EMBARGO Friday 10th March 2017 – 00:01

72% of LGBT students say that inclusive Sex and Relationships Education would have given them a better first sexual experience

A blackboard at Student Pride, where students described their first sexual experience in one word. Image: Terrence Higgins Trust

 A week after the government announced compulsory Sex and Relationships Education, a poll by National Student Pride and Terrence Higgins Trust has revealed that many LGBT students are being left behind due to a lack of LGBT inclusive SRE.

Three quarters (72%) of LGBT students felt they would have had a better first sexual experience if they had received LGBT inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

40% of LGBT students who were polled felt ‘awkward’ during their first sexual experience, and one in ten felt ‘pressured’.  One in five felt ‘uninformed’, while only half as many (9%) felt ‘informed’.

There were plenty of positives too – over a third felt ‘excited’, and one in ten felt ‘prepared’. But the disparity is concerning, according to campaigners, and the vast majorityof the young people agreed they would have had a more positive experience if their SRE had acknowledged LGBT sex and relationships.

Over 260 students were surveyed at Student Pride in February [1]. Students were also invited to write one word onto a giant blackboard to describe their first sexual experience. Words included everything from ‘drunken’ and ‘scary’, to ‘chemsex’ and ‘Catholic guilt’. (Embed video)

This comes shortly after Terrence Higgins Trust and Student Pride welcomed last week’s news that SRE would be made compulsory in all schools in England. Earlier this week in Parliament, the government also committed to ensuring that the subject is inclusive in secondary schools. Campaigners at the organisations have welcomed the government’s words about inclusivity, but now want to ensure this is delivered.

Alex Phillips, Sex and Relationships Education Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, explained:  “We are heartened by the government’s promise to provide inclusive SRE in secondary schools – but to have full impact, inclusivity should begin at primary school in an age-appropriate way. It must also not become tokenistic, so teachers will need appropriate guidance and training on how to cover LGBT issues fully and meaningfully with students.”

This comes after a major Terrence Higgins Trust report revealed that 95% young people were not taught anything about same-sex relationships at school, but 97% wanted SRE to be LGBT inclusive. [2]

Reflecting on the poll results, Alex Phillips explained: “We saw a real mix of feelings from LGBT young people towards their first sexual experiences, and it seems that a lack of inclusive SRE is creating a disparity in terms of people’s early experiences of sex, leaving many to fall through the gaps and feeling awkward and uninformed.

“This reinforces the importance of making sure that compulsory SRE meets the needs of all children and young people. If there is not a focus on delivering truly inclusive, age-appropriate SRE, across both primary and secondary schools, we may not see the full impact of mandatory Sex and Relationships Education on LGBT people’s mental and sexual health, and on wider tolerance and anti-bullying efforts.”

Jamie Wareham, communications director at Student Pride, said: “Most LGBT+ young people are left to their own devices to find out about LGBT+ sex and relationships. I remember SRE focusing on straight relationships and the sex described was overtly biological. This can be very damaging and cause real issues for our mental and sexual health. 

“For example if SRE only talks about condoms in the context of straight couples and avoiding pregnancies, how will a young person having same-sex relationships know that they should also use condoms to prevent STIs? Or indeed, know that being anything other than straight is OK too? 

“It is clear that inclusive SRE could have a really positive impact on young LGBT people’s experiences of sex and relationships as well as their health and wellbeing. So now we want to make sure the government delivers high quality, LGBT inclusive SRE that works for all students.”

Reflecting on his own experiences, Jamie added: “They were awful, limited and awkward – that’s how I’d describe my SRE. I think if I’d had LGBT+-inclusive SRE my first time would have been about love, instead it was just about having “it”, and I regret that. 

“I remember one teacher told me about her gay friend and how they had come out for the better. I came out a few weeks later. I’d never heard a good story about being LGBT before then.”

Stay in the loop on SRE at www.tht.org.uk/endthesilence


Video content for this story can be downloaded here: https://we.tl/XfScuXXBUZ


[1] A total of 267 students were polled at National Student Pride on Saturday 25 February 2017.

[2] Shh… No Talking – a report into LGBT inclusive SRE, Terrence Higgins Trust, July 2016. Over 900 people aged 16-24 were surveyed.

Case studies:

Brandon Pfeiffer, National Student Pride Marketing Officer‘SRE would have made me care about my first time. I thought virginity was something to just get rid of’

“Undoubtedly having better or at least visible LGBT+ SRE would have made me care about my first time. It wasn't mentioned or brought up so I thought virginity was something to just get rid of in order to start getting more sex. If it had been better I probably would not have slept with the first man who showed some interest.”

PHOTO: Brandon Pfeiffer. Credit: Natasha Valentino

Jack Burrows, National Student Pride Secretary / University of Brighton graduate: ‘Inclusive SRE would have meant I knew what I was comfortable with – instead, I had no idea what was happening’

“For me, SRE was a very brief one lesson in what we called citizenship and religion. It basically just discussed heterosexual sex and involved condoms on bananas or deodorant can bottles.... so no LGBT+ references what so ever. 

“If I was taught about LGBT+ SRE, I think my experience would be 100% better, because it would have meant that I would have known what I was more comfortable with doing and my sexual limits with a guy, instead, it just lead to me being sexually abused as I had no idea what was happening nor did I exactly want too.”

Bethany Glover, National Student Pride Social Media Officer / University Of Westminster Student: ‘Inclusive SRE would have helped me learn how to have sex with other women safely’

“Having grown up in two very prim and proper schools, LGBT SRE was completely off the cards, as the majority of staff were completely homophobic. For me, LGBT SRE would have not only helped me with learning about having sex with other women safely, but it would have also helped me come to terms with own sexuality and that being bi is totally normal.”

PHOTO:Bethany Glover. Credit: Natasha Valentino

Bradley Birkholz, Cardiff University student and LGBT+ YouTuber: ‘My first time would have been less full of fear, awkwardness and misconstrued expectations if I’d had access to LGBT inclusive SRE’

“Growing up as a young closeted gay guy, many of us get our only perceptions of what gay sex is like through gay porn; and ideas of virginity, sex, safety, and all of that goes in a million different directions. My first sexual encounter would've been less full of fear, awkwardness, and misconstrued expectations about sex if I had had access to LGBT+ inclusive SRE.” 

Marcus Connolly - LGBT+ officer Cardiff University, NUS LGBT+ committee: ‘I got my Sex Education from a convent of nuns – talking about LGBT issues wasn’t possible’

“For me, having had our 'SRE' from a Catholic grammar school which was also a convent of nuns. Talking about LGBT+ issues throughout school was never really possible. Had we been educated about more than just cis and straight relationships, we could improve the mental health and experiences of LGBT+ young people across the nation.”

Notes to editors

For interviews with Terrence Higgins Trustspokespeople, please contact press@tht.org.uk

Want to speak to students or sponsors regarding quotes and comments? Interviews & press passes requests for National Student Pride? Please email: press@studentpride.co.uk

National Student Pride is sponsored by:

Platinum: EY

Gold: Clifford Chance, 02

Silver: Aviva, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, GE Capital, IBM, Lloyds Banking Group, Thomson Reuters, The adidas Group

Titanium: Balfour Beatty, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BDO, GSK, Google, EDF Energy, National Grid, Norton Rose Fulbright, Rolls Royce

About Terrence Higgins Trust

Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, offering support, information and advice services for those living with HIV and affected by HIV or poor sexual health.

Our vision is a world where people with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination, and good sexual health is a right and reality for all.