Planned Parenthood Great Plains Grassroots Organizing Intern Rachel Stoutamire discusses Missouri’s harmful “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
Human Sexuality is one of the most important subjects that is very rarely taught. When and if it is taught, it focuses only on a few topics and is generally very short. Many people are unaware of everything that human sexuality actually entails. It is more than just sex and how you identify, it is also how you form and maintain relationships, both platonically and romantically. It includes your self-image and self-esteem. It is about intimacy, affection, and how we function inside and outside of gender roles. It delves into the biological, psychological, societal, and spiritual parts of us and shapes the way a person communicates and makes decisions. Human sexuality is a lifelong journey that continuously evolves as a person travels through life.
Everyone’s sexuality is different, and everyone’s morals and beliefs (which help guide them to make certain decisions) are different. With that being said, it is imperative that students receive diverse, relevant, and accurate information that is inclusive to everyone. This means creating a curriculum that centers different races, ethnicities, sexualities, and identities.
As of February 1, 2020, only 9 states in this country require instruction that is not biased against any race, sex, or ethnicity. Missouri is not one of those states. This means that if an instructor wanted to project their beliefs of any sort onto their students, they are legally able to do so. Missouri also does not have to include sexual orientation in their sex ed curriculum. This is a problem because not everyone is heterosexual. It is a disadvantage that some students get to learn about their sexuality and see it represented through their learning while others have to learn from their peers, through experiences, and whatever is out on the internet. This also further stigmatizes the students who are not represented and shows students that it is okay to disregard other students’ sexuality.
During the 2020 legislative session, Missouri introduced a “Don’t Say Gay Bill” (HB 1565 and SB 786) that takes this a step further. It requires schools to notify the parents before a teacher can mention someone’s gender and/or sexual identity, and to notify them before they can talk about different genders, identities, and sexual orientation. Good sex education is medically accurate, comprehensive and inclusive. This bill would not be inclusive at all. It would be a huge disservice to our students to omit parts of sex education that everyone would greatly benefit from. Having an inclusive sex education curriculum that includes all aspects would equip students with skills of how to navigate the real world that involves different genders, identities, and orientations. It would also help erase the stigma around people who are not heterosexual, and would validate everyone’s sexuality. Parents are already able to opt their students out of sexual health education that does not match their values, so this bill just further marginalizes LGBTQ students and opens the door for lawsuits that schools shouldn’t even have to deal with.
Given that sexuality includes how we interact with others, how we make decisions, how we deal with conflict, how we view ourselves and others, and so much more, we need to make sure that we are giving our students the best sex education possible. That ensures that everyone is represented, and that the students are getting all of the information that is available to them. One way to ensure students receive quality sex education is to vote for legislators who support comprehensive, inclusive sex education. Make sure you’re registered to vote today!