When sex education becomes a privilege

By Zara Hurtado

On any given day, one can walk into the Wellness Center and find countless ads featuring smiling straight couples plastered on the walls asking, “have you talked to your partner about safe sex today?”

While condoms and various forms of birth control have become synonymous with safe sex, they are more or less used by couples in straight relationships.

The services offered at the center include 10 condoms for $1, online birth control classes, free HIV/AIDs testing and STD testing. On-campus wellness centers such as ours have good intentions, considering the rates of STDs amongst young adults.

Although it’s admirable that our campus provides easy access to free condoms and pamphlets on how to properly use contraceptives, there is a glaring omission in Cal Poly Pomona’s sexual education-what does safe sex look like for the LGBTQ students on our campus?

According to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of STD cases occur among 20-24 year olds, in other words, college students.

That same study also states that gay and bisexual men are most at risk of contracting common sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.

If reputable studies show that members of the LGBTQ community are largely at risk, then it should be concerning that resources on how to have safe sex are not readily available on our campus.

Consider students who aren’t ready to come out publicly. Asking a student assistant at the Pride Center or attending one of the center’s Queer Chats can effectively out someone before they are ready to do it themselves.

This can deter students who aren’t open about their sexuality from seeking the answers to their questions regarding safe sex, which in turn can put them at a higher risk of contracting an STD.

Without widely promoted services such as safe sex workshops or closed discussion groups for LGBTQ-identifying students, students are often tasked with finding their answers online or through peers.

This opens the way for common misconceptions about same-sex relationships to thrive. One common myth is that lesbian and bisexual women don’t need to get regular pap tests. Another harmful one is that these same women can’t get STDs.

This is a major problem because students may mistakenly think that sexually transmitted infections such as genital herpes and human papillomavirus are exclusive to straight couples when in reality, same sex couples can pass them to each other as well.

It’s easy for young adults who don’t have reliable resources to believe misconceptions such as these. Without accurate information being widely circulated, students can become more susceptible to contracting STDs and less likely to ask their on-campus physician if they should even be keeping an eye on their sexual health.

One way our campus could help its LGBTQ community would be to offer readily available and private safe-sex resources for LGBTQ students, especially those who aren’t comfortable to openly seek educational resources.

The same way there are free condoms and posters advertising various birth control options posted around campus, there should be flyers encouraging students to make one-on-one appointments at the Wellness Center, a hotline for students to call or even an online resource where students can ask their questions privately.

With a community of students so at risk, there is no reason for our campus to fail our LGBTQ students this way.

Straight students have the privilege of their sexual health being a classroom topic, which is where the problem lies.

It’s time to adopt a broader view of sexual health and open discussions for students who are trying to navigate their sexual health.

After all, access to sex education shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for those whose sexuality is considered the standard.

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Zara Hurtado / The Poly Post

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