Sex Education for LGBTQ+ Adolescents

Ceili Charley, Annika Tureson, Linzie Wildenauer, Kristen Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: This paper summarizes the current research on the impact of abstinence-only sex education programs on LGBTQ+ adolescent health in the USA. We also seek to explore the current barriers to implementing comprehensive sex education, as well as discuss the future of LGBTQ+ adolescent health by outlining crucial components of LGBTQ+-inclusive sex education. Recent Findings: The US sex education debate is centered on two approaches: abstinence-only and comprehensive. Abstinence-only sex education emphasizes risk reduction through abstaining from sexual behavior and has been found to be ineffective in promoting healthy sexual behavior among adolescents, compared to comprehensive sex education which centers on disseminating inclusive and medically accurate information. Abstinence-only sex education is taught through a heteronormative framework that excludes and devalues the experiences of LGBTQ+ adolescents. LGBTQ+ individuals are at increased risk for negative health outcomes as compared to their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. Lack of knowledge regarding safe sexual practices and consent, coupled with the shame and fear-based messaging promoted by abstinence-only sex education, further contributes to the health disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ youth. Summary: The content and inclusivity of sex education has important implications for the health of LGBTQ+ youth. Abstinence-only sex education further compounds the health disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ adolescents by erasing LGBTQ+ representation and leaving out crucial information on diverse, non-heterosexual sex practices. Numerous barriers exist to implementing comprehensive, inclusive sex education including funding, policies, teacher training, and attitudes toward sex and LGBTQ+ individuals. To address these health disparities, we must listen to and amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ youth to promote safe, comprehensive, and LGBTQ+-inclusive content within our sex education system in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Sexual Health Reports
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Abstinence
  • LGBTQ+ health
  • Sex education


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