Not many 19-year-olds can say that they are a sex educator.
Lotus Lloyd can.
“I have more formal training, but I think a lot of people do sex education work and they don’t realize it.” explained Lloyd, a first-year student at Oberlin College, where he’s studying gender, sexuality, and feminist studies and education.
Lloyd was recently named to GLAAD’s prestigious “20 Under 20” list of changemakers: a group of outstanding young people who are accelerating acceptance through their work in entertainment and media.
As a Black queer transmasculine person, Lloyd serves on the Advocates for Youth’s Racial Justice in Sex-Education Youth Advisory Council and Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s Gender Affirming Care Community Advisory Board.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with this inspiring student about the relevance of being a young sex educator and how he uses his voice to make a difference.
What does it mean to be a sex educator at 19?
I feel like for a lot of people, the way they got sex education – especially when their school system did not help them – was by talking to their peers. This could be lunchroom conversations or anywhere you would learn through conversations.
I have more formal training, but I think a lot of people do sex education work and they don’t realize it. From my experience of working with Planned Parenthood of Michigan, I learned how to give medically accurate information. I have been able to take an active role in the community-based learning practice that is already in existence. I enjoy what I do and I think it’s cool that I have the opportunity to be a part of education. But for me it’s not a particularly unique or special thing.
Within the school systems, there’s a lot of variabilities based on what each district deems is correct. Some schools play a video from the 1980s and decide that is the education that the students receive. What I do in terms of talking to people is address their needs in a way that is helpful to the individual.
What does racial justice look like in that space of sex education?
For me there are several layers including the medical aspect: how we collect and distribute medical information. The way we do this right now is very biased towards whiteness. When you look at most sex education, biology, and physiology courses, you have white models who are portraying what you are looking at. This establishes a bad bedrock for medically accurate information.
Take women’s healthcare for example. When you look at transgender women’s healthcare, a lot of medications are things we experience side effects from because they weren’t made for us to take them in the way we are taking them. There is a fundamental lack of care in the medical sector for both research and the direct care perspective.
I think a lot of sex education tends to focus on the prejudices of the people who originally proposed them, particularly in the 70s and 80s. I know people who still learned about Quaaludes and how to watch out for them. That is not the landscape we are dealing with today. Sex education within schools doesn’t seem to want to address areas such as sexting, hook-up culture, and pornography, but that is how a lot of young people and people in general engage in sex in today’s context. It’s important that we address how the curriculum is attentive or inattentive to what students need and want regarding sex education.
A lot of students are straight up just experiencing racism, homophobia, and transphobia in the classroom. You see people trying to tamp down the promiscuity of people of color by going overboard. In a white run, but very Black and brown school, you might have a more intense abstinence-only curriculum. You may use the sex education space to degrade people and teach things such as here is this negative stereotype and that will convince students not to become this fictionalized idea of a Black person.
To me, in stigmatizing, not talking about and ignoring sex, is all negligent because you immediately impact the most marginalized people first. They have less opportunities to access that education elsewhere.
Talk about the importance of youth voices in LGBTQ+ advocacy? How difficult is it to get your voice in the mix and how do we get more youth voices?
I have a lot of complex feelings about “youth voice” in general. Right now we are in an era where young people are thinking they are the future and going to change the world. However, a lot of mistakes were made with that hubris in the past.
I do think that we are particularly poised to do research to look into things and grasp historical context of events because we know how to use the internet. I think that’s really important for people to actively engage with our historical databases including what we have from the past and what we have created now. It is much easier to connect queer space and queer history without being involved in urban nightlife scenes.
With my voice, it’s not super difficult to say how I feel about a situation in my community and have it be addressed. But a lot of spaces are oppressive. I know a lot of Black, queer people who have anxiety caused by oppressive, white spaces. Even if you do speak up and are maybe heard, a lot of times you will be listened to in a tokenistic way. Eventually, you may get burnt out from those experiences.
By continuing to speak out, I have been able to make some change in different areas. Speaking with people in your community and engaging with them is a really healing practice. 🔥