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Has New York Health Education Failed the LGBT Community?

Health Education

Transgender Visibility Day is March 31. Related events and workshops this month at The LGBT Network could springboard awareness, understanding, and education of transgender sexuality among the LGBT community and beyond. And it isn’t a moment too soon.

RMA Long Island IVF has been building families in the LGBT community for decades. Along with our partners at The LGBT Network, we are committed to educating the LGBT community on the many different family building options that are available—options that continue to expand with rapid advancements in the field of assisted reproductive technology.

Historically, the only parenting options available to LGBT couples or individuals was adoption—and even that option wasn’t easy. Prejudices often caused roadblocks for loving, stable LGBT couples who wanted to adopt a newborn. Faced with rejection or the likelihood of a long wait, many chose foster parenting, or adopting children who were older, minorities, and/or had special needs.

Adoption and foster parenting were and continue to be wonderful parenting and family building options for people regardless of their sexual preferences. But when medical technology finally caught up and opened the door for the LGBT community to become biological parents, it was a game changer.

Through various combinations of assisted reproductive technologies—like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), intra-uterine insemination (IUI), sperm donation, egg donation, gestational carriers, and surrogacy—members of the LGBT community have a chance to become biological parents. It should be noted that surrogacy is not legal in New York, but that may change soon depending on the progress of the Child-Parent Security Act, which seeks to legalize it here.

Accessing sperm for lesbians or donor eggs and gestational carriers for gay couples are more well-known family building options-- but the transgender parenting options are less well-known. Those interested can learn more by contacting RMA Long Island IVF for a consultation and fertility evaluation.

But while RMA Long Island IVF is educating today’s LGBT adults about their fertility and their family building options, and even fertility preservation options, we can’t help but call out the woefully inadequate and inconsistent New York State public school health education system and the impact it has had on how the LGBT community has been viewed over the years.

With the exception of the New York City school system (which committed to establishing a progressive sex education curriculum in 2017), here is some alarming info on the state of New York’s health education curriculum, gleaned from The New York Civil Liberties Union’s comprehensive review of 82 of New York’s other public-school districts:1:

  • Public schools are mandated to provide health education, but not sex education;
  • Health education curriculum is up to each district to decide, leading to inconsistency;
  • HIV/AIDS instruction is mandated in health education, but only 93% of the districts reviewed offered it and only 56% provided “complete and scientifically accurate information”;
  • “Glaring inaccuracies” exist in teaching human anatomy and reproduction;
  • Use of non-certified health teachers teaching health education is widespread;
  • Old textbooks still contain homophobic undertones, a “persistent heterocentric bias”, and “ignore or stigmatize” same-sex relationships;
  • Old textbooks still teach abstinence-only birth control and little to no STD prevention;
  • Bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape education were often absent.

In 2017, New York City Mayor, Bill DeBlasio, commissioned a task force to report back on the changes needed to the health curriculum, specifically regarding mandated, comprehensive sex education that reflects the important issues of today.

Some of the pertinent findings and statistics included in the July 17, 2018 Findings and Recommendations Report of the Sexual Health Education Task Force2, which was based in part on CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) and New York City Youth Risk Behavior survey 2015 data, found:

  • 14% of New York City students identified as “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure.”
  • New York City LGBTQ students were “more likely to be bullied, experience depressive symptoms, and seriously consider suicide and actually attempt suicide when compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers.”

In addition to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) students having a “more difficult” time in grades K-12, the above CDC national statistical data found that of those transgender individuals surveyed:

  • 78% were harassed,
  • 35% were physically assaulted
  • 12% experienced sexual violence.

The Sexual Health Education Task Force report recommended sweeping overalls in the training of health education instructors as well as an updated, comprehensive sexual education curriculum that includes such topics as:

  • “puberty and anatomy;
  • healthy relationships, consent, self-management, and decision-making;
  • body image and self-esteem;
  • gender, gender identity, and gender expression;
  • sexual orientation;
  • the benefits of delaying sexual activity;
  • prevention methods for unintended pregnancy;
  • HIV and STIs, including prevention, testing, and treatment;
  • access to local reproductive health care providers;
  • skills-building strategies for preventing and addressing bullying, sexual violence, and dating violence; and
  • the role of technology and social media in relationships, including cyber-sexual abuse.”

Hopefully, the anticipated overhaul of the New York City public school district’s health and sex education system will be implemented expeditiously and will serve as an example which other school districts throughout New York State will follow—not only for the health and safety of the LGBT community, but for all New Yorkers, regardless of their sexuality.

If you would like more information on Transgender Visibility Day or would like to attend the LGBT Network’s 23rd Annual Long Island LGBT Conference on March 12, 2018 at the Stony Brook University Charles B. Wang Center, please contact the LGBT Network or register here. Workshops are offered in Community and Youth Organizing, LGBT History, Health, and Social Justice.

If you are interested in exploring your fertility options, RMA Long Island IVF would be happy to help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Do you agree that sweeping reform is needed in New York State public school health and sex education curriculum?