For nearly as long as many of us can remember, sex education in schools has been based around the idea of abstinence. Some of these merely offer abstinence as an ideal (‘well, you shouldn’t have sex, but if you’re going to anyway…’) but the least helpful are the abstinence-only programs, beloved by conservative politicians and religious leaders.

In addition to being patently unrealistic and spreading a damaging sense of shame about sex, such programs are blatantly biased toward heterosexuals (‘no sex until marriage’ means even less when you’re someone who is prevented from marrying!). Some of the worst programs actually scapegoat homosexuality by only ever mentioning it when discussing disease and promiscuity. So you may be taking a useless class, or one that portrays you as some sort of monster or deviant…good choices.

This is more than the usual ‘sins of omission’ found in the average sex ed program, this is a semi-subtle and dangerously insidious campaign to erase even the minor advances that the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community have achieved over the last several decades.

Thoughtful parents of younger children who are gay, lesbian, and transgendered also express dismay at such agenda ridden insidious campaigns. I remember an incident regarding my sister’s son when he was about 7 years old. He loved dressing up and would spend hours perusing web sites that sold princess dresses. He was not interested in fantasy dressing as a prince, he wanted to be a princess with all the extra accessories that were offered with the princess dresses. He adored wearing the tiaras, gloves, capes and cloaks, along with the sparkly glitter shoes. I predicted that this child was going to be a true diva when he grew up! Not only was his immediate family supportive of his choices, but most of our extended family and close friends. It wasn’t until he hit middle school which was a large regional school, that reality towards gay, lesbian, and transgendered people really took a swipe at his self awareness. Fortunately there was a large enough core group of gay, lesbian, and transgendered students who were willing to speak out against some of the more blatant claims some of their own classmates were spouting. It resulted in quite a few heated discussions both in school and at PTA meetings among parents and students. I feel proud of my nephew. He has been able to grow up in a more open and supportive community than many gay, lesbian, and transgendered folks of my generation.

Abstinence is a valid personal choice, don’t get me wrong (Morrissey doesn’t seem any the worse for it), but like most  easy answers, it ignores the complexity of real life in favor of a narrow, subjective ideal. For every study that says celibate kids are more likely to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases and premature pregnancies, there’s another that finds little or no effect (the latest report claims that kids taught abstinence may delay sexual activity by an average of at most one year. From my experience, that would probably be the year separating high school and college…).

The older you get, the more unlikely you are to be vulnerable to these temptations or their accompanying horrors. In fact the older you get the less likely abstinence is something you think about (more likely to be consumed with finding info about bioidentical testosterone, or testosterone replacement in an effort to push back the clock. Jeremy Somers tells us that hormone replacement therapy using bioidentical testosterone can restore a man’s libido and energy while improving his self image, regardless of his sexual orientation or his concerns about his own sexuality.

Those of us who grew up in comparatively sophisticated communities may not be able to truly understand how horrible it can be to try to come to terms with your sexuality in the midst of an environment which encourages repression and denial. For now, the only real answer may be to encourage kids to be perceptive enough to separate truth from propaganda…and give them the support and courage to be strong enough to maintain themselves, even when surrounded by seemingly overwhelming efforts to force them to be someone else

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