Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Bailee Smith. I’m 15 years old and I’m from Mabank, Texas. I’m a freshman at Mabank High School. I’ve been working with the We Won’t Be Silenced campaign. Its main purpose is to destigmatize topics like sex, reproductive health, and periods. The campaign leader started a challenge called “share one, tag one” and I wasn’t sure what to post about. I ended up doing a post on sex ed and birth control. I researched online to see if Texas required sex ed and that’s how I found out about the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and got connected to do this interview.
What is your experience with sex education in Texas?
At my school, we only have sex education classes in sixth and eighth grade. It doesn’t happen again after that. Basically, all our school taught us was that being pregnant was bad. They told us not to have sex because we would get pregnant and it would ruin our lives. They didn’t tell us anything about STDs or STIs. They didn’t tell us how to have safe sex. They didn’t tell us about our options if we did get pregnant. The school also split us up by gender so we didn’t learn anything about the boys and they didn’t learn anything about us.
The class discussed horror stories of teens that got pregnant in high school. They were talked about like they had thrown their lives away by having a baby. They didn’t talk about anything positive that could come from healthy relationships and they didn’t show support to teens who were sexually active.
What would you wish you had been taught about sex education?
I wish our sex ed classes taught us about all the different forms of birth control. A lot of people my age think that there are only two types– the pill and condoms. But really, there are so many effective methods that a lot of people don’t know about. I wish we had learned that birth control isn’t always effective. They didn’t tell us that condoms can break. I hope schools start teaching how to have safe sex because teens will have sex whether they know how to do it safely or not.
There are a lot of pregnancies in my school that might have been prevented if we were taught more. A lot of girls from my school transferred to an online school after getting pregnant so they didn’t have to deal with the stigma and bullying. I wish that our school talked about sex as a natural thing, rather than a negative thing.
What would make you feel more supported in making decisions about sex and relationships?
I started my period very early in third grade. It was very heavy and I had to get on birth control in fourth grade to regulate it. I live with my great-grandma and she had to do a lot of research on it for me. I never really realized that birth control was birth control, I thought it was just something that regulated my period. It was very confusing for me since I was on it so early for different reasons. I had to educate myself on it too.
A lot of my friends started being sexually active in 8th grade. It was around me a lot and I thought it was something that I should learn about. I did a lot of my research myself via the internet using websites like the Texas Campaign and Planned Parenthood. It was hard for me to believe the information I found because it was so different than what I’d been told my whole life. It was eye-opening.
In my sex ed class, our teachers heavily discouraged us from using tampons because of toxic shock syndrome. I was shocked to find out that TSS wasn’t as common as they made it out to be. They also told us that STIs are always incurable and if you get one you will basically die. We learned about AIDs and I think that was the only one we went over.
Where do you find your information about sex and relationships?
Mostly I turn to my friends. My friend who started the We Won’t Be Silenced campaign is an intern at Planned Parenthood and I’ve learned a lot from her. I do live with my great-grandmother and she is very conservative so I don’t feel like I can always talk to her about these kinds of things.
What do you want people to know about your experience?
There is no way to stop all teenagers from having sex, so the best thing you can do to ensure their safety. It is important to educate teens about where to get contraceptives and how to use them. Give teens what they need in order to have safe sex!
I live in a small conservative town and things like sex aren’t talked about. I feel like they need to be. I became an advocate because there is so much stigma surrounding sex and that bothers me.
Before I made my Instagram post about birth control that connected me to the Texas Campaign, I was really nervous. I’ve gotten a lot of hate for my post. It’s sad because the people who are saying things about my post aren’t educated about it. They don’t take any time to do any research because they aren’t interested.
I think what the Texas Campaign does is great because it will help students in the future. We get sex ed talks from our school before most of us are sexually active.