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Talking with teens about race and sex.

THE THING ABOUT SEX is it's really confusing. Physically, it's an utterly basic act, of course, as essential and natural to human life as breathing. But there's so much more to it. The emotional roller coaster rides, the intricate details of receiving and giving pleasure, the electrifying fantasies and stultifying head trips--these are all parts of the mysterious interior of our sexual lives. And that's the bit that gets complicated: reconciling such an inescapable element of physical life with the internal maelstrom it stirs up. It's also the part Americans are least prepared to discuss--particularly if it involves either race or youth. In this sex issue, we invite you to consider both.


While serving as guest editor for this issue of ColorLines, I also spent the winter discussing sex with young queer people of color, as part of promoting my new book. Drifting Toward Love. Young queers have grown into one of the most "at risk" groups of people in America--at risk for HIV and STDS, for depression and suicide, for drug use and sex work, and on and on. In the book, excerpted here, I explore the broader life contexts in which all of this danger unfolds.

One disturbing feature of that broader context is that queer and straight kids alike are too often forced to sort out the confusing world of sexuality on their own. The results of doing so are mixed--studies show kids of color having relatively safe sex and, yet, being disproportionately burdened with unhealthy results. High school student Jacqueline Washington describes the milieu in which that conflicting reality plays out.

And education reporter Barbara Miner takes a probing look at what young people and trailblazing sex educators are doing to alter that reality. With years of debate over abstinence-only sex education finally headed to the no-duh conclusion that it doesn't work, Miner asks what will come next. What kind of sex ed will be available for the kids of color who make up huge majorities of public school students in places like Chicago and Milwaukee? Miner finds that those young people are increasingly impatient with policy makers' dithering on the question, and that they are elbowing out their own spaces to sort out the crazy-making world of sexuality.

Kai Wright

Guest Editor
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Author:Wright, Kai
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Date:May 1, 2008
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