We all know about DOMA, the Defensive of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to ultimately define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. We know that DOMA has placed numerous restrictions on the rights of same-sex couples to have their relationships and marriages legally recognized by the federal government, but are we aware of how DOMA affects the sex education taught in schools and, in turn, the reproductive justice movement?
What kind of sex education did you receive in school? Was it abstinence-only-until-marriage, abstinence-only-until-you-are-ready, or was it comprehensive sex education? If you were like the majority of American teenagers, you most likely received abstinence-only sex education. I was fortunate enough to attend a public high school which provided a mixture of both abstinence-only sex education and comprehensive sex education: I learned about condoms (their success and rare failures), positive sexuality, birth control, and the risks associated with unprotected sex. However, one thing was missing: information on same-sex relationships and sex. Now, I know this may seem a privileged thing to be asking for as someone who received some comprehensive sex education, but ALL students must have access to information that pertains to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So, how does DOMA affect the sex education taught in schools? Well for starters, sex education in most schools is taught in the context of heterosexual relationships because marriage is defined by the federal government as between one man and one woman. What are LGBTQI students to think when their schools are defining sex and ignoring the ways queer students can protect themselves during same-sex intercourse? There is seemingly little room within abstinence-only education programs for LGBTQI people because of the flawed, heteronormative belief that two women or two men cannot possibly engage in sex. Likewise, students in some sex education programs may be shamed or marginalized if their family does not fit the type of family that is being taught by their programs or if their sexuality is not represented when discussing safe sex and positive sexuality. Thus, schools NEED comprehensive sex education programs. Not only to educate students about making healthy decisions regarding sex whenever they are ready, but to provide a safe and inclusive environment for students of various sexual orientations and gender identities. The effects of a repeal of DOMA could be far-reaching and could make it easier for LGBTQI people to learn about safe sex, healthy relationships, and more.
What was your sex ed experience like? Did your school include LGBTQI issues in sex education?