New student organization will advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive sexual education

Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education will focus on promoting awareness on local, state and federal levels

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Second-year College student Hunter Wagenaar started the organization last summer. Courtesy Hunter Wagenaar

A new organization on Grounds is pushing for inclusive sexual education inclusive of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education, created by second-year College student Hunter Wagenaar, will advocate for more comprehensive sexual education on the local, state and federal levels.

Wagenaar founded Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education, or HISE, this summer and said he based his aspirations for the organization off a final project he completed on the lack of sexual education in public schools for his English Writing class last year called, “In the Life: Living, Writing and Representing Black LGBTQ.” Wagenaar said the organization will address the lack of many LGBTQ students obtaining sufficient information on sexual education in high school, an issue that affected him personally.

“I’ve had personal experience with the issue of being gay and in high school with my [sexual education] courses … LGBTQ inclusive sexual education wasnt something that I was accustomed to, and I felt like I was really damaged by that,” Wagenaar said. “It’s an issue that almost every LGBTQ person has had experience with, because most individuals have not had inclusive sexual education in their upbringing.”

Dates are still being finalized for future general body meetings, and Wagenaar says he hopes to gain CIO status by second semester. A CIO, or Contracted Independent Organization, receives benefits such as reserved space on Grounds for meetings, promotions for activities fairs and the potential to receive funding from the University Student Council.

To apply for CIO status, an organization has to submit a thorough application to the Student Council Recognition Committee for review before the application is passed to the Vice President for Organizations, who makes a recommendation for or against approval to the Representative Body, who then votes on the organization’s CIO status.

Wagenaar and his team hope the organization can advocate for sexual education, specifically with regards to the high percentages of sexually transmitted diseases within marginalized communities, as well as act as a way to recognize those with LGBTQ identities.

As of now, Wagenaar and his team are comprised of four chair members and 14 general body members. The group is in the process of recruiting new members and has so far received applications from students representing various years at the University and sexual orientation.

Wagenaar said he is happy to see those identifying as straight also applying to join the organization.

“I think it shouldn’t just be something that the people who are affected by it are advocating for but also people within society,” Wagenaar said.

Within the organization, HISE is divided into four committees — internal advocacy, external advocacy, outreach and curriculum. Each committee is specifically geared toward promoting awareness for the organization as well as advancing the topic of sexual education.

The Curriculum committee, chaired by fourth-year Curry student Sydney Hainsworth, works toward building curriculum that can be obtained for school districts to promote more sexual education. The goal of this committee is to find curriculum for school districts that can not only remain effective, but also run align with HISE’s purpose and mission statement of addressing the various topics of health and social awareness with sexual education. 

The External Advocacy committee is chaired by second-year College student Eva Petersen and focuses on advocating for sexual education within local communities. This includes contacting lawmakers and policymakers to promote further awareness.

Petersen said that although her committee is focused on lobbying for sexual education, their main mission is to continuously grow the organization and bringing in dedicated members.

“Our ultimate goal once the club is up and running is to eventually lobby for such policy to be installed,” Peterson said. “We are thinking first local then state then federal, obviously we are dreaming big. It’s fulfilling a need and I am excited about that.”

The Internal Advocacy committee is chaired by second-year Nursing student Hunter Pyron and is geared toward advocating and promoting sexual education on Grounds. This includes tabling and hosting events and presentations.

Pyron reiterated the need for sexual education awareness, especially pertaining to many Virginia schools not teaching this information.

“I didn’t receive substantial sexual education in high school … and considering we have a large LGBTQ population and we have a majority of in-state students, we need to raise awareness for inclusive sexual education,” Pyron said.

The Outreach Committee, chaired by second-year College student Hannah Lee, works on collaborating with other organizations on Grounds. This includes using social media, and other tactics of communication to continuously promote the organization.

The organization has reached out to several other LGBTQ organizations on Grounds to seek further membership, including Queer Student Union, Athletes for Equality and qRN — an LGBTQ+ organization for students in the Nursing School. Among the many goals and plans set for the upcoming year, Wagenaar and his team are hoping to have a speaker series next semester featuring speakers to talk about various topics surrounding sexual education.

“My organization is focusing on erasure of sexuality and gender — it’s sort of the stifling of marginalized voices within education,” Wagenaar said. “We are attempting to do a speaker series next semester and I’ve been in contact with a lot of those organizations.”

While the speaker series is in the works for the spring semester, HISE plans to further promote their organization and the conversation of sexual education through tabling and establishing a letter writing campaign, in which students can write letters to their state politicians asking for more inclusive sexual education. Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education also will be specifically focusing on advocacy for LGBTQ+ sexual education within Charlottesville’s public schools this semester, then on the state level later on.

Wagenaar said this organization is both confronting the issue of a lack of sexual education as it pertains to health issues of STD rates and also addressing the issue of cultural and social awareness. He said he believes that if students, including those of heterosexual orientation, are exposed to LGBTQ+ sexual education, students will be more capable of normalizing and understanding this information.

“In making this organization it’s not only allowing for the issue to be advocated on but it's also starting that conversation,” Wagenaar said.

This article has been updated to clarify the role of the Vice President for Organizations and the Representative Body in approving a CIO.

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