Dirty South Sex Ed Offers Inclusive Health Information
Irma Garcia educates Black & Indigenous communities & people of color
By Gianni Zorrilla,
7:00AM, Sat. May 16, 2020
While many taboos have been successfully un-tabooed in the 21st century, sex just doesn’t seem to be one of them. But progress is being made in strides. Certified sex educator Irma Garcia works to spread unbiased, inclusive sexual health information for Black, Indigenous, and people of color here in the South, where it is arguably needed most.
Why? For one, Texas is one of 26 states where sex education instruction is not mandated. Around 58.3% of Texas public schools that do choose to include sex ed teach an abstinence-only curriculum. Since sex happens regardless of public education policy, Garcia aims to provide medically accurate, pleasure-based information to the public.
Garcia majored in journalism at UT-Austin, but it was her minor in women’s and gender studies that sparked her interest in human sexuality.
“I was always interested in sex, but never really had language to figure out the curiosities that I was feeling in order to be able to transfer that information over to others,” Garcia says. Schooling and professional experience changed that.
Her first job out of college was as a counselor at Austin Women’s Health Center, a local abortion clinic. During her time there, her curiosity led to courses to become a birth doula and certified sex educator. She became certified this past November and launched her social media platform, Dirty South Sex Ed, just a few months later.
“It’s fairly new, but it has been received wonderfully and it has grown so quickly,” Garcia says. “It definitely makes me feel very happy that this information is helpful for some, but at the same time, it’s sad to know that our education system is failing us 100%.”
“Obtaining an abortion here in Texas for anyone, minors and adults alike, is definitely very burdensome and hard for a lot of folks, especially if there are different hurdles such as financial insecurity,” Garcia says. “And so for minors, as an extra burden, if they are not 18 they have to get their parents’ permission.”
This is where judicial bypass comes into play. According to the Jane’s Due Process website, judicial bypass for abortion is an order from a judge that allows a minor to get an abortion without the notification or consent of their parents.
“That in itself, I believe, is a literal definition of the government having control of one’s body because a judge is going to be the one to determine if you are allowed to have an abortion or not,” Garcia says.
“Whenever you have a government that is purposely trying to limit access to abortion services, you also have to look at the demographics that are being mostly affected by that, and that’s usually people of color,” Garcia says. Structural racism, discrimination, and income inequality disproportionately affect access to abortion.
“When you force someone into parenthood, that’s not something that’s healthy for their own lives or for their own mental health … You perpetuate this cycle of trauma, this cycle of poverty, this cycle of feeling that ‘Wow, I probably don’t deserve this access’ for whatever reason that society is telling you,” Garcia says.
As a woman of color from the conservative, purity-culture South who also comes from an immigrant family, Garcia has seen injustices firsthand. Being a counselor was also eye-opening.
“I was able to talk to so many other people that had similar struggles, and they were depending on me to, like, give them a sense of security and a sense of peace,” Garcia says. “But without them realizing, they were also healing me because they were letting me know that I wasn’t alone.”
Sex ed is not just about learning how to have sex, and it encompasses much more than just pleasure. There are also the aspects of mental health, socialization (religion, community, ideologies), communication skills, consent culture, trauma, and much more.
“I love to be able to tell people what sex toys to buy or what lubes to consider, but I think my passion lies more in the social and emotional skills than anything else,” Garcia says.
In focusing Dirty South Sex Ed on BIPOC, Garcia provides a sex-positive outlet for those who are often marginalized and shamed.
“I want my community, people of color, to be able to have access to medically accurate and pleasure-based sex education, because that is what is going to connect their humanity to all of the other aspects in their life,” Garcia says. “With that, we’re going to be able to create a more trauma-free, healed world.”