Taking Pride in Sex Education: An Interview with KC Miller
Pride is more than a month-long celebration. Beyond parties and parades, folks across the country also honor Pride in the same way it was created: protest. Activism. Making noise to address the abundance of injustices that the queer community still (very much) faces today.
While many necessary conversations on LGBTQ issues ranging from health care to wedding cakes are happening with an increased frequency this month, there’s one that continues to get overlooked: LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.
All young people have a right to the information and education they need to stay safe and healthy. And this right is especially dire for queer youth — as the latest national report on health behaviors of young people highlights severe sexual health disparities among this population.
To help tackle this topic, we reached out to KC Miller, a not-so-typical 18-year-old. In addition to graduating high school last week, he’s also the president and founder of Keystone Coalition for Advancing Sex Education (CASE) — a nonprofit that advocates for better sex education in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Read our interview with KC below:
Can you tell us about the sex education you received at school?
When I attended a public middle school in rural Pennsylvania, I went through a two-week unit in gym class that covered general health information and sex education every year. It was an abstinence-based program and primarily focused on puberty, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and anatomy. It was laced with scare tactics to coerce people against premarital sex. The same two-week unit also included information about the dangers of drugs like heroin. Meshing information on sex and drugs gave a clear connotation: “Never do these things.”
For high school, I attended a Quaker boarding school in West Chester where we had a much more inclusive and comprehensive model. While far from perfect, it was a step up from the middle school scare tactics and focused slightly more on pleasure and relationships — along with the usual information about STIs and pregnancy.
Ideally, I would have gone through a program that addressed the diverse health needs of our population and included medically accurate, unbiased, and comprehensive lessons.
You’ve mentioned before that, as a gay student, you have witnessed the failures of non-inclusive sex education firsthand. Can you tell us more about this?
Schools have an obligation to teach their students relevant, unbiased, and inclusive information about everything from history to mathematics — and that includes sexuality education. When I was trying to understand myself in middle school sex ed (which was gender segregated and extremely heteronormative), I found myself confused.
There was rarely information that addressed LGBTQ+ health. There was a complete lack of representation for the kind of family unit I see myself being a part of.
While that was difficult, I consider myself lucky that I did not have to endure a program that actively teaches against homosexuality. Sadly, that’s the reality for far too many queer young people.
What inspired you to start advocating for better sex education in your community?
Two things in particular drove me to advocate for better sex education in Pennsylvania:
First, the experience of growing up gay with a heteronormative and uninformative sex education program. In the digital age, I know that many of my queer peers are looking to the internet and other places that lack medical accuracy and comprehensive information. I feel a deep sense of urgency to repair our broken sex ed system to better serve my community and strive for a happier and healthier future.
Second, the raw, unfiltered stories of others inspire me to fight for what I believe in. When I learned the stories of women — my best friends — who had experienced sexual violence, I was horrified, to say the least. But their stories awoke the activist inside me. I knew it would be impossible to magically make their pain disappear, but I realized — in my own way — I could help prevent future assaults through activism.
By talking about consent, breaking down harmful stereotypes, and discussing safer sex, we are potentially preventing future assaults.
What message would you most want to share with people who oppose LGBTQ-inclusive sex education?
At the end of the day, your personal prejudice and beliefs have no place in the classroom. What matters is the health and happiness of our youth. This goes to the core of what Keystone Coalition for Advancing Sex Education is fighting for. What we need in sex ed classrooms is medical accuracy, comprehensive, and unbiased lessons.
If two men or two women are able to get married in this country, it is time they start learning relevant information about keeping their own bodies happy, safe, and healthy.
Comprehensive sex education is not just for queer youth. In fact, the overall majority of changes my group is proposing has less to do with who you are and who you love, and more to do with the accuracy and oversight of the content kids are learning.
Too many programs are teaching kids incorrect information, exaggerating statistics, and relying on shame and fear as teaching tools. And it has led to high rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies. So, not only are we trying to improve inclusivity, but we are also trying to overhaul the system so it works better for everyone.
Imagine you get five minutes in front of the entire U.S. Congress. What would you tell them about sex education?
Five minutes is far too quick, but I’d say something like:
If children’s growth is symbolized by an arch, sex education is the keystone piece at the top. However, our country’s keystone is currently damaged. Without proper consistency and oversight, sex education has become a disaster.
Instead of teaching factual information about how to keep your body safe, happy, and healthy, programs fill our children’s minds with shame and fear of sex. It’s time we address a plethora of problems like unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and much more, by overhauling our system.
We need sex education that favors facts over bias and covers the various health needs of diverse populations.
What advice do you have for other young people who want to work to improve sex education?
First and foremost: REACH OUT!
There are organizations all across the nation working to improve sex education and better the health of our country. Join forces with groups like SIECUS, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, and Keystone CASE. If you do not have time to volunteer, please try to donate.
If you do not have money to donate, use your social media accounts to broadcast the message of comprehensive and inclusive sex education all across your platforms. We all need your help and energy. All you have to do is reach out.
Tell us more about Keystone CASE and how folks can get involved with the work you all are doing.
Keystone Coalition for Advancing Sex Education is an organization run by young people and activists who are dedicated to making sex education more comprehensive and inclusive in PA through legislation. Once we are successful here in PA, we plan to branch out and work all across the nation.