Health News State

Texas sex education leaves LGBT students in the dark


Sexual education in Texas fails to represent a population that’s growing — the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. | Cara Smith/The Cougar

When looking at sex ed exercises that compare sexually active students to chewed-up pieces of gum and widely ignore LGBT sex,  media and national organizations alike have pointed out the disconnect between the perception of sex in the classroom and the perception of sex in the dorm room.

Most authorities on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies agree that the key to sustainable prevention is education. But judging by the United States’ international standings in these areas, something’s been lost in translation.

“State Policies in Brief: Sex and HIV Education” takes a look at high schools’ current sex ed policies. It was published by the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that focuses on sexual and reproductive health. Twenty-two states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia mandate sex education for public school students; Texas is one of 28 states where such education isn’t required.

Texas is also one of three states that requires only “negative information” rather than “inclusive information” in the curriculum about same-sex sexual encounters.

Negative information includes only a part of the picture, while inclusive information gives facts on both sides of an issue. For example, negative information might provide students with information about the higher rate of HIV within the gay community, while inclusive information would include the low incidence of HIV transferred through oral sex in comparison to anal sex.

“Admit it: people have same-sex sex. We’re not going to have that go away just by not mentioning it. The problem is, (Texas high schools) aren’t representing sex accurately anyways.” -LGBT Resource Center Lorraine Schroeder

Stigmas fuel the cycle
Anti-LGBT stigmas fostered in non-inclusive environments help contribute to high rates of depression and anxiety in the LGBT community, according to LGBT Resource Center Director Lorraine Schroeder.

“The LGBT community has higher rates of anxiety and depression, not because they’re LGBT, but because of society’s reaction to that,” Schroeder said. “Young people will be depressed and go and hook up with somebody and not care.”

Schroeder explained that sexual encounters within the LGBT community are often high-risk, as condom use decreases when feelings of anxiety and depression increase. Sex without condom use inevitably leads to a higher rate of sexually-transmitted infections within the community and perpetuates the cycle of stigmatized LGBT sex and subsequent anxiety and depression.

Silence does more harm than good
Non-heterosexual sex goes largely unmentioned in high school sex-ed courses, but not because there is no need for it. The latest census data, taken in 2010, showed a three percent increase in the LGBT community population, but only a one percent growth in the national population.

“Admit it: people have same-sex sex. We’re not going to have that go away just by not mentioning it,” Schroder said. “The problem is, (Texas high schools) aren’t representing sex accurately anyways.”

Associate Director of the UH Health Center Lindsay Barber said that ignorance of basic sexual health is seen all the time at the Health Center.

“All the (clinics’) doctors’ stories boiled down to students being aware of the resources, (like sex-change surgery, hormones), but had no idea the process that was involved in these options,” Barber said. “(Students) hear about options… but are not educated about what these decisions mean.”


A talk worth having
As of 2013, nearly 88 percent of UH students were admitted to the University as residents of Texas**. By comparison, 79 percent of University of Texas at Austin and 86 percent of Texas A&M University students originated in Texas, in the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 semesters, respectively. Given the higher proportion of Texas students that UH admits, UH Wellness Center Director Patrick Lukingbeal is aware of the misconceptions that the University has a responsibility to address.

“Not only do (we need to) be talking about safe sex, but we need to make a point to make sure that we’re being inclusive with same-sex partnerships,” Lukingbeal said. “That’s something that people, especially if they’re not a part of the LGBTQ community, or if they’re not involved in a same-sex relationship, won’t really think about.”

Lukingbeal, who’s researching the LGBT community and its mental health for his doctoral program, stressed that it’s not inherently bad that heterosexuals don’t think about same-sex sex, and vise versa. However, unintended negligence combined with social taboo is leaving many LGBT students in the dark.

Work to be done
“There’s not going to be much known about safe-sex practices in those communities if we’re not talking about it,” Lukingbeal said.

