Planned Parenthood believes in fact-based, respect-oriented sex education for everyone.
For decades, we’ve fought for youth to have access to the crucial sexual and reproductive health information they need to make the best decisions about their own bodies and lives – we’ve also pioneered the best ways to bring that information to them.
In order to build an educational program that’s truly for everyone, we needed to acknowledge that a cisgender, heterosexual, white approach to the topic isn’t for everyone. It’s not enough for information to be fact-based and shame-free. It must also be relevant, accessible and inclusive!
Many youths belonging to gender and sexual minorities – especially youths of color – were not being served by sex education curriculum which, left out discussion of same-sex relationships, gender identity and the experiences of intersectional oppression.
Because of homophobia, transphobia, and other systemic barriers, LGBTQ young people are more likely to be impacted by unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Annika Shore, Education Manager at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, explained, “Planned Parenthood is part of the progressive field of sex educators who have been creating more LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, but a program that specifically centers LGBTQ needs and experiences did not exist. There was a gap; There was a need that was not being served.”
So, five years ago, the education department of Planned Parenthood accepted a grant from the Office of Population Affairs, a federal teen pregnancy program. With these grant moneys, a sex education program was developed for LGBTQ youth, as well as for clinic staff and providers who serve them as patients.
Shore explained the program was researched for three years, and since its launch, has been piloted with over 1,400 youth across the country, in 16 different states.
IN·clued uses a dual approach to lowering teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates among LGBTQ youth aged 14 through 19. The curriculum features a workshop that helps fill gaps in sexual health information that is relevant and inclusive to all genders and identities. Teens are also referred to local health care providers who are trained to provide LGBTQ-friendly services. This combination has resulted in youth seeking sexual health services (because they know a provider they can go to without fear of stigma or discrimination) and engaging in less risky sexual behaviors.
Each workshop is three hours long and is led by a facilitator. One IN·clued facilitator noted, after leading a workshop, “The excitement in the room – when the teens realize that this curriculum is for them, that it is LGBTQ-focused, led and designed – is palpable. There is an opening to opportunity, to possibilities and to community that is unlike any other sex education workshop for youth I have seen in a decade of doing this work… The most striking experiences I had in the program were with youth who took the time after the workshop to follow up with me and tell me that they had accessed healthcare, or to tell me how important it was for them to find a queer community in the IN·clued space. It’s a small thing but knowing that the workshop helped those young people dig into the courage, strength, and determination it takes to access sexual healthcare as a young person felt monumental.”
Over the past two years, IN·clued workshop participates were 45% youth of color, and 33% were transgender and/or non-binary identified. BIPOC LGBTQ youth who participated had even more positive sexual behavior change after a year, and our trans and non-binary participants had even greater health care access.
Shore noted, “In the field of sex education, it is very rare to see these kinds of positive outcomes 12 months after youth participate in a single workshop. We attribute the success of this program to listening to young people, designing a program that met the needs they specifically said they had, and then learning from our participants and making it better as we went along.”
Some of the feedback from youth workshop participants included:
• “I really appreciated the information on how to talk to clinicians about my life and my body because I struggle all the time with that.”
• “In the sex education curriculum, I learned some things I never knew about sex.”
• “It was great to have a safe space just for LGBT people where I could ask questions and share opinions free of judgment.”
• “I found out about contraception options I didn’t know about that worked for my body and my needs.”
Shore also pointed out how important it was for the curriculum to have content for health care providers, as well. “If we educate youth to go get tested, and they go and have a bad experience, they’re not going to come back.”
The provider content addresses health disparities that LGBTQ people face and talks about best practices for providers to make visits comfortable, respectful and relevant for their patients.
Looking forward, PPGNHI’s education department plans to create a virtual version of IN·clued so more teens can be reached during the time of COVID, as well as for all young people whose opportunities for sex education learning are limited to the virtual world.
Shore added, “We also know this program could be tailored to do better for young people who have been most failed by our systems, specifically Black trans and non-binary girls and femmes, and want to get this program into the hands of folks who can make these adaptations.”
For now, the IN·clued curriculum will be available for purchase for all educators.
It is the hope that this curriculum will spread and be put into practice across the country. In the meantime, we’ll continue to work to improve access and inclusivity in our education programs, and in all our health centers.
Shore said, “The biggest thing is that there isn’t another program that exists like this, and the 12-month outcomes show very positive outcomes. It’s rare to see such positive outcomes. We’re in a really exciting moment to be able to provide this service to young people, and we’re also at a turning point because of COVID and the unfriendly political administration. We need resources to improve and grow programs like these, that serve underserved populations, and to get that programming in front of more young people.”
You can support education programs like IN·clued by donating to Planned Parenthood here. Be sure to select your local affiliate from the dropdown menu (PPGNHI or PPINK).