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- Patricia Suma

Before a Health Connected educator walks into a classroom, we do a self-check of sorts. Like all humans, we have our own personal values and biases which have to be examined before we begin discussing sexual health and relationships with students. Moreover, we have to be conscious of the limits of our biases, which is not always easy. An article published this year in Teen Vogue, “Transgenger People on What They Wish They Had Learned in Sex Ed” by Syd Stephenson prompted me to reflect on how my

- Abigail Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

It’s hard to know how to express my feelings about the state of our country at the moment, namely the pandemic of racial injustice that has been laid bare, yet again, for us to see in all of its awfulness. Many others have spoken eloquently about the perpetual institutional violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. I echo their outrage and sadness about the continued injustices - large and small, those that shatter our headlines and those that are experienced in silence daily.The

- Health Connected Staff

Updated June 25, 2020We have moved our full Distance Learning FAQs here. Read below for a brief overview of our distance learning questions.Just like most schools, Health Connected has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Since shelter-in-place orders went into effect in mid-March, our team has been hard at work adapting our in-person programs and services for distance learning. Read on for more information about how this might impact your school, district, family, or student.

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

Dear friends, A few months ago, when we selected the theme for our annual fundraising luncheon, we landed on Finding Power in Connection. Little did we know how relevant these words would be now, as we learn how to connect in entirely new ways during the shelter-in-place orders. When we originally came up with the theme, it was about the idea that in an increasingly disconnected world there is power in connection. An essential part of Health Connected's work is to build that connection and

- Hannah Brown, Senior Health Educator

Today is Day 15 of the shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area, a policy implemented to slow the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been over two weeks now since I have physically been in the classroom; my workdays are now spent navigating virtual educational spaces and digital tools that will allow me to teach remotely. And after a long day of working from home, what does a cooped-up health educator do with her free time? Like many lately, I opt for a closet clean-out! Not only is this one

- George Eloïse Hosein, Teen Talk High School student

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be sheltering in place due to a COVID-19 pandemic and talking to you about how I really liked my sex ed class, I would have laughed. But, here we are. My name is George Eloïse Hosein. I’m a 15 year old Freshman living in Menlo Park, CA. I was educated with Health Connected curricula in both 5th and 7th grades in my private school. Those classes were taught by my English teachers, and I mainly remember the classic anatomy lesson and a condom

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

Dear friends of Health Connected, As I write to you today, I am mindful that many of you are currently grappling with navigating life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who has been part of the Health Connected community, I want to let you know how we are finding our way through these difficult times. As you are probably aware, nonprofits across the United States and locally are being heavily affected by the current circumstances. For us, the rapidly-changing nature of COVID-19

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

What does “inclusive” mean when it comes to sex ed? For the last several years, Health Connected has put particular focus on LGBTQ-inclusivity to ensure that students of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel included, reflected, affirmed, and safe in our curricula. But LGBTQ-inclusivity is not the only set of identities that we want to be inclusive of. Every student arrives in the classrooms with identities informed by their class, religion, ethnicity, family immigration experience,

- Kelly McNinch, Health Educator

Penis! Vagina! Sex! Oh my! The dominant discourse about sexual health education in the U.S. is often boiled down to giggly conversations, embarrassing anatomy lessons and condom-sheathed bananas. But at Health Connected, we understand the importance of treating sexual education like a living, breathing, ever-evolving creature in need of constant updates. This summer, I worked alongside two student interns– a high school senior and a university fourth year– inspiring me to reflect on the current

- Hannah Brown

If you follow current affairs in the U.S., you have probably heard the phrase “unaccompanied immigrant minor” many times over the last few years. The Trump administration’s focus on the issue of immigration has intensified public discourse and left many immigrants feeling uncertain about their future prospects in the United States. At Health Connected, we serve a diverse cross-section of students across the Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area by delivering in-class instruction on puberty and

- Samantha Gunton

The weather’s getting warmer, Memorial Day has passed and something special is here! You guessed it—Pride Month (or Pride)! Pride is a time when people who identify as LGBTQ come together to affirm each other. It’s also an opportunity to […]

The post Why Pride Month Matters appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Sabreen Dawud and Kira Eng

Sabreen’s Experience Spain, 2019 Dancers, buildings lit up in rainbow colors, love, celebration, happiness. I walked through the streets of Valencia, Spain during Pride, and it felt like peace was flowing through the streets. Around me, lovers were holding hands, […]

The post Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month in 2020 appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Margo McGovern

Being stuck in quarantine has meant I have lots of free time on my hands and what better way to spend it than on Netflix! When Circus of Books showed up in my recommended list, I didn’t know what to […]

The post Circus of Books—How One Couple Became LGBTQ Allies and Advocates appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Sarah Solomon

Feeling frustrated that you can’t kiss your significant other right now? Imagine if you were told that you could hang out…but not touch each other? Well, that’s the main idea of Netflix’s current reality show, Too Hot to Handle. Creating […]

The post Too Hot to Handle—Solely a Source of Drama or Helpful, Too? appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Mishael Richardson

This May, we are celebrating #SexEdforAll Month to bring awareness to the fact that everyone—especially teens like us—should have access to quality sex education! For many years, research has shown that teens, parents and educators agree that sex ed (the […]

The post Why #SexEdforAll Month Is So Important appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Vivian Welch

Last month, I went on my first socially distant date. Staying six feet apart, we sat on a quiet bench for a while and just chatted. It was really nice! While we had been dating for almost five months, it […]

The post How Social Distancing Can Improve Emotional Intimacy appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Samantha Wilk

Last month, the infamous Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. Not only was this a victory for Weinstein’s victims, but also for everyone affected by the #MeToo movement. Weinstein’s […]

The post Sexual Assault Awareness Month, #MeToo and Teens appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Sabreen Dawud

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, we have undoubtedly been presented with some challenges. We’ve been directed to practice social distancing and self-quarantining to prevent the spread of the virus. Staying cooped up in your house may make you feel […]

The post Self-Care: More Important Than Ever appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Jack Scala

The month of April is dedicated to sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness, and April 12 to 18 is STD Awareness Week. Last year, I wrote about the numbers of young people with STDs and the importance of communicating with your […]

The post Ready, Set, PrEP: A Step Forward appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Kira Eng

With all the social distancing happening because of the coronavirus, a lot of people haven’t had as much contact with their partner as they’d probably like. If you’re one of these people, I’ve got some tips as you navigate your […]

The post How Being in a Long-Distance Relationship Prepared Me for Social Distancing appeared first on Sex, Etc..

- Jacob

Jacob MirzaianSorry-not-sorry, but this sucks! I know it and you know it; maybe it'd be best if we let it show.

Sorry-not-sorry, but this sucks! I know it and you know it; maybe it'd be best if we let it show.

The 'latest crisis,' whatever it was at the time, has always been a big part of teen, tween, and young adult existence. Even the category of 'teenager' can be linked to the set of crappy political and psychological crises that flooded the anxious minds of Western societies after WWII. For some of my colleagues it was the AIDS crisis; for me it was 9/11 and its aftermath; for many of you it will be COVID-19. How are you supposed to deal with that?

The worst piece of advice I can possibly imagine is the one I hear most often: "Be positive!"

Other variations include:

"Chin up!" "At least you're young!" "We owe it to essential workers to be strong, and stay positive." "It might be hard now, but it'll be ok in the end. It's all a cycle. You'll see." "Don't worry, it only affects people with pre-existing conditions." "This is no time to be negative." "At least the crisis is bringing the nation together." "What a great opportunity to rediscover baking?"

I know - it's ironic to suggest that I have a solution that's good or helpful while I'm dissing all supposed goodness in the world, but here's my tuppence:

I'm not going to pretend everything doesn't suck or wax poetic about the greater good or silver linings to a global pandemic, or pretend that the light it shines on the faults in our broken systems is helpful. It's not; those faults were already documented and have been ignored.

So what do I suggest? I say: save yourself the energy drain of building a perky plucky persona and be as miserable as you like! You are already worthwhile, you are already generous, supportive, caring, and compassionate. Showing high spirits in hard times doesn't help you to do any of the acts of kindness, wisdom, or survival that come from your qualities.

However, resisting and saying 'no' to the enormous weight of pressure to be or appear positive is not easy. I have found it extremely difficult. I keep finding myself, wracked with guilt, in the gap that lies between how I really feel and the persistent  expectation that I might squeeze some sort of goodness from this poisoned fruit.

With all this 'free' time, why haven't I finished my job applications? Or become a successful podcaster, poet, or private tutor? Why isn't my bedroom clean? Why did I cringe at 8pm every day while half the UK were opening their front doors to "clap for the National Health Service?" Now that I'm away from the usual catalysts of my mental illness, why am I 'doing badly' at self-care?

Stop this thought pattern now. Once more with feeling, here's another reminder for me, you and all your friends and family:

Everything sucks!

Everything sucks, and that means misery. Being miserable, and the effects of being miserable, abound. So of course I didn't clean the house, or get out of bed, or write a novel!

If you also, frequently, need help to absorb that truth, to save yourself from that self-criticism, I can attest to the benefits of creating a mental list or writing an actual list of what sucks. Here are a few things on mine:

Thing That Sucks 1: Death

You know death: the inescapable black hole which troubles the most enlightened of minds. It's in front of us daily, and, as we're told, haunts every in-person interaction that we wish we could have.

Thanks to slow reactions from political leaders, and the indifference of nature at the microscopic scale, a virus has infected and killed well over half a million people worldwide, at time of writing. The possible deaths -- and for some of us, actual deaths -- of many of the people we care about and fears for our own safety weigh heavy on all of us.

That sucks.

Thing That Sucks 2: Nationalism

Nationalism celebrates the big idea of a national identity above everything else. The idea of a simplified and idealized typical American, or British, or Indian, or Chinese family to represent the nation is what matters. Racism? That can wait. Sexism? Huh? People whose families, lives, and sexualities don't fit? Stop making things weird. Working because you have no choice? Don't say that, we only care about heroes! Salute the flag? Very important! YUCK.

Just as wars result in a 'Rally round the flag' effect, wartime leaders enjoy bumps in their ratings, and normal soldiers are made into idols (who are later neglected), this pandemic is having a similar effect. We have watched our political leaders be praised on TV for 'joining the nation' on their doorsteps and clapping for National Health Service workers who just a year ago were being demonised by newspapers and politicians for demanding better conditions and funding - they still lack the safety equipment and testing they need.

You can't eat applause, you can't use it to test for COVID-19, just as 'Thank you for your service' doesn't provide safer employment options for underprivileged youth, or mental health support for homeless veterans.

There are other ways to connect to people. A shared complaint and dedication to our own values can connect us through the troubles we encounter in a way that is much more inclusive and real. So I don't believe in fake cheeriness as a 'national duty' - it has only ever made me feel weird, alone and 'wrong'. That sucks.

Thing That Sucks 3: Distress and Depression

Did you have mental illness before the pandemic lockdown crisis? Well, congratulations, here's some more. The drivers of mental illness include traumatic experiences at home, financial hardship, and lack of control over your own life. Predictably, domestic violence is up and job losses have been widespread. As for lack of control, being told you are not allowed to leave your home is textbook.

Achieving social distance when your housing is poor quality, you have a large family in a small space, or you live in an abusive or otherwise strained relationship with partners, family, or housemates is a massive ask. Being the perfect example of a public health role model isn't something we can all actually do. Being under 18 and/or disabled may already include a long list of pressures that make depression a struggle. Some of us may need more help than we needed before, but with less access to that help and an explosion in the size and persistence of our symptoms. That sucks.

Thing That Sucks 4: The Future

Recovery takes time. A lot of it, and we do not always know what the effects will be of a crisis on our communities, our psyches, or the political realities we will be left with. Many governments have pushed through policies which would not have passed during gentler times. We are yet to feel any of the long term effects of these. I have no doubt that our newly proven capacity for funding healthcare will be argued as 'only a thing for exceptional circumstances', and that many of the world's worst leaders will congratulate themselves for being leaders during the pandemic.

Many of us will lose grandparents and loved ones, and many invaluable intergenerational conversations will never happen. What effect will that have on cultural memory?

This is exhausting now, and I dread to think of what issues might arise in the coming days from the exhaustion of a traumatised, weakened, and bereaved society. That sucks.

Thing That Sucks 5: Forced Positivity

Constant, if sometimes subtle, reminders that we should be upbeat or surviving with a sense of pride or dignity is alienating and puts the lid on many conversations that we need to have, in order to know that we're not losing our marbles.

For me, there is an irony to what does help me get through. I do not find the 'positivity' of pretending that this doesn't suck to be optimistic. This is far from the best version of events. If you really can imagine something better, then this world is frustrating, and you're likely angry about it.

That's why I feel that real optimism is something else. Those of us who do our darndest to work towards a better world, including protesters who take to the streets, are optimistic about what the world could be, not what it is, and that comes with pain and disappointment. If you're miserable, it says to me that you are on the right track. I hope that, for all our sakes', there are times when we don't feel miserable, but my optimism also says that you, in your negativity, are the closest we'll get to an honest and realistic recovery from our current struggles and our best hope for the future.

You, my companions in this dire gloom, are likely struggling, facing poor sleep, depression, and disappointment. This isn't a fault in you; it's a fault in everything, so put the blame where it belongs, and let yourself be as you are.

Let us join together, in optimistic misery, and say a final time, let a thousand wolves howl, all together now:

Everything sucks! big fire, a unicorn pooping and a rainbow-barfing cloud because EVERYTHING SUCKS!COVID-19everything sucksnegativitypositivityfeeling your feelingssitting with discomforthard timesanxietylossdepressionhopeangersadnessracismsexismnationalismyuckdeathgriefhonestyPoliticsEtc

- Heather Corinna

Hannah MalinaSex positivity should have given me the courage to ask for what I wanted. Instead, I thought it meant accepting what I got.

The summer I turned 16, I sat in an exam room in my local Planned Parenthood, explaining to the nurse practitioner that I didn’t have STI symptoms. I also didn’t have an unwanted pregnancy. In fact, I hadn’t even had sex yet. But I figured that the day might come soon, and I wanted to be as comfortable as possible with the resources available. She explained the birth control options I could explore, how to get Plan B, and when to schedule an STI test and sent me home with a bag of 48 condoms. While now I worry I may have wasted the time of this underfunded institution, at the time, I felt that it was all part of being a sex-positive feminist, a label I wore proudly and vocally.

Yet, when I look back on my sexual interactions through my teen years and into my twenties, I feel so far from positive.

I’ve spent years processing my experiences with sexual assault, those things I can clearly classify as traumatic and non-consensual. But there’s a murkier discomfort when I look deeper at those experiences that I did consent to but I didn’t really want. Though I called myself sex-positive, the truth was that I felt very little about sex—in an attempt to chase away my fears and apprehensions, I had numbed myself to my own desires as well.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one. A search for ‘sex-positivity,’ on Twitter turns up dozens of posts calling it ‘a scam,’ and a ‘trick by abusive men’ by people looking back on their own past experiences with fresh eyes. This certainly doesn’t give credit to the original philosophy and the usual intent of sex positivity, the focus of which is personal agency, sexual diversity, and the centering of intimacy and pleasure rather than duty and obligation. But in reading these tweets, I wondered why it was that so many of my generation internalized a version of sex positivity that was so contradictory to these values.  And as an adult who still considers myself sex positive but now enjoys a fulfilling, positive sex life, I wondered how so much has changed when my overall philosophy seemed to remain the same.

I thought about my process for finding the interpretation and understanding of sex positivity that enabled me to make sex a positive rather than destructive force in my life.

Long before I’d heard of Ellen Willis, the feminist writer who first coined the term ‘sex positivity’ in the 1970s, I heard the term on tumblr, where I saw it iterated and interpreted through the words of my peers. Somewhere in the haze of the internet and the thoughts of other teens going through sexual journeys of their own, many crucial tenets of sex positivity seemed to get lost in translation.

The original concept of sex positivity was a rebellion against the scripts that had been written for women about sex--the puritanical attitudes that viewed sex outside of marriage as inherently destructive and the reproduction-focus of sex within marriage as an uncomfortable obligation. Even in my Californian childhood in the early 2000’s, I was steeped in these attitudes, viewing sex as a nearly apocalyptic concept associated with pregnancy, STIs, assault, and beneath it all, shame. For me, sex positivity went as far as to teach me that these disastrous consequences could be mostly avoided through planning and resources, and with that, I felt like I’d won the game. Feeling safe and avoiding danger was the most that I had known that I could hope for. But sex still felt like an obligation--the idea that sex could be a medium for fun, expression, and exploration, barely occurred to me. Two months after my Planned Parenthood visit, as we got dressed after our first times having sex, my then-boyfriend said to me, “That really wasn’t a big deal.” “No,” I agreed, “it wasn’t.” And after a childhood of thinking that “loss of virginity” was painful, definitive, and ruinous, I was grateful for an experience that was deeply bland.

Sex positivity was an antidote to my fear and shame, but my understanding of it was not a mechanism to make sex actually joyful. My interpretation fell short because it hadn’t prompted me to explore what exactly sex was, what it could be, or question the dynamics that underpinned it.

For most of my teen years, I thought sex meant heterosexual penis-in-vagina intercourse with boys who either didn’t care or didn’t know how to ask me what I wanted.

