LGBT students say that inclusive SRE would have given them a better first sexual experience
A week after the government announced compulsory Sex and Relationships Education, a poll by National Student Pride and Terrence Higgins Trust has revealed that many LGBT students are being left behind due to a lack of LGBT inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE).
The blackboard with words written by LGBT students about their first sexual experience.
Three quarters (72 per cent) of LGBT students felt they would have had a better first sexual experience if they had received LGBT inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.
40 per cent of LGBT students who were polled felt ‘awkward’ during their first sexual experience, and one in ten felt ‘pressured’. One in five felt ‘uninformed’, while only half as many (9 per cent) felt ‘informed’.
There were plenty of positives too – over a third felt ‘excited’, and one in ten felt ‘prepared’. But the disparity is concerning, according to campaigners, and the vast majority of the young people agreed they would have had a more positive experience if their SRE had acknowledged LGBT sex and relationships.
Over 260 students were surveyed at Student Pride in February. Students were also invited to write one word onto a giant blackboard to describe their first sexual experience. Words included everything from ‘drunken’ and ‘scary’, to ‘chemsex’ and ‘Catholic guilt’.
This comes shortly after Terrence Higgins Trust and Student Pride welcomed last week’s news that SRE would be made compulsory in all schools in England. Earlier this week in Parliament, the government also committed to ensuring that the subject is inclusive in secondary schools. Campaigners at the organisations have welcomed the government’s words about inclusivity, but now want to ensure this is delivered.
Alex Phillips, Sex and Relationships Education Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, explained: “We are heartened by the government’s promise to provide inclusive SRE in secondary schools – but to have full impact, inclusivity should begin at primary school in an age-appropriate way. It must also not become tokenistic, so teachers will need appropriate guidance and training on how to cover LGBT issues fully and meaningfully with students.”
This comes after a major Terrence Higgins Trust report revealed that 95 per cent young people were not taught anything about same-sex relationships at school, but 97 per cent wanted SRE to be LGBT inclusive.
Reflecting on the poll results, Alex Phillips explained: “We saw a real mix of feelings from LGBT young people towards their first sexual experiences, and it seems that a lack of inclusive SRE is creating a disparity in terms of people’s early experiences of sex, leaving many to fall through the gaps and feeling awkward and uninformed.
“This reinforces the importance of making sure that compulsory SRE meets the needs of all children and young people. If there is not a focus on delivering truly inclusive, age-appropriate SRE, across both primary and secondary schools, we may not see the full impact of mandatory Sex and Relationships Education on LGBT people’s mental and sexual health, and on wider tolerance and anti-bullying efforts.”
Students write on the blackboard at Student Pride.
Jamie Wareham, Communications Director at Student Pride, said: “Most LGBT+ young people are left to their own devices to find out about LGBT+ sex and relationships. I remember SRE focusing on straight relationships and the sex described was overtly biological. This can be very damaging and cause real issues for our mental and sexual health.
“For example if SRE only talks about condoms in the context of straight couples and avoiding pregnancies, how will a young person having same-sex relationships know that they should also use condoms to prevent STIs? Or indeed, know that being anything other than straight is OK too?
“It is clear that inclusive SRE could have a really positive impact on young LGBT people’s experiences of sex and relationships as well as their health and wellbeing. So now we want to make sure the government delivers high quality, LGBT inclusive SRE that works for all students.”
Reflecting on his own experiences, Jamie added: “They were awful, limited and awkward – that’s how I’d describe my SRE. I think if I’d had LGBT+-inclusive SRE my first time would have been about love, instead it was just about having “it”, and I regret that.
“I remember one teacher told me about her gay friend and how they had come out for the better. I came out a few weeks later. I’d never heard a good story about being LGBT before then.”