It's now three years since the Department of Education issued statutory guidance that made "Relationships Education compulsory for all primary school pupils, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory for all secondary school pupils, and Health Education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools”.

The DoE says that “all pupils should receive teaching on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) content during their school years”. The statutory guidance was issued because there is still widespread prejudice and bullying in many schools in the UK.

So what's the real truth?

The 2020/21 school year marked the beginning of the end of a decades-long campaign to get an inclusive education system in England. New regulations for teaching relationships and sex education (RSE) in English schools came into force. It was the first time a whole generation could attend schools that not only accept LGBT people and same-sex relationships, but also celebrate and offer support on the issues that young LGBT people face.

Primary schools can now teach about different families, which of course includes LGBT families. Contrary to the protests of some and what's been said in the conservative media, it's about showing kids that families can have two mums or two dads. It's about teaching inclusion and acceptance. Loving LGBT relationships are far more than just two people of the same sex enjoying a physical relationship, and if parents won't discuss the topic with their children at home where will young people, particularly those who are gay, learn about sex if not in school?

OutUK correspondent Brian W. Fairbanks considers the issues.

Sex education in the classroom has always been controversial but rarely for the correct reasons. When the one doing the educating lacks the necessary qualifications (such as a knowledge of sex), those intent on protecting children from corruption should be alarmed. Having been raised a Catholic, my only formal education in sexual matters came under the instruction of Father Ralph, 'the hipster priest,' so-called because he flashed the peace sign whenever he entered the classroom in an attempt to bond with the kids. Bear in mind this was 1970, only a year after Woodstock, when flashing the peace sign was still pretty groovy, baby.
Hip or not, Father Ralph's lectures on fallopian tubes made sex sound so dull that none of his 13 year-old students likely saw how it related to their overwhelming need to masturbate. But the course was not taught in vain. A few years later, Father Ralph turned in his clergyman's collar, got married and started a family. Apparently he learned something from his lectures. The rest of us probably picked it up 'on the streets,' furtively consulted whatever sex manuals we could, or found out on our own by just doing it.

The main problem with sex education is that in my experience it never acknowledges the pleasures of sex, only its importance to procreation. Yes, without sex the human race would be extinct, but God help you if making babies is not your goal. Sex for pleasure is dirty, a corruption of God's gift to man and woman.

Needless to say, this is simply one more way in which society can demonize homosexuals as perverts, a menace to humanity because our sexual relations cannot produce children. Some anthropologists see homosexuality as a blessing, nature's way of combating overpopulation, but those lacking such insight see our sex lives as hedonistic and frivolous, and, therefore, unworthy of discussion in a sex education class. Such is not the case, of course. Sex transcends mere pleasure just as it transcends procreation. It is a physical statement of love between two people, and it is important to our physical and emotional well-being.

But where do young gay people learn about sex when sex education classes do not acknowledge their needs? The first step should be the library or a bookshop. Most major public libraries and bookshop carry gay titles including those geared to lesbian and gay youth. You’ll have to go to a library or a well stocked used bookshop for one of the best. Young, Gay and Proud, edited by Don Romesberg, first appeared in 1980. A revision reached the shelves a decade later, but it has since gone out of print. Written from a perspective as upbeat as its title, it deals with gay sexuality in general, but it doesn’t shy away from actual sex. Without a hint of apology, Young, Gay and Proud presents homosexuality as completely natural, and queer sex practices as fun and immensely satisfying. Using language that is both clinical (fellatio) and popular (blow job), chapters like “Doing It: Gay Boys” are as instructive as they are fun to read. For queer teenagers looking for a well-rounded and positive sex education, this book can't be beat.

More recently we have seen the publication of The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex by Stephen Goldstone, MD, and Dan Anderson’s Sex Tips for Gay Guys. As an MD, Goldstone is more clinical than Anderson, and his book deals explicitly with herpes, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases. But he still manages to write in a lively and sometimes erotic manner. 'Some gay guys prefer honey or jelly with their penis,' he writes in the chapter on oral sex, 'while some fancy queens insist on caviar.' Though Goldstone claims he is not going to teach the reader how to give a blow job, he nonetheless presents step-by-step (or lick-by-lick) instructions on sucking off your boyfriend.
For gay boys, valuable lessons on technique can also be found in several more adult oriented titles. Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano’s The New Joy of Gay Sex, was the first official guide to homosexual lovemaking, revised in the mid 1990's, and is no longer the only title to be found under 'Sex Instruction-Gay Men.' The excellent Gay Sex: A Manual for Men Who Love Men by Jack Hart reached print and it too has proven popular enough to warrant a revised edition and is now hard to find.
Young lesbians can turn to Wendy Carter’s Lesbian Sex Book, published in 1993. With illustrations by Julie May, it is a fine introduction to the joy of sex between women. 1999’s Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us by Felice Newman comes highly recommended by consumers at Amazon. One happy customer praises it as 'informative, helpful, and fun to read. It reminds us that men are not the only ones who can pleasure a woman well.' If meeting other lesbians is a problem, Rhona Sacks' The Art of Meeting Women is available to help lesbians 'find new friends, conquer shyness, approach women comfortably' etc.
Of course, the how to of sex is not the only concern for gay teenagers. For those struggling with their sexual orientation, there is Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth edited by Ann Heron. Highly recommended for all readers regardless of sexual orientation, this book is a valuable resource for gay teens who feel they are alone in their homosexual feelings. The collected essays will let them know that they are an important part of a proud, loving community with a rich history, a proud present, and an unlimited future.


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