Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Tanya, I am 19 years old, and I am going to be a sophomore in college this Fall. I am originally from California and moved to Austin, Texas, my junior year of high school. I am an English major and want to go to law school one day. I am passionate about reproductive health topics because people from Congress want to prevent teen pregnancies but do not take any appropriate measures to actually prevent teen pregnancies from happening.
What is your experience with sex education in Texas?
I lived in California for most of my life and for my freshmen through sophomore years in high school, I went to a Catholic school. I remember my theology teacher going over sex education topics very briefly, but I think he might have done this without the school’s consent because the school was a very traditional Catholic school. He went over different contraceptive methods, but did not talk about consent or STDs. The professor briefly going over some sex education topics did help me, but I also felt like some topics he went over I already knew the information.
When I started my junior year in high school in Austin, Texas, I went to another private Catholic school that was smaller than the one I attended in California. I believe there were about 400 students – 100 per grade. This high school pretty much completely avoided the topic of sex education altogether, and if they brought up sex topics it was always focused on why we should wait until marriage to practice any sexual acts. They also brought up reasons why we should wait until marriage and would say things like “you owe it to your future kids or your future husband.” I think this was wrong because no one owes anything to anyone because it is your body. At this high school, they didn’t talk about what safe sex practices looked like, consent, or STDs. They didn’t talk about any of those topics, and I remember in the library there were huge posters all over the library that said: “defund Planned Parenthood.” Those posters pretty much summed up their views on abortion, birth control, and having sex outside of marriage.
This past semester for my communications course I gave a five-minute speech on the topic of why we need comprehensive sex education and one of my sources was the Texas Campaign. These are the reasons why we need comprehensive sex education that I put together for my assignment:
- Investing in sex ed is investing in teens’ futures.
- Sexual activity does not increase with sexual education.
- Sex education prepares teens for their college days.
- Current comprehensive sex education will be using more recent facts and figures that give an accurate depiction of today’s society.
- Sex education respects teens who do not ever plan on getting married or those who simply do not want to wait until marriage.
- Sex education significantly decreases teen pregnancies and STDs.
- With sex education, teens can understand what consent and healthy relationships are.
- Sex education should not shame teenagers for being curious about sex.
- Sex education should not use scare tactics against teens.
- Sex education is less expensive than teens having to raise a child for the next 18 years of their life.
What do you want teens right now to know?
I want teens to know that it’s not shameful to be curious or have the desire to know about sex. I think it is a human right to know about your body and how your body works. Not only that, but I think teens should know how easy it can be to get pregnant. Ultimately, I think teens shouldn’t feel ashamed about sex education.
What could have been offered to you as a teen to make you feel more supported in making decisions about sex and relationships?
Talking about sex and relationships freely and being more open about these topics would have been helpful and supportive in my life. I also think not sweeping these topics under the rug or not treating sex education as a topic people should not talk about would have been helpful. Overall, having a more open supportive environment without feeling shame from my parents and community would have helped me feel more supported. Also eradicating the double standards that girls have to face in the world of sex compared to men.
One organization that could have helped me as a teen would have been Planned Parenthood. I now know that you can go on their website and read about different sex education topics. I also think it would have been helpful if the schools I attended had a young person who could have educated us on sex education topics. Overall, I believe it is hypocritical to teach abstinence-only programs and expect teen pregnancy to stop. Abstinence-only sex education leaves a lot of teens misinformed, uneducated and feeling shamed for wanting to learn about sex.
Can you share a memory about a person or service who was most helpful to you when you were working through these decisions about sex and relationships?
My wonderful sister Kristina helped me learn about sex education topics. She also guided me into searching up topics on the Planned Parenthood website. If I was ever curious and did not want to read articles, Planned Parenthood had services where I could chat with a professional health care worker for free, and they helped me with the questions I had.
What do you wish you had, what would have been helpful, or what support do you think was missing that would have been most helpful to you?
Being taught about consent and what consent looks like would have been helpful. Not only that, but also topics on how to love yourself because I feel like self-love is something that we aren’t taught, and I believe that it relates a lot with sex. Learning about healthy relationships would have also been helpful to me.
How do you wish to help others in your community?
I hope to help others through this interview. Additionally, being an educated individual in sex education topics can help those around me. I hope to help others know that there’s nothing wrong with trying to learn about sex education topics. I want to be a support to those around me by providing information on sex education topics I know or help share the resources available to people.