Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boston Teens Speak up for Sex Ed

This afternoon, Boston City Council's Committee on Women and Healthy Communities held a public hearing on a proposal to bring sexual health education and condom availability to Boston Public High Schools. Committee Chair Ayanna Pressley presided with eloquence and insight over the hearing this afternoon.

While I am happy to express the depth and breadth of my support for sexuality education and condom availability in the Boston public schools in future posts, for this post I will focus on what I experienced as the most powerful part of this afternoon's proceedings: the testimony from the teenagers themselves.

The Boston teens who spoke today totally stole the show, and rightly so. The teen activists from the Hyde Square Task Force have been leading this work all year. “Sexuality is a part of our lives,” said one teen, insisting that young people want to make responsible decisions but need the tools that will help them on the path. The teens advocated not just for condom availability but also for access to broadly comprehensive sex education. The teens named issues such as health, relationships, identity, power, and control.

Two teenagers from the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence also spoke. One said that sex education has the potential to help each student learn how to become a better person and a better partner. The other said that her last relationship had been unhealthy, but she did not know it until she had the opportunity to learn about healthy relationships through her involvement in this task force. Her story illustrates the importance of making this education available to all teens.

A representative from the Boston Student Advisory Council said that without sexuality education, students feel confused, and they feel they are not receiving the support they need from their school. She wants teenagers to learn about both the emotional and physical risks of sexual activity.

Two teens spoke for Massachusetts Asian and Pacific Islanders for Health (MAP for Health). The first teen scrolled through his Blackberry, reading aloud that students need an environment in which they can ask questions without judgment. When he finished, he reached across to pass the Blackberry to his fellow speaker. Lovely laughter flowed through the room. I felt it was a very sweet and humbling moment… The next teen was a bit flustered, but soon he started speaking and spoke eloquently. He emphasized that teachers need appropriate training in order to feel comfortable addressing issues of sexuality in the classroom. Therefore, he argued, Boston should invest in getting more teachers trained and certified to teach sexuality education. Both teens also made a plea for sexuality education that is fully inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth.

Many adults who work in various capacities to address the health and wellbeing of Boston youth also spoke with poise and insight, as did the Chair herself. But tonight, I am prioritizing the voices of the teens themselves, the people whose lives and whose friends’ lives can be changed for the better through the passage of this bill. Let’s listen to the voices of the teenagers, who organize their peers, educate themselves and others, and have the courage to speak at City Hall and ask that their right to education be fulfilled. These youth really want to be educated and equipped and responsible and healthy—we, the adults in power, now need to give them what they want.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Better, Bolder, Hotter

First: watch this video.

Lyrics here.

Rebecca Drysdale made this video for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, and I hereby dub this video my favorite thing on the Internet. I challenge you to find something online that I will love more than this video–seriously, go for it.

I love so many things about this video.

It’s hot and fun and funny.
Having fun has a very important role to play in the process of enjoying and promoting sex positivity. After all, sex is about pleasure and ecstasy and just plain feeling that. Watching this video makes me feel good. Pleasure is an important theme throughout the video—what the youth find pleasurable, what adults find pleasurable. In addition, the video itself provides an opportunity for us (the viewers) to enjoy the pleasures of the entertainment media—comedy, music, and dance.

It makes me want to throw a dance party.
I have been searching for sex positive hip-hop and pop music for many years now. This song promotes positive messages about queerness, community, and sexual empowerment. What other song would you rather dance you? (Read: another challenge for you to post sex positive links in the comment section.)

It is an active, multidimensional demonstration of how better it can get.
She did not just tell us that it gets better–she proved it by making this video. We can see that she is a smart, talented, edgy, hilarious young artist. She also shows the personal, professional, and sexual confidence necessary to sing loud and proud a plethora of explicit sexual slang and anti-gay slurs effectively used to communicate a clear positive message. Furthermore, she has a community. You heard her at the end–there were over 50 people involved in making the video! They embrace her artistic talents and demonstrate their support of her sexual identity. If that’s not better, I don’t know what is.

Special shout outs to Rebecca Drysdale, The It Gets Better Project, and The Trevor Project for their ongoing support of LBGTQ youth. Thank you!