By Sierra Freeman
I grew up not feeling super comfortable talking about very normal healthy parts of life such as periods, sex, dating, my body, etc. The first exposure that I had to health education was in 5th grade, watching a puberty video. We were split into two groups, boys in one room and girls in the other.
Everything about it felt so sporadic. We had never discussed this topic and it had never been incorporated into our curriculum. Iit was just one day where all at once we learned about body changes and puberty. After that we moved on and didn’t discuss it again. It was just one day, when in reality I know that most of us had so many questions that we were all too embarrassed to ask.
How are we supposed to feel comfortable, when that space was never created?
I remember getting a brown bag after that which included things like deodorant and pads. I was so ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t know how to talk about it, so I hid it in my closet. No one should feel that way about getting their period. I felt ashamed to even have a pad.
Moving forward, I didn’t have any set health courses until high school. I didn’t even take health education until my senior year of high school, because it wasn’t required my freshman year. I don’t remember benefiting much from that course. I thought in those moments that I must know everything about health, if I wasn’t gaining much from that class. Although the information was valid, I just remember it feeling very impersonal. I got more information online from Google searches and my own personal situations or questions. As time went on I realized that the information covered was a very broad overview and didn’t dive into topics or cover societal issues and how we are affected by them such as sexism, racism, or discrimination.
Now that I’m in college and feel that I am still expanding my health knowledge, I can see my experience with health education was lacking so much growing up. As a young adult, you know your personal experiences and what would benefit you, but you aren’t seeing that reflected in your educational experiences; you don’t understand why you experience them. If I am just one person, who identifies as a white, female heterosexual, I know there must be so many other people who feel they weren’t having their personal experiences reflected as well. I only represent one tiny piece of the whole picture and there are so many others that aren’t included or their voices aren’t heard and represented. If health education isn’t relevant and reflecting our experiences, issues, and questions then what purpose is it actually serving?