Coalition building: Towards LGBTQ-inclusive Sex Ed in Boston

Mimi Arbeit, who writes a weekly column called
The Debrief
, takes a look at LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed. Read more about how sex education intersects with her Jewish values

For the past two years, I have been serving as an advisory member of the Boston Connect to Protect ® Coalition (C2P Boston), which is our local branch of a national HIV-prevention research initiative, based at The Fenway Institute.

The work of C2P Boston is based on both sexuality and race:

The mission of C2P Boston is to identify, develop, and catalyze prevention strategies that will reduce HIV infection rates among young black men who have sex with men and transgender-identified young people. Racism has a direct impact on these issues. We will ensure these strategies are always deliberate, inclusive, and in pursuit of racial justice through partnerships with organizations and individuals committed to our shared values and goals.

Using a racial justice framework, our goal is to ultimately reduce HIV incidence and prevalence among black youth and young adults in Boston, ages 12-24, through community mobilization and structural change.

I joined C2P planning to remain quiet. I hoped to support the work as an advisory member the best I could, but tried not to volunteer for any specific roles. I sat quietly in monthly meetings. I held back not only because I was (am) a busy grad student, but also because I was (am) a white grad student. I was there to listen to and learn from the queer people of color in the room, and the people there who work with queer youth of color on a daily basis.

I wanted to make sure I only took up space if I could be actually helpful to our shared mission. But I’m still not really sure how to judge that, either.

As we identified our structural change priorities, we identified the lack of awesome, relatable sex education providers in Boston Public Schools (BPS) as a root cause of HIV infection among Boston youth. We formed the Sex Ed Subcommittee to work to address the issue. After being asked to help facilitate a couple of the preliminary subcommittee meetings, I was then nominated as co-facilitator at a meeting I missed.