Alex Blaze

Homophobia: Part of the Real-life Abstinence-only Curriculum

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 02, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: abstinence only education, comprehensive sex education, gay marriage, homophobic behavior, marriage, san antonio, study, Texas, wilson and wiley

Abstinence-only education is inherently homophobic, since it teaches to wait until marriage for sex when same-sex marriage isn't recognized in most states. Also, the idea that sexuality is an icky urge to be bottled up and controlled until the state sanctions its release is a noxious, and less-directly homophobic, idea.

But it turns out that some schools are still explicitly teaching that LGB people's sexuality is "criminal" or "inappropriate" under the auspices of "abstinence-only education." A new report, the largest of its kind, was just released on the state of abstinence-only education in Texas. Lawmakers may say certain things should happen under these programs, but that doesn't mean it'll always be implemented that way.

Why Texas? Because it's the largest recipient of federal abstinence-only education funding, and the state that most stubbornly refuses to move to comprehensive sex ed. 94% of Texas public schools teach abstinence-only, and 2% refuse to teach sex ed at all.

In what I'm sure is a completely coincidental sidenote, Texas has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate - 1 in 11 teens can expect to be or have been pregnant by age 18. The state also has "a population of young people who rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors."

Abstinence-only is obviously an absolute train-wreck for heterosexual teens, but what are they really teaching the LGBT ones?

The Wiley and Wilson study, just released, says that most abstinence-only programs don't teach about homosexuality at all, except to teach that marriage is, as one program put it:

(1) teach that abstinence from sexual activity outside the context of marriage is the expected standard for all school-aged children;[...]

(12) teach that "marriage" is defined as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and a wife, and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

That's a pretty clear message that queer teens should set their ears to snooze, since there's no way they're all joining going to take life-long vows of celibacy. (Especially not with all the wild teen sex that's apparently going on in Texas.)

Some programs talk a bit more about the policies, though. One San Antonio school district says:

Shall not represent homosexuality as a normal or acceptable lifestyle; shall, when homosexuality is to be discussed in conjunction with education about sexually transmitted diseases, provide information of a factual nature only; and shall not explicitly discuss homosexual practices.

Another school district apparently has problems not just teaching sexuality, but also teaching the law:

Instruction shall not represent homosexuality as a normal or acceptable lifestyle. Homosexuality shall be discussed in conjunction with education about sexually transmitted diseases. Teachers shall provide information of a factual nature only, and shall not explicitly discuss homosexual practices. Students should be informed that homosexual acts are illegal in Texas and highly correlated with the transmission of AIDS. Students shall be directed to seek value-oriented information regarding homosexuality from their parents/guardians.

Illegal? Um, that was over in 2003 after Lawrence v. Texas. But I guess Texas is still pretending like they didn't lose that case.

In fact, state law in Texas still says:

Course materials and instructions relating to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include: Emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.180

"Section 21.06" of the Texas penal code was the exact law that was declared unconstitutional by Lawrence.

Some other programs were even worse:

Occasionally, content that is even more blatantly anti-gay turns up in instructional materials and presentations. David Gordon, an education specialist with a state Education Service Center, utilizes a handout that includes advice on how to answer "controversial questions." The worksheet recommends that homosexuality should be labeled "a [sic] inappropriate decision that is made by some people."182 This statement, based on personal prejudice, is made worse by the fact that Mr. Gordon actually consults with numerous school districts (13, according to information collected for this report) and trains teachers who are involved in teaching sexuality education.

The FACTS curriculum - used in 20 Texas districts - does not deal with sexual orientation extensively, but the brief section that does provides problematic commentary on this issue:

Whether transmitted by genes or acquired through the environment, sexual identity is not fully established until the late teens or early twenties.... Young persons may sense affection and even infatuation for a member of the same sex. This is not the same thing as 'being' homosexual. Any same sex 'sexual experimentation' can be confusing to young
persons and should be strongly discouraged.

Ay ay ay. That's not what should be talk to the little queer boys and girls of Texas. The "It's just a phase" message doesn't help anyone at all.

I'll have a few more posts later this week as I read through this report. It's interesting to find out what's actually being taught with federal dollars that we're all providing to Texas. I'm sure that even many legislators who supported this money have an idea what's going on in the classroom with this money.

Read more on real abstinence-only programs:

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    Abstinence-only sex education. I forget who said that this is like Just-hold-it-potty-training, but it's still worthy of repeating.

    More like never driving a car until AFTER you get the license.

    That's horrific. I wonder why Texas - with as many different LGBT orgs as have to be there - hasn't at least had the state law changed to reflect the Supreme Court's decision? That's a no-brainer.

    I like that potty training comparison.