Enrichment Education

The state of sex education in the United States isn’t looking good, according to a new report

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Story at a glance

  • Sex education in the United States is fragmented by state and locality.
  • Only seven states and the District of Columbia have laws or regulations requiring LGBTQ inclusive sex education in schools.
  • A new study found that a majority of parents support discussion of sexual orientation as early as in middle school.

While lawmakers in states across the country are trying to restrict the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming children, a new report reveals that their schools are already failing them.

“Young queer and trans folks, particularly LGBTQ youth of color, can be significantly harmed by sex education that cultivates stigma and enables hostile school environments. Our communities need sex education that affirms the identities and real experiences of young people, so they can make informed decisions about their lives,” Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE), said in a release.


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Only seven states and the District of Columbia require LGBTQ inclusive sex education and less than 8.2 percent of LGBTQ students reported ever receiving inclusive sex education in school, according to a new report released by URGE. But the same survey found that 85 percent of parents support discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in high school and 78 percent supported it as early as in middle school. 

With a record number of Americans identifying as part of the LGBTQ community and Gen Z coming into their own, inclusive sex education is more urgent than ever. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth and 42 percent of all LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to a recent survey, while rising hate crimes and violence against transgender Americans looms large. LGBTQ Americans were also disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and continue to struggle without access to gender-affirming health care, which research shows could save the lives of transgender teenagers.  


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The report was authored and endorsed by Advocates for Youth, Answer, Black & Pink, the Equality Federation, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change in addition to URGE and offers recommendations for parents and families, youth, educators, and policymakers.

“Time and again, statistics reflect that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately impacted by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and a lack of access to LGBTQ-affirming prevention and treatment services. This is particularly true for Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth. We must address these disparities at their root—inaccurate and outdated sexual health education,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in the release. “It is crucial for LGBTQ youth to learn about their sexuality, their bodies, their relationships, and to learn skills for making healthy decisions into adulthood. This report should serve as a tool to encourage educators to create and expand curricula to include the experiences of all marginalized communities.”


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