Values and Sexuality
Before discussing sexuality with your clients, it is important to reflect on your own values, beliefs and biases. This exercise will help you to become more aware of your sexuality values and beliefs and how they can potentially influence your interactions with clients.
Values are a personal inventory of what we consider being most important, and can be influenced by many factors such as family, peers, culture, religion, the media and personal experience. A person’s values and beliefs will influence discussions regarding sexuality. Examining your own values and beliefs about sexual health before addressing clients is an essential part of addressing sensitive topics.
Assumptions to avoid:
- All youth are heterosexual.
- All youth are sexually active.
- All youths’ sexual involvement is consensual.
- All youth who are sexually active are having intercourse.
- All youth have the same knowledge base.
- All youth have the same cultural and religious beliefs.
- All youth want to avoid pregnancy.
According to recent research, it is estimated that 2-10% of Canadians self-identify as non-heterosexual or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered) (Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC], 2008). When we make assumptions regarding orientation, we may unknowingly marginalize sexual minorities. Furthermore, factors inhibiting youth from accessing health services include discrimination from service providers, heterosexist cultures, or service providers not supportive of sexual minorities (Marshall, 2008).
To create LBGT friendly environments, service providers can
- Listen to how clients describe their gender, identity and relationships and use the clients’ choice of words.
- Not make assumptions regarding a client’s sexual orientation or gender identity, by using terms that are gender neutral such as “partner”.
- Display a statement that indicates non-discriminatory services are offered.
- Display a statement that indicates there is a zero tolerance for homophobic language.
- Display LGBT information and posters (Prism, 2008).
Caputo, Y., Weiler, R., & Anderson, J. (1997). The street lifestyle study. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada.
Marshall, B.D.L. (2008). The contextual determinants of sexually transmissible infections among street-involved youth in North America. Culture, Health & Society, 10(8), 787-799.
Prism. (2008). How to be LGBT friendly: 30 practical ways to create a welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://www2.wlv.ac.uk/equalopps/how_to_be_lgbt_friendly.pdf
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). (2008). Canadian guidelines for sexual health education. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cgshe-ldnemss/index-eng.php
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2006). Street youth in Canada: Findings from enhanced surveillance of Canadian street youth, 1999-2003. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/reports_06/youth_e.html
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). (2010). Sexual health education in the schools: Questions & Answers (3rd ed.). Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://www.sieccan.org/pdf/she_q&a_3rd.pdf
Adapted, with permission, from www.teachingsexualhealth.ca