That’s one of Lukingbeal’s major goals — to increase open communication about sex. UH Wellness has already taken strides in fostering a public dialogue about sexual health. “The Naked Truth” is a workshop series held on select dates of the center’s Wellness Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Rm. 1038 of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, where students can address any questions or misconceptions they have about sexual health. The next meeting in the series will be held on Oct. 15.

UH Wellness will also coordinate with the American College Health Association to administer the National College Health Assessment, a national benchmarking survey that’s been taken by over 800,000 college students. UH has never before administered the survey, which will allow students to anonymously share their sexual habits and their perceptions of healthy sexual practices. Students can expect the survey in their inboxes sometime in January or February.

It’s an initiative Lukingbeal has been looking forward to — he isn’t disillusioned about the amount of work that needs to be done by universities to combat sexual ignorance.

“There’s more that we can do about basic sex-education, contraceptives, STI testing, those sorts of things,” Lukingbeal said.

Openness about sex ‘a good thing’
Young people are having sex, and the LGBT community makes up a growing proportion of today’s sexually active youth. Schroeder said that failure to address the entire population isn’t going to make their sexual needs “go away,” but will leave the issues unaddressed and will be increasingly harmful to the entire community.

“We tell kids that sex is bad and sex is wrong, and it’s not,” Schroeder said. “We just need to be honest (and talk about the fact that) people have sexual drives, and that’s a natural thing. It’s a good thing.”

**It’s not clear whether all of those students attended high school and received sex ed classes in Texas.

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  • From the CDC:

    Fast Facts

    Gay and bisexual men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States.

    Among all gay and bisexual men, black/African American gay and bisexual men bear a disproportionate burden of HIV.

    From 2008 to 2010, HIV infections among young black/African American gay and bisexual men increased 20%.

    Gay and Bisexual Black men are responsible for much of the spread of HIV in the prison due to the great amount of Gay/BIsexual Black men raping heterosexual men(especially White men). Bisexual Black men released from prison often infect women with HIV through consensual sex or RAPE.

    Reflecting a racial power structure that is the inverse of U.S. society,
    due to the over representation of African-Americans and Hispanics in
    prison, prison rape is often perpetrated by African-Americans onto

    After natural causes, AIDS causes the most deaths in prison inmates, and
    rape increases the likelihood of an inmate contracting the HIV virus.

    Given the increased incidence of violent crime perpetrated by the
    victims of rape once released, including sexual assault, its also
    logical to conclude that prison rate leads to higher incidence of HIV
    and other sexually-transmitted diseases in the outside population.

  • American High schools cannot teach students basic reading and math skills, but there is an attempt to make schools the place where kids can learn more about gay sex. Talk about priorities. If the LGBT community had the answer for lower HIV rates, the LGBT community would have the lowest rates of HIV. There is no need for them to achieve their goals of promoting an lifestyle that increases the risk for HIV.

    • Sounds like someone thinks an LGBT Lifestyle is a choice which would imply you like men, women, transgender people and just choose not to fornicate with them. So welcome to the LGBT Community! Congratulations on your anonymous coming out!

      • You have demonstrated a failure in logic with your comment. Consensual sex is a choice, and those who choose to engage in sexual activity that puts them at a greater danger for getting HIV than the non-LGBT population(pure heterosexual) are making a choice as to how they live their lifestyle. Far different from the heterosexual people that are raped by members of the LGBT community in prison.(Do members of the LGBT community(as a whole) engage in behavior or live a lifestyle that puts them at a higher risk for being infected with HIV?

        • There is not enough room here for me to attempt to educate you on this issue so I suggest you open your mind and do some research. Perhaps if you have a loved one come out to you or have a child who identifies as LGBT you will then open your heart and your mind to the realities faced by those who are not born heterosexual.

          • It is you who needs to be educated as you ignore the questions regarding whether consensual sex is a choice or not, and whether the LGBT community at large are at a higher risk for HIV due to the sexual activities they take part in. No one is born with a condition that forces them to perform acts such as anal sex which is a riskier avenue for contracting HIV. Are LGBT sexual relationships/activities supposed to be consensual?

