taras-chernus-mYt2lGON2cc-unsplash.jpg

This story is part of Prism’s series on sex positivity and the arts. Read the rest of the series here.

The state of sexual health education is dire in the United States.

Currently, only 28 states and the district of Washington, D.C., require sex education and HIV education, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Even more alarming, of these 28 states, only 17 require their sex education curriculum to be medically accurate and only one state requires instruction on consent.

Wide swaths of young people across the United States are subject to abstinence-only education or sex education that rarely goes beyond the gender binary as it relates to reproduction and contraception, failing to encompass relationships, consent, and sexual violence prevention. (There appears to be a link between lack of sex education and sexual assault.) But LGBTQIA kids in particular are being failed at a catastrophic level. Most sexual health education fails to account for sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, fewer than 6% of LGBTQIA students aged 13 to 21 reported that their health classes included positive representations of LGBTQIA-related topics.

While things have only gotten worse under the Trump administration, the lack of comprehensive, inclusive sex education has been a longstanding problem. Who among us received sexual health education that actually encompassed sexuality, sexual health, and gender identity; education that did not erase LGBTQIA people? When you consider that sexual health is foundational to overall health and well-being, it’s clear we’ve all been failed. 

While the internet is a dumpster fire of bad information, there are a number of radical LGBTQI sex educators of color using social media to help educate the masses and fill in the gaps of awareness and understanding many of us are lacking. In short, they provide the kind of inclusive sex positive sexual health education all of us could have benefitted from.

Prism took on the pleasurable task of researching and compiling just a few of these folks. Here’s what we learned, and where to find them.

Ericka Hart

Over the course of their 11 years as a sex educator, queer, Black, and non-binary activist Ericka Hart has woven together anti-racist work and sex education for an approach that not only disrupts cis-heternormativity in their field, but also sheds light on systems of oppression and how they take shape in sexual and romantic relationships.

In 2014 at the age of 28, Hart was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. Two years later, they made international headlines when they appeared at the AFROPUNK festival topless, showing their double mastectomy scars. Hart’s topless activism has created awareness and visibility for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ cancer survivors, and also pushed the activist to include disability in their sex education curriculum.

Hart offers wide-ranging workshops, including Sexualizing Cancer, BSMS/Kink, Decolonizing Health, and Radical Sex Positivity. You can learn more about Hart here.

Bianca I. Laureano 

Award-winning educator and sexologist Bianca I. Laureano has made an astounding mark on the sexuality field as the founder of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, The LatiNegrxs Project, and ANTE UP! Virtual Freedom Professional Development School for Justice Workers.

Laureano’s work as a sex educator is deeply rooted in justice, equity, and inclusion and she is leading efforts to create sexual health education curriculum that is rooted in disability justice practice, self-determination, and social-emotional learning competences.

As a first generation Puerto Rican, one of Laureano’s areas of expertise is Latina feminist thought and she has developed curriculum that includes information about Latinx sexuality, Machismo and Latinos, and the virgin/whore dichotomy. In her more than 10 years in the field, Laureano has regularly worked with young people of color, offering workshops such as Hip Hop, Feminism & Sexuality, Latinos, Sexuality & Media, Feminism & Pornography, and the Criminalization of Latino Sexuality. You can learn more about Laureano here.

Pidgeon Pagonis 

As an organizer, blogger, filmmaker, and Youtuber, queer non-binary intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis has broadened the public’s understanding of people born with chromosomes, reproductive organs, or genitalia not easily categorized as male or female. Through their tireless organizing and activism as the co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project, Pargonis’ leadership was also central to a recent gigantic win for the intersex community.

After the Intersex Justice Project’s three-year #EndIntersexSurgery campaign, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago said in a statement that its policy of operating on intersex babies was “harmful and wrong.” Moving forward, the hospital will no longer perform irreversible genital procedures on intersex people until they can participate meaningfully in making the decision for themselves.

In Pagonis’ free online materials and in-person workshops, they dynamically weave together their personal experiences with gender studies and queer theory to provide a nuanced and informative overview of intersex communities and broader information about binaries and spectrums across the LGBTQIA community. You can learn more about Pagonis here.

Jimanekia Eborn 

Comprehensive sex educator and sexual assault and trauma expert Jimanekia Eborn entered the field from her work in mental health, where she saw an overwhelming need for sexual education and trauma support.

Eborn’s central focus is providing comprehensive sex education to young people and adults, and assisting and supporting sexual assault survivors. In her online classes and workbooks, she teaches people how to support survivors, for example, and how to date as a survivor. In her work as a consultant, Eborn uses her experience as an educator and her perspective as a queer Black survivor to help writers working in film, television, and publishing accurately and respectfully depict sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. She also develops curriculum about sexuality and trauma for young people.

Currently, the sex educator is raising funds to create a retreat for women of color survivors that will be led by sex therapists and sex educators of color, offering community, healing and education. You can learn more about Eborn here.

Extra Credit

For those looking for additional inclusive and expansive sexual health education resources, check out Sex Ed with DB, a feminist sex podcast that utilizes storytelling to center LGBTQIA and POC educators and activists in the field.

Tina Vásquez

Tina Vásquez is a contributing writer at Prism. She covers gender justice, workers' rights, and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.