China’s LGBT sex-ed problem

At the International Conference on Sexuality in Kunming, China, HIV/AIDS activist Humphrey Wou attended a panel on sex education, hoping to learn about the textbooks used to teach Chinese students about sex. One presenter read aloud from a book widely used in high schools in the city of Hangzhou: “Masturbation will lead to mental disorders and homosexuality,” he said.

China lacks a unified, national sex-education policy, which means the quality of education varies dramatically. Sex education—or “puberty education,” as the government calls it—is often optional. Even when it is offered, students are limited to learning about the biological differences between boys and girls and family-planning practices. 

“When it comes to sex-education, most people only consider three categories: anatomy, disease/infection, and condom use,” Wou said. “It made me think, if I were teaching a student how to drive, would I only open the hood, show them pictures of car wrecks, and teach them how to operate the pedals?” In 2013, he created Youth Decoding, which uses storytelling and audience participation to engage students—LGBT and straight alike—in thinking and talking about sex. Read More