While I had to unlearn countless messages about how sex would destroy me, the boys I was with anticipated sex with excitement and pride. Sex positivity didn’t force them to examine their own entitlement to non-reciprocated sexual pleasure, it merely positioned me in their eyes as a willing provider.

I wanted to stop feeling shame about my own sexuality, but both my understanding and my partners’ understanding of sex and the way to go about it was still deeply entrenched in norms in which I was a commodity. I stood as an object rather than a subject. Rather than seeking out sex that would feel positive, I internalized the idea that sex wasn’t negative—and if something isn’t bad, why not do it? I went into many sexual encounters with the attitude of “might as well, there’s no harm in it.” But sex should be about so much more than just coming out unscathed.

In retrospect, in defending the sex I was having, I was also defending myself. At 15, I emerged into a world where I couldn’t walk down the street without being sexualized, where boys in the hallways would make crude jokes, and platonic friends would request sexual favors. Rather than confront the anger and confusion I felt from these things, I chose to deem them harmless. In doing so, I equated sexual experiences that made me miserable with those that actually excited me, and soon I could barely tell the difference.

In college, I began to explore more communicative sex, queer sex, sex that rearranged or didn’t include the power dynamics that I had come to think of as intractable. I was self-actualizing, learning to see myself through my own eyes instead of just the eyes of those around me. I realized that though I was still a sexual being, I was not the one who had existed through the male gaze. I could decide what was sexy about myself, I could decide how I presented those things to other people and the things that I wanted to feel from them.

For me, reclaiming my sense of sexual agency—and with it, my enthusiasm about sex—actually meant becoming more selective and more specific about the sex I had. To my own surprise, sex positivity could mean saying no to sex! I learned what I didn’t like as much as what I did like.

Sex was no longer something I did as a way to pass the time or something I felt too apathetic to avoid doing. Instead, it was now something I chose to do when I was turned on, with a partner interested in what I was interested in, and when I fully expected to have a good time. If these conditions weren’t or didn’t seem likely to be met, I would go home, make some pasta in my apartment, and enjoy my evening some other way. Sex positivity became an ongoing process in which I continually decided how sex could make my life better, rather than a mandate that I was held to.

I don’t think sex positivity is a scam, I think it is a liberatory philosophy.

But it is worth wondering why the version that was often regurgitated to or amoung young people online was so exploitative, and how our fears and desires were used against us. At 16, I thought that I was as prepared as I could be—but resisting a toxic sexual culture takes more than a trip to Planned Parenthood and a box of 48 condoms.

The original concept of sex positivity means that sex is not an inherently negative thing, that sex can add value to someone’s experiences. It does not mean that sex is always good and always does add that value. Being sex positive also doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have positive feelings about a given sexual climate or even your own sexual life. There’s danger in telling teens that responsibility for their sexual pleasure falls on them alone when American culture’s mainstream understanding of sex is steeped in exploitation, relying on sexist logic and racist tropes and treating heterosexual intercourse that centers men’s pleasure as an unshakeable default.

You don’t have to ignore these realities to be sex positive. Instead, recognize that these sexual patterns are the product of a sex-negative culture that teaches people to expect bad experiences and be afraid to create experiences that they desire. Strive for sex that is oriented around shared pleasure and mutual respect—sex positivity doesn’t mean simply that sex is positive, but it does mean that we have the power to make it so.

sexsexualityidentitysex positiveideasframeworkssex edlearningexperiencedevelopmentdiscoverychoiceagencyteenpleasureshameobligationfeargenderdynamicsrelationshipsPoliticsSexual IdentitySexuality

- Heather Corinna

Lane LewisThinking about trying low-dose testosterone therapy? Lane Lewis gives you the scoop on what that means, some options, making the decision, and working through your feelings throughout.

As hormone therapy (HT) becomes a more commonly offered medical service, and more research is done about HT, specifically in relation to gender nonconforming and trans folks, more avenues and options for engaging with HT have presented themselves. One of these avenues that I’ve seen a lot of discussion about lately is low-dose , or microdose, testosterone.

This is exactly what it sounds like: engaging with testosterone HT, but in a lower than “average” dosage. Due to a lack of extensive and sound research about trans- and/or gender-related care, there is not exactly a universally agreed upon “average” dosage for testosterone HT. Furthermore, because testosterone HT comes in multiple forms—injectable, implant, topical cream, topical gel, transdermal patches, etc.—defining “average” dosage is even more complicated. Therefore, it won’t be that helpful to define an “average” dosage here. However, if you are interested in determining what an average dosage might be for you and your preferred form of testosterone, your doctor or care physician should be able to outline that for you.

Reasons to Opt for Low-Dose Testosterone

There are many reasons why someone might be interested in low-dose testosterone. A big one is pacing. If you're interested in starting testosterone but feeling  nervous of a big wave of change hitting you all at once, low-dose testosterone might be something to consider. Changes happen more slowly and are far more subtle on a low dose.

Another reason someone might opt for a low dose is that perhaps they don’t want all of the change that comes with an average dose. This could be for many of reasons including not identifying as a transgender man, considering pregnancy soon or at some point in the future, needing to maintain a certain appearance for safety and/or survival, and simply not liking some aspect(s) of change known to come with taking a high(er) dosage of testosterone.

A third reason someone might want a lower dosage is if they are interested in experimenting with testosterone HT, but are unsure that it will be something they want to continue. Making small moves toward testosterone, like starting on a low dosage, allows you to test the waters, without committing to major and possibly irreversible changes. It is always possible to increase the dosage, or stop altogether, and, of course, it is always advisable to work with a care provider if at all possible.

Something Else to Consider: Method

As mentioned earlier, testosterone HT comes in various forms. If a low(er) dosage interests you, perhaps you might also be interested in learning more about the efficiency — that is, the body’s ability to absorb and respond to the testosterone — of various forms.

Injectable testosterone is the most common form of testosterone HT and also a highly efficient form: the body is typically able to absorb and respond to injected testosterone quickly and easily. Testosterone implants are similarly efficient to injectable testosterone. Topically applied methods, like gels and creams, are  less efficient and the transdermal patch’s efficiency falls somewhere between injection and the topicals, because it is protected by the backing and less likely to rub off on clothing or other surfaces.

Of course, and unfortunately, efficiency is not all you will need to consider when deciding upon your preferred method of taking testosterone. The injectable form tends to be the most affordable and widely available. The topical forms are less researched, more expensive, and depending upon where you live, you may be the first person your care provider prescribes them to, if you successfully seek them out. This means that getting access to the less efficient forms is definitely more difficult. However, if you find a helpful care provider who is willing to work with your insurance, these forms do exist and they can help in the process of engaging with testosterone HT in subtler and slower ways. If you are going to seek a topical form of testosterone HT, my advice is to do independent research as well as speaking with your physician and to remember that it is your body and well being on the line, and you are allowed to ask for what you want.

Navigating Fluctuating Feelings around HT

Let’s begin with the foundational reminder that it is absolutely valid for your feelings about HT to change and shift. That may be a long term shift or it may be day by day, hour by hour. All of these iterations are understandable and okay.

Think about the other decisions you make about your life: it is probably rare that you're able to make a decision clearly and decisively and never look back even once to reconsider or reuate. Add in the complication of HT being something you will continuously engage with (should you choose to sustain an engagement with it). It is like having to repeatedly make that decision again and again. Of course your feelings may change, and it’s okay f they do, including if you feel differently enough that you decide to go off testosterone or move up to a higher dose. Let me also say that it is also justifiable to feel firm and unwavering. Each of us is our own unique collection of stardust and germs. We will each have our own unique relationship to HT. There is no right way to feel and no wrong way to feel. Your feelings are your feelings and they are information that can help you make decisions about how to move forward.

So, now that we’ve established that whatever your feelings are about HT and however they do or don’t change over time is legitimate, we come up against the tricky precipice that is decision-making.

How do you make decisions about something that your feelings may or may not be constantly in flux about? Well, if your feelings are not constantly in flux, you’re in a slightly easier position, at least as long as your feelings remain constant. You can take the information of your constant feelings and act in accordance with them, like, if you constantly feel a desire to engage with testosterone, then making the decision to do so might feel simple. And vice versa, if you constantly feel a lack of desire to engage with testosterone, then making the decision not to do so, or to stop using it, might feel clear.

How do you begin making the decision if your feelings fluctuate? There’s no sure fire answer here. One important piece to remember is that if you start HT, you are not locked in for life. You can stop HT after starting. Opting for a lower dose and/or less efficient form of HT might help alleviate some anxiety about fluctuating feelings as well. Because there are some irreversible changes that testosterone can manifest in a body (to varying degrees these include bottom growth, facial hair growth, vocal changes, and hair loss), taking a lower dose and/or a less efficient form can slow the onset of these irreversible changes, at least buying you some more time than you would have if you were on an average or high dose and/or the very efficient, injectable form of testosterone. In this lengthened period of time you can sort of “try on” the early and subtler effects of testosterone to see how those make you feel and continue to process your potentially fluctuating feelings about long term and/or irreversible changes that testosterone may eventually manifest.

Micha Cárdenas sums it up well when she writes, in I Am Transreal: a reflection on/of Becoming Dragon, that transition is “willfully stepping into the unknown.” While we can imagine, project, hope and dream about what testosterone will bring us or make us feel, we cannot know until we are living that embodied reality of engaging with testosterone. And while that could be thought of as a beautiful leap of faith, it can also be scary to choose to engage with something without the promise of our desires coming true. And I’m here to tell you that worrying, having anxiety, or doubting yourself about your desire or decision to engage with (or not engage with) testosterone means that you are grappling with that factor of the unknown. And grappling with that factor means that you are taking this decision seriously. Which is great. And also hard. But still great.

The Question of Regret

Regret is a slippery thing. For one thing, it’s often unstable—sometimes we feel regret very strongly and after some time goes by, that regret fades; other times we don’t feel very much regret for a long time and then we are caught off guard by it. We have a fairly negative cultural connotation of regret, that tells us experiencing regret is a sign we made a mistake. And in some cases that may be true.

Let me pause here to remind you that making mistakes is how we learn and grow. It is okay to make mistakes. But, it also may be true that regret exists along a spectrum, and that it could indicate a variety of things from longing to sadness to rage, and those feelings may have nothing to do with anything you can control.

Beyond not being a fixed thing itself, regret can play many roles in relation to the question of HT. After starting HT, one may experience regret that they did not start it sooner, something like feeling a loss of the time they spent wondering or waiting, and thinking that that time would have felt more meaningful had they already been engaging with HT. One may experience regret over starting HT at all, perhaps feeling like it wasn’t actually something they wanted to do and it was a mistake. One might experience regret over engaging with certain forms of HT because of undesirable effects that specific form had on their body, that another form might not have had. Ultimately, there’s lots of potential for regret here and there’s no sure fire way to avoid experiencing regret. That is uncomfortable but it can also be motivating and informative. I’m going to encourage you to take in a fear of regret right alongside your other feelings about testosterone HT, treat it as information that can help you make your decision, but don’t let it be the guiding factor, if you can help it.

I will leave you with another helpful point of Cárdenas’:

a choice not to transform is of course still a choice to transform into a different state, as our bodies are all in permanent transition…”

The choice not to engage with testosterone HT does not equate to the choice not to transition. We are all always, already transitioning. Testosterone HT is but one tool we have in our transition repertoire. There are many others.

teapot and steam: the lowdown on low-dose testosteronegenderhormone therapy. HThormonesTtestosteroneaffirmationtransitiondecisionfeelingslow-dosemicrodosechoiceshealthcaremethodsself-caretransnonbinarygender nonconforminggender-diversemascBodiesGender

- Heather Corinna

Jamie J. LeClaireWhen it comes to sex and dating beyond the binary, not only are we given no blueprint, no representation, and no guide whatsoever, but we’re also working against the heteronormative messages we’ve all been indoctrinated with by media and culture from birth. Here are five ways I’ve learned to safely and creatively navigate dating spaces as a nonbinary person.

Dating in 2020 can be a challenge for anyone, especially amid a global pandemic, but navigating dating as a nonbinary person more than that. It is a constant exercise of resilience and vulnerability.

When it comes to sex and dating beyond the binary, not only are we given no blueprint, no representation, and no guide whatsoever, but we’re also working against the heteronormative messages we’ve all been indoctrinated with by media and culture from birth. And it’s these messages that set the tone for the modern dating scene. On top of that, transgender and gender nonconforming folks routinely deal with microagressions, misgendering, and harassment on dating and hookup apps, regardless of how inclusive they claim to be.

For all of these reasons, dating, especially with apps, can seem like a mentally and emotionally daunting task for a nonbinary person. But if you approach it with a few things in mind, it’s both possible and potentially liberating.

Here are five ways I’ve learned to safely and creatively navigate dating spaces as a nonbinary person:

Choose your dating apps wisely

For those of age and otherwise able to use them, dating apps can open up the dating pool, especially if you find it difficult or  unsafe approaching people in person. A few apps have been putting forth more initiative into making their platforms affirming, inclusive, and accessible to more genders, sexualities, and diverse relationships.

While unfortunately dating apps are not available to minors, there are other ways to meet queer people online -- even though all of them won't be the right place to look for dates -- like Facebook or Reddit groups, queer Tumblr blogs, or the message boards here on Scarleteen.

If and when you are able to hop on dating apps, it’s about quality over quantity. Here are a few I think are worth your time spent crafting that perfect bio for:

Lex

From the people who brought you the Queer Personals instgram, comes Lex, a personal-ad style dating app for by and for queer people of all genders. Lex prioritizes safety and inclusivity in their app. Lex doesn’t require you to connect another app to sign up, and uses minimal identifying information. You can choose to connect your instagram, or make an instagram specifically for Lex, and gives you full control over your information. You can post 3 “personal ads” a month and respond to as many as you’d like. The queer people I’ve met through Lex, especially during quarantine, have become some of the coolest, nicest people I know, and I’m excited to be able to meet and flirt with them in person.

OK Cupid

Ok Cupid has been around for a while and has consistently evolved their platform to be inclusive of all genders, sexualities, and relationship styles.

They use question prompts to determine whether you and another person are compatible on a fundamental level, including politically and ethically. You can select which or all gender(s) to connect with. You also can identify your sexual orientation as one or more of a dozen options and identify your gender as one or more of nearly two-dozen including nonbinary, gender fluid, and genderqueer.

Of course, there’s a catch. You eventually have to answer the unfortunately inevitable, “I want to be included in searches for [Select One] Man/Woman” question… but you can decide whether or not your profile is shown to straight people.

#Open

#Open (called “Hashtag Open”) is a newer kink-positive, sex-positive app that caters to the alt-sex community. Their mission is proudly and loudly one of inclusivity and identity.

You can choose from a number of gender identities, sexual orientation, and relationship orientations and choose to list your pronouns. But the best part is that their “include me in searches for...” question has a nonbinary option, and the option to select more than one. They have a detailed preferences section that lets you use hashtags to communicate exactly what you’re looking for. Under the “boundaries” section is even a “hard-limits” section where you can list your non-negotiables using hashtags and be alerted of potential conflicts.

And there’s really no catch. It’s a very new app, so it’s just starting to grow it’s user base and could stand to be more user-friendly, but it has potential and partners with many notable sex educators!

There is still no perfect dating app for transgender and gender-nonconforming folks (and by all means, if you build apps, let's talk!) but in the meantime, these are probably your best bet!

Be explicit in your intentions

If you’re using dating apps, use your bio to communicate who you are and what exactly you’re looking for, to the extent that you feel safe doing so. For example, in my bio, I have “they/them pronouns only”, “nonbinary/genderqueer” and “looking for casual, communicative, intimate sexual relationships with queer cuties”.

Signaling the type of relationship and shared values you’re looking for will save you time and energy. It helps if you try not to be vague. A way to go about this more subtly though, that I and many other queer folks incorporate, is by including hashtags that are relevant to your politics, your identity, and/or your queerness. For example, in my profile I have #TransIsBeautiful #BlackLivesMatter, and #KeepYourLawsOffMyBody included.

Not only will you be weeding out at least some of the incompatible, bad, or unsafe people on the app, but you’ll also yield more quality potential matches, reserving your energy.

Think outside the apps

Queer and trans folks have historically had to rely on the creation of alternative spaces or means of communication when it comes to intimacy and dating, and the age of digital media is no different.

We’ve gotten especially crafty during quarantine. With the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a queerly-beloved game, queer people have taken it upon themselves to set up virtual dates that take place at one another’s islands. If you’re a fan, joining queer ACNH Facebook groups or Discord chats can be a great way to meet folks. In general, joining the queer Facebook groups in your neighborhood is a good way to potentially meet friends and dates alike. As long as the group rules permit, you can use it similarly to a personal ad.

Social media has also made it easier to host and hear about events that are exclusively for the trans community or that are explicitly transgender and gender non-conforming affirming. For example, @QueerSpeedCruising is a new queer speed dating/cruising event that takes place periodically in New York, when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic. It was started and is run by two queer comedians, Alex Schmidt and Lily Marotta, who recognized the importance of having a safe space for queer and trans/GNC people to meet and mingle in an environment with none of the pressure, anxiety, and expectation that might come along with a one-on-one date.

HER, another social dating app for lesbians and queer women and nonbinary people, has been hosting virtual speed dating events periodically throughout quarantine.

