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23 Things LGBT People Wish They'd Actually Learned In Sex Ed

We're here, we're queer, and FFS we really want inclusive sex ed.

1. When it comes to your sexuality and gender, there's literally nothing wrong with you.

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Some people have the privilege of being surrounded by messages that the way we are is A-OK, if not The Norm. But if you're LGBT, not seeing yourself represented in popular culture — especially when combined with a family or community or a culture that doesn't fully accept you — can be a crazy-making experience where you start to wonder if it's you that's weird or strange or wrong. If sex ed did the absolute minimum of referencing the notion that there's a way to be other than cis and straight, it might make some parts of growing up queer a bit easier.

2. There is no "right" way to have sex.

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There are so many ways (so! many!) to have sex. Popular culture and many sex ed curricula would have you believing that sex between guys is only ever about butt stuff. And that sex between women is hours of oral sex alternating with scissoring. SCISSORING.

Billion-dollar idea: What if sex ed explained that your sexuality doesn't determine the way you like to get busy?

3. You can decide what it means to "lose your virginity."

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VIRGINITY IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT AND IT SUCKS but if you're someone who — for whatever reason — wants to define your First Time Having Sex, you might not know what that looks like or means if p-in-v sex just isn't on your to-do list. You should decide for yourself and talk to your partner.

Having thoughts and feelings about the first time you do it isn't just for boy-girl couples.

4. Mainstream porn might make you feel fetishized.

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Sometimes mainstream porn sex scenes between people of the same sex seem sort of false — like even more false than porn might seem already. It's almost as if the only reason they're having sex is because it's so hot and so exotic — for people who aren't queer.

5. But porn might also be where you see something that resembles the kind of sex you want to have for the first time.

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With a couple of exceptions in indie movies, along with some chaste kisses in mainstream TV and movies, there aren't that many opportunities to see people of the same sex gettin' familiar. Porn might just be the first and only way (at least for a while) you'll be able to get a visual that captures the desire you feel.

6. Having a health care provider who's affirming of LGBT people makes a huge difference.

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If only safe spaces grew on trees (or in doctors' offices). Going to the doctor and discussing your health and your body — whether you're there for sexual-health-related stuff or not — can be a super vulnerable experience.

That's why it should be the rule (rather than the exception) that you can choose a health care provider that not only is conveniently located, takes your insurance, and speaks your language, but also is kind and competent. And btw, being a member of more than one marginalized community — say, being black and trans — can make it even tougher to get good health care.

If only someone told us that if we've had a shitty experience with a doctor, we don't have to give up all hope. Some cities often have clinics (like Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City, Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, and Open Arms Healthcare Center in Jackson, Mississippi) that serve LGBT communities. And Planned Parenthood health centers are another resource, since they have locations across the US, many of which provide LGBT-centered health care. MyTransHealth is an app that helps transgender people find providers. All that said, it still feels like there's a lack of affirming and culturally health care providers for LGBT folks. One thing that might help? If sex ed prepared us to advocate to for our medical care no matter who our providers are.

7. And the same goes for mental health services.

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Look, everyone should have access to awesome mental health services, whether that means crisis intervention, counseling, meds, group therapy, or some combination. But if you're an LGBT person and there are people, places, and spaces in your life that aren't super into that, the need for professional help can be even more urgent. In fact, LGBT people are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition like major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

BTW, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has great tips for finding LGBT-friendly/competent mental health care here, but why don't we learn that in school?

8. Psst! Asexuality exists!

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Not everyone is sexually or romantically attracted to others. Some people experience little or no sexual attraction to others while others might experience romantic, but not sexual, attraction. Basically, different people experience and express sexuality — including asexuality — in different ways. Shout it from the rooftops: There's nothing weird, unnatural, or wrong about being asexual.

(FYI: The Purple-Red Scale of Attraction is kind of a more up-to-date Kinsey Scale which maps out various levels and kinds of attractions and might be useful or clarifying to look at, or just fun to think about, or not something you need at all.)

9. Not everyone identifies with their assigned sex at birth.

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It gets all sorts of glossed over (if not intentionally excluded from the conversation) that not everyone is cisgender. Wouldn't it be great if sex ed acknowledged the numerous ways we humans can experience our gender identities, and maybe even provide resources for trans and gender-nonconforming folks who might need additional info, support, and care? Just saying.

10. Bisexuality is real.

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Queer and non-queer people alike have a well-established track record of making bi-identified people feel invisible. Maybe they say that identifying as bi is just a step on the path to realizing you're gay. Or maybe they pepper you with questions and make you feel like they're trying to prove that you're really "one or the other."

