Trans sex ed event dispels misinformation

The Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Services partnered with Health Services to host “Clued-in: Trans Sex Education.” Megan Johnston, the health educator for the Center for Health and Counseling Services, and Theodore Bell, the student trans outreach coordinator, created a presentation and several games to combine education and entertainment.

Attendees gathered in the Women’s Center last Tuesday evening, lured by offers of free pizza and answers to all questions related to trans sex ed.

Ironically, people can be deterred from attending an informational event due to self-awareness of their own ignorance. They fear doing or saying something embarrassing or potentially offensive. The hosts created a welcoming atmosphere by laying some ground rules to ensure everyone felt comfortable, regardless of their background knowledge of the discussion topics.

“We all might not know the perfect terminology… but regardless, you can say ‘Please Excuse My Ignorance,’” Bell said, explaining the rule abbreviated as PEMI.

The first portion of the event was a game of true or false. Questions centered on sex education with a trans lens.

The goal was to dispel misinformation that enables risky behaviors. For example, the misconception that trans masculine people who take testosterone are all infertile might make them believe they can forgo pregnancy prevention methods. Johnston referenced a Rutgers study that suggested unintended pregnancies occur in up to 30% of transgender men.

To promote safer sex practices, the event coordinators summarized existing barrier and hormonal birth control methods. They used an expired condom to demonstrate how one can be turned into a dental dam by cutting off the tip and along one side. They emphasized condoms were the only birth control method that also protected against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Students who want to get tested for STIs can go to Health Services. Johnston announced the center recently began offering tests for monkeypox (MPX) as well.

The presenters clarified that although queer men, trans women, Black men and Hispanic men are the groups most at risk for MPX, anyone can contract it.

Bell proceeded to define and describe gender-affirming hormone therapy, which is the usage of estrogen, testosterone and medicines to reduce dysphoria.

“Not all trans people go on gender-affirming hormone therapy,” Bell said. It is not a requirement for identifying as transgender, and it is not only used by people who identify within the gender binary.

Bell described the physical effects of using estrogen or testosterone but stressed that results vary by person. For example, trans men who take the same dosage of testosterone for a year may experience different rates and amounts of facial hair growth.

Anyone who is seeking gender-affirming care can contact organizations such as EDGE New Jersey and Planned Parenthood. Organizations rely on one of two models for authorizing gender-affirming treatment. The letter-writing model requires a note from a physician or mental health practitioner, while the informed consent model does not.

Johnston proceeded to explain how true consent follows the “FRIES” acronym: it is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific. If one or more parts are absent, it is sexual assault.

The event closed with a final game called “Sex Columnist,” styled after newspaper advice columns. Attendees were divided into groups, and each were given a fictional couple’s problem. They applied the knowledge they learned throughout the event to offer fitting solutions, resulting in laughter, compromises and the conclusion that sex ed does not need to be awkward.

Photo by Danielle Bongiovanni.