Break the Silence This May 17

May 17. The day the world will “break the silence” and remind society the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHO) is here. May 17 is significant because it marks the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Even though we have made much progress in representation since then, we must still raise our voices to illuminate the violence and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ community. To break the silence, we must no longer hide in the shadows and instead celebrate our uniqueness and own the space we have a right to inhabit.


Be loud on May 17!


Breaking the silence is the theme for 2020’s IDAHO commemoration. How do we break the silence? How do we get the world’s attention and bring to light the injustice and hate we suffer each year? As evidenced by the Hate Crime Statistics report by the FBI, in terms of sheer numbers, gay men take the brunt of the discrimination with 60% of hate crimes crimes committed against them while approximately 12% targeted lesbians, 2.4% targeted transgender and gender-nonconforming people, and 1.5% targeted bisexuals.

If you want to help break the silence, there are many ways you can participate in IDAHO — even with social distancing measures in place. The internet is a great place to start. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Sex Education: Planned Parenthood SHAREs

The following post comes to us via Tracey Sands, a graduate student at Arizona State University’s West Campus studying communication as it relates to advocacy. Tracey believes dialogue is an act of love and strives to empower others to find and use their voice. She is an education outreach intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Growing up, I was under the impression that sex was making out naked. I thought condoms were only used for protection against pregnancy. I did not understand that sex was meant for my pleasure. I thought I was a bad person for masturbating. All of these misconceptions, and more, would have been answered if I had comprehensive sex education. If only my school understood that access to sexuality information and services does not lead to increased sexual activity or riskier behaviors. On the contrary, if sex education were provided, I would have understood the reproductive, physical, and emotional components of sex. And rather than feeling confused and unsafe, I could have been empowered with the information I needed to make healthy choices about my own body.


Finding reliable sex education resources that specifically speak to your needs can be a daunting task.


In Arizona, sex education is optional, which leaves our local schools to determine what, if any, sex education is taught in their classrooms. Schools either completely opt out of sex education, or if they choose to provide it, have the option to teach abstinence-only or comprehensive curricula. Unfortunately, more often than not, schools in our state choose to opt out. (Here is an updated list of sex education by state provided by the Guttmacher Institute.)

The other common choice Arizona schools make is to implement an abstinence-only curriculum. Abstinence-only programs not only remain ineffective at their goal of promoting abstinence until marriage, they also withhold potentially lifesaving information; promote dangerous gender stereotypes; stigmatize sex, sexual health and sexuality; and perpetuate systems of inequity. These curricula ignore or deny the sexuality of young people, which has real consequences. They often ignore the range of values, desires, and questions that teens have regarding sexuality in lieu of promoting one value system and one set of behaviors and the messaging consistently targets those that identify with the dominant culture (e.g., heterosexual, cisgender, white, Christian, without disabilities, etc.). In addition, the curriculum uses fear-based information that focuses on the imminent threats of STDs and pregnancy, while ignoring the preventive and empowering components of birth control and safe sex practices, including consent and healthy relationship building. Continue reading

Know Your Rights: Advocating for Your Sexual and Reproductive Health

This guest post comes from the Planned Parenthood Arizona Education Team’s Casey Scott-Mitchell, who serves as the community education & training coordinator at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

It’s important that all young people have the information and resources they need to take care of their sexual and reproductive health. However, depending on the state you live in, you might encounter barriers in the form of laws and policies that affect your ability as a young person to access your sexual and reproductive rights. Through our work of providing sex education in various Arizona communities, we know many people aren’t fully clear on what their rights are when it comes to sexual and reproductive health — so consider this a quick crash course!


A critical step in protecting your sexual health is to understand your rights.


In terms of information about sexuality, there is no state law requiring sex education in schools. It is up to each school district to decide whether they provide sex education, and what type of curriculum they want to use if they do provide it. We know there are many districts across Arizona that have chosen not to offer sex education to their students or to provide limited information about sexuality (e.g., abstinence-only sex ed).

The lack of consistency around sex education is problematic because research shows that most youth and their families want their schools to offer comprehensive sex ed  — a holistic curriculum that covers topics like consent, healthy relationships, STDs, birth control, abstinence, etc. Furthermore, when youth receive comprehensive sex ed, they are more likely to have healthy relationships and make choices that will reduce their likelihood of unintended pregnancies and STDs.

When it comes to accessing resources and services that help young people protect their health, there are a few laws in Arizona that are important to know about: Continue reading

The People’s Agenda and the Next 100 Days

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, strategic relations officer for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning!

Monday, January 13, was Opening Day of the 2020 Arizona Legislative Session, and it reeked of (small ‘d’) democratic hopes and dreams. But right out of the gate, before the session even started, Republicans filed bills that are set on limiting the rights of everyone from teachers to asylum seekers, cutting funding to public schools, and essentially outlawing inclusive sex education.

Planned Parenthood gathered with civic leaders, organizations, and progressives from around the state to remind legislators they are here to get the People’s work done and not be distracted by personal politics.

