Pregnancy rates high for queer youth
Teen sex education experts in B.C. say the subject may need to be “revamped” after a recent survey found that the province's lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers remain at significantly greater risk of becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy.
According to unpublished results of the 2013 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, queer youth have maintained the high pregnancy levels of a 2008 study revealing gay and bisexual boys are nearly four times more likely to cause a pregnancy, and lesbian and bisexual girls are more than twice as likely to get pregnant.
“They still have increased risk compared to heterosexual teens that we've noted since 2008,” Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, of University of B.C.'s School of Nursing, told 24 hours. “Since then there have been other studies in other parts of the world that say the same thing. It would appear that the sexual orientation, in terms of pregnancy involvement, looks like it's staying about the same.”
Roughly 30,000 Grade 7-12 students, in 56 out of 59 provincial school districts, participated in the latest survey, but Saewyc said researchers are still “in the midst” of analyzing the data trends, but experts haven't explained why.
“There definitely appears to be a link with experiencing discrimination and harassment,” she said. “It may be that pregnancy involvement is a way to camouflage your sexual orientation to avoid or reduce your experiences of homophobic bullying.”
For Qmunity, a Vancouver-based queer resource centre, sexual health is always a “hot topic” for the 20 to 40 youth who attend its twice-weekly drop-in group, GabYouth. The organization's executive director said she is “not entirely surprised” by the findings, but that helping teens make “healthy choices” through a “sex-positive” environment is “core to all our drop-in programs,” said Dara Parker.
“I'm not entirely surprised — queer youth are at higher risk for almost everything that's negative for a teenager … They're at a high risk for risky behaviour,” said Parker.
Another theory is that queer teens may be “tuning out” during sex education classes because they find them too focused on straight examples, said the program director with sex educators YouthCo.
“Our sex education in B.C. needs a bit of a revamp — it needs to be consistent across the province,” said Claire O'Gorman. “People who are part of queer communities need to have their voices at the table to discuss what the curriculum should look like, so it's as inclusive and relevant as possible.”