The Netflix show Sex Education is a great example of how queer and diverse sex education can be implanted in an education system in order to avoid the stigma around sex as a topic itself but also expanding the focus of a very heterosexual sex education system in the United States.
The show Sex Education takes places at a high school in the UK, which places a group of high school students and their families at the center of the show. In the show the students deal with their self-development, discovering their identity as well as their sexuality. Queerness plays a key role in the show since many characters identity as queer and they spend a great amount of time learning about themselves and who they are. Another key aspect of the show is sex education, and how the sex education needs to be reformed in order to make all students feel included and their questions answered in class. I believe that the show does a really good job of presenting the struggle many teenagers and high school students face as they try to understand their identity and sexuality and how hard and nerve racking that can be, especially when you take into account how society is still not fully inclusive. Even though the show talks about the social struggles of queerness, it portrays queerness as so natural and normal that it is easy to imagine that it helps a lot of people in the queer community to find comfort and confidence from the show. Especially when focusing on the aspects of the show portraying sex education as something really important and natural, we learn how diverse sex is and how our society needs to expand its focus from a heterosexual sex education. The show creates awareness for queerness especially in regard to sex.
In Jones’ poem “History, According to Boy” it can be observed how the lack of diverse sex education and societal acceptance of queer individuals has caused Boy to internalize his feelings that deviate from the norm. Boy is seen among his peers, especially the other boys, as a social outcast but he is unable to live as his true self (Jones 89). He notes the way his parents hold each other in their sleep and craves the touch of a loved one, but notes the way his expression of joy hurts his approval of his father, and later, his reaction to a gay porn magazine (Jones 92). These reactions are great example why queer people do not feel included in society and feel like something is wrong with them and their sexuality. As their sexuality is not being acknowledged and obviously not included in America’s sex education, they feel left out and misplaced. The US needs a nationwide inclusive sex education system to ensure diversity and a save learning space for queer people.
In the play Angels in America the character Roy Cohn represents a form of masculinity that society often portrays as very manly but also toxic, to hide his homosexuality by talking down on woman and having a big ego.
In Act 1, Scene 2 Roy argues with a client on the phone because he missed their court date and says “YOU THINK I’M THE ONLY GODDAMN LAWYER IN HISTORY EVER MISSED A COURT DATE?! Don’t make such a big fucking— Hold.” (Kushner 12), emphasizing how he is not treating his client with respect, yelling at him, and trying to present himself in a superior position, which can be read as very “manly”. It contributes to the stigma that still exists in society, that men need to act strong, tough, focus on material success and take a superior role in society. However, this behavior is highly toxic and just strengthens the idea of a men needing to act and present themselves in a certain way for society to accept them as “manly”. Ever other form of self-representation could be interpretated as feminine and connected to homosexuality.
The aspect of Roy having a big ego and acting on toxic masculine behavior can also be observed as the talks down on two women in the same scene. On one hand, he calls his secretary multiple times “baby doll” (Kushner 12) which shows the little respect he has for her and, on the other hand, he talks down on Mrs. Hollins as he says “Yeah, yeah right good so how many tickets dear? Seven? For what, Cats, 42nd Street, what? No you wouldn’t like La Cage, trust me, I know. Oh for godsake” (Kushner 12). This situation shows how Roy questions Mrs. Hollins capability to make a good choice and instead makes it for her, by not validating her opinion.
Both described aspects are relevant to understand that Roy is trying to cover his homosexuality through his behavior, which he believes underline his masculinity and the associated heterosexuality. I believe that the character Roy is great example of how homosexual men are pressured to have the need to be portrayed with manly considered attributes to not be questioned in their sexuality. In addition, I assume that many closeted homosexuals fear rejection from society if they are associated with female read characteristics.
All in all, I believe that this scene shows how much work we still have to do in society by breaking up stereotypes about “feminine” and “male” behavior and how these characteristics don’t give an answer to people’s sexual orientation or identity.
“I am used to being an observer.
I am used to not getting what I want.
I am used to imagining what it must be like. “
(Loving in the War Years, page 26)
I believe that these three lines from Cherrie L. Moraga’s book “Loving in the War Years” express the deep frustration of a queer person constantly watching other people’s love and affection for each other but never being able to experience it for themselves due to self-doubts and/or the emotional struggle of living openly queer, as well as the intolerance of society.
I reached that conclusion because the repetition of the words ‘I am used to’ symbolize the hamster wheel the lyrical I is trapped in and experiences the same situations over and over. On one hand, it is referring to the love openly shown by happy couples, on the other hand, the lyrical I is talking about sexual experiences, that they do not have. Also the word ‘observer’ enhances the argument that the lyrical I is watching and hearing about other people’s love from the distance, but never playing the main character in the interaction. For me these lines indicate such deep frustration and capitulation and portray the picture of the lyrical I not believing in their own happiness anymore.
Sadly, I assume that these lines express many queer people’s reality. Our society is still not fully inclusive and tolerating of LGBTQ members, leading to queer people often keeping their sexuality and identity to themselves. Therefore, it is really tuff for them to connect with each other and have the opportunity to make the same experiences regarding love and sexuality as heterosexual couples. Moreover, I state that the majority of heterosexual people is not even aware of the fact that they have the privilege to openly express their sexuality due to centuries old heterosexual norms and the emotional struggle it often presents to queer people.
All in all, these lines are a great example of the frustration and unhappiness queer people experience on daily basis because they watch other happy couples from the sideline but do not receive the same chance to make the same romantic experiences due to a society that still comments, raises attention and sadly often still not accepts queer love.
“To quiet this body,
you must answer
my tendrilled craving.”
I believe that these lines from Saeed Jones’ poem “KUDZU” express a queer person’s desire to openly live their sexuality and be accepted by society. However, at the same time they represent the huge emotional struggle going along with the process of living openly queer.
I reached that conclusion because the line “to quiet this body” is one hand directly referring to the lyrical I’s body, but, on the other hand, it is also a metaphor for their sexuality, which is currently being hidden and not openly expressed. Additionally, the other two lines give an idea of how hard the lyrical I is struggling to hide their sexuality and not indulging themselves in their desires. Especially the word “craving” emphasizes the deep lust and is strengthened by the word “tendrilled” showing the rising need to break out of the system. Furthermore, the direct addressing of the reader “you” and the use of “must” implicates the desperate necessity of the lyrical I to fulfill their (sexual) needs.
With the knowledge I have about the author, I imagine Jones writing this poem from his own experience. I assume that he is referring to society when he says “you” and is addressing the struggle of being black and gay, but not being able to openly express his sexuality (yet).