Why I Teach Sex Ed: Brooklyn, NY

by Kirsten deFur

Kirsten deFur wrote these lessons for the 
forthcoming 3rd ed. of Teaching Safer Sex: 
“Defining Sexual Health” and “I Feel Good!” (vol. 1) 
and “Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid” (vol. 2) 

Contributing author to Teaching Safer Sex

I had just started 8th grade at Byrd middle school in Richmond, VA. It was the beginning of the school year, so must have been September. My parents told me that I would be taking a class at church called About Your Sexuality (AYS). They said it would be every Sunday, during church, for the ENTIRE school year. I was not excited. I believe I even refused to go. To that, my parents said that if I went to the first few classes and was really unhappy, that I didn’t have to keep going. I figured that was a good compromise, so I agreed. And thank goodness! Because that class was probably one of the best things that I did as I was entering the tumultuous time of being a teenager. Not only did I learn about REALLY important stuff, I also developed some wonderful friendships with the other kids in the class, and I’m proud to say that many of them are still my friends today, almost 20 years later.

That was in 8th grade, and it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I realized what the impact that AYS class would have on my entire life. I was in my final semester of college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, pursuing a double major in flute performance and religious studies, when a professor suggested that I get an internship for the summer. As I was searching for positions in the DC area, I stumbled upon several intriguing opportunities at organizations such as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. While I had always been vocal about sexual health issues such as abortion, I had always argued that we should be trying to reduce the need for abortion in the first place- an approach of prevention and education. In this search for a summer internship, I realized two things – that first of all there actually was a professional field of sexuality education, and second, I was really comfortable talking about sexuality with pretty much anyone- and that is a skill that not many people have. I recalled my own positive educational experience attending AYS, and thought, I would love to provide the others with a similarly comfortable, safe environment in which to learn about and explore the complicated topic of sexuality. That summer I did land an internship in the government relations department at the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL, now Pro-Choice America). While it wasn’t quite sexuality education, it was in the right direction!

So, in the midst of preparing for my senior flute recital and wrapping up my degree in religious studies, I figured out that the career path of sexuality education fit me like a glove. On discussing this decision with friends, they all agreed that my ‘skill’ of talking openly and honestly about sexuality would be put to good use!

The next steps on this path included working as a consultant updating sex ed resources for the Virginia Department of Education, volunteering as a sex educator for Richmond’s Planned Parenthood, teaching the 4th-6th grade Our Whole Lives program at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Arlington, VA, and then moving to New York City to get my masters of public health in sexuality and health at Columbia University. Since finishing my masters in 2006, I have become a trainer for the adult/young adult age groups of the Our Whole Lives program in addition to teaching almost all of the OWL levels, among other professional accomplishments.

And this blog represents the next steps on my path to sexuality education stardom. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas about sexuality education approaches and methods, as well as engaging in dialogue with other professionals about best practices.

Ps. I have been known to occasionally pick up my flute from time to time, so all that practice doesn’t go completely down the drain!

Editor’s Note:
“Why I Teach Sex Ed” profiles sexuality educators throughout the nation.  This column appears each Monday.  If you teach sex ed and would like to tell your story, send your submission, in 350-700 words, to Bill@SexEdStore.com.