What does inclusivity of LGBTQ youth in health education and services mean?
For the school administrators participating in the “Strategies for Creating Safe and Supportive Environments for LGBTQ+ in Sexual Health Education and Services” session at the AASA conference on Friday, it meant ensuring that LGBTQ youth are represented in sexual health education curriculum in their schools.
It means that, in addition to their families and friends, the adults at their schools, including teachers, administrators, counselors and health staff, provide support to the LGBTQ youth in their schools.
“You need to take a step past just being inclusive,” said Brittany McBride, senior program manager of sexuality education at the nonprofit organization, Advocates for Youth. “You need to truly confirm and support the LGBTQ youth in your schools.
McBride was one of the session’s panel members.
“Affirming health education means you develop and deliver resources and supports that include positive examples of LGBTQ romantic relationships,” she added, “and offers tools required for young people to protect their sexual health.”
McBride was joined by Suzanne Mackey, senior policy analyst at the School-Based Health Alliance. Their workshop presentation was supported by a cooperative agreement, which both organizations are part of, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mackey explained how the work of their project is centered on three CDC school-based approaches:
- The health education approach, which is focused on strengthening policies and building support for effective health education to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, as well as promoting the effective implementation and delivery of sexual health education.
- The health services approach, which is focused on supporting and implementing strategies to increase awareness and availability of sexual health services, both on-site in schools and in the community; and
- The safe and supportive environments approach, which is focused on promoting school connectedness, policies and programs to decrease bullying and sexual harassment, promote parent engagement in schools and create environments that are inclusive of LGBTQ, homeless and alternative school youth.
Mackey outlined the risks that LGBTQ youth face, underscoring the importance of these school-based approaches. Risks include substance use before sexual encounters, dating violence and having multiple sexual partners. According to Mackey, LGBTQ youth are at a disproportionate risk for unintended pregnancy.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are distinct concepts,” Mackey said. “Sexual orientation consists of three dimensions: identity, behavior and attraction. For adolescents in particular, these dimensions are developing and changing. For example, a young man who identifies as heterosexual and in a relationship with a female, may also engage in sexual behavior or relationships with a male. Identity doesn’t predict behavior.”
To mitigate the risks that Mackey presented, McBride shared a free resource from Advocates for Youth titled “Rights, Respect and Responsibility: A K-12 Sexuality Education Curriculum,” to help school administrators in implementing school-based sexual health education. The curriculum incorporates gender neutral language, includes LGBTQ relevant information, removes assumptions about gender and provides positive portrayals of LGBTQ youth and families.
(Rebecca Shaw is a reporter for Conference Daily Online.)