Health & Science LGBTQ+

AAP’s new inclusive puberty guide for kids aims to relieve anxiety and shame

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In an effort to make puberty education more inclusive and less stigmatizing, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released a 150-page book on the topic, called You-ology: A Puberty Guide for Every Body. The book is intended to be used both in schools and at home to teach kids about the wide range of what is normal during the changes of puberty.

You-ology was developed by three co-authors, all of whom are both physicians and parents. Dr. Trish Hutchison is a pediatrician, Dr. Melisa Holmes is an OB/GYN, and Dr. Kathryn Lowe, also a pediatrician, advises the AAP on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender health and wellness issues. 

What’s different about You-ology?

The book is more inclusive of LGBTQ+ kids than more traditional puberty education resources. It’s aim is to normalize the big questions and big feelings that come along with puberty, and to move away from the gendered approach that most sex education programs tend to take. 

The authors of the book experienced sex education in a time when boys and girls were separated and taught different things about sex and puberty. They want all kids to learn about everything when it comes to puberty in order to understand how different bodies work, and have better informed relationships with people of different genders. 

The book also features a diverse cast of characters all navigating puberty in their own unique ways. The authors hoped children would be able to see themselves in the characters of the book, which include depictions of trans and nonbinary kids as well as kids with disabilities. 

The language is also more inclusive, and frequently talks about the changes of puberty in terms of the wide range of what is normal for different bodies. As Lowe explains, “There’s lots of different ways you can use language to be more inclusive than traditional language when it comes to talking about puberty. The style we settled on is to use terms like ‘for most girls, this happens; for most boys, this happens.’”

Why is inclusive sex education important?

With anti-LGBTQ+ legislation popping up in states across the country, and some school districts going as far as banning books featuring LGBTQ+ characters, supporting LGBTQ+ kids with inclusive education is more important than ever.

Comprehensive sex education views sexuality as part of the emotional and social development of a person, and teaches it in a holistic way that includes concepts like personal rights, consent, gender identity, sexual orientation, and contraception. Many states still do not mandate sex education in schools, and most do not require education about contraception, sexual orientation, gender identity, or consent. 

In the absence of comprehensive sex education, many states will teach abstinence from sex as the only strategy for preventing pregnancy and sexually trasmitted infections, leaving large gaps in kids’ knowledge about how to practice safe sex. That gap is even larger for many LGBTQ+ students in those states, who may only learn about how puberty from a heterosexual, cisgender perspective.

Comprehensive sex education has proven to reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancies, and abortions. It also empowers kids to make safe and responsible choices about sex and set healthy boundaries.

You can purchase the book in paperback or eBook format directly from the AAP’s online store. But it’s important to remember that nothing replaces the value of having open, honest, ongoing conversations with our kids about sex and development, from proper names for boday parts and everyday consent to contraception and how to handle toxic relationships. Not sure what to say? We have a guide that outlines what’s age-appropriate to include in “The Talk” at every stage of development.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.