  • Its a farce to blame the increased HIV risk in among members of the LGBT
    community on society(intolerance for LGBT lifestyle). Depression is
    widespread among American society and equivalently depressed
    heterosexual men have much lower rates of HIV compared to depressed
    gay/bisexual men. There is a stronger correlation of HIV infection
    related to being LGBT or Black than to being clinically or subclinically
    depressed. Treating everyone’s depression, making society give preference
    to the LGBT community over everyone else, and the LGBT community still
    will have the highest risk for HIV. It appears to me as a cheap attempt by Schroeder to diminish the role of homosexual/bisexual activity plays on the increased risk of HIV, and divert it towards depression and society. If depression was the cause, would eliminating teen and adult depression lower the risks among intravenous drug users, homosexual/bisexuals, and Blacks? No, because there are other factors within each of those groups that greatly contribute to becoming infected with HIV.

  • “We tell kids that sex is bad and sex is wrong, and it’s not,” Schroeder
    said. “We just need to be honest (and talk about the fact that) people
    have sexual drives, and that’s a natural thing. It’s a good thing.”

    Underage sex is bad and wrong. People who cannot legally vote, drink or smoke shouldn’t be put into a sexual situation that can ruin their lives. STD’s have consequences. Termination of pregnancies have consequences. Kids are having sex earlier and earlier. That is not due to “abstinence only” education but the lack of parenting skills, and the reduced influence parents have over their children which is filled up by everything else. Sex drives may be natural, but so its the drive to physically harm others while angry(regardless what hippies say). Humans can take control over their evolutionary drives/urges to prevent bad consequences of these urges.

    New Study Says ‘Abstinence Only’ Works

    Overexposed and Under-Prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content

    The researchers asked about viewing six kinds of programming and
    channels: MTV, BET, music videos, wrestling, daytime soap operas and
    sports shows. The more TV watched, the greater the likelihood of
    beginning sex between 13 and 15, Price says.

    Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also
    show higher rates of delinquency in later years, new research shows.

    • You realize two of your sources aren’t credible and that it’s very easy to cut and paste off google to “support” your very ignorant view….
      If abstinence education worked, Texas wouldn’t have the highest teen pregnancy rate. You should really educate yourself before making claims you don’t know anything about.

      • Unfortunately you are uneducated, and falsely stating sources “aren’t
        credible” does not make it so. You cannot comprehend the significant
        difference between states such as Texas, New Mexico, or Louisiana(with
        high Hispanic or Black populations) vs states with a high percentage of
        Whites such as New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The high number of teens in a state(compared to others), income inequality and
        the abortion rate also play a role in teen pregnancy. You need to gain some knowledge instead of spreading misleading statements regarding teen

        • Report:

          In general, states with the largest numbers
          of teenagers also had the greatest numbers of teenage pregnancies in
          2008. California recorded the highest number of pregnancies among women
          aged 15–19 (98,530), followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois
          (with 31,000–76,000 each). The smallest numbers of teenage pregnancies
          were in Vermont, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota and New
          Hampshire,all of which reported fewer than 1,600 pregnancies among

      • Washington DC is not a state, but it doesn’t look to good regarding Teen pregnancy(2008 data). District of Columbia – 112 teen pregnancies/1,000 teens. Texas – 85/1,000

  • Anal sex is 18 times more risky for getting HIV than vaginal sex. Not hard to see why considering vaginas were designed for the penis and birth/delivery while the anus was designed as a removal site of feces.

  • I hate to break it to you Cara, but our students are not human resources of the state. Parents, not government, are the final arbiters over what is taught to children. If a parent wants to teach children about alternative lifestyles, they have every right to do so — and if parents do not want their children exposed to alternative lifestyles, they have every right to do so.
    I realize this runs counter to LGBT recruiting goals, but sorry: they’re not your kids.

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