You can also check the websites and social media pages of your local LGBTQ+ center or reach out to them directly to find out if they have any virtual mixers or dating events coming up. If not, suggest one!

Throw out heteronormative (s)expectations – write your own scripts

We live in a society where heteronormative sex and dating scripts are, quite frankly, inescapable. All of us come into our nonbinary or otherwise gender diverse identity in different ways, but wherever we’re coming from, it’s normal to feel nervous, inexperienced, or unprepared for intimate relationships and sex that exist outside of those prevailing narratives and gendered power dynamics.

Binary gender roles and expectations limit sex and relationships for straight, cisgender people as well, but they’re even more salient for gender-nonconforming folks. Questions arise like “Who messages first? Who pays for the date? Who makes the first move? What pet names am I comfortable with? You may find that you want to use different words to refer to your genitals, not want to use certain body parts or engage in certain types of sex. Which is wonderful because pleasure is about (so much) more than penetration, and it isn’t limited to our genitals! Reading queer inclusive sex education books like  S.E.X., second edition: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties, Trans+ and Trans Bodies, Trans Selves can also really help expand your understanding of what sex and intimacy can look like.

Other great resources for learning your desires and boundaries when it comes to romantic and sexual intimacy are Scarleteen’s Sexual Inventory Stocklist, and this zine, both of whch can help you determine what you are and aren’t comfortable with when it comes to sex and your body and help you communicate that to your potential partners.

The sex toy and gender-affirming product markets are expansive and growing, making all kinds of sex and fantasy possible and pleasurable for people of all genders, no matter what genitals you have or whether or not you want to use them!

Unlearning these scripts and rewriting the rules can be scary and hard, but thinking through your needs and asserting your boundaries is so worth it!

Above all, prioritize your safety, comfort, and wellbeing

Dating new people can be thrilling and exciting, but at the same time, it can be anxiety-inducing and both physically and emotionally vulnerable. This vulnerability is two-fold for transgender and nonbinary folks, who experience dating abuse & violence at alarmingly higher rates, and this abuse comes both IRL and virtually.

So often we are met with messages on dating apps that range from harmful and hateful to ignorant and disgusting, which, on top of the regular fatigue that comes online dating, is exhausting. As a result, it is crucial and self-preserving to dedicate adequate time and resources to your mental health and well-being.

If, and when it’s safe, to meet someone in person again, choose a public place where you feel comfortable, preferable somewhere welcoming of queer and trans people and with gender-neutral bathrooms if that makes you feel more affirmed. Ensuring your environment is a safe space may help you feel more at ease during your date.

Tell someone reliable who you trust  -- like a parent, sibling or friend -- where you’re going, and what time you’ll think you’ll be returning. You can give them access to your phone location or determine an emergency word or phrase, and check-in periodically throughout the date.

An important way to prioritize your wellbeing is to consistently communicate and assert your boundaries when it comes to intimacy, touch, and sex. This could include going over pronouns, setting expectations and parameters for the language you use around your body parts, discussing appropriate safer sex methods, and more. Also, pay attention to how a potential partner responds to these discussions. How they respond to open communication around sex is a good indicator of whether they’re someone you end up wanting to be intimate with.

The bottom line

Yes, dating can be a figurative minefield for nonbinary folks. But by practicing boundary setting and body autonomy and awareness, you’re taking precautions that will not only lead to more positive experiences but also preserve your emotional energy.

Remember, you deserve to be excited about dating and enjoy yourself. I hope, with the help of these tips, you will be able to lean into the thrill of dating and the potential for intimacy and pleasure. Because the reward -- living, lusting, and loving, fully and freely as your authentic self -- is so sweet!

nonbinarygender nonconformingtransdatingappsqueercommunityboundarieshelpconnectionin persononlineorientationidentitycreativeinclusionnavigatedatesexrelationshipsself-careCOVID-19safetyRelationshipsSexuality

- Heather Corinna

Gabriel Leão"Those of us that identify within the QTBIPOC community cannot take off our skin the same way we cannot remove our gender and/or our sexuality. We have to continue to have conversations about all of the disparities that are going on. There is not just one way we are affected."

As with discussions about race and gender in the United States, talking about sex, even sex education, are still often taboo in the supposed land of the free. Enter Jimanekia Eborn, MS, and her vast array of knowledge on the subject and its intersections with race and gender.

Jimanekia is known for centering QTBIPOC (Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color) in her sex education work and also advocates for them to care for themselves during the “active trauma state” we are living through, which has been triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and civil uprisings caused by racist police violence.

The intersections of race, gender, identity, and sex are more visible these days, thanks to the work of people like Jimanekia Eborn, and they influence the spaces of interpersonal relationships. Even in a growing gender fluid world, these intersections can still seem like a novelty with few spaces in mainstream media that reflect the lived experiences of QTBIPOC individuals.

As the world asks for more attention to and justice for Black lives, Scarleteen engaged in an interview via email with the self-proclaimed Trauma Queen, who's been a mental health professional for the last 12 years and has a Master’s in Health Psychology, to talk about her sex ed and trauma work that centers QTBIPOC communities.

Scarleteen (ST): You’ve been working in sexual education for 12 years now, and focusing on trauma. What are the differences from when you started to now?

Jimanekia Eborn, MS (JE): What I see is that the conversations are changing. I believe that there will always be folks that are going to push back on this information. The fact that it is being talked about and the fact that they have never dealt with their own issues is an entirely different thing. I also see that the youth are tired of not being heard. Which I love!

They are advocating for themselves, for their future selves, and even for us now. They are tired of being told half-tales, want the full information, and push for deserved knowledge. Laws are changing slowly, but surely things won’t change overnight. Especially because there are people that are uncomfortable or very much religious and believe that the best education is forcing abstinence information on folks.

ST: You have a Masters in Health Psychology. What's health psychology? How did that education and training change your work in sex education? 

JE: Wikipedia defines health psychology as the study of psychological and behavioral processes in health, illness, and healthcare. It is concerned with understanding how psychological, behavioral, and cultural factors contribute to physical health and illness. Psychological factors can affect health directly.

When I went back to school, I wanted to seek out something that was covering more than just medical folks or just brain-focused. In working with survivors and sexuality education, I want to always show up to support the entire person.

What I have learned has allowed me to continue looking at the full story, the full body. More than just what is being told verbally, because our bodies can hold onto such a story. I believe that what I have learned, as well as what I will continue learning, is that we need to ask more questions to really understand what folks are struggling with, instead of listening to one thing and then running with it and/or equating their struggle with someone else’s. Everyone’s body is different and things show up differently.

ST: How can affirming sex ed for, in and by QTBIPOC communities help them evolve in their personal lives and with the greater world?

JE: There is just something about seeing someone who looks like you that gives you hope.  Having teachers that look and identify in similar fashions to you is healing and allows you to let your guard down to receive the information that is being shared. Which can allow these folks to explore and learn in a safe space, versus the trial and error that can lead to injury and/or further trauma.

Sex ed historically is very cisgender-focused and heterosexual. I’m not sure why folks thought that there was just one way to have sex. Just like history class, there is much to learn hence we grow up going to multiple classes... because there is a lot to learn. Sex ed is the same; there is much to learn and much to consume. The ceilings are being broken; the eyes are being opened.

ST: Can you talk some about the racial and social uprisings in the world right now? How can we best use them as dialogues with QTBIPOC issues? 

JE: When I look outside my walls and see what is happening in the racial and social spaces, I am exhausted honestly. Being a Black queer woman has really always been a lot, and the outside world is adding to this immensely. I have seen and been a part of many conversations about how what is going on in the macro world is affecting the micro world, and the conversations have been really interesting.

It is hard for folks to see others that look like them being murdered and overlooked every day. What I continue to remind folks is that we are currently living in an active trauma state. It is really disheartening that folks think you have to separate your identities to be seen during this trauma state. We need to use these times to recognize that we are whole people.

Those of us that identify within the QTBIPOC community cannot take off our skin the same way we cannot remove our gender and/or our sexuality. We have to continue to have conversations about all of the disparities that are going on. There is not just one way we are affected. 

Honestly, I wish people would work on their own biases. We have to continue to have hard conversations, we have to continue using our allies and our accomplices to push the narrative forward. Sometimes it takes folks  who look like each other having hard conversations with each other so they can understand others. It is shitty, and really hard but it is so needed.

ST: How can everyone best manage any trauma they are experiencing with the events and loss of life at the root of the uprisings, with participation within them or observation of them? How can we best manage our hopes and fears around them?

JE: Whew, I think we have to do a lot of our own unlearning while we are living in this active trauma state. That is to say, we have to give ourselves more permission to rest, drink water, eat food, detach from social media. Things will still be going on outside without us. As cheesy as it sounds, I often say we cannot pour from an empty cup. There are many ways to show up and participate.

If marching and protesting is not what works for you, or does not feel safe for you, that is okay! There are plenty of people that are doing it. Using your voice, using your connections, if you have a bit of money that you can donate — those things can also be really helpful and important.

Listen to your body.

Checking in with our bodies is even more imperative right now. Our bodies are beacons of what is going on with us and around us. I want folks to know that, again, we are all living in a traumatic time and it is going to affect everyone totally differently. So, however you need to take care of yourself, do it.  Hopefully whoever reads this receives this reminder: you matter, you need to rest, and it will be there tomorrow!

ST: From your point of view, what kind of relationship changes or self-love can best help raise self-esteem and support for each other in this moment and in general?

JE: Honestly, I do not think there is just one best way to help folks right now. We are all raging in different ways; a lot of folks are having past traumas pop up and it is really throwing everything off kilter.

I will say that doing body scans can be really helpful, to just find where you are holding tension in your body or where you are in pain. Due to everything going on, a lot of folks are having lots of triggers come up as well as lots of numbness. Doing a body scan can be completed by scanning head to toe or toe to head. Sit down in a comfortable spot, take a few deep breaths in and out, focus on which end you would like to start (either your head or your toes),  and then scan over each area of your body until you get to the opposite end from where you started. Once you find those areas of tension or pain, you can foam roll them out. You can stretch, you can take a bath. You can journal about them, you can take a shower. There is no wrong way to deal with those tension areas, other than not addressing them.

I think we have to start taking care of ourselves before we look at supporting each other. I often use the following analogy in my classes. When we are on an airplane, they go over all the safety rules and they talk about the oxygen mask falling in an emergency. They say you have to put your mask on first before helping others. I want to affirm that you have to spend time with yourself, check in on yourself, take care of your body, your temple and your home first.

And then you will know a bit more what you need, not by what someone tells you. Also, it is 1000% percent okay to not know what you need and to say that. We can show up for each other by being honest about where we are versus saying we are all okay. Because, honestly, most of us are not doing great. Having that community is also great to know that there is no pressure to measure up to a certain way of being.

We have to be okay with not being okay.

We have to take some of the pressure off of ourselves to be living the same exact lives we had before COVID-19, before everyone started protesting. It can also be helpful to remember that these moments are not permanent.

image of Jimanekia EborninterviewJimanekia EbornQTBIPOCqueertransblackidentitybody scanhealinglearninguprisingworkactivismindigenousCOVID-19people of colorbiascareself-caretraumasex educationsexualitycommunityAbuse and AssaultBodiesPoliticsRelationshipsSexual IdentityGenderEtc

- Heather Corinna

Josie GleaveWhat does sexual grooming look like in online spaces, and how can you protect yourself and your friends from it?

Grooming means to train or prepare a person for a specific purpose.

In sexual grooming, abusive people build a relationship with someone through manipulation with the intent to sexually abuse them. Sexual abuse can be physical sexual contact but also can be other things like someone exposing their genitals to you, showing you explicit photos or videos, or asking for or taking intimate images of you. Both grooming and abuse can happen in person, online or both.

Learning about the stages and warning signs of grooming are important for two reasons: to prevent sexual abuse and to help people heal from past abuse and other kinds of exploitation. Abuse can damage a person’s life and mental wellbeing, but trauma is not a life sentence. By understanding grooming, it may be possible to avoid the pain of abuse. For example, if you're messaging someone you met online and the conversation turns inappropriate, you can recognize the danger, be empowered to seek help, and remove yourself from the situation or help another person who is at risk like this. That being said, abusers can be very clever and crafty. If they succeed or have succeeded, please know that it was or is not your fault.

For survivors, learning about grooming can clear confusion around your own experience. Many survivors have feelings of self-doubt, guilt, confusion, and struggle with trust. Each of these emotions can be explained through grooming. If you have survived this kind of abuse, you may read the manipulation tactics below and recognize parts of your own story. It is still painful to realize you have been tricked by someone you trusted, but this clarity and understanding can combat your feelings of guilt and blame. As you seek to understand what happened to you, understanding grooming may provide some answers.

The Steps of Grooming 

Any person of any age, gender, sexual identity or ethnicity can groom someone for the purpose of abuse. That person may be someone you know or someone you don’t know. Children and teens are not the only victims of grooming, but this guide focuses on young people.

Grooming was first recognized in abuse cases where the abuser knew their victim in person, like Ariana Kukors, a US Olympic swimmer who was abused by her coach. Kukors has spoken publicly about the role grooming played in her story, and how the manipulation kept her under the control of her abusive coach for years. In addition to in person grooming, online grooming has become equally dangerous, prent and damaging. More and more of our lives are lived online, which is why we need to think more and more about our safety online.

1. Targeting a victim

Unfortunately, any young person is at risk of online grooming. Abusers typically look for someone who is more vulnerable or in a vulnerable situation, like someone living in foster care or someone with a disability. Online, abusive people look for teens who are lonely or expressing sexual curiosity. Sometimes online abusers pretend to be teenagers themselves, but more often they are adults trying to play the role of an older boyfriend or a mentor who can “teach” the victim about love or sex.

2. Gaining access

Sexual abuse is most often committed by someone that you already know, and this is because the abuser usually needs to be in your circle of acquaintances to get access to you. They want to be nearby and to have opportunities to be alone.

This is often not the case with online abuse, because the internet provides that access. Instead of being in the same city or neighborhood, abusers can meet potential victims on social media, in games, chatrooms, or anywhere that users correspond. Online platforms also allow anonymity, which works in the abuser’s favor. It can be difficult to determine who a person is and their intentions.

3. Building trust

A key part of grooming for sexual abuse is building trust with the victim. In person or online, abusers try to fill a need. You may be lonely, feel unpopular, isolated or bored, and the abuser will pretend to become a friend you can confide in and who can listen. They may act sympathetic, always take your side, and portray themselves as the only person who understands your problems. Their goal is to become your main emotional support. They may also try to make you feel special by treating you like an adult and commenting on your maturity. They may quickly look for a favor they can do for you to make you feel indebted and more likely to do something for them return. This stage is particularly damaging because it closely mimics a positive relationship.

4. Isolation and risk assessment

When an abuser thinks they have established trust, they test that bond. They may try to isolate you from family or friends, sometimes to the point of you becoming very emotionally or otherwise dependent on them. With online grooming, they may ask if your parents check your phone or if you are home alone. They may also start asking you to keep secrets, either about conversations or gifts they send. This is one way the abuser assesses whether they can move to the next step and you will stay silent.

5. Sexualization of the relationship

The final step occurs when the abuser believes they have built sufficient trust that you will do what they request and keep everything secret. They may commit sexual assault in or request sexual images or videos, often increasingly explicit in nature.

While in person and online grooming both follow these steps, abusers work at different rates. For example, Ariana Kukors swim coach began grooming her when she was 13 years old and the physical sexual abuse began when she was 15. Online abuse can occur faster, sometimes in even less than one hour.

Red Flags and Warning Signs

It is not reasonable to say that you should avoid the internet if you don’t want to be abused. The responsibility and blame always lies with an abuser, not someone they victimize who is simply engaging in modern life online. We believe it is possible for you to still have fun online, meet new friends, and stay safe. The key is awareness. It may be difficult to identify a step in the grooming process in real time, but there are red flags and warning signs that you can recognize, especially if they start to accumulate. They can help you protect yourself when sexual requests slide into your DMs.

Flattery

It can feel nice to be noticed. Lots of likes and comments on your social media can feel good, but excessive compliments from a stranger can be a warning sign, particularly sexualized comments about your appearance. Flattery is one way online abusers gain access to their victims and begin building a relationship. “Wow, you should be a model,” may seem harmless, but it often isn’t. You have the power. Just because someone gives you a compliment does not mean you have to continue the conversation.

Gifts

Online groomers might send video game currency, cash, electronic devices, or other gifts to you to ingratiate themselves. This is a clear red flag. There is no reason why an adult should be sending gifts to a minor they met online, nor is it typical teen behavior to send gifts if the abuser is posing as a younger person. In actuality, gifts are one way abusers assess risk. They may ask you to not tell your parents about the gift to test how much you trust them and if you will stay silent after sexual abuse.

Asking for personal information

It is safest to avoid sharing personal and identifying information about yourself online or with those you don’t know. If you are playing video games, chatting, or sharing photos for fun, there is no need for personal questions about where you live or go to school. Do your parents read your messages? What is a secret no one knows about you? Abusers want to know as much as they can about their victims so they can better manipulate them.

