Having lived and grown up in Wales my whole life, sexual education during secondary school was a massive let down, not only for me and my LGBT peers past and present, but also the straight community…
When teaching pubescent teenagers about sexual intercourse in secondary school PSHE classes, the teacher was always greeted with snickering laughs, comments from the lads and jokes cracked by some lame guy.
As Wales prepares to give sex education in Wales school an LGBT inclusive over-haul, I was reminded of my own experience of sexual education.
Wales have announced plans to have a major overhaul of their sexual education in schools, planning to change their current curriculum. By doing this, Wales will be ‘leading the way’ in sexual education, something that is extremely important.
The changes would mean the subject would be renamed to ‘relationships and sexual education’, and were announced by Wales’ education secretary, Kirsty Williams. Williams has said that the days of traditional sex education were ‘long gone’.
30 years ago, section 28 was introduced, which banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality in schools’. Now, 30 years later, Wales is moving forward to include an LGBT inclusive subject in sexual education. The teaching will focus on issues such as consent, domestic abuse and diversity.
The new education curriculum will come into force in 2022, and will be taught to children from five to sixteen years of age. The subject will now be embedded in the curriculum, instead of being taught as a separate subject.
Kirsty Williams said, ‘The world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it. Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.’
Stonewall Cymru, and LGBT charity were pleased with the announcement. Their director, Andrew White, has been campaigning for this change for a while. White said: ‘It’s great news, particularly as this week is the anniversary of the introduction of section 28 and our research shows that a majority of LGBT young people here in Wales have heard nothing about LGBT issues in the classroom.
‘The legacy of section 28 unfortunately still lives on and this change will go some way to readdressing the balance.’
He then went on to say that these discussions should be in the classroom, as talking about it online could spread false information. ‘If we don’t, those conversations will happen on the web with sometimes unreliable sources.’
As a Welsh gay male, it’s important to see this change happen. It’s even better to see that my country, who have sometimes been a bit behind on LGBT rights, particularly in places such as the valleys, are the leading country to be putting this forward.
When I was in education, my sexual education consisted mainly of STD’s and how to avoid them, and I was always taught about wearing a condom before having intercourse with a woman. We were taught how to put a condom on a banana, and we also saw how condoms are packaged. We learned briefly about the female reproductive system, and how the egg is fertilised, but one thing we never touched on was LGBT sexual relationships.
As I discovered my sexuality, online porn websites were my education. Whilst I didn’t take scenes literally, understanding that whomever you have sex with must consent, it has been noted that people who watch porn may get lines blurred between what is acceptable in a real-life sexual relationship. Having consent taught in education systems is extremely important, for both heterosexual and homosexual people. Personally, I think what also needs to be taught is that sexuality is now being seen as fluid, as well as being young and confused. I didn’t truly accept who I was until I was 18/19.
Sexual education must also discuss alcohol and sex. Many encounters are under the influence of alcohol, and some are above board and others are sadly not. This must be covered, as ignoring the problem doesn’t achieve anything.
When I was young and watching pornography, I discovered how men have sex. I was able to tell how a condom went on by watching a porn star put one on. Whilst my body image confidence went down, I still took something away from porn other than a fun time. I learned how sex happens, and how it can work, albeit if it was edited together and the stars had no chemistry.
But learning from porn, whilst useful to me personally, is not how we should be learning as LGBT people. Even now, the transmission and treatment of HIV is rather hazy to me, and as a teenager finding sexual partners, I worried myself sick about contracting what I thought at the time to be a deadly disease. Being taught in school that HIV, whilst being deadly without treatment, is now easily treatable with correct medication, and also being taught easily preventable with the right methods, would have saved me a lot of time growing up. It would also be nice to see HIV being discussed openly as a disease that affects everyone, regardless of their sexuality. I still feel like many people see it as ‘a gay man’s disease’.
So whilst my sexual education taught me that pizza men would result in a sexual experience, I’m happy to see that Wales will now teach a new generation that sex doesn’t work like that.
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Jack Strange is a writer, author and poet from South Wales. He is a Britney Spears enthusiast, and you can usually find him on Twitter talking about celebrities and pop music, when he’s not trying to be a serious writer.
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.