Emma Newman staff writer
To address a lack of LGBTQ+ education in the health curriculum, GSA and NormanAid teamed up to host an anonymous LGBTQ+ sex education webinar, which will take place on April 27 from 4-5:15. Health Educator Mia Lewis from the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital will be the main speaker at the webinar.
The panel will start with a presentation about different aspects of life as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, from the realities of different gender and sexuality identities to the prevention of HIV, and will conclude with a question-and-answer session. To assure the anonymity of students on the Zoom session, students will not be able to see each other and the questions for the Q&A will only be able to be accessed by the panelists, Lewis, GSA club sponsor Nickolas Henggeler and NormanAid counselor Alison Norman-Franks.
While GSA has been talking about the importance of a panel for high school LGBTQIA+ youth “for months,” a Beverly Highlights article about this initiative inspired Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy to reach out to Henggeler and express his support for bringing LGBTQIA+ sex education to the high school. After that, Henggeler reached out to Norman-Franks to partner with for the webinar.
“Mr. Henggeler shared with me that the GSA club expressed the need for comprehensive sex education and asked for my support,” Norman-Franks said. “I was happy to be an ally and participate.”
Henggeler chose Norman-Franks because he thought her background in mental health and previous work with the LGBTQIA+ community would allow her to strengthen the webinar.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen an organization…[that, in the same way] really tackles all of the issues of students, mental health and wellness,” Henggeler said. “It’s really wonderful that we have this resource on campus. I knew that Ms. Norman-Franks would be a great person to team up with because she does her Love is Love month and Allyship.”
Once this partnership was established, Henggeler was able to get into contact with Mia Lewis, whose background with queer youth education made her “the right fit” for the panel.
“When we met with her and she explained what she does, she sounded like the ideal person to come and chat. She had so many great ideas, way more than we could fit in into one hour,” Henggeler said. “Hopefully, through Mia’s presentation, students will leave not only with great information, but also with a list of resources for them to use moving forward.”
In their meetings, the group chose which areas they wanted to touch upon in the meetings.
“We talked about what content would be best to cover and what the needs of the students are,” Lewis said. “[I] talk[ed] to Nickolas and Alison and [saw] what they wanted me to focus on. I gave some suggestions and that’s how we came to the conclusion.”
One of the main topics that Lewis plans to focus on is HIV prevention, most notably prevention methods PrEP and PEP, which is an area that she is “really passionate about.”
“There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions that are out there about HIV and how it’s contracted and dispelling these myth[s] [is] very important across all age groups,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know much about HIV or [who] just know the bare minimum of what they were taught… from family and from school, so that’s something that I’m most excited to talk about.”
The topic of HIV is also significant to Henggeler, specifically because it applies to all people, not just gay men or other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. He thinks that information like this “is great for everyone,” and that everyone, including allies, should attend the webinar to learn about it.
“HIV myths and facts…pertain to all sexual identities. [That] is information everyone should know,” Henggeler said. “Also, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about a community that is present and that many of your friends, your family members, your neighbors, are members of.”
Henggeler sees the versatility of the information as one of the reasons why students should come to the panel. Norman-Franks also thinks that people should attend the panel so that every student can have the information about sex education that they need.
“It is important that we provide programs, services and education that focus on gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation so that all students can have the information that they need to be healthy,” Norman-Franks said.
With this panel, Henggeler hopes that every student, whether they are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not, can become well-informed and accepting.
“The more you know and the more you learn, the more open-minded you become,” Henggeler said. “That’s really the goal – to create a generation of open-minded individuals who love one another and accept one another, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and whatnot. You’re going to meet all kinds of people in this world, and it’s really to your advantage to progress into the world with an open mind.”