Secret conversations

Secrets work in the abuser’s favor in two different ways. To build trust, they may confide in you by telling real or made up secrets to try to make you feel special. Abusers also use secrets to test that trust before escalating to sexual abuse. If someone asks you to keep a conversation secret, ask yourself why? Is the conversation inappropriate, or is it dangerous?

Sending sexually explicit photos

In the online dating world, it is almost assumed you will receive sexual photos whether you asked for them or not. Sexting is considered normal, but still has risks and consequences, particularly if you are under 18. Unfortunately, abusers rely on the normalization of sexting. They expect you to dismiss or think nothing of an explicit image, but in reality, abusers send explicit imagery to try and desensitize their victim to future abuse. It is a priming tactic. Keep in mind, that in many countries it is illegal for an adult to send an underage person pornographic material,nor is it lawful to send nude photos as a minor to another person. In any online exchange, it is not okay for anyone to send unsolicited explicit photos. This is poor etiquette and ultimately a nonconsensual act and red flag no matter what.

Requesting sexual photos

Online abusers sexualize the relationship by sending and requesting explicit photos and videos, explicit letters or phone calls, or asking detailed questions about your sexual history or experience. They may begin with a seemingly harmless request, like a photo of you fully clothed, before asking for increasingly sexual images. Others brazenly ask for explicit material straight away and even demand live webcam performances. Remember that after you send an image, you no longer have control over what a person does with that image. Ask yourself how well you know the receiver. Did you meet in person or online? Do you know their real identity and their intentions? How does the request make you feel? Many young people enjoy the attention that comes from the potential of a new relationship, but requests to send nudes can still feel like unwanted pressure.

Threats

After the abuser receives one or multiple sexual images, they may try to blackmail you into sending more images of increasing exploitative nature. They may send threats that they will release the images online or send them to your family or school. This is a kind of extortion, or rather sextortion, and is another form of sexual abuse. You do not need to respond or give in, despite how terrifying the threats may seem. An abuser does not want to put themselves at risk by exposing the relationship, so the threats may be a bluff. Seek immediate help.

Next Steps 

If you feel uncomfortable about an online conversation, the next thing you should do may be the hardest. Reach out for help and support. Telling a parent, guardian, teacher or someone else can be daunting because you can’t know for sure how they will react, but confiding in someone with some power who you can trust and who won’t blame you for the abuse is key to moving forward. Alternatively, you can call a helpline which allows you to remain anonymous and get accurate advice about your situation.

An online conversation with someone abusive can spiral out of control quickly. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, but if there is anything you should take away from this guide, it is this: it is never your fault. The blame is not yours to bear.

For more information or help:

Scarleteen – Direct support services including message boards, online chat, and SMS helpline, USA Childline - Helpline for 18 and under, UK NSPCC - Understanding grooming, UK

Some reporting options:

CyberTipline (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) - USA Internet Watch Foundation - UK Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - Run by Australian Federal Police Virtual Global Taskforce - International abuseassaultviolencepreventionstalkinggroomingonlineprivacyabusersdangersafetyprotect yourselffriendsred flagswarningsstepswhat to look out forsecretshidingdishonestyexploitationsHurtharmnudesisolationlonelytraumaAbuse and Assault

- Heather Corinna

E. M. The term itself is insufficient and sounds oddly trivial. The word ‘stealth’ has various associations in the Oxford English Dictionary (2020), including ‘secretly and without right or permission’, ‘clandestinely’, ‘furtive’. A stealth action happens quickly and slyly, like the swiping of an appetising sweet by a small child before their parent sees. But stealthing does not just happen surreptitiously, swiftly, or without the total awareness of the victim.

Content Note: graphic description of sexual assault

Beginning

As long as it has existed, writing has been an act of self-control as much as it is an act of self-expression. It can bring solace and even medication. I am writing this to take control of what happened to me, but sharing with readers I have never met. I hope some of what I say speaks to you.

This is a time of deep, global reflection. For some, it may be a balm, as they steady their gaze and look at their life with newfound peace. For others, this slowness may increase anxiety, as we are thrown into waves of endless questions, where answers are like the rarest pearls of hope at the bottom of a murky ocean bed. Perhaps old demons have resurfaced: people you don’t want to hear from or think about, events you thought you’d buried. It may cause you to reframe moments in your life, to see them from a different angle, lit with renewed pain, joy or acceptance.

I want to tell you about an experience that is newly spun in my own tapestry.

A few months ago, I was sexually assaulted. I’m very early in my journey of reflection and acceptance. Through writing this, I am trying to put what happened in a frame, to observe it as a memory. Part of, though clearly separate from, me.

I am a single, white, and able-bodied woman. I am emotionally open and I try to be consistently kind. Some of my favourite things to do are dancing until my clothes are transparent with sweat and studded with wet glitter; to eat fresh food in green spaces with people I love a lot; and to laugh very often. I remember this quote from Toni Morrison’s Jazz: ‘laughter is serious. More complicated, more serious than tears.’ So, I laugh and I cry and try not to put a dam up against either of these wellsprings.

I had my first kiss when I was eighteen (which I think can generally be considered late) and first had sex when I was twenty-one (perhaps more average). Both of those times felt right for me. I have only had committed, romantic and sexual relationships and sex with men, but I have also dated and am attracted to women. I have had mundane, excellent and hollow sex, in and out of relationships. I have dumped and been dumped. I am a very romantic person but I have never been in love. I am optimistic and I hope, one day, to marry someone with whom I can laugh, cry and eat in the sun.

I am sure that you will recognise a lot of these qualities, in yourself and in people you know. Perhaps I am more sensitive and vulnerable than some. Less savvy and experienced than others.

I reveal some fairly ubiquitous details about myself to demonstrate something which you should not ever have to prove. No one aspect of me or of anyone can ever explain, excuse or justify sexual assault. What happened to you is never your fault. Never, never, never.

First meeting

We met on a dating app; matched and exchanged a few messages before agreeing to meet - neither of us seemed like small talk people. “Seemed" is the keyword here, because dating apps, in their infinite, algorithmic wisdom, amalgamate the complexities of our identities into bald, flat projections of two-dimensional comparison. We tap and swipe with one eye open, dully hoping for the next connection. And in the spaces between matching, messaging and meeting, we have already formed a million micro impressions, whether we realise it or not, based on our histories and sensibilities, on what they are like.

On our first date, we shared information and interests and found mutual connections. He encouraged - and sometimes demanded - openness. This was new. He remarked that when we date, we play a game of conceal and reveal. I thought - that’s true, that’s insightful. And within that thought, I had couched the assumption that, because he recognised the cynicism in modern dating, he himself was not playing a game. I began to trust him.

I trusted him enough to decide to go to his house a week later for dinner. We had a couple of calls and exchanged messages during the week. I deliberated, but I wanted us to take an evening to enjoy ourselves. So I decided to go. Plus, he was making me dinner.

His house

The atmosphere while he was trying, and failing, to cook, simmered with the charge of two relative strangers who are attracted to one another. He asked lots of questions, and I liked his curiosity. I took it as him making a genuine effort to learn about who I am. But sometimes, he pushed the verbal contract implicit in every conversation. Know when it’s too soon, or too raw, to talk about some things. The two words he said the most were, “Tell me.” I found myself at one point having to explain why I wouldn’t immediately tell him something from my history. This felt like a new kind of dating game: pushing someone to see how far they’ll bend to you.

But each time, after repeated ‘nos’ from me, he’d get the message. All these exchanges were under the guise of flirtatious play. I did not feel any insinuation in them that this person had an issue, full stop, with boundaries. With being told no. And how could I? At this stage? We were flirting. We were cooking. We were strangers, learning about one another.

I don’t know if you can really tell what someone is going to be like sexually before you actually are sexually intimate with them. I think kissing reveals a lot, but sex has clear rules. It has rules because within those rules, there is so much boundless, beautiful freedom that you can find with another person. The main rule is that consent has to be active, consistent, and enthusiastic. I would never judge someone based on how soon they have sex with someone they’ve met. You have to know then that it’s what you want and what feels right. This far into the evening, it was still what I wanted, still what felt right.

The bedroom

We spent a few hours in his bedroom, getting to know each other sexually. We had protected intercourse a few times. Neither of us climaxed. But we were having fun. Mostly. Intermittently, he was rough. ‘Ow!’ was what I said most during our encounter. Ow for stop, you’re hurting me. Which he did. But the main, niggling issue amongst all this was his persistently pressurising language.

When you’re in a room with another person, being sexual, you create a new world together. There is a power in the atmosphere which, if both parties respect each other, can be shared and equal; see-sawed, stretched, billowed and played with to create an ecstasy of human collaboration, trust and wonder. But when someone else seizes that power - it may be over a period of time, or all at once, in a moment - they have changed the rules. You may lose where you are. You may not realise it happening, because you think you are still in that place of equality. But it’s become a different game.

It started with little, seemingly offhand remarks about how ‘shit’ and ‘inconvenient’ and ‘unsexy’ condoms are. He would come to me without a condom on, I would say, “No, stop, get one. “ He would say, begrudgingly, somewhat mockingly, with a roll of his eyes, "Yes, yes, I know you’re right. You always say the right thing.” This happened two or three times. Then the remarks started to mount, each one degrading more at my will power and ability to say no:

It’s just a boy thing, I think. All I can think about is ejaculating.” “Nothing happens for women, does it, if they don’t come? They just get pissed off.” “My stomach is really starting to hurt.” “It’s male biology. This is my reaction. I can’t come with a condom.” “No one has ever made me come from just a blowjob. That’s your challenge.” “Oh but it’s soooooo rubbish with a condom. Can we just…”

These, and more like them, for a very long period. I suggested we go to a 24-hour shop to get more condoms. He, lounging on the bed, in a childish huff, instead repeated at me his apparent biological imperative.

My self-possession had been whittled and worn down. I was exhausted and I wanted everything to be over. Every time I said no, I was made to feel more and more like I was being unreasonable, even mean. It became exhausting to continually assert myself, until the point where I no longer felt I could. My self-control was zeroed by his coercion.

Stealthing

‘The Social Science Research Network (SSRN), in their paper 'Rape-Adjacent': Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal, last revised in 2017, defines stealthing as:

‘Nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse [which] exposes victims to physical risks of pregnancy and disease and, interviews make clear, is experienced by many as a grave violation of dignity and autonomy. Such condom removal, popularly known as “stealthing,” can be understood to transform consensual sex into nonconsensual sex.’

The term itself is insufficient and sounds oddly trivial. The word ‘stealth’ has various associations in the Oxford English Dictionary (2020), including ‘secretly and without right or permission’, ‘clandestinely’, ‘furtive’. A stealth action happens quickly and slyly, like the swiping of an appetising sweet by a small child before their parent sees. But stealthing does not just happen surreptitiously, swiftly, or without the total awareness of the victim. Not using a condom when your sexual partner has explicitly, repeatedly, insisted that you do; wearing them down until you have overridden their final plea of ‘No’; and proceeding to climax in the knowledge that you are actively violating their sexual autonomy, crossing a clear, iron-clad boundary without consent - this is stealthing, too.

I recall Lady Macbeth’s words, ‘That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, / Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, / To cry 'Hold, hold!'’ The man who assaulted me knew the wound he was making and, still, he did not stop, did not look away.

The aftermath

Cycling away from his house, the morning after pill in my bag, I felt bruised, numb and clouded. His words throughout the night, and the strange spectrum of emotions that were exchanged and heavy in the atmosphere, weighed on me like lead.

“I just feel…” I searched for the word.

“Disrespected.” He supplied it. I found this very chilling.

I thought - okay. So, on one level, you know and understand what happened here. I don’t think this makes him a better or worse person for going ahead and doing it anyway, because what adult could seriously claim that in the moment itself, they had no idea what they were doing? Absolutely none at all of what the other person was feeling? I think, on balance, it makes him worse; but what I’m saying is no one could claim ignorance and therefore be deemed ‘better’. There is no better or worse, there’s just the facts of the matter. You do not not know what you are doing.

I’m upset that you’re upset.”

He was not upset about what he had done. 

I got home and went for a run. Then I went to buy some condoms, as an act of reclaiming control, I think. Then I called a close friend. Something wasn’t right, I knew that, and I wanted advice. Once I’d explained what happened, he was silent on the phone. Then, he said, “What he did is absolutely disgusting.”

This was the first step to me recognising the experience in the cold light of day. On the advice of the friend, I sent the man in question a voice note, articulating how wrong I felt, and suggesting a conversation. He asked to speak on the phone.

I was still very much trying to understand the situation and to put it to bed. I did not want it to have happened, and my contacting him when things were still so fresh was another attempt to put the night to rights. At this stage of the trauma, I did not realise that righting his wrongs was not my obligation.

The phone call was really strange. Unlike in the immediate aftermath, he was clearly shaken up. During the course of the call, I wanted everything to be ok, neutralised, erased. This meant we ended up ending things fairly amicably. Two things really stayed with me.

“I don’t know what being an adult means,” he said, boyishly.

“Being an adult means taking responsibility,” I replied, with sudden knowledge.

That’s it. That’s what it means.

Processing 

I told a close female friend a few days later. “How can I best support you?” she asked. It is the support of other people, which I am so fortunate to have around me, that started a process of healing, reflection and renewal.

I don’t want to feel any of these feelings. They feel so much bigger than me.

For the first month, my thoughts, dreams and fantasies were invaded. My reaction to things, things which felt random and inoffensive, disarmed me. I spent a long time not feeling like myself. Like a stranger in my own body.

I couldn’t listen to certain songs because the lyrics were too on-the-nose. I feared sensory pleasure and tensed up at the thought of a sex scene on TV. I felt sick thinking about other bodies being sexual. I felt bewildered and intimidated thinking about my own body being sexual. I felt reticent to exercise, I was afraid of sweat. I was continually restless. I lacked resolve. I sat still a lot. I moved around a lot. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

I had very visceral flashbacks from that night. They intercepted my vision, disrupting my interior world. I felt like a faulty television set which blinks back to the same channel, no matter how many times I try to change what’s on. I was held captive by these invasive images which flared up in my free associations. Everything and nothing reminded me of what happened.

I imagined seeing him in the street. In a club. In a supermarket. In another country. I was trying to prepare myself. I still am.

Two weeks afterwards and my bruises were fading, only faint discolourings. Yellow-purple half moons or squashed berries blended into my skin, receding into my body’s memory. They persisted to remind me of what happened, that everything was not okay.

I sought professional support and legal advice. Both processes are ongoing. The initial bureaucracy of both was tiring, but every phone call I had with someone who listened, who made me feel heard, who let me cry and work through so many complicated, ugly and intrusive feelings, made me feel hopeful. They gave me faith that most people are like those people and not like the person who has left me with this reality. Articulating my experience in different ways - to friends and family, to medical professionals, to myself and for myself, to you - has never stopped being horrible and hard. But it has empowered me also, because it has helped me claim what happened through externalising it. As soon as you describe something, your mind becomes more spacious, and their action has less power.

The emotions I found hardest to handle were empathy and rage. The empathy especially, felt because of the fact he is a three-dimensional person who clearly had some understanding of the depravity of what he had done. It is a natural emotion but, initially, it was a huge hindrance to my own self-soothing. I was trying to take responsibility for him changing, in some vicarious way. It is important to recognise what you are and are not responsible for. Empathy and compassion are infinitely beautiful things which, whether directed outwards or inwards, are a direct source of comfort and salvation. Don’t misdirect them towards people who have actively abused these qualities. They may be hurting, but they have hurt you. Be compassionate towards yourself.

As for the rage...I thought about the obvious things. Post dog shit to his house, or something; sign his email address up to spam accounts. I have decided against these courses of action (for now, at least). Writing this is a vehicle to drive out many of these feelings, so I can move forwards.

The future

Thank you for sharing your insights with me and thank you for being a good person in the world.”

This was the last thing he said. This looks like a sincerely pleasant, mildly heartfelt and touching, goodbye, doesn’t it? It felt like that at the time. I am still confused by its apparent sincerity. I know that he meant it, that’s the weird thing.

It’s the fact that I can’t render this man monstrous in my mind’s eye, the fact that he doesn’t emerge with seven heads, breathing fire, spiked tongues hissing, dagger eyes rolling, that so addles my brain.

When I imagine someone who abuses, I see a dark, shady figure, faceless, ageless, timeless, who moves silently with profound intention. Who can run, dart, fly. I imagine someone who has no interests. No past. No home. Nothing they love. No pets. Few aspirations. Who doesn’t feel real pleasure.

This is, of course, the stuff of fantasy, but it underlies collective conception of who it is exactly that sexually assaults. Such nightmarish imaginings lurk in victim-blaming culture, in the stark statistics of reports versus arrests, and contribute to a sinister and prolific culture of trivialising sexual assault. Of ‘not all men’. The victim should have seen the abuser coming. Should have worn a longer skirt.

We should not be frightened of normality, or of all men. But in order for this basic fear to be assuaged, we need to recognise that we are a long way off from assault not being normalised.

There are no blurred lines in sex, just lines, plain and simple.

The only way to address how insidiously skewed the ways we talk about, regulate and teach sex is through education at every level, in schools and in workplaces. Only then can we truly discover it for ourselves, autonomously; talk about it, openly and without shame; and trust the majority of people, with the trust which only education empowers you to exercise, to love freely and respectfully.

It is not the responsibility of the victim to explain to an abuser what a boundary is before, during and after they have crossed it.

