16/02/2017 12:23 GMT | Updated 17/02/2018 05:12 GMT

Harold The Hand-Puppet Giraffe Taught Me About Sex


'It's time for the talk.'

The words we all dread to hear. But it seems fitting as Student Pride hits puberty in it's 12th year, we embark on that ride

As we prepare for the event I got thinking about Sun, a character in the Netflix series Sense8 who says.

"We exist...because of sex. It's not something to be afraid of. It's something to honour. To enjoy.".

What better way to honour sex, than to talk about it? It's not something we do often. For far too many talking about Sex Ed conjures thoughts of condoms on bananas, awkward silences and feelings of discomfort.

In the early 00's, one of the first times I was taught about sex was in a dark, sweaty and cramped van by Healthy Harold and Tammy. Harold was a hand-puppet giraffe. Tammy was an anatomical mannequin that talked, lit up and would drop her plastic organs onto the floor without warning. Tammy was the original hot-mess.

While the conditions of the van were perhaps a foreshadowing of my own first sexual experience, I like many other Australian and UK children was taught about sex at school.

Being taught the intricacies of the 'birds & the bees', a terrible euphemism, was often met with immature laughter and awkwardness from classmates.

But for many LGBT+ youth the shallow nature of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) received can be even more awkward and possibly harmful when it is incorrect or worse when absent altogether.

With recent confirmation in November that the The Department of Education is looking into how SRE is taught in the UK, it is positive to see there is at least some dialogue taking place. But when it comes to talking about 'The talk' there is still more to be done.

Late last year The Terrence Higgins Trust released a report based on a survey earlier in the year of 914 young people aged between 16-25. The report both highlighted young people's want and need for inclusive and good quality SRE. With one key finding that 97% thought all SRE in the UK should be LGBT-inclusive.

In reading the report I was intrigued to find Victoria, the state where I grew up in, mentioned as an example of where SRE is part of the statutory curriculum in Australia.

While SRE was part of the compulsory curriculum I experienced growing up, it certainly fell short of providing me with recognisable and life-affirming content that I so desperately needed during my teen years.

Since finishing high school I have come to wonder just how much of a difference adequate guidance could have been to my own development. Putting it simply, it would of made and entire world of difference.

Without doubt in my mind a more inclusive curriculum at school would have been an earlier catalysts for me to accept who I am. I can easily say that the potential time and mental energy used would have been better served helping me to realise where my passions lied and what I actually wanted to do after high school.

Instead it took graduation for me to fully begin to move from naivety and denial to start accepting who I am.

While it would be easy to dwell on what might of been and mourn the loss of what I could of put my energy towards, I choose to put the experiences I have gained to something bigger and better.

My experience of Sex Education may not have been ideal. But if I can get taught Sex Ed by a mouldy puppet giraffe and a diva named Tammy, and turn out ok (or, okay-ish) then surely any talk on Sex Ed is worth having.

This article first appeared in LGBT History Month Magazine 2017

National Student Pride's main theme this year is Sex Education, and runs from 24 to 26 of February.