care institutions, and all kinds of workplaces, and more to do anti-homophobia workshops. Another great program is Empower, which is a peer led community arts program that runs out of the Central Toronto Community Health Centre. The program trains youth on how to be peer educators about HIV/AIDS prevention in their own communities.
Sex education reform has been a long, uphill battle, with some provinces and territories in Canada doing better than others, but overall we have a long way to go as a country to provide inclusive, equitable, realistic, and comprehensive sex ed. That being said, all these programs prove that people, specifically teenagers, care enough to make their own resources when they aren’t given the information they need. And there are more programs like this all across the country. I’ve just mentioned a few I know of in Toronto. Teens, health, and social service agencies are responding to what teens need to know when it comes to their sexual health in supportive and sex positive ways. All you need to do is look them up!