If you feel it, it's a real thing. End of story.

11. You can be queer and transgender/non-binary/gender-nonconforming.

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Saying "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer" is kiiiind of a problem because it sounds like all those things are mutually exclusive. They're not. All people — cis, trans, genderqueer, non-binary — come in every variety of sexual orientation. BUT WHY DON'T THEY TELL US (AND OTHER PEOPLE) THAT?!

12. Who you have and haven't had sexual or romantic experiences with has no bearing on your sexuality. / Via

You can be a queer woman who's only been with guys or a gay dude who occasionally hooks up with women. You don't have to wait to have had the "relevant" experience in order to identify the way you feel.

13. Dental dams are a thing.

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Most sex ed makes it seem like "safer sex" is another way of saying "use a condom," because sex ed is so often about a penis going into a vagina. But fun fact: There are other ways to have sex, which means there are other ways to practice safer sex. Like the dental dam, a rectangular piece of latex that you put over your anus or genitals before someone puts their mouth there.

Whether or not you're having penis-in-vagina (or penis-in-butt) sex, your sexual health is important.

14. So is PrEP.

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PrEP is a daily med that can reduce the sexual transmission of HIV by more than 90% when it's used consistently. Plus, there's also PEP, a medication that can reduce your chances of HIV infection when it's taken within 72 hours of being exposed.

Another thing they should tell us: If you're at risk for contracting HIV, you should definitely talk to your doctor about whether you'd be a good candidate for it.

15. Consent isn't just for straight people.


Consent is another thing that tends to be talked about in heteronormative terms — whether it's helping straight men understand the concept of boundaries or empowering straight women to articulate them. But people of all genders and sexual orientations can set and respect boundaries, as well as push or violate them.

16. You can be born this way/grown this way/some combo/neither/all — it doesn't matter.

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You're fine. It's fine. Period, end of story.

17. There's no deadline to "figure out" the deal with your sexuality or your gender identity.

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And there's also nothing wrong with knowing for certain everything about your sexuality and gender RIGHT NOW. Being "too young" to know you're queer and/or trans? Not a thing. Being "too old" to identify and/or come out as queer or trans? Also not a thing.

18. And you're not under any obligation to come out to everyone (or even anyone).

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It can feel like coming out is a logical step on the path of not being straight or cisgender, like it's a thing everyone does or should want to do. And sure, if coming out feels right for you and you feel safe (emotionally, physically), and you want to do it, by all means, tell anyone you want.

But you don't have to tell anyone you don't want to tell. Ever. You can tell no one for now and wait and see if you feel like telling them in the future.

19. But if you do want to come out, just prepare yourself.

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Coming out can feel like a huge deal or like no biggie at all, and that might change depending on who you're coming out to, when, and how. And the best way to deal with that is to have a plan in place, prep for possible outcomes, and have a support system. Please, someone, make a handout.

20. You should go to the gynecologist even if you're not having sex with a penis that's attached to a flesh-and-blood person.

Keith Brofsky / Getty Images

If you have a vagina, you should be seeing the gynecologist annually, even if you're not due for a Pap test. If you're sexually active, no matter who you're sexually active with, your gynecologist wants to see you to do an exam, make sure everything is looking A-OK, and talk to you about sexual health stuff.

21. You deserve to have a healthy body image, regardless of gender, size, or ability.

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Popular culture is great at showing us slender, able-bodied, normatively attractive, white cisgender people living their best lives. But it's a little tougher to find representation of anyone who's not some or all of those things living life, having sex, being in relationships, going through breakups, all that jazz. We all deserve to see ourselves represented, and just because popular culture hasn't caught on to that doesn't make us any less real or valid. Maybe sex ed can pick up that slack?

22. Sexual trauma is real, and you deserve support, care, and advocacy.

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Being coerced or threatened or forced into anything sexual is a traumatic event, no matter your sexuality or gender, or the sexuality or gender of the person who hurt you. You deserve support and care.

23. You can label yourself as anything you want, and you don't have to choose a label at all.

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The more we talk about sexuality and gender, the more ways we come up with to describe ourselves and our identities. It's awesome. But probably there will never be a time when there exists a word for every variation of human experience when it comes to gender and sexuality. So it might be that the words available aren't a great fit. Or maybe they kind of fit but not totally. Or maybe you just aren't into labeling yourself. That's fine. You're fine.

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