You attended our programs, advocated to bring us to your schools, donated your hard earned cash to our mission, shared our newsletter, supported our book launch, liked us on social media, volunteered and worked with us.
You truly helped make 2018 an amazing year for More Than Sex-Ed. Together, we’ve multiplied our client base, expanded our staff, spoken at conferences, received a grant, led trainings, and will soon be publishing our first children’s book! As we look towards a bright future and a hope-filled new year, I wanted to share with you some “detail shots” looking back on this year’s classes, and the wonderful students we have the joy of working with. Curious, courageous, compassionate young people like these give me all of the hope for the future. I hope you find these educational moments as heartwarming and wholesome as we did.
Let me start with a scene I’m grateful to have witnessed many times over: when we explain to students why comprehensive sex-ed is so important, we tell them that these tools and resources are vital to healthy, loving, caring, mutually fulfilling and satisfying relationships. Usually I’ll say something like, “not everyone wants a romantic or sexual relationship, and that’s okay too; many of these relationship skills are just as important for being a good friend. But if you are someone who wants to fall in love and have a lifetime partner someday, we want that for you, and we want it to be wonderful.”
When we start to talk about love, a room full of young faces—of all genders--light up. So many of our students clearly, naturally, dream of falling in love one day, of having and being a devoted partner. Their faces glow with hope when the sex-ed professionals come into class and tell them that yes, great love is possible, that it can be one of the most beautiful experiences life has to offer, that you deserve it as much as anybody, and we are here to help you develop the skills to make that dream come true.
Here’s another message that I know countless adults desperately wish they could have heard when they were young: we tell our classes that it is a scientific fact that human beings experience and express a wide range of sexual identities, all of which are healthy and normal.
As a result, students come out to us all the time. Sometimes it’s an anonymous card in the question box that says “thank you for including pansexuals”, or “how do I tell my parents I’m bi.” Sometimes a participant stays after class to tell us in a whisper that they have a crush on someone of an unexpected gender, and to ask if that’s okay. We get to tell those anxious teens that yes, it’s okay, feeling that way is normal, there are plenty of people like you and you are not alone.
I’m thinking of one girl in particular, and I will never forget the look of relief on her face: the sense of a weight being lifted, of future possibilities widening before her. To everyone, of every flavor of queer and any age, who is still waiting to hear it: we see you, your feelings are completely real and valid, and you’re perfect just the way you are.
Some of my favorite moments among students are watching teenage boys un-learn messages about toxic masculinity. When we teach about gender stereotypes, and the harm they do, we emphasize that these confining messages hurt everyone—boys, girls, and people in-between or outside-of those genders. Once I was explaining to a high-school class that American men are less likely to have close friendships in adulthood, partly due to cultural messages that discourage men from showing affection or intimacy with each other. Two boys in the back, who had been whispering and making each other laugh periodically throughout the class, looked at each other meaningfully and each threw an arm over each other’s shoulder. “I love you, man,” one said with a grin, and the class “aww”’d, and my heart melted a little bit. The kids are alright, and I’m so glad those goofy boys have each other.
These are just a handful of my treasured memories from the past year of teaching with More Than Sex-Ed, and as we begin 2019 I look forward to collecting many, many more. I’m honored to share them with you (without violating our classroom agreements about respecting confidentiality!) because these joyful, hopeful, educational experiences are possible only with your support. Thank you from the entire MTSE team for believing in our work and helping us nurture healthy youth!