I reported him on the dating app and he was removed. That felt like a small victory. My friend assured me that it wasn’t small, but in my head all my attempts to claw back power were woefully meagre. In one phone call, the kind voice at the end of the line said, “Justice means different things to different people.” I don’t know what justice is for me, yet; how relatively big or relatively small it is.

I am so lucky to feel safe where I live and to have a strong support network. I know, for some people, one or both of those realities is not theirs. To you, I say: there are people you have never even met who care about you, and they really are a phone call away. Take a deep breath and pick up the phone.

I listened to Kate Tempest in a podcast recently. She was saying how creative acts, even if they come from something traumatising and frightening, are always beautiful. I am striving to take something beautiful from this.

I’ve been writing a lot, and I’m grateful to be writing this. I feel safer and less suspicious everyday. And I can now listen to music with lyrics.

Advice for readers 

♥ If you can, sleep a lot. It will help your body recover and your mind more clearly assess how you feel.

♥ My way of dealing with what happened was to go into ‘productive’ mode – proactively processing, busying myself, still loading up my days with things to achieve. If this is you, slow down and let yourself feel what has happened. This will feel scary, but it will help you. If you are struggling to motivate yourself in any way, start really, really small. You got out of bed and went to the shop and bought chocolate and milk? Yes queen!

♥ Try talking out loud to yourself about what you’re feeling. This will help you feel more in control and will prepare you for when you are ready to talk to other people.

♥ Speak to people when you are ready. There is no rush.

♥ Doing activities with your hands may help. I made cards for friends and did a bit of painting/online art classes. They really diverted my attention.

♥ Daily rituals, like yoga, can help you centre self-care.

♥ Practise noticing when something triggers you. This will strengthen you and make you more equipped to deal with life’s randomness.

♥ Don’t put pressure on yourself to report what happened. If you are thinking about it, research your options and speak to someone informed.

♥ You may feel confused or alarmed by directive emotions, such as desire, passion and anger, reawakening. Especially if the assault has made you feel passive or disinterested. Notice these emotions, and if they are causing you to actively want to do things – anything from masturbating to sending hate mail to the abuser – ask yourself what would be healthy for you and for your recovery. This allows you to be engaged in a continual process of coming back to yourself.

♥ If you can, light a candle and have a bath. Make or buy yourself your favourite food. These sensory activities will soothe your body.

♥ You may feel frustrated by people’s responses if you choose to share with people you know. Perhaps they will ask lots of questions, or not know what to say at all. Hold in your mind your reasons for telling them. It is more important that you have shared than what they say – unless, of course, if what they say or do helps you.

♥ If you seek support, which I encourage you to, the bureaucracy will be waring. What helped me was making a ‘Love Log’, in which I noted who I had called and if I had spoken to anyone. This allowed me to see these things as victories in the interim between reaching out and waiting for long-term support.

People to thank with all my heart

My cousin My friends My work colleague Every health professional who answered the phone and let me speak My family (though I haven’t told them, they’ve still been around) Christine and the Queens Survivors who have shared their testimonies Survivors everywhere Scarleteen, for this space to share

assaultstealthingabusesexualhealingprocessingrecoveringfeelingsidentityrape cultureself-carefriendsself-lovecoercionwritingwearing downhelprecoverysupportadvicereportinglegalAbuse and Assault

- Mo Ranyart

Mo RanyartLetters from the author to himself in his teens and early 20s, as he tries to sort out multiple facets of his identity.

Age 13:

Hey, Mo!

You aren't used to being called that yet, but it sounds good, right? I know you've never really connected with the name you were given, and that you wish you had another name, or a cool nickname people would use. Give it some time; you'll really like this one, I promise.

It's so easy for you to realize you have crushes on boys, but I wish you'd notice the crushes you've had on a couple girls, too. You've spent a lot of time daydreaming about what might happen when your penpal Rachel comes to visit; those daydreams have a lot of kissing in them, don't they? You won't wind up kissing her, but it might be helpful to remember that you wanted to. It means something, and I promise that it'll be clearer eventually.

You cry a lot, and the world doesn't feel real sometimes; your dreams are often the most vivid and memorable part of your day. I know you don't feel safe talking to anyone about how bad you feel so much of the time, and I know you don't feel safe seeking help because things went so badly the last time an adult learned how upset you felt. I'm sorry it's so hard right now, and I'm sorry that you aren't being offered the help you need. I'm so upset on your behalf about that. I wish I could offer help from where I am. I wish I could trust that anyone else would notice how badly you need it.

Also, I know you felt like you didn't have the right words to express why it felt so wrong when your dad compared same-sex marriage to someone marrying their dog, but I'm glad you got mad and got into an argument about what he said, even though you weren't sure how to win it. Your heart's in the right place. Keep that anger safe; you'll need it later.

Age 16:

Mo.

We have to talk about your friend Tiffany. You think about her a lot. Her smile is amazing. She's so clever and creative, and you love spending time with her. You pass notes in school constantly, and you get a little thrill every time you find one in your locker. I doubt you're reading these words without smiling at least a little at the thought of her.

Mo, you sign your notes to each other with "Your Forbidden Love." You call each other that all the time. It's a joke between you, or so you both say, that you'd be in love if you weren't both girls. Doesn't it seem like maybe you have stronger feelings for her than just friendship?

Now that you think about it, doesn't it seem obvious?

Do you remember the time you wound up together in the prom dress section of a department store when you were hanging out at the mall? Neither of you needed fancy dresses, but she suggested you try some on, anyway. She picked out a style and color you never would have chosen for yourself, but somehow it was perfect. You weren't sure why it felt like such a special moment, to see yourself in something new that she chose for you, but you felt beautiful in a way you rarely did in those days. That shade of red will never stop reminding you of her.

I know you have reasons to believe she might not be able to accept your feelings any more than you can right now, even if she returns them, but I wish you could understand how you're feeling now and not in a few years once she's gone away to college. It's a special thing to feel so strongly about someone else; I want you to be able to feel that admiration and love for her fully while it's happening.

You've gotten a few books out of the library that say they're about gay or lesbian experiences. You're pretty sure you're straight, but there's a subtle pull coming from these books; you want to see if anything in them resonates with you. But you don't live in a queer-friendly area, and the resources in your library aren't up-to-date. The novels you manage to find aren't uncomfortable and alienating to you because you're straight; they're uncomfortable and alienating because they were written in the '70s, or written by straight people, or focused more on suffering than on any sort of joy in discovering one's queer identity.

I wish you had something to read that felt relatable to you. Something about close friendships and longing and "jokes" that never quite felt like a joke, not really, about how you love each other. A narrative in which you could see a reflection of yourself, so you might be able to fit all these pieces together sooner. You'll feel silly, looking back, when you do figure it out, but I understand why it's so hard to understand your feelings now.

Age 19:

Congrats! You finally figured out that you're attracted to women. I'm so glad for you, truly. I know you were worried, for a while, that you were faking those feelings somehow, or just pretending you had them.

There's more, though, and I know it makes things more complicated. Once you got to college, remember how happy you were to be able to start introducing yourself as Mo to more and more people? How you kept thinking about how nice it was to have a more gender-neutral name, but never thought too much about why that seemed important?

I know you remember how much of an impact Gender Outlaw made on you when your best friend loaned it to you. How striking it was to read about someone saying they didn't identify with their assigned-at-birth gender, but that maybe they weren't the "other" gender either. That maybe gender wasn't a category with only two options.

It's all still percolating in your mind right now, and I don't want to push you towards any particular conclusion. But when you're doubting your feelings here, when you worry you're making it all up, I hope you'll think about Tiffany.

Think about how obvious it is, now, that you had feelings for her. How clearly you can see that affection written across your friendship. How easy it was to push those feelings aside firmly enough that you never quite sorted things out when you were still spending time together.

Think about the clarity you have about those feelings now. Let yourself be confused or uncertain or overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings about gender, sure, but don't doubt yourself. Don't try to argue against how you feel.

Everything feels like it's changing, and it is. I can't say it'll all be easy, but I can tell you it'll turn out all right.

Age 21:

Mo,

Hey. I know things are really confusing right now. That you aren't sure who you are, gender-wise, or even who you want to be, and that this uncertainty is eating you up inside. I know that it really is all right—truly—to be uncertain, and I also know that knowing this won't make you feel any better just yet. There's not much information out there for trans people, and almost nothing for trans people who don't fit into a rigid binary system defined by a very specific idea of "traditional" gender roles. It doesn't mean other people like you aren't out there, because they are; there just aren't many spaces for you yet, and you haven't found all of the ones that are out there.

I don't know if this will comfort you, but it's the truth: your feelings, your identity, will continue to change. Even after you make some pretty big decisions about your gender and your life and how you want to present yourself to the world. What's important to you, in terms of the language you use for yourself and the way you want others to see you, is going to keep changing. It'll shift again and again; the general shape will be the same, but the edges will shift and blur and change. Above all else, I want you to know that that's fine. It truly is.

So much about what you know about the lives and feelings of trans people is confined to your tiny local community of mostly-strangers, your partner, and the often alienating, occasionally helpful communities and resources you've been able to find online. Sometimes it feels like there's no room for ambiguity in the trans experience, that your lack of a clearly binary, definitive sense of identity means you aren't trans at all, that you're mistaken or pretending or just not enough of anything to count.

None of that is true at all.

What's wonderful, and what I hope you can hold out for and take hope from, is that before long you'll have a huge community of friends with similar feelings about gender; even those whose genders are very different from yours will understand, deeply and intimately, the way you feel about your own. They'll get you. You can all provide support and understanding for each other, and you'll be able to see, as time goes on, how many of you there are. How incredibly varied the experiences of trans people turn out to be when we feel free to share them without worrying that our access to medical care will be taken away if we step out of line, when we've carved out spaces for ourselves in person and online.

Your gender is a block of beautiful, fragrant cedarwood you can carve and shape as you see fit; you can use whatever tools you like, and any sharp edge or fine detail that looks good to you now can be filed or chiseled away if it feels wrong later. It's a flamboyant cuttlefish, small and shifting and strobing with color, remaining the same shape even as its appearance changes. It's whatever you want it to be, and while I know the ambiguity hurts right now, I promise that pain will fade into acceptance and love as time goes on.

Take some of that love and bounce it back at yourself. Try to be compassionate when you think about your younger self who somehow made it through everything to get you here. Look how far you've come! I'm so proud of you.

sexual orientationsexualitygendergender identitycompassionidentitychangesfriendsfriendshipcommunityqueertransselfquestioninglearningpersonal growthlovekindnessacceptanceSexual IdentitySexualityGender

- Heather Corinna

Dr. Sarah BorgA primer on accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare in the United Kingdom.

ALL sexual and reproductive healthcare in the UK is free through the NHS.

The best ways to access sexual and reproductive health services are through a GUM (genitourinary medicine)/sexual health/family planning clinic or through your GP. You do not need an NHS number to attend a GUM clinic — these services are available to everyone. To find out which services are available near you, you can check out the Sexwise website.

A great thing about going to a GUM clinic is that you can get a comprehensive sexual health check up with a doctor or nurse who works in sexual health. It can be your one-stop shop for contraception, sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and management of STI symptoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV and more.

If you need contraception

ALL contraception in the UK is free, including emergency contraception. There are many different methods of contraception available so you should be able to find something that suits you. These include contraceptive pills, the contraceptive patch, the vaginal ring, injectable contraceptives, implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). You can have a read about all the methods available in the UK on the Sexwise and Contraception Choices websites, or a range of contraceptive methods here at Scarleteen, so that you can come to your appointment with some information and any questions about the methods you're interested in.

Emergency contraception comes in two forms – an intrauterine device or emergency contraceptive pills. Both forms of emergency contraception are available for free at GUM clinics, some GP clinics and some A&Es. Emergency contraceptive pills can also be bought over the counter at some pharmacies.

If you want to get tested for STIs 

Free at-home STI testing kits are available to many people in the UK (depending on where you live) and can be ordered online. These kits are for if you want to test for STIs and also have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you should see a nurse or doctor at your GP clinic or a GUM clinic instead.

The free STI testing kits are sent to your house in an unmarked confidential package. The tests usually involve collecting a urine sample for those with a penis and a vaginal swab for those with a vagina; these usually test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Taking a vaginal swab is similar to inserting a (very tiny, very thin) tampon. There is also a blood test, usually for syphilis and HIV; this involves pricking your finger and squeezing out blood into a small tube. You can then post the samples back to the lab for processing for free – just pop the kit in any post box.

If you’ve got STI symptoms

If you have any symptoms, like unusual discharge from your vagina or penis, pain passing urine, pain in your pelvis or lower tummy, pain with sex, unusual vaginal bleeding (like during or after sex, or between periods), or rashes, lumps, bumps, or sores on or around your genitals, then you should be assessed by a healthcare professional at a GP clinic or GUM clinic.

If you need a cervical smear

A cervical (or Pap) smear is a test to help detect pre-cancerous changes in the cervix . All cisgender women or other people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter. You should have a cervical smear every 3 years from age 25 to 49. After this, the test becomes less frequent. Even if you have had HPV vaccinations, you still should have regular cervical smears.

If you have not already, register with a GP in the UK. You will get a letter in the post just before you turn 25 inviting you to book an appointment at your GP clinic for a cervical smear. If you do not receive a letter, or you think you need a cervical smear and haven’t received a letter, contact your GP.

If you need an abortion 

Abortions are available for free through the NHS. You can either ask a GUM clinic or GP to refer you, or you can contact one of the following abortion providers directly:

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Marie Stopes UK The National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS)

Check out the NHS website for more information.

If you have been sexually assaulted

The UK has sexual assault referral centres which are 24-hour one-stop specialist services where you can receive medical care and counselling. Find your closest centre on the NHS website. You can also go to a GUM clinic, an accident and emergency department, or your GP clinic.

Check out the Sexwise and NHS websites for more information on finding those services.

The last thing you may feel like doing after being sexually assaulted is going to the doctor. However, you should ideally do this as soon as possible because you may be at risk of pregnancy or STIs. You can be given medications to reduce your risk of pregnancy and STIs after assault. You don’t have to report the assault to the police if you don’t want to: reporting isn’t required to get emergency contraception, medications to help prevent STIs or other kinds of care.

I’m a man who has sex with men. Where should I go?

You can visit your local GUM or GP clinic to discuss regular STI screening, relevant vaccinations that may be available to you for free (e.g. the HPV vaccine, hepatitis vaccines etc), pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, and more.

What to expect at your appointment

If you have symptoms, are having a cervical smear, or are having an IUD inserted your nurse or doctor will likely need to examine you. Please don’t worry about pubic hair: your healthcare provider couldn’t care in the slightest if you have or haven’t shaved or waxed. It also doesn’t matter if you are currently menstruating. If you are feeling anxious, remember that the doctor or nurse you are seeing examines many people every day and this is as mundane for them as brushing your teeth is for you.

What about during the coronavirus pandemic?

The NHS is still open. Don’t avoid seeking healthcare you usually would during this time. Call your local GUM or GP clinic and they will advise you on what you can do during this time. They may try and manage your needs remotely, like by posting you medications you may require.

During the lockdown is also a great time to order an STI testing kit to your home.

While routine services may running at reduced capacity right now, all emergency services are functioning. If you have been assaulted, if you need emergency contraception, if you are feeling unwell, or if you need an abortion, you will still be able to receive these services and more. For example, some clinics are now posting medical abortion pills to patients, and you can still get help from a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) during the coronavirus outbreak. You can contact your GP clinic, GUM clinic, or go to A&E if you need any sexual and reproductive healthcare.

UKhealthcareemergency contraceptioncontraceptionbirth controlSTI testingpap smearsexual healthcarereproductive healthcareabortionNHSUnited Kingdommedical abortionCOVID-19freeBodiesDisabilityPregnancy and ParentingSexual HealthEtc

- Heather Corinna

Kathleen FarmiloFreedom is one of the most wonderful parts of being single. But for me, it’s too easy to get trapped in that. My instinct is to throw myself into new experiences and new people. Instead of embracing freedom, I’ve come to realise that this is me running from it. This is why lockdown has been a strangely empowering experience for me.

There are a thousand tips out there for how to cope with a breakup. They’re handed down through generations – from older sisters, from wiser friends, from your aunt who appears every Christmas with a wise glint in her eye and a glass of sherry. There are medical articles, listicles, even wikihows. But while everyone has a notion of what to do to heal themselves after a breakup, putting that into practice can be hard.

It doesn’t help that our social media feeds are littered with messages  about “self-care.” Self-love and authentic care of yourself are essential parts of any healthy breakup. But this care often looks messy, complicated and long. Frustratingly, it’s a lot harder than posting a hot pic of yourself on Instagram and watching the likes roll in (as fun as that might be). While having a night in with a facemask and bubble bath are important self-soothing techniques, they are only part of a wider project of authentic care.

Self-care after a breakup requires a significant amount of work. And when you are hurting, the last thing you may want to do is work. Being in the midst of a breakup inevitably involves a little bit of self-doubt, and maybe a little more anger with yourself. Our natural instinct may be to look back on our actions with shame, regret and, perhaps worst of all, curiosity. There is always the nagging question of why things didn’t work out – and, what we could have done to fix it.

I like to think that I’m quite good at dealing with breakups.

