LGBT Organizations Harm Young Lesbians When it Comes to Sex Ed.

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When I was in school, nothing about sexual health and relationships was geared towards same-sex couples. The word gay was mostly used as a punchline by boys eager to distance themselves from the suspicion of being anything other than heterosexual. And lesbians, to the best of my recollection, weren’t mentioned at all. This left plenty of questions unanswered. So, just over a decade later, it is encouraging to see organizations like LGBT Youth Scotland shaping how schools approach themes of sex and sexuality.

However, LGBT Youth Scotland is not consistent with their approach to sex education. Susan Sinclair, an independent researcher, pointed out that there are significant discrepancies between their literature intended for gays and lesbians. One group of people are named directly, and the other is not acknowledged.

The pamphlet for lesbian and bisexual women is called “Good sex is for… women who have sex with women.” The equivalent guide for men does not rely on such roundabout terms. It’s called “Good sex is for… gay and bi men.” The sexuality of gay and bisexual men is affirmed. Meanwhile, the sexuality of lesbian and bisexual women is shrouded in euphemism. There is a sexist double-standard in play.

Men’s experiences of same-sex attraction are rightly acknowledged. Their desires and boundaries are accepted without question. But lesbians aren’t given that same basic level of respect.

The guide for ‘women who have sex with women’ contains contraceptive advice for when “either you or your partner has a penis.” Unsurprisingly, the guide for gay and bi men makes no mention of relationships in which either you or your partner has a vagina – never mind the importance of contraceptives in that situation. Men’s experiences of same-sex attraction are rightly acknowledged. Their desires and boundaries are accepted without question. But lesbians aren’t given that same basic level of respect.

LGBT Youth Scotland works with young people aged 13-25. Their work has been advocated by Education Scotland. According to the organization’s mission statement, its goal “is to make Scotland the best place to grow up for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people. We play a leading role in the provision of quality youth work to LGBTI young people that promotes their health and wellbeing, and are a valued and influential partner in LGBTI equality and human rights.”

But how can any organization promote the health and wellbeing of lesbians when they cannot even define our sexuality? All teenagers and young adults – especially women and girls – should be taught how to define and maintain their sexual boundaries. Having read LGBT Youth Scotland’s literature, I am not convinced they are capable of meeting this responsibility to young lesbians.

In the words of Jenny Block:

“We have to allow people to define themselves for themselves and to love who they love, and we have to stay out of it. Otherwise, we are just as bad as our enemies.”

Sexuality is, by definition, exclusive; it describes the parameters of desire. It is problematic to frame inclusivity as a moral imperative when it comes to our sexual partners. It is even more problematic to treat inclusivity as a necessary part of women’s sex lives, and not men’s. Young lesbians deserve better.