By: Ellyn Ruthstrom*—
It was wonderful to be among the hundreds of organizations and individuals converging on the Massachusetts State House during Sexual Health Lobby Day on January 17th. Student peer educators, doctors, activists, parents, LGBTQ youth, and all sorts of interested citizens gathered to emphasize the importance of passing The Healthy Youth Act during the current session of the legislature.
This law would ensure that school districts will offer comprehensive sex education that provides age-appropriate, medically-accurate, and LGBTQ-inclusive information to their students. The advantages of a comprehensive sex education program are substantial. Students who learn from these programs delay the initiation of sex; have fewer sex partners and instances of unprotected sex; have higher use of condoms and contraception and lower rates of STIs; and experience lower incidences of bullying due to their LGBTQ identity.
As the longest-running LGBTQ speakers’ bureau in the nation, SpeakOUT Boston has been telling the truths of LGBTQ lives in the greater Boston area for over 45 years. Our speakers often share their personal stories in middle and high school health classes, allowing for open and honest dialogue about sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, coming out issues, how to be an ally to LGBTQ people, and much more. Our motto is “Ask Us Anything,” and that lays the groundwork for forthright conversations to unfold.
Educators know that our youth need more information—not less—in order to make safe and sensible choices for themselves in their relationships and sexual lives. It’s also crucial for youth to feel seen, represented and understood when they are learning about information that will help shape their future adult lives.
Sex education class is one of those spaces where sensitive conversations can help remove taboos and stigma, in particular around LGBTQ identity. SpeakOUT Boston witnesses the power of these conversations when we step into the classroom and we encourage people to take the time to pressure their lawmakers to pass The Healthy Youth Act in order to establish a much more inclusive and comprehensive standard for all sex education classes in the Commonwealth.
*Ellyn Ruthstrom is the Executive Director of SpeakOUT Boston.