Our agenda — the People’s Agenda — reflects the needs of everyone in Arizona:

  • Education is vital to the future of our state and our children, and our partners at Arizona Education Association are advocating on behalf of teachers and educators for more equitable and progressive funding of public schools — including teacher and support staff pay, facilities maintenance, and school counselor and nurse allocations.
  • When it comes to Reproductive Rights & Justice, Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) are gladiators for bodily autonomy. PPAA aims to repeal a 1906 law that Arizona has on the books that criminalizes abortion providers by imprisonment of up to five years.
  • In terms of Equality, we heard from our partners at the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Arizona, who reminded us that LGBTQ people are still treated differently in Arizona and our vigilance is needed to protect the rights of all. Already this session, lawmakers are rumored to have introduced bills (like these already introduced in other states) that interfere with the delivery of health care to transgender youth. And sex “education” bills have been introduced that do not allow students to learn about the spectrum of identities, and others mandate schools teach abstinence to homosexuality.
  • Our partners at Teamsters 104 spoke on the need and the power of labor unions, highlighting the struggle of Tucson’s steelworkers, who have been on strike since October. Arizona needs an economy that is fair and works for all of us, and our partners at LUCHA are working to ensure the voter-passed minimum wage increases remain unhindered by the Legislature, while ensuring predatory loan companies are not a threat to Arizona families.
  • On the Environment; our friends at Chispa and the Sierra Club once again spoke truth to power, even if that power denies that truth. Climate change and the risk to communities’ air and water are real and happening now, and Chispa has been fighting the money and influence of Arizona Public Service Co. in the past few cycles.

The next 100 days are expected to be a roller coaster of emotions and parliamentary procedure. We’ll need your voice, your action, and, ultimately, your commitment to get us through 2020!

Please ensure you and everyone you care about is registered to vote, knows about the upcoming elections, and gets out the vote!

A Civil Dialogue on Abortion

The following post comes to us via Tracey Sands, a graduate student at Arizona State University’s West Campus studying communication as it relates to advocacy. Tracey believes dialogue is an act of love and strives to empower others to find and use their voice. She is an education outreach intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Photo: Tracey Sands

On a chilly November evening, 100 Arizona State University students, staff, and faculty met on West Campus in Glendale to discuss a topic that inevitably leads to a moral debate filled with anger, distrust, and heartbreak: abortion. At the front of Kiva Lecture Hall, two professors sat among the group and committed to a two-hour civil dialogue on abortion. This was a room divided in beliefs, yet united through dialogue.


Civil dialogue with someone who holds an opposing position is not black and white — it’s all shades of gray.


Dr. Bertha Manninen, associate professor of philosophy at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, argued in favor of abortion rights, while Dr. Jack Mulder, professor of philosophy at Hope College, a Christian college in Michigan, argued against abortion.

American public discourse is marked by an unfortunate trend: We choose only to discuss controversial topics with those who agree with us, leaving conversations with those outside our political, economic, social, and religious positions beyond the boundaries of possible dialogue. Further, if a discussion is to be had with someone on the opposing side, it usually slips into angry insults and disrespectful feedback. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Fighting STDs with Education

Here in Arizona, Tucson Unified School District has been taking steps toward adopting a comprehensive, inclusive, age-appropriate, and medically accurate sex education program, but it’s been repeatedly delayed by a vocal minority. In September, a vote was put on hold after the superintendent recommended changing the proposed curriculum to focus on abstinence as the preferred method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancies.


You can make your voice heard. Learn how!


Additionally, many opponents of TUSD’s proposed curriculum believe its inclusiveness of LGBTQ kids is tantamount to “indoctrination,” that this type of education “sexualizes” children, and that discussions of gender identity will confuse students. LGBTQ kids have traditionally been ignored or demeaned in sex education programs, and their health matters too. Presenting medically accurate and age-appropriate information does not indoctrinate or sexualize children — it simply helps them make healthy decisions, no matter who they are. And these days, students need to be empowered with as much knowledge as possible to make decisions that protect their health.

Confronting the STD Epidemic

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases. It did not contain good news. For the fifth straight year, STD rates are climbing.

Continue reading

Everybody Deserves Good Sex Ed

This guest post comes from the Planned Parenthood Arizona Education Team’s Casey Scott-Mitchell, who serves as the community education & training coordinator at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Is sex education part of your school day? If you are getting information in your classroom about birth control, consent, healthy relationships, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), then you are among a small number of students in Arizona who get this essential health information.

In the state of Arizona, sex education is not currently required — which means it is up to your school district to decide if they want you to have sex education in the classroom. Unfortunately, most school districts have chosen not to provide sex ed to their students.


Arizona doesn’t require sex education in the classroom.


Beyond that, there are a couple of other laws that have affected how sex ed is taught even if your school district decides to provide sex education in the classroom:

  • We are an “opt-in” state — meaning that a parent or guardian must sign a permission slip for you to participate in a sex education class at school.
  • We had what are referred to as “No Promo Homo” laws on the books until April of this year — meaning that teachers could not represent being gay in a positive light, and they could not discuss methods of safe sex for “gay sex.”
  • Comprehensive sex education is not required — meaning that if a district chooses to provide “abstinence-only” sex education (programs that only promote refraining from sexual activity as a method of safe sex and do not review topics like birth control, condoms, etc.) they are allowed to do so.

Continue reading