Acknowledge Same-Sex Relationships in New South Carolina Sex Ed Curriculum

800px-Bandera_Gay,_Dia_del_Orgullo_Gay,_Madrid

Target: South Carolina Equality Executive Ryan Wilson

Goal: Encourage changes to provisions in South Carolina law that insist same-sex relationships cannot be mentioned in sex education classes except in the context of STIs and their prevention.

New changes could very well be in the works for South Carolina’s sex education laws. A coalition of various groups has been pushing for updated curricula, including comprehensive sex education with medically accurate information, and this coalition has put forth significant support for a bill that would replace the current law. The new bill would greatly improve South Carolina’s current framework by requiring that information taught in sex education classes be accurate and peer reviewed, as opposed to the inaccurate scare tactics and propaganda of many abstinence-only sex education curricula.

As exciting as all of this is, there remains one glaring concern: the new legislation does not address a provision in state law that prohibits the discussion of LGBT issues. The current law reads: “The program of instruction provided for in this section may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.”

Surprisingly, Ryan Wilson, Director of South Carolina Equality (one of the groups that has participated in the coalition aiming to improve sex education) does not believe that this provision is particularly problematic. He has said, “This is not a ‘don’t say gay’ bill. This provides guidance on when discussing LGBT issues, focusing solely on STD prevention. … This is part of an ongoing process to make sure all young people, including LGBT youth, are getting access to the information they are currently not getting.”

While we should acknowledge and be thankful for Wilson’s efforts as an advocate of responsible, comprehensive sex education and LGBT rights, this statement seems like a bizarrely idealistic interpretation of the South Carolina law provision. Sign this petition to encourage Ryan Wilson to rethink his view and push for a bill that challenges outdated laws on discussing LGBT topics.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am writing to you concerning your coalition’s movement to improve South Carolina’s sexual education curriculum. First of all, I wanted to thank you for all the work you have done in helping to pave the way for this new legislation. However, the one part I am at a loss over is why the new bill does not address the provision in the state law that bans the discussion of same-sex relationships except in terms of STIs. Why is the coalition not lobbying to do away with this provision?

I have read your explanation that this is not a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but I remain unconvinced that the provision is fair to same-sex couples and LGBT youth. While it is important to give them information on preventing STIs and promoting safe sex habits (and of course I am glad you have advocated for this), I think that limiting discussion of LGBT topics to STIs subtly or perhaps not-so-subtly promotes the idea, so common among conservatives, that LGBT youth are hyper-sexual and can only be framed in terms of sexual acts rather than in terms of their identity.

Furthermore, the “alternate lifestyles” framing of the state law is incredibly othering. LGBT youth are not living “alternate lifstyles.” They are living the same lifestyles, by and large, as anyone else. Besides, only discussing LGBT issues in terms of STIs also does not address many of the unique issues that transgender youth, male and female, may face in terms of sexuality. Please reconsider your stance on this issue and work to address and do away with that state law provision in the new sex education curriculum.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Onanymous at Wikimedia Commons

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