Guest Blogger: Caroline C. Tobar
At the back of my 7th grade classroom, a shoebox sat atop a desk. This was no ordinary shoebox however; it contained a thin slot on its lid, was covered by night black cardboard paper, and sat adorned with a single phrase, splayed out in ominous white cursive: The Question Box. We consulted The Question Box like an oracle, entrusting it with sloppily written on notecards, questions we (half-jokingly but mostly-seriously) wanted our Sex Ed teacher to articulate. We delivered these questions with choked down giggles, as we dropped in questions one after the next. Each class, our teacher would reach into The Holy Question Box and remove our notes to answer as we waited, tense and anticipatory in our seats.
My school’s rigid prep culture did not allow for much dialogue surrounding sexual health, so when given the brief opportunity, my class went wild. We wrote hundreds of notes, more with each passing class, and The Question Box began to overflow like Mount Vesuvius. We asked certain questions repeatedly: the ones our teacher seemed to consistently pass over. This avoidance only sparked our curiosity even further, and a fervent desperation grew in the classroom. I can remember clearly several of our most frequented inquiries, one being “Have YOU Had Sex?” (addressed to our teacher), and the other being “How Do Lesbians Have Sex?” These questions were exciting as they clearly pushed the limits of our dialogue, but said questions also reflected our deep, genuine yearning to understand such content.
For a 7th grader already so aware of their queerness, it would have been incredibly beneficial to learn about sexualities alternative to the rigid straight, cisgender definition. Hearing about these sexualities in a normalized manner could have offered immense reassurance, that I was ok, and that I was not some sort of biological freak. Unfortunately, this information would not grace my reality. After our Sex Ed teacher could ignore our “lesbian questions” no longer, she looked through us with blank irises, a fist full of crumpled notecards in her hands, and stated curtly: “Girls, I can’t answer these, these are lifestyle questions.” My heart fell, fast.
From this moment it was apparent that I was clearly excluded from the realm of Sex Ed, as its principals seemed to apply strictly to the heterosexuals. There was no place for me here, so I disengaged, checked out. My attention left the classroom to pay mind to my much too gay thoughts, a content far too uncomfortable for any respectable space.
Within traditional styles of Sex Ed, queer people do not exist. In fact, the message we are sent is a strangely retro and homophobic statement concerning choice: Straight cisgender people are given the right to information (be it limited). Queer people can chose to take this same information, even if it does not apply to their lives, but will get no information that could serve a purpose within their realities. This reminds me of a painful conservative argument, “You have the same opportunity for marriage as every American! You can choose to marry a man if you’re a woman, or a woman if you are a man. See? Equality!” Meanwhile, queer people wondered how this clear lack of choice could be passed off as any sort of legitimate means to autonomy.
This leaves us with the question: What to do from here? While it is important that we fight for inclusion of queerness within Sex Ed, this goal may be a long time in the works, as efforts for comprehensive Sex Ed are frequently thwarted.
The solution: we go hunting ourselves. We scour the Internet, we distribute recourses, and we open our own dialogues. We ask questions, enthusiastically and consistently. We talk to our partners, we talk to any doctors that may give us respect and allow us knowledge. We fill our brains with facts. We learn the things we were barred from learning; we teach the things we were never taught. Reclaiming such content is a radical act, an act necessary for our autonomy, our health, our self-respect, our struggle. Queering Sex Ed is a revolution, a refusal to stay complacent.
Attached are several links to informative articles about Queer Sexual Health:
– Sexual Health Guide for Queer Women (primarily focused on cisgender women):
- Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health:
- Information on Trans Health Care
- HIV Preventative Practices for Trans People