Abstract: €Œwhy Are You Not Talking about Gay Stuff?â€�: A Scoping Review of LGBTQ+ Youth Perspectives on Sex Education (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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€Œwhy Are You Not Talking about Gay Stuff?â€�: A Scoping Review of LGBTQ+ Youth Perspectives on Sex Education

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Valley of the Sun D, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Nora Wynn, MSW, Doctoral student, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Youth are indispensable stakeholders in sex education, yet limited attention is paid to young people’s perceptions of sex education, and its relevance and impact on their sexual lives. Even less attention is paid to youth with marginalized identities, such as youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonbinary, intersex, asexual, and/or queer (LGBTQ+). Scant research attention is given towards developing young LGBTQ+ people’s vision for sex education and partnering with them to advocate for much needed change. Data documenting the attitudes and skills LGBTQ+ youth take away from their sex education experience, as well as identified gaps in their education, is an area of sex education research that must be filled. The purpose of this review is to critically review literature surrounding LGBTQ+ youth’s perceptions on the relevance, applicability, and efficacy of their sex education experiences, as well as their conceptualizations of what would make sex education better.

Methods: This paper is a scoping review of research studies (n=25) gathering youth’s own telling of their sex education experience, and opinions for future sex education practice. Inclusion criteria included peer-reviewed articles from the past ten years related to formalized sex education programs with LGBTQ+-identified participants between 12-26 years old who had prior or current experience in sex education. Articles hinging on adult perspectives (such as teachers, health professionals or parents) were excluded from review.

Results: A major theme threaded throughout most articles was young people viewing their experience of sex education as “unsatisfactory” due to content being outdated, insufficient, irrelevant, ineffective, and/or culturally incompetent. Further, most studies described the exclusion, erasure, or stigmatization of LGBTQ+ sexuality in sex education courses. Youth reported issues related to queer sex and gender rarely discussed or brought up exclusively within the bounds of danger or disease, such as HIV. Further, unsatisfactory sex education led to finding information regarding sex through other, more informal, channels such as the media, pornography, or peers. Youth in many of the studies advocate for sexual health materials to be relevant, inclusive, and culturally responsive to all students, regardless of gender-identity or orientation. Further, youth suggested a future of sex education that was youth-driven, based, peer-facilitated, and begin in elementary school.

Conclusions and Implications: Sex education should be a useful and relevant class for all students. Under a current political climate which, in some states and school districts, seeks to erase or obscure the reality of LGBTQ+ existence, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ relationships and sexuality is crucial. As social work researchers, we must put the voices of queer youth at the forefront of research which involves and impacts their lives. Additionally, more extensive research into how LGBTQ+ youth perspectives of peer-taught sex education vary from traditional models, in content, delivery, and outcomes, as well as thorough review of youth insight on pleasure-centric/desire-based curricula vs. a risk reduction approach.