I try and force myself to sit with the pain, confronting the things that hurt me and the things I did that hurt the other person. It’s a profoundly uncomfortable experience. It’s also a healing one. However, full confession, I also have the worrying tendency to think I can just decide that I’m not sad anymore. This inevitably leads to the following: getting dressed up, drinking slightly too much as a ‘confidence booster’, getting increasingly sad about my ex while dancing and then crying on the train because no one tries to flirt with me.

Whether you initiate the break up or not, it is easy to self-blame.  A relationship not working, even with someone you care about deeply, can lead you down the endless rabbit hole of asking why. My gut reaction is always the same: that I’m never going to find someone who will love me or find me attractive again. When you’ve been in a relationship, it can be frightening to be alone. So, like many people, my reaction is to seek external validation.

In recent years, being single has entered the vogue of popular culture. In my mind, there are two classic frames. Either you’re a pining mess always yearning for someone you can’t have, or you’re someone who is completely at home with their freedom. You’re the Fun Hot Single Friend! You have as much sex as you want! You have flings with interesting people! You tell stories at the dinner table about your escapades! With characters like Ilana from Broad City, Nola from She’s Gotta Have It, Alice from How To Be Single or even Fleabag from, well, Fleabag, as examples , a wave of writing, television and film has celebrated being single authentically. For women and for LGBTQ+ people especially, there is a world out there of relationships to have, of mistakes to make, of hurts to experience and learn from. Being single is, more and more, something to aspire to rather than to be ashamed of.

Freedom is one of the most wonderful parts of being single. But for me, it’s too easy to get trapped in that. My instinct is to throw myself into new experiences and new people. Instead of embracing freedom, I’ve come to realise that this is me running from it.

This is why lockdown has been a strangely empowering experience for me. 

Without clubs, bars and crucially, other people, I haven’t been able to go down the tried and tested route of a club or a bar or a pub where someone is interested in me. Even dating apps have fizzled. While I have done my share of swiping, not being able to meet people in person makes it hard to keep conversations alive.

It’s been an important moment – understanding how to be okay with not wanting a relationship. And learning that the antithesis of that is not always throwing yourself into casual flings.

For me, it’s been a time to learn how to be alone without any external validation of my attractiveness, my funniness or my worth as a person. Those deep-seated insecurities are alleviated when you’re being dated or flirted with. Now, I’ve had to learn how to draw from that within myself.

Perhaps the most crucial thing I’ve learned is that freedom isn’t just about physical and sexual liberation (even though that is incredibly healthy and important). It also looks like focusing wholly on your own needs and your own pain. After a break up, it can also look like uating your mistakes in a healthy way.

Lockdown is a difficult experience. Not being able to see your loved ones, having no outside stimulation and being trapped in one spot can be very detrimental. But with the right resources and support, it is also an opportunity to really reflect on what brings you joy.

From a purely self-love perspective, lockdown can be a good opportunity to dwell on what makes you happy. To my surprise, for me, that has been learning to sit with my loneliness. Being single during lockdown has been empowering. Most importantly, it is a lesson that we all have the things within us to fulfill ourselves – by ourselves.

lockdownCOVID-19coronaviruspandemichealthsinglebreakupsrelationshipsdatingappsfreedomagencyself-careself-imageidentitycarehealingesteemrecoverycenteringRelationshipsSexualityEtc


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- Amy Boyajian

What is a Cervical Self-Exam?

Most of us who have a cervix have no idea what a healthy cervix looks like and most of us have never seen what our own cervix looks like. A cervical self-exam is an opportunity to see parts of your anatomy you may have never seen before! Using a few easy to access tools and follow some simple precautions, you can easily conduct your own inspection of your cervix. A cervical self-exam if mostly about exploring and discovering your own body. It is by no means necessary and should not replace your yearly PAP smears and cervical exams conducted by a doctor. PAP smears are vital in screening for possible issues including cervical cancer.

 

What You'll Need

To conduct your own cervical self-exam, you’re going to need a few tools. Firstly, you’ll need a speculum – a medical instrument that you may recognize from your PAP smears that looks weirdly like a machinal duck. You can find many versions of speculums available for sale from medical retailers. The safest and most reliable are made from either stainless steel or ABS plastic. These are ideal as they are able to be cleaned thoroughly before and after use. You may also want to familiarize yourself with how it works, practicing opening and locking it. Next get your hands on a hand-held mirror or larger mirror that you can sit in front of. Hand-help mirrors allow of a little more flexibility and accessibility, but a larger mirror can work too. Finally, a small flashlight will help you see your cervix more clearly and some lube to make everything a little smoother are great additions.

 

The How-To

The most important step before you begin – make sure all your instruments, your hands, and your environment is clean. The vagina is a sensitive eco-system with its own ideal PH balance. You don’t want to introduce any foreign bacteria into your vaginal canal during this self-exam.

 

To start the self-exam, place yourself in a comfortable position where you can spread your legs wide yet still have visual and physical access to your vagina. Use pillows to support your position. Put some lube on the insertable part of the speculum and try to relax as you insert the tips as far as they will comfortably go. If you feel your muscles tense, slow down and take a few breaths. When you feel comfortable and relaxed, open and lock the speculum like you practiced. Now this frees up both of your hands to grab the hand mirror and the flashlight. Shine the light into your vaginal canal and use to mirror to get a glimpse of your cervix.

 

So what are you looking at?

Looking down your vaginal canal with the aid of the flashlight and mirror, you should be able to now see your cervix, which will resemble a pink doughnut-like shape. Your cervix is the bottom of your uterus and the only part visible without special medical cameras. Your cervix is the gateway to anything entering or exiting your uterus. Your cervix and the secretions it produces will be different depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. You may also see natural variations based on factors like if you’ve giving birth vaginally, has previous surgeries, or take hormonal medication.

Cervixes can vary in color from a light white pink to a deep purply red. There may also be small white spots or a variation in color around the opening. Depending on where you are in your cycle, the opening of your cervix maybe be wide or very tight. If you’re menstruating, this is the opening in which blood and tissue leaves your uterus.

If you have an IUD, you should be able to see the string from the base of the device coming out of the opening of your cervix. If the IUD is relatively new, the string will be firm. If. You’ve had it for a while, the string will be softened from the slightly acidic environment of your vagina.

Additional Resources

Check out what a cervix looks like here - https://www.womenshealthspecialists.org/self-help/menstrual-study/29-year-old-womans-cervix/

https://www.beautifulcervix.com/

Additional information on cervical cancer - 

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/cervical-cancer


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- Amy Boyajian

What is a Testicular Self-Exam and Why Are They Important?

A testicular self-exam is the act of checking your testicles for any changes including growths, bumps, pain, irritation, swelling, discoloration, and discomfort. While regularly checking out your genitals is important, testicular self-exams carry much significance in a healthy sexual wellness routine. Testicular cancer accounts for 2% of all cancers that occur in penis owners and, during its early stages, the only significant symptom is a mass within the testes. Early detection of testicular cancer results in a 90% effective treatment rate. With this in mind, it’s important to know what your testicles should look and feel like normally in an effort to be able to spot any abnormal change, growth, pain, or sensation. A positive side-effect of these self-exams is the added knowledge of sensation in your testicles. Many penis owners see their testicles as part of their genital “machinery” and not as the positive pleasure centers they are. Feeling your testicles may allow you to appreciate the vast amount of sensations they can produce when touched, squeezed, stroked, and held.

First, Let’s Talk Anatomy!

Before we get into the how to of self-exams, let’s first go over some genital anatomy so you know what you’re feeling and what is normal. Here we’re going to concentrate mainly on the testes (sometimes called testicles) but also highlight some other areas of your genitals that you can visually check from time to time.

Starting off with the area that most people are familiar with, the penis itself is made up of a few different parts. The tube-like structures that runs down the shaft of the penis is called the Urethra. It’s through the urethra that urine as well as ejaculation leaves the body. The urethra opening is located at the tip of the penis, otherwise known as the Glans Penis.

Moving to the testicles, your testes are where sex hormones and semen is made. Most people have two testicles which are inside of the scrotum – the temperature and sensation sensitive skin that preserves the temperature needed for ideal sperm development. Also, inside of the scrotum is the Epididymis, a structure along the back of a testis where sperm matures. Connected to the epididymis is the Vas Deferens, a tube that carries the sperm to the urethra (sometimes referred to as the spermatic cord). And that’s about all you need to know to perform a testicular self-exam!

The How-To

The best time to check your testicles is during shower to bath time. As you may have noticed, the warm water affects your scrotum – your sac will be soft and relaxed, making the whole self-exam a little easier. Now it’s time to grab your goods!

Checking one testicle at a time, grip your scrotum with both hands and gentle roll your testicle between your fingers. You should be able to feel the smooth roundness of your testicle, the attached epididymis, and outgoing spermatic tube. Feel around the epididymis and follow the spermatic tube up the back of the scrotum.

What are you feeling for exactly? Your testicles and the surrounding tissue should feel smooth and, while sensitive, not particularly painful. What you’re trying to detect with this self-exam is any lumps, bumps, or usually textures as well as pain, swelling, or discomfort.

 

When To Seek Help

Try to make your testicular self-exam a monthly habit. Now that you know what your testicles feel like, take note of any changes that occur. If you feel any change in size, shape, texture, or sensation, take yourself to a doctor to get it checked out. While your noticed changes could be a range of things, if it is testicular cancer this early detection and intervention could be life-saving.  

 

Additional Resources

https://www.testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/

https://testicularcancersociety.org/ 


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- Amy Boyajian

What is a Breast Self-Exam and Why Are They Important?

Currently a person with breasts has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. While there are many factors that seem to be contributors to developing the disease, we still haven’t figured out methods to prevent breast cancer. With this being said, there are ways to help with early detection and treatment, including breast self-exams, that can improve chance of survival and recovery. 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are from people finding a lump, bump, or growth during a breast-self exam. Breast-self exams are also a great way to further understand your body and have more agency over your health.

A breast self-exam is a simple method of checking your own breasts for any abnormalities. It’s a quick way to notice any changes in your breasts via a few simple moves. It’s recommended that you complete a breast self-exam monthly.

 

 

First, Let’s Get to Know Your Breasts!

 

Before we discuss the method, let’s first talk about the anatomy of breasts. Breasts are made up of a variety of tissues and glands that help facilitate potential milk production. Underneath the squishy layers of fats that create the fullness and shape of your breast, there are mammary glands and corresponding ducts. The function of these glands and ducts are to produce milk and delivery to the nipple if needed. Feeling your breasts, you should be able to feel these glands and ducts that make up the breast bud – they’ll feel harder than the surrounding tissue but aren’t necessarily lumpy. They also shouldn’t feel painful, though it can be common for breast to feel tender during certain times of the menstrual cycle.

The How-To

 There are 3 stages to a comprehensive breast self-exam and the first one begins in the shower or bath. Warm water is a great way to relax the tissue and skin of the breast, making it ideal to examine. With the soft pads of your fingers, feel each breast one at a time, applying a little pressure as your work your way around the entire surface of the breast, into the armpit. Pay close attention to any unusual bumps, soreness, or skin textures.

Next, transition to standing in front of a mirror so you can visually inspect your breast. Move side to side and raise your arms to get a glimpse at every angle. Look for any changes in color, swelling, or extreme unevenness. Now, place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles. Notice is there is any puckering of the skin or dimpling area when you do. Gently squeeze your nipples and check for any discharge or pain.

Now, lay down on your back and repeat the same method you used in the shower to gradually check every area of each breast. Try to relax your muscles as you do so. For some, it can be helpful to place a pillow under your back.

 

When To Seek Help

As you complete your breast self-exam, there are some specific things to look out for. While these symptoms are no guarantee of a breast cancer diagnosis, if you are experiencing or find any of the following symptoms, please follow up with a doctor as soon as possible.

Things to look out for include:

Changes in skin texture including dimples, puckering, or rash like qualities. Discharge from the nipple. Downturned, sudden retractions, or indent in the nipple. Lumps or Bumps Swelling or contour changes. Pain or soreness that is not consistent with typically hormonal occurrences.

 

While every person with breasts is recommended to complete breast self-exams monthly, you should also be getting regular breast exams conducted by a doctor. Speak to your doctor about your risk factors, including any family history of breast cancer, to decide how often these routine exams should take place.

 

 

Additional Resources

https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/

https://www.sharecancersupport.org/

https://breastfriends.org/


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- Amy Boyajian

 

In 2018 the World Health Organization announced that 417 million people have genital herpes worldwide (aka 11% of the population) and 3.7 billion people have oral herpes - over two-thirds of all humans. Given these statistics, it’s actually pretty likely you already have it and have had sex with someone that has it too!

However, despite herpes being a common experience for many of us (some of us unknowingly), we are far from normalizing the virus. Though herpes may complicate things slightly, you can still have a fulfilling sex life after a herpes diagnosis.

So what is herpes? 

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a common virus related to chicken pox and shingles and medically speaking, it's a type of rash. The HSV virus lives in the nerves and when active, it travels to the surface of the infected area (skin or mucous membrane) and makes copies of itself. This is called "shedding" and these new viruses can, at this time, rub off on another person. There are many things that can activate the virus including a compromised immune system (aka when you’re already feeling unwell), stress, poor diet, damaged skin or irritation, certain medications, or fluctuations in hormones.

When experiencing a outbreak of the virus, common symptoms include a sore or collection of blisters that are painful, irritating, and even itchy. A herpes flare up only last a few days, though it can take time for the skin to fully heal. There are various medical treatments and home remedies available that can reduce the length of the flare up as well as curb the uncomfortable symptoms. After a few days when the virus has begun to clear up, the virus travels back down the nerve to a ganglion (mass of nerve tissue), usually at the base of the spine, where it lies dormant, either temporarily until the next outbreak or permanently, never showing up again. Outbreaks tend to lessen over time. You may experience many outbreaks during your first year of having herpes but they will eventually taper off, maybe even stop all together. 

Though often referred to as oral herpes (Type 1) and genital herpes (Type 2), both strains of herpes can occur anywhere on your body aka you can get a sore on your crotch. Both strains are extremely similar and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that herpes was divided into two to different types - HSV-1 and HSV-2

Unlike other STDs that are spread by fluids, HSV is spread by skin-to-skin contact when the HSV-affected person sheds their tiny skin cells into some kind of opening on their partner’s skin. Herpes isn’t only spread via sexual contact. You can catch the herpes virus from any skin to skin contact. It’s extremely common for people living in close quarters, family members, friends, co-workers etc. to spread the virus between them. One of the most common places herpes is passed around (like many other infections and infestations) is actually by children in school! In very rare cases herpes can be transferred on surfaces that have come in contact with the herpes outbreak but this is very uncommon. Because the virus dies very quickly when exposed to air, unless the surface very recently touched the virus, transferring it isn't an issue most of the time.

Testing

Most standard STI screenings do not include testing for both strains of HSV unless you or your Dr specially request that the test be done. Most people discover they have HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 after seeking treatment due to an outbreak. However, if your status was discovered via a blood test when there were no physical symptoms, it may be the case that you’ll never have an actual outbreak. Many people who have the herpes virus in their system have strong enough immune systems to prevent an outbreak and therefore it becomes a dormant, asymptomatic infection.

This being said, the widely available tests for herpes are famously inaccurate and can give false positives up to 50% of the time. In some cases they can fail to detect the virus at all. Due to the lack of testing, the under-diagnosis of the disease means that people fail to recognize how common it is, creating a situation where those who are accurately diagnosed are likely to feel shame or embarrassment, while a large chunk of undiagnosed infected people are unaware.

Though it is unclear when the first occurrence of herpes being medically documented was, there was a distinct point in time when people started stigmatizing it. Until the 1970’s, the herpes simplex virus, not matter where it showed up on your body, wasn’t seen as anything other than a mild annoyance that many people experienced. It was common practice not to treat symptoms at all - instead most people who experienced an outbreak simply waited for it to pass. However, due to struggles in trying to sell their Zovirax topical herpes medication, pharmaceutical retailer Burroughs Wellcome intentionally created public hysteria over the common virus with a sensationalized marketing campaign. As this manufactured stigma grew around herpes in all its forms, so did the profit Burroughs Wellcome accrued from sales of its anti-viral medications. Playing on the social consequences of having a visible outbreak, the demand for herpes medication further increased in the 1980’s when pharmaceutical companies began being able to market their products directly to the public. Since then, the stigma around genital herpes has developed, yet our public understanding of the virus hasn’t.

It is common for people to fear what they don’t understand, and herpes is a perfect example of that. While the virus itself is uncomfortable and sometimes a little painful, the most distressing aspects of having herpes are social ones. People with herpes can experience drops in self-esteem, feelings of shame, and a tendency to isolate themselves. There are studies that show the rate of depression in people with herpes increases exponentially after a diagnosis. This turmoil also translates to relationships. Since most people are unaware that the herpes virus can be dormant in your system for years and can be transmitted from contact that isn’t sexual, some people assume their partners are cheating. 

Having herpes says nothing about the kind of person you are. The truth is anyone can have herpes - from people who have many partners to those who aren’t sexually active. If you are one of the many people who has HSV 1, 2, or both, remember that your diagnosis does not define you. Herpes is a common condition that is simple to manage.

