No campaign slammed for linking same-sex marriage to child sex education

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Despite surveys suggesting a win for the Yes campaign, there are still many yet to decide in the same-sex marriage vote in Australia.

Not for the first time, some on the No campaign have sought to conflate the issue of same-sex marriage with that of transgender recognition and same sex education.

It appears as though No campaigners hope to latch on to a debate that is less settled in current Australian society than that of same-sex marriage to win people over.

Protests in Australia

Protests in Australia (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

In recent weeks, some voices on the No campaign have claimed that same-sex marriage is the thin end of the wedge that will lead to so-called “radical gay sex education” in the classroom.

The latest such attempt has seen those against same-sex marriage hijacking a months-old academic paper on sex education and gender identity.

Related: What the hell is going on with same-sex marriage in Australia?

Submitted in May and published in July, ‘Transgender young people’s narratives of intimacy and sexual health: implications for sexuality education appeared’ in the Sex Education journal.

Like most academic papers, the work by Damien W. Riggs & Clare Bartholomaeus did not make a signifiant mainstream splash, with just 105 views to date on the Taylor & Francis Online web resource since publication.

Incredibly but perhaps unsurprisingly, the Coalition for Marriage has grasped on to this paper, calling it a “smoking gun”.

Same-sex marriage ballot

Same-sex marriage ballot (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

“We have them advocating for the degendering of sex education of all students and confirming the concerns raised by parents about how radical LGBTI sex and gender education would infiltrate their children’s education,” said the coalition’s spokesperson Lyle Shelton.

Naturally, Dr Riggs isn’t best pleased about the work being twisted and spun now that same-sex marriage is the hot topic issue in Australia.

He told The Australian he was “disappointed” and added: “If we can reduce HIV [and] reduce unwanted pregnancies and reduce kids being coerced into having sex they don’t want to have, including transgender kids, it’s a good thing.

“The aim was to give policymakers and educators other ways to think the topic.”

For what it’s worth, the paper itself takes a very interesting look at how sex and anatomy education for young people could be improved by taking out unnecessarily gendered terms.

Anti-same-sex marriage protesters in Australia

Anti-same-sex marriage protesters in Australia (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

“In an attempt at addressing the relative dearth of information about what transgender young people would like to see covered in sexuality education, in this paper we explore transgender young people’s accounts of intimacy and sexual health and consider what this means for school-based sexuality education,” reads the abstract.

“To do this, we analyse discussions of intimacy from the perspectives of transgender young people as narrated in a sample of YouTube videos.

“We conclude by advocating for an approach to sexuality education that largely eschews the gendering of body parts and gametes, and which instead focuses on function, so as to not only address the needs of transgender young people (who may find normative discussions of genitals distressing), but to also provide cisgender young people with a more inclusive understanding of their own and other people’s bodies and desires.”

This means that, depending on context, references to “eggs” and “sperm” can sometimes be replaced by “gametes”.

The term “erectile tissue” can, on occasion, be used to refer to the penis or clitoris.