Why Mandatory RSE Must Include Disabled Students
This September relationship and sex education became mandatory for all pupils in primary and high school within the UK. When this news was released, and discussions of exclusivity and LGBTQIA+ communities were said to be included many people had something to say about this. The purpose of including these communities is to encourage tolerance, acceptance, and safe relations within this community. People did not agree this should be spoken about fearing conversion into queerness occurring from this information. But of course, the true purpose is to accept others and ourselves. Encourage safe sex and general safety. All this education will be provided in a comprehensive age-appropriate manner. Sexual education will only be provided to high school students. I personally as a queer person think this is a great idea. I didn’t know for a very long-time girls could give girls sexually transmitted infections, until I watched a LGBTQIA+ sex educator on YouTube called Stevie Boeri.
While watching people’s reactions I began to worry about other students like myself who were disabled, would they have access to the same programme and information in all its inclusivity? Would their guardians be more likely to exclude them? There is a stereotype of many parents being more guarded with disabled children than others. This includes the type of information they allow them to consume. I was lucky to grow up in an open accepting environment where my curiosity was cultivated. My mum was a midwife when I was born and later became a sexual health nurse. These conversations were familiar to me, and I had always been very curious so asked questions and did research.
After doing some research I learned that disabled students will also have mandatory RSE. This is so important. Unfortunately, sexuality and disability are rarely spoken of alongside one another. But they are akin to one another. Sex and disability are different for everybody, they both require communication and adaptations. Our doctors don’t ask us about our sexual health or dysfunction caused by our disabilities. There are barely any resources online (I will link some). It is so important to educate disabled people on healthy relationships and safe sex. There is some data on how this previous lack of sexual education has affected us, research suggests that disabled children are at greater risk of abuse (including sexual abuse) than non-disabled children. Sexual health statistics also highlight inequality, with one example being that there are higher rates of unplanned pregnancy and STIs amongst disabled young people and adults.
As disabled people we must sacrifice a lot of boundaries many young people have. You may need assistance dressing, cleaning, or attending doctor appointments. This can lead to a lack of privacy or being taken advantage of during these moments. Receiving RSE can teach disabled people what is and isn’t acceptable from their care givers and for their own behaviour. It can also provide a sense of body autonomy through practices of consent. Learning to ask before helping someone or encouraging someone to ask for helps you feel more secure in yourself and your surroundings. This type of education may need to be provided differently depending on competency and ability but regardless it is necessary. It would be great if there were educators specifically trained in providing this information to the disabled community answering questions and providing solutions to problems.
My previous articles on sex and disability
I can attest to how being taught about these things in a non-judgmental provides a space to feel confident and safe in exploring intimacy with yourself and others. I do not have shame around my sexuality because of the way I was raised. When I had questions about how my disease would impact my sexual health, I was comfortable enough to ask my neurologist and he was more than willing to answer and refer me to another member of the MS team specifically trained in Ms and sex! These people exist but you must seek them out. Which is hard to do if you don’t have the vocabulary or are filled with shame. I truly believe if done right this additional education will make such a difference in every pupil’s life!