Whether you have the HSV or not (odds are you might!), we can all do our part in breaking the stigma around herpes. The best way to combat stigma is to normalize it. Educating yourself and sharing that knowledge with others is a profound step in the right direction. Stigma feeds off of misinformation. Shutting down herpes related jokes and tropes and not supporting those who perpetuate the cycle of social shame is also vital. Share your understanding of the virus and the fact that most of us have it.

It is ethically responsible to tell your partner you have herpes before you engage with sexual contact with them. Allowing them to be fully aware of the circumstances is the only way they can truly give their informed consent. However, due to the current lack of understanding of herpes and just how common it is, disclosing to a partner can seem like a difficult task. 

It can be tempting to not disclose your herpes status simply to avoid the uncomfortable conversation take about herpes can cause. It can be scary telling someone a sensitive thing about yourself and not knowing how they will react. However there are some ways of communicating that can make the experience easier.

The setting and timing can affect the outcome of your experience. Have this conversation outside of the bedroom before things get heated. When communicating to a new partner, present the situation in an informed and neutral way. If you suggest that it’s wrong, shameful, or a problem, you will reinforce a possible negative reaction that your partner may have. Do not suggest how your partner should react, instead allow them to express how they feel. 

Offer to answer any questions for them and suggest the option to take some time to do research of their own if they want to. There are plenty of other fun sexy activities you can do in the meantime together that don’t involve direct genital contact like mutual masturbation.

Herpes is relatively easy to manage compared to other STIs, allowing you to have a fulfilling sex life. Between herpes outbreaks, it’s ok the have sex as long as your partner understands and accepts the risks associated. Though the risk is considerably less, you can still pass herpes on to a partner even when no symptoms of an outbreak are present. Using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams during sex have been shown to significantly lower the rates of transmission, but it’s still possible to pass on herpes even when using this kind of protection. 

There are antiviral drugs that can be taken at the sign of an outbreak to curb its development or as a daily therapy that can also lower transmission rates. Suppressive therapy is about 50% more affective in preventing transmission than without it. If you think these medications could be beneficial for you, visit your doctor or local clinic. Also remember that there are many other way to explore sex and sensual feelings with a partner that don’t avoid genital contact and can be great go-to’s during an outbreak. 

In conclusion...

While having herpes can be an uncomfortable experience in various ways, there are easy ways to manage your condition in a ways that doesn't affect your sex life much. As long as you educate yourself, inform your partners, and know your sexual alternatives during a break out, having a herpes diagnosis (either HSV-1 or HSV-2) can be very manageable. While the current stigma can seem overwhelming at times, the more we normalize herpes and stay neutral about this very common condition, the less a herpes diagnoses will affect all of our lives. And normalizing herpes is a necessary thing seeing as the majority of us have it!

 

All images created for Wild Flower by @myboyfriendhasherpes


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- Amy Boyajian

 

With an expanding subset of our culture promoting bodily autonomy, emphasizing consent, expanding ways to date, hook up, or relate, and finally having discussions about pleasure, more people seem to be craving sex of a higher quality. Mindfulness maybe the answer

There have been numerous studies that concluded the benefits that mindfulness can have on an individual, from reduced stress and anxiety to deeper compassion and awareness. So if Mindful practices can make up feel happier and healthier as individuals, how can they benefit our sex lives and relationships?

What is Mindfulness?

You may have heard of the term Mindfulness, but what is it exactly? Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, or in other terms, getting out of your head and into the current situation. The practice of mindfulness can be explored in many different ways but some of the more common applications are meditation, cognitive and talk therapy, breathing exercises, and visualization methods.

Though mindfulness is having a moment within the current culture dialogue, mindful practices and methods that predated its development have been around for thousands of years dated to early Buddhist ideas and developed through the western narrative during the Transcendentalism movement during the 19th century. As research into Mindfulness demonstrate its many benefits, mindful practices have been implemented into vast number of private, social, and government programs, including therapy theory, within schools, as part of business training, and prison programs.

How Can Mindfulness Improve Your Sex Life?

Clinical studies have documented many physical and mental benefits of practicing Mindfulness including a general reduction in symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Further detailed studies have concluded that Mindfulness may be helpful to those who suffer with chronic pain, feeling disconnected from their body, and for those who have been victims of sexual violence. Physical and mental pain and stressors have long been associated with a decreased level of sexual satisfaction, therefore the symptom reduction, relief, and healing that mindful practices can offer can enhance your sexual happinesses.

Mindfulness Sex Exercises

Practicing Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. There are many tangible applications that be can specifically tailored to your needs. These are just a few examples of mindfulness practices that can enhance your sex life and help solve some sexual issues.

 

Eye Gazing

Taking the time to connect with a partner can be an important part of boosting your sexual satisfaction. As most of us are living fast paced and stimulated lives, sex and intimacy can sometimes feel like a rushed afterthought. Slow things down with your partner and create some intimacy and intensity between you both.

-Take a few minutes before sex to gaze into one another's eyes. Once you get past the giggles and maybe the urge to start a staring contest, start to notice how this connection makes you feel.

-Eye gazing with a partner can prompt the release of the feel good hormone Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the bonding hormone. This is the same hormone that is released during climax and orgasm.

-Revisit this gaze during sex if you feel inclined. A prolonged gaze every now and again can help maintain the feeling of closeness.

Grounding

Mindful practices that work to get us back in touch with our physical self can have an impactful grounding effect for many situations. Sometimes we can feel disconnected from our bodies, experience self-esteem issues, or feel discomfort with ourselves due to physical pain. Grounding practices have also been very helpful for people who experience anxiety, panic attacks, or are finding themselves triggered. Try this simple practice to help you feel more control over your body.  

-Get yourself into a comfortable position where not moving for several minutes will feel ok. Lying down is ideal, but any position where you feel fully supported works.

-Close your eyes and focus on your breathing with an effort to slow it down. If closing you eyes feels difficult, focus your gaze on one spot instead.

-Starting at the lowest point of your body (usually the toes for most of us) start to scan each individual body part. Assess how it feels and then try to relax it further. Move progressively from body part to body part (toes to ankles to calves to shins to knees etc) spending about 30 seconds on each area until you reach the top of your head. If you find a particular area of your body too upsetting or triggering to engage with, skip that area.

-When you reach the top of your head, focus again on your breath. Visualize your breath flowing through all areas of your body to restore it.

 

Express Yourself

It can be hard to have honest and open conversations about sex and it’s clear to see why. Many of us were not taught the communication skills necessary for having such vulnerable dialogues during our sexual education (if we had any at all). But being able to have conversations about sex is important - it’s how we discuss consent, boundaries, and preferences. Mindful writing or journaling can be a great way to familiarize yourself with your need and wants and give words to them.

-Try writing down how you feel about a certain aspect of sex, an upcoming or previous sexual encounter, or something you want to express to your partner.

-Don’t be judgmental of what you write, instead think of the exercise as more of a free writing session where you write down everything that comes to mind when you think it.

-Read over your thoughts. Circle or highlight anything you find important or that stands out.

-Practice reading your writing, especially the phrases or words that make you feel most uncomfortable.

-An optional conclusion to your writing exercise is to thrown away or tear up what you wrote. This can be particularly freeing if you find yourself stuck on or bothered by a subject you wrote about.

Metta Meditation

As humans, we frequently mentally “beat ourselves up”, engage with negative thoughts, or just feel lousy about ourselves. Using mindfulness practices, we can gently and carefully show ourselves some compassion during these times in an effort release some of these negative feels. Try this simple compassion meditation when you’re feeling down on yourself.

-Metta meditation is a very accessible meditation even for people new to the practice. This is because there is a focus instead of the expectation to clear your mind. Start by getting yourself in a comfortable position, free from as many distractions as possible.

-Visualize yourself surrounded by kindness - some people like to think of a light or an aura for this. Try to relax your muscles and deepen your breathing.

-Next, select a mantra. A common compassion mantra is -“May I be free. May I be happy. May I be safe.”. The exact words you select aren’t important - how they make you feel is. May be you select something specific to your current emotions or insecurities, or use your mantra to smash any self doubt. Other examples include “May I be kind to myself”, “I embody love and compassion”, “I love myself first”.

-Repeat these words in your mind as you take deep, slow breathes. Try this practice for 10 mins, extending if you feel necessary. If it’s more comfortable for you, set a timer.

 

 

Thoughtful Arguments

Having disagreements with a partner can be difficult, but it’s something all of us face at one point or another. Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, thinking about the way in which we argue can not only vastly assist with the argument itself, but also help improve our overall relationship satisfaction. Happy partners translate into happier sex lives. Mindful listening can be a useful tool when arguing with a partner. 

-Try your best to focus all of your attention on the disagreement at hand. Take yourself out of any distracting situations if possible and stop engaging with things that may take your attention away like the TV, cell phone etc.

-Allow your partner to finish their thoughts before interrupting them. If thoughts arise, acknowledge them but don’t try to hold onto them in a way that stops you from hearing what your partner is saying.

-Try to listen to your partner's feelings as well as their words. Take note of their body language.

-If you find your partner not treating you with the same patience and respect, try asking for it but do not throw all of your previous effort out the window. Emotions can be a powerful thing, but having some intelligence about them helps understand them.


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- Amy Boyajian

Almost all of us are taught from an early age that monogamy is the only (or only acceptable) relationship dynamic and that we should all want to be in a partnership with that structure. But as stigmas around different relationship styles diminish, more people are rejecting the traditional structure of monogamy and are creating new rules for their relationship dynamics.

Monogamous v.s. Non-monogamous

Before we discuss the different styles of relationships other than monogamy, we must first define what monogamy is. Monogamy is a relationship structure where one individual has one single partner throughout their life or at a time. This partner is the only person with whom they exchange sex, love, intimacy, and affection with. The prence of monogamy as the standard relationship style within society has a long and complicated history that can be linked with many things including religious ideology and industrialization. While certainly not always the case, social constructs like religious marriage that uphold the importance of monogamy have been and still are often used as a monetary and social tools to bind families and their wealth together.

Non-monogamy is an umbrella term for every relationship style other than monogamy. Essentially any relationship where there are more than two people engaging in sexual and romantic bonds, whether temporarily or ongoing, can be considered non-monogamous. Sometimes this term is used by individuals to describe themselves in an effort to communicate the kind of relationship styles they are interested in engaging with.

Types of Non-monogamous Arrangements

Monogamish - Partners who are in a monogamish agreement are, for the most part, following the rules of monogamy most of the time, but occasionally exceptions are made for sexual play. This could be something partners engage in together or separately, but usually isn’t an ongoing element in their relationship.

Swinging - Sometimes referred to as partner swapping or party play, swinging refers to couples who like to trade or switch partners for a period of time (usually an evening or few hours) to engage in sexual play. Most likely these activities take place at an arranged event or venue like a sex club or swingers party.

Group Sex (Threesomes, Orgies etc) - Group sex, in all of its variations, is typically known as sex involving more than 2 partners. A couple in a relationship can engage in group sex on occasion as part of a monogamish agreement, or as a ongoing arrangement. Partners will usually set up boundaries on who they want to have sex with, how often, where, and what kind of relationships they want to maintain (or not) with people afterwards.

Casual Relationships / Friends With Benefits - Not often thought of as a non-monogamous partnerships, casual sexual relationships and friends with benefits do actually have many of the same arrangements as other open relationship styles. While partners don’t usually consider themselves “together”, they do engage in sexual activities with one another while also allowing their partner to do the same. Usually these relationships focus on the sexual elements and aren’t so much about love and intimacy.

Open Relationships - This is where one or both members of a committed relationship are free to have sex with other people. Open relationships are unique and individuals are free to work out the rules and structure of the relationship between themselves.

Polyamory - Polyamory can be a relationship style or a personal identification. People who are polyamorous have multiple sexual and romantic partners. Sometimes people will have primary partners or their main relationship, of which they then have additional partners to compliment this arrangement.

Triad, Quad, and Group Relationships - Partners who are in a multi-person relationships usually only engage in sexual and romantic relations with one another, thought these restrictions are flexible. Sometime people will live together as a unit and offer support and structure to each other's lives. Group relationships can start as a couple and expand or can be formed by multiple people at one time.

Relationship Anarchy / No Rules Relationships - People who subscribe to relationship anarchy reject all rules and structure around their relationships. Usually it is an “anything goes” agreement in an effort to focus on individual desires and wants without compromise.

Ethical non-monogamy

The term ethical non-monogamy (sometimes coined consensual non-monogamy) has gained traction recently for people who are describing their non-monogamous agreements. Adding the word ethical implies that everyone in the arrangement is being treated respectfully, fairly, and has given their enthusiastic consent to the terms of the relationship.

Unfortunately, the guise of non-monogamous relationships or polyamorous identities have been used by abusive and inconsiderate partners to “get away with” or cross a partner’s boundaries. The truth is that you can be in an open relationship and still cheat. The difference between violating and respecting a partner's boundaries is communication and permission.

Are you interested to try?

Having fears about introducing a structure of non-monogamy into your current relationship or seeking it in a future partnership is completely normal. It can be hard to picture a relationship working any other way that monogamously if that’s all you’ve experienced and been exposed to. The beauty to a non-monogamous agreement is that you get to make all of the rules and evolve them to fit your arrangement overtime.

Just like any relationship style, non-monogamous agreements take work to maintain. Though many people in more open styles of relationships have higher sexual satisfaction, they still have to deal with feelings of jealousy and insecurity. To make a non-monogamous relationship work, it takes a lot of vulnerability to have conversations about these feelings in an effort to either overcome them in time or create boundaries that make you feel more secure. It can be an unusual thing feeling engaging with emotions like jealousy, instead of trying to avoid them altogether. It may take some practice, but you'll eventually get used to analyzing, understanding, and communicating your emotions freely. 

If you’re interested in opening up your current relationship, you need to have a conversation with your partner to see where they are at on the topic. It is extremely common for both parties not to agree, and that’s ok. Some partners may need time to acclimate to the idea, while others may never be comfortable with non-monogamy. These boundaries are fair to have — it’s up to you to decide if you can compromise to make the relationship successful or not. If you’re seeking non-monogamous relationships in the future, communicate this to new partners early on. Many people choose to disclose this information when meeting someone or even in their online dating profile.

Remember, do not let anyone shame you for your wants in a relationship structure. Just because they may not be aligned with someone else's doesn’t mean they are wrong, they are simply different.

Advice from real people in non-monogamous arrangements

Jin, they/them, @dominajia

“I love being poly, especially for my emotional wellbeing. I think monogamy is tied into ideas of possession and partners owning one another, which are harmful. I’ve tried every other relationship style and being polyamorous really works for me best, but it takes work.

For me, monogamy had no honesty, no communication and a lot of fear. I felt like I was forced into being monogamous due to my upbringing and not who I really was.

To be successful in a poly relationship you need communication, honesty, exploration, and self-awareness. Know your desires and work at communicating them to your partner. There is no right and wrong in relationships, just remember to be safe.”

MacKenzie, She/her, @MathMagazine

"For Dan and I, always being open to returning to conversations has been a key to our non-monogamous relationship. There are occasions where, no matter how good our intentions are and how willing we are to talk about things, sometimes we just aren’t understanding one another or one of us is struggling. It’s nice to know that we can always come back to our conversations and that nothing we say is irreversible.

I see so many couples struggling to talk about things for fear that they will ask a question or say something that will have some devastating, irrevocable effect on their relationship. Early on in our relationship, we established that that kind of fear wasn’t a dynamic we wanted and it’s helped a lot! We like to say “This isn’t fragile.”.

Dan, He/him, @dallegrucci

"It’s so hard to know how you’re going to feel in any situation - especially when it comes to jealousy. So as far as boundary setting, I’d call our style “cautiously winging it.” We put ourselves in situations and just try things. Then after a date or during an experience we check in. And the next day we check in again - and often the following day - because sometimes reactions aren’t immediate. And new feelings can be hard to put words to right away. But doing these things has helped build a vocabulary for it. And working through a few situations where I had some intense feelings of fear and jealousy has given me so much confidence in the strength our relationship and our ability to take risks together. That’s allowed us to have a lot of really rewarding and beautiful experiences that I never thought possible."

Alexis, They/them, @alexispenney

"I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is that conflict is inevitable and when issues like jealousy or miscommunication come up, they don’t have to doom a relationship and maybe they shouldn’t. My experience is that when issues like this come up they are an opportunity for us as individuals and within the container of our relationships to work through what old habits and traumas we are carrying around jealousy, dishonesty, issues of ownership and property, if we can find the strength enough to be vulnerable and work through them with ourselves and our partners.

Like we tend to have this storybook view of things that if everything doesn’t work out without a conversation then it’s not meant to be, but that’s not really realistic. Sustainable non-monogamous or even monogamous relationships take a lot of conversation, a lot of vulnerability, a lot of willingness to be in the pain and discomfort when we get triggered around these issues."

Anastasia, She/her

"If you are already in a relationship and trying to open it up, go slow and take stock of your expectations (for yourself, your partner, or whoever else you are involving). It can be so tempting to flex your relationship style, to try to grow very quickly when someone you love is (or is exploring being) poly, or when you suddenly have a crush and realize it is possible to care deeply for two people at the same time. Slow down. There is all the time in the world to figure this out and be kind. Take stock of your own desires, edges, and firm “no”s. Let your partner(s) do the same. Change cannot be forced, it must be felt out."


