Sex Education: We’ve Got the Right to Know!

Sex education is classes that help people learn about:

  • Sex
  • Sexuality
  • Healthy decisions. 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Gender expression
  • Having children. 

Sex education is often taught in middle or high school. All people deserve access to sex education.

People with disabilities deserve access to sex education. But often, we don’t receive it. Students with disabilities are less likely to receive sex education in school. Autistic students are even less likely to receive sex education in schools. Only a few states require that students with disabilities receive the same sex education as everyone else. Many states do not require any students receive sex education at all. 

Sex education in school often doesn’t talk about LGBTQIA+ identities. LGBTQIA+ stands for:

  • Lesbian, 
  • Gay, 
  • Bisexual, 
  • Transgender, 
  • Queer, 
  • Questioning, 
  • Intersex, 
  • Asexual, 
  • Aromantic, 
  • And more. 

You can read more about different LGBTQIA+ identities in our toolkit “Proud and Supported: Definitions and Beyond.” When schools don’t talk about LGBTQIA+ identities, LGBTQIA+ students don’t feel supported. LGBTQIA+ students don’t get to learn about LGBTQIA+-specific health issues. LGBTQIA+ students might not learn how to keep themselves safe during sex. Because of all these things, LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to have health problems throughout their lives.

Many people assume that people with disabilities don’t need sex education. People assume we can’t have or don’t want to have sex. Or, they think we cannot consent (say yes) to having sex. If we are under guardianship, our guardians may try to stop us from having sex. If we live in a group home or other kind of institution, we may not be allowed to: 

  • Have sex,
  • Go on dates, 
  • Or even be allowed to keep our door closed. 

All these are reasons why people say we shouldn’t learn about sex education.

People with disabilities are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Sexually assaulted means we are forced to have sex when we don’t want to. This happens for a lot of reasons. We may not learn about consent and our right to say no to sex. Other people might see us as “easy targets” because we are disabled. If we are sexually assaulted, we might not know who to tell about it. We might not have anyone we can safely tell. 

ASAN and the National Partnership for Women & Families wrote a paper about sex education for people with disabilities. In the paper, we made suggestions for how to improve access to sex education for people with disabilities. The suggestions are:

  • Schools should make sure that all students with disabilities get access to sex education.
  • Schools should make sure that teachers can teach sex education in a way that is accessible to students with disabilities.
  • People who teach sex education need to build trust with people with disabilities. This includes people of color with disabilities.
  • Elected officials need to pass laws that make sure all students have access to good sex education. This includes students with disabilities.

Elected officials need to support people with disabilities’ right to supported decision-making.