When I left for university, my parents knew that I was a lesbian. But they still handed me a box of condoms as a well-meaning attempt to encourage safe sex.
When I asked what I was supposed to do with them, they told me that they were “just in case." When I asked again, they didn’t know. Neither did I.
Growing up, the sex education I was given was highly heteronormative. It began in third grade when we talked about daddy’s sperm meeting mommy’s egg. There was no mention of adoption, in vitro fertilization or even the existence of queer couples, let alone trans people.
Although it is difficult for any queer person to find sex education, there is a noticeable difference in the amount of information available to queer men versus queer women and non-binary individuals.
Following the HIV-AIDS crisis in the 1980s, LGBTQ2+ groups worked hard to ensure that safe-sex education exists for cisgender gay men, and that free condoms are widely available.
Most of my friends were able to avoid asking awkward questions by consulting resources made widely available to them. I, however, wasn’t even able to find a pamphlet at my doctor’s office.
And if you’re a lesbian looking for answers online, chances are you’ll be bombarded with porn.
I have friends whose first experiences with sex are horror stories, as they knew nothing about how to actually have sex. And they weren't helped by watching video after video of straight women scissoring or fingering each other with comically long fingernails, which don't even come close to what lesbian sex is actually like.
I know there’s medical reasoning behind the lack of sex education for lesbian couples. People with vaginas who exclusively have sex with other people with vaginas were thought to be unable to get HIV. But, this has since been proven untrue, meaning that an entire group of people are still susceptible to a disease that they have no idea how to protect themselves from.
But even if we weren’t susceptible, lesbians and bisexual women have a right to be educated on our own bodies. How are we supposed to know what to do in the bedroom when we are largely raised by cis, heterosexual parents who are just as clueless on the subject as us?
It wasn’t until this year that I saw my first piece of accurate sex education for queer women in a booklet that I picked up from Spectrum: Women Loving.
It was one of the best resources I’ve ever seen: it had information about safe sex, pregnancy, pleasure and the actual mechanics of sex for lesbians, bi women, cis women having sex with trans women and vice versa.
It answered questions that I didn’t even know I had — for the first time, I really felt like I was seen in a context outside of the male gaze.
I learned a lot about what I needed to do to be safe and enjoy myself in the process. If I’d gotten the advice in that booklet earlier, instead of digging in the strangest corners of the internet for non-porn advice, I would’ve been more comfortable in the world of dating and sex.
More importantly, I definitely wouldn’t have had the dangerous belief that it was impossible for me to get an STI.
Because it turns out, those condoms my parents gave me actually could have been useful — if I'd cut them in half and used them as dental dams. That advice would have been useful three years ago, before they ended up in my trash can.