We should re-examine dating booklets

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No matter how you slice it, the issue regarding dating booklets is complex. On one hand, the assignment presents a productive opportunity for students to explore the subject of relationships: how do we build them? What am I looking for in a partner? What activities would I enjoy doing?
On the other, it unintentionally forces queer students who aren’t out to either out themselves or fabricate a booklet containing false reflections to receive credit.
The problem is not necessarily with the idea of creating a dating booklet itself. As described in the feature piece on the recent Netflix show “Sex Education,” students are in need of comprehensive instruction that addresses the nuance of relationships.
And while it might appear conclusive to argue that the fabrication involved in a dating booklet is no different than what is involved in not being out in the first place, in actuality, the assignment is sanctioning a forced confrontation. This is harmful because ultimately, it should be up to an individual when and how they decide to confront and reconcile with their own understanding of their sexuality.
To some, the dating booklet provides this opportunity for self-reflection. However, the booklet is mainly done in class. Sitting on cold metal chairs above the gyms and reflecting upon one’s sexuality don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.
While the goal of the assignment is to instigate thoughtful reflection on relationships, this is stymied when students who are questioning their sexuality get put into this position. To truly evaluate one’s feelings, it’s best to be in a comfortable environment. Sophomore year health class just doesn’t fit the bill for most people.
This reflection should be an autonomous choice–one the school should not require.
In a perfect world, ‘coming out’ would never have any ramifications.
But we don’t live in this world; in ours, there is still a lingering external stigma and, in many circumstances, the possibility of danger. In ours, there is internal weight in the perception of external ramifications, creating an internal turmoil.
While unintended, the discomfort that students who aren’t out feel while being forced to confront this in their booklet reinforces the internalized stigma and perpetuates the internal turmoil. The minutiae of everyday living as a person who isn’t out doesn’t as directly involve the degree of fabrication that the booklet would require.
There’s no denying that we need to be able to learn this. The knowledge and reflection gained through the activity is invaluable, but there are other activities, and other places for this activity to occur, that could create this opportunity.

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