Diary of Systemic Injustice Showcase: A Public Education that Perpetuates Xenophobia

A Public Education that Perpetuates Xenophobia

Sam Coogle

         Sexual orientation and gender identity are two very complex pieces of one’s identity. A child does not begin to develop awareness of their own gender until they are at least three, and their conception of gender and sexuality typically develops through late adolescence, ages 17-19 (Kar et al.). By the time a child has learned to acknowledge their own gender and sexual orientation, there are generally already ideas instilled within them regarding what the ‘normal’ sexuality/gender identity for them is. These ideas stem from several sources: religion, media, public school. The systemic injustice that I will explore here is the way that public school curriculums impede on a child’s understanding of their own sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the way that this same education can perpetuate xenophobia and a lack of understanding.

Sex education in the United States is pitiful in many ways, one of these being its lack of sexual orientation inclusivity. Of the fifty states in America, only nine require that sex education be sexual orientation inclusive while five require that the sex education discourages any sexual orientation that is not heterosexual (“America’s Sex Education”). These five states often do so by connecting HIV directly to homosexuality. While HIV should be a discussion within sex education, I find it sickening that it is being used as a tool to discourage homosexuality. By focusing the conversation on homosexuality instead of sexual health, these states are “othering” the LGBT community and invalidating the existence of sexual orientation within one’s identity. They are implying that sexuality is a choice, and that choosing to be homosexual increases your risk of AIDs.

Figure 1: A chart displaying the topics required in sex education for each of the fifty states. Notice the topics regarding Sexual Orientation. Graphic is from “America’s Sex Education”. Higher quality image can be found on this website.

Beyond the basic understanding of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity that is being deprived of children in health class, public schools should also be teaching the history of the fight for LGBT rights. In fact, only four states in America currently require that LGBT history be taught in public schools: California, New Jersey, Colorado, and Illinois (Schwartz). I have personally heard people make comments about LGBT pride, questioning the validity of celebrating one’s sexuality. I have always found this incredibly disturbing as it undermines the fight for rights that has continued through our lifetime (such as gay marriage becoming legal only in 2016). It is an indicator of the failure of public education to adequately teach the struggles and triumphs of the LGBT community over the past century.


Figure 2: A map showing which states restrict faculty from discussing LGBT issues. Note that this is referring to human rights issues and not just sexual education. This map is from “Like Walking Through a Hailstorm”.

I believe that the way public schools “shield” their students from education regarding the LGBT community is a form of de Beauvoir’s idea of “othering”. By refusing to teach on the LGBT community, or even by discouraging homosexual behavior, these schools set children up to lack an understanding of their peers who belong to this community. Furthermore, the kids within this community are taught from a young age to be the other; they become submissive to the one and often begin to hate their identity.


Works Cited

“America’s Sex Education: How We Are Failing Our Students – Nursing@USC.” USC, 1 Dec. 2020, nursing.usc.edu/blog/americas-sex-education/.

Kar, Sujita Kumar, et al. “Understanding Normal Development of Adolescent Sexuality: A Bumpy Ride.” Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4477452/.

“‘Like Walking Through a Hailstorm.’” Human Rights Watch, 27 May 2020, www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/08/walking-through-hailstorm/discrimination-against-lgbt-youth-us-schools.

Schwartz, Sarah. “Four States Now Require Schools to Teach LGBT History.” Education Week, Education Week, 8 Dec. 2020, www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/four-states-now-require-schools-to-teach-lgbt-history/2019/08.



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