The importance of inclusivity

Illustration by Madison Cohen

It has been a long journey for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to be recognized as legitimate human beings in society, but there is still much to be done.

As the American Medical Association’s “Journal of Ethics” recounts, national sodomy laws were only declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. It’s been only 16 years that it has not been considered a crime to do whatever you please with whomever you please in the bedroom—given that it be consensual, of course.

The U.S. Supreme Court only made same-sex marriage legal three years ago in 2016. Clearly, the fight for inclusivity and gay rights is an uphill battle that is decades overdue for victory.

Locally, the conversation has shifted to the Arizona Department of Education (AZDOE) guidelines. Superintendent Kathy Hoffman spoke on possibly including LGBTQ+ information in sex education programs for K-12 schools.

Hoffman’s statement is documented on the AZDOE website, in which she wrote, “I heard from community members and parents who were concerned about the information their children would be provided if their districts were to account for LGBTQ+ students in health education. Arizona’s public schools exist to serve all students who walk through their doors.”

Hoffman specified her statement, writing, “However, for decades, codified bigotry has denied too many children information about their sexual health.”

By addressing these goals, Hoffman would like to achieve more inclusivity in statewide education. Hoffman gave more insight into her opinion on the matter.

“I am greatly concerned with the health of our students,” Hoffman wrote. “With rising rates of suicide, depression and transmission of sexually transmitted infections, it is my utmost priority that all students have access to medically accurate information so that they can make healthy, informed choices. It is a matter of safety and respect.”

Hoffman also clarified that the decision to implement specific educational policies is up to the discretion of each school district. However, the ability to address this at the state level is critical to building not only a more inclusive educational environment but a more inclusive future for LGBTQ+ students.

Including every possible self-identification in educational settings ensures that these students are retaining useful information from the sex-ed programs.

Simply put, with the inclusion of LGBTQ+ information, more students would likely feel as though they are doing precisely what they are meant to do in school, which is to learn pertinent information that will lead to a successful future.

It’s unfortunate that individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community are still referred to as sexual minorities, but that is how society continues to treat the community until policies progress to protect them.

Inclusion should be implemented in any circumstance as a sign of respect and consideration of everyone’s well-being. This extends into all facets of life beyond school parameters.

When talking specifically about inclusion in K-12 schools, I believe it is extremely important to make LGBTQ+ youths feel noticed and validated. However, it is also just as important to show non-LGBTQ+ youths that on all occasions, speaking inclusively should be considered a norm in society.

These young students will be the future leaders of society. Expressing to them from a young age that being inclusive is an expectation could result in a more harmonious and well-functioning society.

Despite the many roadblocks that this possible amendment to the sex-ed board policy would face, I sincerely hope that Hoffman does everything in her power to implement these additions for the sake of the many forgotten LGBTQ+ youth in Arizona.