The Texas State Board of Education is revising the health and sex education standards for Texas students, and we have a real opportunity to take a much-needed step forward for all youth across our state.
The last time the board revised the standards was 1997, a generation ago. Bill Clinton was in the White House, fewer than 20% of American households had internet access and the world was mourning the death of Princess Diana.
We’ve come a long way since then. Marriage equality has been the law of the land for five years, LGBTQ workers are covered under federal employment law, and public opinion polling shows Texans overwhelmingly support equal rights for LGBTQ people. But LGBTQ youth in Texas still do not see themselves or their experiences reflected in the curriculum. The board missed a chance in September to protect students by voting to exclude information on sexual orientation and gender identity, but there is still time to reverse course.
What does an LGBTQ-inclusive health curriculum look like?
Simply put, it is age-appropriate, medically accurate information that reflects the lives and experiences of all students. For younger students, it recognizes that some individuals are different from others but are equally deserving of dignity and respect. It teaches about gender stereotypes and the fact that often a person’s gender matches what they look like on the outside but sometimes it does not.
For more mature students, it introduces the distinction between sexual orientation, an enduring physical, romantic or emotional attraction to another, and gender identity, a person’s internal, deeply held sense of gender. Many people, even those with education about the LGBTQ community, still confuse these concepts. Such basic knowledge in the learning standards would go a long way to create more understanding and acceptance as young people develop.