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I had my first sex ed class when I was 18 and in the 12th grade.
By that time, there was nothing you could necessarily tell me about my body and sex that I didn’t already know.
I didn’t know the difference between HIV and AIDS until I was well into adulthood. My friends who had been sexually assaulted were trying to talk about it, but didn’t have the language to express what had happened to them.
Growing up as a girl, we were talking about it with each other.
Even though I went to a public middle school in Portland, Oregon, which people think of as being so liberal, we had abstinence-based sex ed.
They hired an outside organization called the STARS Program [Students Today Aren’t Ready for Sex].
And that was it.”There was no room for conversations about gender, consent, or sexuality, which at the time-those are prime years when queer and trans kids are figuring out what’s going on.
I was introduced to the world in a pretty different way.
In sex ed, no one [talked] about sex in the context of queerness.
I remember some of my classmates asking really basic questions about what was happening with their bodies and the instructors were just like, “Well, you don’t need to worry about that.” It made everyone even more confused than they were before, because suddenly it was bad to talk about it.
I think the only thing I was taught about HIV is that it’s contracted through sex with two men.
I was born in 1987, three days before Larry Kramer founded the influential advocacy group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in reaction to the nearly at the hands of government foot-dragging and political neglect.