Monday, March 19, 2012

Abstinence-Only Education Marginalizes LGBT Students

A few days ago the Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, vetoed the abstinence-only education bill that was passed in both the state Senate and House. If signed, the bill would have restricted any public education on sex to teachings about abstinence as well as eliminate any teachings of any other sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.

The bill was widely criticized by Democrats in Utah as well as individuals and organizations from across the United States. Even the normally conservative populous of Utah was not impressed with the bill, polls showing that the majority of the states’ population wanted the governor to veto the legislation.  

But, as more and more states start to jump on the bandwagon of “abstinence-only” education, the impact upon LGBT students’ needs to be addressed. Even if the Utah bill had not specified that homosexuality and gender identity should not be discussed in the classroom, there would have still been dire consequences for LGBT youth.

In the election of 2004 – an election known for its anti-gay rhetoric – the people of Utah passed their own anti-equality marriage amendment, effectively eliminating any chance for same-sex couples to enjoy any of the rights of marriage in that state. Because of this amendment, the status of marriage within society is obviously unavailable to same-sex couples. This is where the problem lies.

Abstinence-only education teaches children that one should wait until they are married in order to have sex. Proponents claim that abstinence before marriage is the best and only way to ensure that one does not get pregnant or contract STD’s. This poses a problem for LGBT youth in states – such as Utah – which have marriage amendments, because the reality of their sexual experience is left unaddressed. According to the proposed sexual education guidelines promoted by Utah legislators (and other states), because marriage is only between a man and a woman, and because LGBT people cannot get married, it stands to reason that these lawmakers believe that LGBT children should be celibate.  

Such a manifestation of underhanded homophobia prevalent within abstinence legislation is not something that surprises me. Even in the transcripts of the Utah discussion over their bill, lawmakers like John Valentine expressed a deep desire that discussions on sexual orientation should not be encouraged in the classroom.  But the fact that lawmakers are willing to marginalize LGBT students for political gain is what sickens me.  Instead of affirming that each child’s sexuality is unique and a key component of whom he/she is, lawmakers in states like Utah are engaging in nothing short than bullying. They are not only inferring to LGBT children that their lives are not worth learning about, but they are also telling them that the only way they can be productive members of society is to live their lives alone. 


  1. I grew up in this dead zone that was forced on me by my religious school and the churches my family attended. I too, was taught that marriage is for a male and female and that all other emotional, romantic and sexual expression was for that union only.

    This left me in a space of complete and utter despair. The authority figures in my life had consigned me, by their refusal to recognize and validate my orientation, to a place where I truly believed my life was to be spent single, celibate and forever alone.

    Fortunately for me, I met other guys, who like myself, discovered who we were and how to express ourselves to each other, to our peers and eventually to our own families. The relationships that we built,in such a wasteland of freedom and education, enabled us to inform ourselves, as well as others, that we too mattered and deserved community, respect and love.

    In the living out of our authentic selves we were able to evince change, one person and friendship at a time. It was never easy or simple and that path was fraught with resistance, condemnation and discipline, but as the years have passed, I know for certain that our efforts have paid off, not only in our own personal lives, but in those around us.

    This message that most states and the majority of legislators champion is nothing short of persecution, bondage and slavery, the very things that this country verbalizes it stands against. I no longer listen to what people say, I merely have to watch and observe what they do. Their actions have always spoken more loudly.

    We are not second class citizens. We are humans who deserve to be treated as our heterosexual peers in this common life experience we share. For politicians to capitalize on the fears of others in order to retain power and position is loathsome. The impetus behind abstinence only education is not one of concern for the physical and mental health of the younger generation, but one of control, dominance and forced submission to the archaic and erroneous ideas foisted and perpetrated on the masses by the organized religious systems that continue to espouse bigotry, repression and hate, all in the name of their God.

    None of us are free until ALL of us are free.


  2. I know I'm late commenting on this, but I agree so strongly with this post that I had to say something. I believe that abstinence until marriage is the healthiest choice for people, which is one thing that frustrates me about the states banning homosexual marriage. It seems like Christian adolescents who identify themselves as homosexual do not have the promise of marriage in their future as an incentive to wait for sex. And since they *cannot* be legally married in the vast majority of states, what is the point of waiting for sex? What are your thoughts on this question? As a side-note, I think your blog is freaking wonderful, and I'm thankful for your honesty and knowledge on this topic.

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