Sexual and Gender Diverse Adolescents and the Failures of Traditional Education in Public Education: Post #1
* First part of the term paper titled "Sexual and Gender Diverse Adolescents and the Failures of Traditional Education in Public Education." This post covers the Abstract and the Background portion of the paper.
Sexual Education in the United States has a long and controversial history. Discussions of whether the education is needed, who should distribute the information, where the education should occur, and what information should be included into curricula are all up for debate and disagreement. However, the majority of these discussions, legally mandated public school curricula, and for-profit sexual education speakers all focus on one particular subject: heterosexual sexual desire and behavior. As definitions of sexual behavior tend to normalize heterosexual behavior while ignoring sexually diverse behavior, the majority of studies performed are used to justify or develop public education lesson curricula that are focused on these particular aspects of sexuality. This leaves students who are gender or sexually diverse without any solid education with which to make healthy, informed decisions about their sexuality and behavior, leaving these individuals at high risk for negative consequences of sexual behavior. Therefore, it is vital that studies determine how educational curricula can be used to appropriately educate this minority segment of the population and how best to integrate the needed curricula into public education classrooms, as this is the most common place where sexual education takes place. Researchers and public health officials must also be aware of the risks specific to sexual diverse students that make these individuals less likely to participate fully and honestly in research where there is a perceived risk of confidentiality or privacy failures, allowing their personal information to be released to family, friends, or community members. Recognizing the perceived risks and determining research methods that can minimize these risks can create an environment for safe and complete participation by sexually diverse students which is vital for a full understanding of adolescent student needs.
For the purposes of this paper, individuals and populations that identify as sexually diverse include: gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, questioning, as well as those who identify as gender non-conforming (transgender and intersex.)
Very little research has been conducted with a view to understanding how to recognize and teach individuals who claim a sexuality other than heterosexuality. On the contrary, many researchers admit that students who report any form of sexuality other than heterosexuality are removed from their studies to keep the results consistent for the majority population studied. As such, the need for valid research that recognizes sexual diversity and works to understand the unique needs of these individuals is evident. Equally obvious are the challenges that an accurate study will have to overcome. As individuals who have sexual diversity in this country are in the minority and are also seen by many majority groups as being deviant (and a host of other negative labels), it will be challenging to create a research project that creates enough confidence in vulnerable individuals to take part while keeping their participation and divulged information confidential.
There is no shortage of data available on heterosexual behavior in adolescents. One question is whether researchers should attempt to separate heterosexual and sexually diverse subjects into separate research projects at all. It should be easier to get accurate information from these adolescents if they are participating in research that includes large quantities of participants so that their personal responses are blended into a larger group of participants and data collection. The majority of studies remove information from participants that admit to any sexuality other than heterosexuality, leaving not only a lack of studies on sexual diversity, but also only a narrow focus on specific forms of heterosexuality. Due to the limitations of the majority of studies performed, this author recommends that research should study the prevalence of sexual and gender diversity in adolescent populations as well as what information should be included in sexual education curricula in public education. This research should also collect statistics on age of sexual initiation, behaviors used, and self-reported negative consequences.