A new wave of online sex education introduces children to LGBTQ+ issues

How YouTubers are providing free LGBTQ+ focused sex ed to bolster school curriculum

YouTuber Lindsay Amer on the set of Queer Kid Stuff. SUBMITTED

Picture this: A chalkboard with rainbows drawn on it propped up on an easel made for children. Crayons and other props are spread out on a desk. A stuffed bear sits at attention ready for class.

“Welcome to Queer Kid Stuff! I’m Lindsay, and this is my best friend Teddy,” the host says.

This is how YouTuber Lindsay Amer begins each of their sex education videos for children.

Just after finishing their study of theatre for young audiences, Amer, who goes by they/them pronouns, fell in love with children’s storytelling. After coming out as non-binary and reflecting on their own experiences, they wanted to alleviate the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the media for kids.

WATCH | Amer’s first episode of Queer Kid Stuff:

“I wanted figure out how to marry these two things that (were) coming out in my life the same time, this love for storytelling in theatre, performance and media and also my queer identity,” they said in an interview with the Toronto Observer.

Amer’s series fills a niche by educating grade school students on same-sex issues, which has been largely missing from Ontario’s public school curriculum since the provincial government made cuts in 2018. Much LGBTQ+ representation disappeared, including references to gender identity, sexuality and more.

Read more on the cuts to the sex education curriculum:

Many LGBTQ+ students have to resort to outside sources for their sex education. A study by MediaSmarts in 2014 reported that 23 per cent of teens sought out pornography online, an unreliable source for education on this topic.

However, certain content creators are working to change the narrative for LGBTQ+ youth who are disadvantaged by the education system by making reliable information available to them in relatable terms, just as Amers is doing with Queer Kids Stuff.

Their web series “aims to eliminate stigma by properly educating future generations through entertaining video content,” according to the website.

Similar to the way Ontario’s sex education curriculum has been a topic of controversy, so has Amer’s content. The conservative censorship rules that platforms like YouTube require users to follow have affected Amer’s content, by means of demonetization and even blacklisting, a term used when a video will no longer appear in the platform’s “suggested” pages.

“I’m actually part of a lawsuit suing Google and YouTube over discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Amer. They could not comment further on the topic.

WATCH | For more information on the lawsuit:

Amer’s stance is that representing diverse people means including diverse people in the conversation about representation. They believe sex education is more than just a curriculum because it shapes the lives of LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ youth alike. They want to see the schools’ sex education curriculum reflect that.

“It’s important that when you’re writing these curricula that you are consulting queer people, that you are consulting women, that you are consulting intersex folks, who are very underrepresented in sex education,” said Amer.

“It’s so important to include those marginalized voices.”

There’s a divide between those who supported the inclusivity of the 2015 sex education curriculum versus those who commend Doug Ford for the changes made during the summer of 2018 to reduce LGBTQ+ representation.

 “If you look at what is provided in terms of elementary grade level discussion of LGBTQ+ issues, it’s practically non-existent. The curriculum is really too late in terms of when it starts to address LGBTQ+ issues,” said Alex McKay executive director of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SEICCAN), a not-for-profit charitable organization.

McKay said that in order for a sex education curriculum to be successful, it must be relevant to all kinds of students.

In a report titled “A call to action: LGBTQ Youth need Inclusive Sex Education,” the Human Rights Campaign specifies on their website that “well-designed and well-implemented sex education can reduce risk behavior and support positive sexual health outcomes among teens.”

Egale Canada, the country’s leading organization for LGBTQ+ people and issues, released a study called Every Class in Every School that looked further into what LGBTQ+ students face in secondary schools. These were some of their findings:

  • 55 per cent of sexual minority students have reported being verbally harassed in school.
  • One in five LGBTQ+ students reported being physically harassed in school.

“It’s very important that, from the very beginning, when we’re providing developmentally appropriate information to children and youth, that we are being inclusive. Kids in elementary school, for example, are aware of diversity of sexual orientation,” said McKay.

“The fact that sexual health education in schools often just ignores that sends a very negative message not only to LGBTQ+ children and youth, but it’s also sending a message to the whole school community, and it’s not being inclusive.”

Limited sex education is not only an issue for Ontarians, but an issue widely seen across the world. That’s where online educators where Amers and Nadine Thornill come in.

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Thornhill, a Toronto-based expert in adolescent sexuality, is host of her own sex education web series. #SaveSexEd is a collection of videos tackling sex-related topics in an educational manner so that anyone – parents, caregivers, teachers, educators, community leaders or even youth themselves – can have positive conversations about sex and sexuality.

“If I had $1 for every time somebody said to me, ‘This is something that I did not know and never learned in school,’ I would be doing very well,” Thornhill said.

She started her journey to becoming a sex educator when she realized how insufficient her own sex education had been.

WATCH | Thornhill’s first episode of #SaveSexEd:

Topics like diversity of gender, of sex, or of sexual orientation are not beyond a child’s comprehension, she said.

“Those are things that young children are certainly capable of, being aware of and of knowing, it’s not going to destroy them” Thornhill said.

 “By saying, ‘Okay, we have to wait until [age] 13 to have any kind of public discussion about this’ implies that there is something inherently sort of dangerous and child inappropriate about gender diversity.”

Thornhill is willing to create the content that she does if it serves the greater good, but her primary intent is to give adults the resources they need. She wants adults to have is to become responsible and trustworthy figures who can facilitate young people’s education.

“I think a lot of us don’t have a framework for how you would have this conversation in a child-appropriate way,” she said.

Content creators amongst the likes of Amer and Thornhill share one common belief that the public education system does not: LGBTQ+ youth deserve the same relevant sex education as their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts do.

“Even if children don’t have the language to express to us or even explain to themselves who they are, there is an instinctive understanding that almost all of us have,” Thornhill said.

“And so, when what they’re being taught is incongruent with what they are experiencing internally, or even what they’re seeing of the world, there’s going to be a lot more confusion that can be much more deeply entrenched.”

More from the Toronto Observer:

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Posted: Apr 18 2020 2:29 pm
Filed under: News