LGBT+ History Month: Sex education and appreciation

21 February 2022

February is LBGT+ History Month, and UCL LGBQ+ Officer Angel Ma has writes about the importance of sex education and appreciation. Read on to find out some lesser known facts of LGBT+ sex education.

Link to LGBT+ students

Time flies, and LGBT+ History Month rolls around again. This year marks the 17th time that it has been recognised in the UK. We recognise and honour those of us who left their piece of history behind, their stories and their voices. While appreciating their hardship and effort, we also celebrate our future with joy and hope.

This month, we’re looking at Sex education and appreciation, something that we are often deprived of as young people going through our current school curriculum. As young people sitting in classrooms, we were probably confused and feeling rejected when we couldn’t relate to those topics. Education around sex and relationship has always had a cisgender and heterosexual focus, feeding us the idea that anything deviating from that is not normal. Everyone deserves to have themselves represented in the curriculum, and children need to learn about the diversity of this world. 

The good news is, in April 2019, with overwhelming support, parliament passed the new regulations for teaching Relationships and Sex Education in England. Since September 2020, all secondary schools in England have been required to teach RSE, and all primary schools in England have been required to teach Relationships Education. This is undoubtedly the first step to a significant change, showing the future of education will be more inclusive than ever. Previous to this, the curriculum used in schools were established back in 2000, which is full of outdated information and ideas. The direct effect of this is that young people like us will enter society with insufficient knowledge on sex and relationships to protect ourselves and our wellbeing, leaving us vulnerable. Which is why I’ve provided some of the lesser-known facts regarding LGBT+ sex education, so we can all educate ourselves and stay out of harm’s way. There are also resources, organisations and services you can access for further information and support at the end of this article.

Dental dams provide protection

It is essential to talk about how oral sex can transmit STDs; using a barrier can much reduce the risk. If you don’t think a condom is the right fit for you, dental dams are an excellent alternative to have. It is a piece of water-proof material (latex and non-latex) that creates a barrier for non-penetrative sex. Places like sexual health clinics that will stock condoms tend to stock dental dams. 

Taking hormones doesn’t stop you from being infertile 

People who are on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) often think it’s natural birth control, but it is not. They can still be pregnant or get someone pregnant, so it’s important to keep using birth control if you are not planning for a pregnancy. Non-hormonal contraceptive methods such as condoms (both internal and external) or copper-IUD can still provide sufficient protection while not interfering with your HRT.

Virginity is a construct  

At the root of it, losing your virginity is is just having sex for the first time – not a heterosexual cisgender couple having penetrative sex. So, whatever sexual activity counts for you is the only thing that matters. The idea of ‘virginity’ is deeply rooted in misogyny and is often used to shame people for enjoying sex. It is one concept we needed to leave behind in 2021. 

Intersex people are more common than people with red-hair 

Being intersex refers to people who are born with physical characteristics like genitalia that do not fit into our definitions of what it means to be biologically female or male. This is often presented on a spectrum of different physical presentations. However, surgeries that change the shape of the genitalia into the sex binary would often be forced onto newborn intersex babies; to create a sense of ‘normalcy’. As a part of UCL LGBT Network’s focus on intersex people, we plan to make an intersex representation in the network committee to further educate others and raise awareness of intersex people’s existence. 

I hope you’ve learned something new reading this article and are now better equipped to practice sex safely. If you are concerned specifically with LGBT+ sexual health, I recommend LGBT Foundation. They have comprehensive information on every aspect you could think of. Having regular STI screenings is also important if you are sexually active. On 56 Dean Street’s website, you can access services like PrEP and STI home testing kits. 

Lastly, stay safe and enjoy what this month has to offer. UCL LGBT+ Network is always available if you need help or guidance!

Angel Ma, Students Union UCL LGBQ+ Officer 2021/2022