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- Amy Boyajian

Sometimes overlooked and underrated, lube can be an easy and simple way to improve your sex life. Sure, there's a lingering stigma around the use of sexual lubricant and what it says about your body and relationship, but honestly, almost everyone can benefit getting a little lubed up. However, once you've welcomed lube into your sexual toolbox there may still be questions needing to be answered. 

What are the differences between lubes?

Though there are many variations and formulas, most lubricants can be divided into the following categories:

Water based lubricant is the most common type of sexual lubricant available. As the name suggests, it’s mainly made out of water. This means during use it absorbs into your skin, and require reapplication for longer sessions. Water base formulas are usually the least irritating and are often combined with other natural moisturizing ingredients like Aloe Vera or Carrageenan. It is safe to use with all toys and barrier methods and won’t stain sheets or clothing.

Silicone based lube is the silk sheets of sexual lubricant. Its extra smooth formula is not absorbed into the skin, so it lasts longer during play. Silicone lube also doesn’t wash away with water alone, making it the ideal companion for shower and bath sex. Silicone is hypoallergenic so as long as it isn’t combined with any irritating ingredients, it’s safe for sensitive bodies. Silicone lube does have some limitations however. Silicone toys can be ruined by the use of silicone lube (though condoms are fine), and it can cause stains on sheets and clothing.

Oil based lubricants are the lube that keep on going. Loved for their longevity, oil based lubes can also double as massage oils. However oil based lube can impact certain barrier methods of STI protection and birth control, most notably with latex condoms. The oil creates small weak spots in latex making condoms more prone to breaking. Oil based lubes are also associated with higher rates of infections. Oil can go rancid quickly so any left in the folds of skin of the labia, penis, scrotum, or anus can lead to irritations. Plus, oil based products are unforgiving on fabrics.

Hybrid based lubricants are lubes that combine base elements, more commonly water and silicone formulas. The idea between hybrid lubes if that you get the best of both worlds. Lubricants that contain both water and silicone have a formula that allows the longer lasting, silky feeling of silicone, with the versatility with toys that a water based lube has.

 

//

Not sure what lube to try? Grab a Sliquid Lube cube to try a range of formulas. 

Help! I don’t know what lube is ok to use with my toy?

The type of lubricant you can use with your toy is all dependent on what your toy is made from. If your toy is made from a hard material, like natural stone, ABS plastic, glass, or stainless steel, then the lube world is your oyster. Non-porous, hard material toys can be used with any lube without ruining or compromising the toy itself.

Silicone toys require either a water based lube or a hybrid is small amount of silicone. Using a silicone lubricant on a silicone toy will likely break down silicone's structure causing it to become sticky or tacky.

If you’re unsure about whether your lube is safe to use with a particular toy, try this simple patch test. Find a small area of your toy that doesn’t come into contact with your body - usually the base of a toy. Take a very small sample of your desired lube onto the tip of a cotton swab and then apply it to the area. Wait 30 mins and wipe clean. If the area has changed at all, your lube isn’t compatible with your toy. If it looks unchanged, you’re good to use that lube.

What lube is best for anal?

Since the anus is not a self-lubricating part of the body (unlike the vagina and penis) and anal sometimes requires a lot of ‘warm up’ time, it’s best to go for a lube that is long lasting. Thicker water based lubes with a gel like consistency, hybrid lubes, or silicone based lubes are ideal. If you’re using silicone toys however, stick to water or hybrid to avoid ruining your toy.  

//

Our favorite thick water based lube ideal for anal play with silicone toys is Sliquid's Sassy. 

I love sex in the shower. Is there a lube for that?

Yes! Silicone lubricants are ideal for sex in water as they have a sticky consistency that isn't washed away easily. When it does come time to clean up, some gentle soap should wash it away.

// Uberlube is your best companion for some sexy shower time. It's also packed with vitamin E so it leaves your skin feeling silky soft.  What lube works with condoms?

Not all lubricant are compatible with your barrier methods. If you’re using latex condoms or barriers, most oil based lubes will actually weaken the barrier, making it more prone to breakage and less effective. Unless a lubricant specifically states that it is safe to use with condoms, opt for water based or hybrid based instead. Remember, a few drops of lube inside of a condom can work wonders for sensation.

Other lubes I’ve tried give me irritation and yeast infections. Is there one that doesn’t?

Though it may be surprising to hear, most of the lubricants available at the local pharmacy aren’t actually body safe. Many contain parabens, glycerin, sugars, or fragrances that can cause bad reactions, unbalanced PH levels, and possible infections. Before using a lube on your body, first check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain glycerin, Nonoxynol-9, Petroleum, propylene glycol, or chlorhexidine gluconate.

If you're sensitive to lubricants, opt for PH balanced formulas that won’t disrupt the natural bacterial levels in your body. All of Sliquid and Good Clean Love formulas are created to mimic the natural levels of your body. 

//

Check out Good Clean Love's Bio Nude for an all natural, stripped back lubricant perfect for sensitive bodies. 

Also, if you’re using pre-lubricated condoms, be aware that this may be the cause of your irritation. Try switching brands, opting for non-lubricated condoms, or do a patch test on your skin before use.

I don’t have issue with naturally getting wet. Do I even need lube?

You may have heard the term “Wetter is better”, but if you find you don’t experience any issues with getting wet when aroused, lube can still be a beneficial addition to your play. There are many lubricants out there that can enhance in exciting ways including flavored or heating lubes. Plus if you were to have an experience where your or a partner's body didn't create the natural wetness you're used to, you'd be prepared. 

I don’t need lube. I just use *insert common household product here*.

There is always a risk when using a product in ways it was not intended to be used. The areas where you're most likely applying lube (your genitals) have some of the most sensitive skin on your body. Household products could contain unwanted chemicals that you don’t want to be putting inside your body and can cause irritation to these sensitive parts. For example, many lotions that are perfectly wonderful on your legs, bellies, and arms can wreak havoc on your genitals.

Sexual lubricants are specifically designed to work with your body to enhance your sexual experience. Investing in a body safe lubricant prioritizes your health and pleasure, as well as the health and pleasure of your partners.

// Sliquid Sea contains 3 types of seaweed that helps with natural moister production, skin elasticity, and helps prevent the transmission of HPV.


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- Amy Boyajian

 

1. Educate yourself on the Trump administration's efforts to “define” transgender people out of existence. The New York Times broke the story of this most recent memo. 

2. Educate yourself and others on the definition of transgender - "Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. "

3. Get engaged. Share stories and information on your social media platforms, attend rallies and protests, and organize to fight this. 

4. If you can, vote. If the Democrats take the senate and the house, they will be able to block this new legislation and role back some of the implementations of the Trump Administration. Let your representatives in congress know that you are in support of the current “Equality Act” that will amend the Civil rights act to include protections for transgender Americans. If they don’t support it, don’t support them.

5. Help others vote. This could be helping them register to vote, reminding them of deadlines, and stressing the importance of getting to the polls.

6. Assist your trans community with voting. Help them register, offer a ride to their polling station, or offer to escort them to the polls if they feel unsafe. The National Center for Transgender Equality created this checklist as a helpful tool. Remind them they can not be turned away because there gender does not match the gender on their ID. 

7. Demand transgender representation at all levels of government or office. Support transgender candidates

8. Demand transgender representation and inclusion in your social spaces, events, and panels.

9. Respect people’s pronouns. Always. It's ok to make mistakes — it's not ok to not make an effort.

10. If you are unsure of the pronouns someone uses, listen to them talk about themselves and to others. If you are still unsure, ask them in a respectful and safe way. Offer up your pronouns during an introduction and ask theirs. Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure they aren’t being ‘outed’ by your questioning.

11. NEVER out a transgender person. Disclosing if someone is trans without their consent is dangerous.

12. Adjust your binary language. Pay attention to when you use words that are gendered and change your choice to be non-binary. Calling someone 'Girl" or "Guy" if this isn't their gender is not ok. 

13. Respect that trans people are not here to educate you. If they share their experience with you, that is their choice. 

14. Do not ask transgender people violating questions. This includes questions about their genitals, their sex life, or their transition process. 

15. Practice consent with everyone, including trans people. Do not touch a transgender person in anyway without their consent. Refer to Planned Parenthood's F.R.I.E.S. when practicing consent. 

16. Call out transphobia whenever you see or hear it, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Do not let transgender people be made fun of, mocked, or joked about. Be the defense against transphobia even if a transgender person isn't present. 

17. Be aware of if your compliments sometimes come off as rude or backhanded. Never comment of someone's appearance in reference to their transgender identity. 

18. Don’t feed transgender stereotypes. Respect the unique identity of each and every person. Not everyone who is transgender defines themselves as queer, is out, or willing to share.

19. Understand that transgender is an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t define themselves as cisgender. This includes gender nonconforming, non-binary, intersex, agender, third gender, genderqueer, grey gender, two-spirit, and poly gender.

20. Support all-gender restrooms. 

21. If a trans person calls out your behavior — listen, learn, apologize, and adjust. Never use the excuse that you have transgender friends or relatives to defend your actions. 

22. Do no fetishize transgender people. This not only means sexually, but also idolizing them in a way that is dehumanizing.

23. Know your limits as an ally. Understand when you don't know something, need to ask questions, or should do research on a subject. 

24. Respect Trans centered spaces. Only attend if you are invited and follow the rules given. Always protect the safety of trans people in community spaces while respecting their boundaries.

25. Never exclude a trans person from your event or space due to lack of funds.

26. Hire trans people!

27. Give transgender people your money. This could be picking up dinner with a friend, paypaling them for giving you information, or offering to pay for their ride.

28. Offer your trans friends rides or escort them on public transportation if that helps them feel safer.

29. Donate to trans people’s surgeries, medical expenses, and medication. These vital expenses can be massive yet aren't covered by most health insurance plans. Go fund me is a great way to find people who need your help.

30. Support trans artists. Buy their art, attend their shows, listen to their music, and support their work.

 

Support local artists like Ash Yergens who's show will have 50% off the proceeds donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

 

31. Read transgender authors. Consider starting a book club where you read, discuss, and celebrate trans authors. Here is a great list to start with

32. Know that everyone’s experience of being trans is different and looks different. Never assume. 

33. Understand that transitioning means different things to different people. There is no overall defined goal of transitioning other than what the each person individually wants.

34. Some people may change their name during their transition. Respect this person’s choice. Do not use someone’s “dead” name if they have asked you not to.

35. Educate yourself about the history of transgender experience within the United States and other cultures.

36. Understand how transgender people played a vital role in the Gay Rights Movement.

37. Know who Mary Jones, Lili Elbe, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Coccinelle, Carlett Brown, Christine Jorgesen, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Chelsea Manning are.

 

Marsha P. Johnson

 

38. While this current attack is an outrage, understand that trans people are subject to much more violence than cisgender people. It’s important to understand the danger that transgender people experience every day.

39. Understand that the murder rate of transgender individuals in America is alarming, especially the murder rate of transgender women of color. Between 2013 and 2017 102 transgender people were murdered, of which 86% were people of color.

40. Internalize the fact that 2018 is looking to be one of the worst years for deadly assaults on trans people. It is crucial for allies to amplify these deaths as they rarely get the media coverage they deserve.

41. There has already been 22 transgender murders this year. Say their names - Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, Viccky Gutierrez, Tonya Harvey, Celine Walker, Phylicia Mitchell, Zakaria Fry, Amia Tyrae Berryman, Sasha Wall, Carla Patricia Flores-Pavon, Nino Fortson, Antash'a English, Gigi Pierce, Cathalina Christina James, Diamond Stephens, Keisha Wells, Sasha Garden, Dejanay Stanton, Vontashia Bell, Shantee Tucker, London Moore, Nikki Enriquez, and Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier.

42. Educate your children and young relatives about transgender experiences, and how they can respect and support trans people.

43. Do not avoid having difficult conversations with family member about acknowledging and respecting trans people. In fact, be the one to start the conversation!

44. Support trans and non-binary journalists and media outlets.

45. Support incarcerated trans people by donating to bail funds like Tranzmission Prison Project and Lamba Legal's Transgender Immigration Project

46. Buy from trans owned businesses and support the development of trans centered products. 

47. Donate and volunteer to transgender organizations. Some great ones are the Trans Lifeline, the Transgender Law Center, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Gender Proud, Trans Women of Color Collective, and Gender Diversity

48. Know the number to the Trans Lifeline - 1 877 565 8860

49. Treat transgender people with humanity and respect. 

50. Check in with the transgender people in your life, offer your support, and let them know they are loved. 


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- Amy Boyajian

For a long time, stigma around sexuality has been used as a tool of oppression. Most notably, the concept of virginity has been used to control people. It is often forgotten that virginity is a social construct and not a right of passage to become a sexual person. The cultural concept of virginity runs deep, and ridding it from our society may not be easy or simple. To demonstrate why we need to dump virginity, let’s explore some of the ways the concept of virginity is harmful.

It's Sexist

Although the concept of virginity affects everyone in a negative way, the concept of virginity has been heavily targeted towards women and people with vaginas from its inception. Women’s ‘purity’ has been a method of transferring wealth within patriarchal societies via marriage for centuries and suggests that it is acceptable to share and criticize women’s sexuality publicly. Common terms like “popping your cherry” refer to the “loss” of virginity with blatant sexist definitions. Virginity testing is also a shocking and unjust reality for some vagina owners. This ‘practice’ usually involves checking for an intact hymen, an act that is not only violating but is flawed in its accuracy. Some people with vaginas naturally don’t have a hymen or they are broken during activity other than sexual penetration, like tampon use or athletics.

It's Harmful to Sexual Development

The concept of virginity promotes the idea that sexual purity is valuable and preferred, and conversely, that anyone who isn’t a virgin is dirty, impure, and worthless. However, we are culturally obsessed with sex, so participating in sexual activity is seen as a sign of maturity and development for adolescents. Virginity becomes simultaneously a pressure to have sex and a pressure to abstain during sexual development. These opposing views and pressures around virginity become a prime breeding ground for sexual shame in our youth.

Virginity is a concept often taught as a fact in most government supplied sex education. This kind of fear based teaching full of misinformation, misrepresentations, and religious undertones is harmful to healthy sexual development. Positioning sex from the very beginning as something that you lose, give, or take teaches unnecessary power dynamics and a harmful sexual hierarchy. Instead sex should be something you share (or don’t) with others consensually.

 

Connection of Sex and Self-Worth

The concept of virginity has a strong moral and religious background and in the past has had social and legal implications. While this isn’t a reality in most societies today, virginity still gives value to someone’s sexuality in ways that are harmful. Some groups within society believe virginity makes someone more desirable while other believe the opposite.

Furthermore, there is so much pressure to have a good, even live-changing, first sexual experience that our expectations usually set us up for failure. Society doesn't typically include narratives about negative experiences ‘losing your virginity', so people are often left feeling inadequate.

It Reinforces Heteronormativity and Cisgendered Ideals

Virginity positions PIV (penis in vagina) as the only form of valid sex and the desired destination for all sexual encounters. However, there are some many other way to have sex that are just as normal, health, or valid. This heteronormative view bypasses the LGBTQIA+ experience and invalidates all other sexual activities. If we use the all inclusive definition of sex (which we should all be doing) — any intimate activity that we find sexual stimulating, virginity becomes blurry. If sex is masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, etc., defining the boundaries of virginity becomes arbitrary.

It's Been Used to Impose Racism

Virginity has been used as a racial weapon in many different cultures and governments. Virginity tests have often been used as tool of oppression and control of people of color, most distinctly during immigration testing or to dispute claims of sexual violence, sometimes on a large scale.

The historical background of virginity gives us problematic depictions of virgins also. Most representations of virgins are light skinned to apparently reflect their ‘purity’, essentially concluding that darker skin can’t be such. However most of these examples are manipulated as a tool for white supremacist ideologies. For example, the Virgin Mary was most lightly a dark skinned jewish woman, yet the image of her are often shown as extremely pale.

As you may have noticed, most of the reasons  why virginity is harmful often blend together and reinforce one another. It is no mystery why virginity has stayed a social norm within our societies even as we have evolved and progressed. It’s important for our sexual freedom and to dismantling racism and sexism that we rid ourselves of the concept of virginity to measure sexual experience. Virginity is a myth and a social construct than we can reject.


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- Amy Boyajian

People with disabilities and chronic illness are often left out of sexual conversations. Too often disabilities and illnesses are used to define a person, instead of being recognized as just one attribute, amongst many others, that make a whole person. We not only need make people with disabilities and chronic illness part of the conversation, we need support them in their sexual explorations, empower them to feel desirable, and acknowledge their individual circumstances. This may require us to challenge some of the common myths associated with sex and disability.

Myth # 1 - People with disabilities and chronic illness aren’t sexual.

In our society, we have a very strong idea that people who are disabled or live with chronic illness do not engage in sex like we do. This idea stems from a larger notion that disabled people are essentially different and othered. The need for assistance or special accommodations for disabled and ill people are often mistaken for helplessness, and as a result, of being childlike. Even if someone is fully mentally competent and able, their physical inabilities can see them labeled as childish in our society, and therefore inherently not sexual.

Very rarely does the media portray disabled narratives, and if they do the mention of sex is very uncommon. Disabilities and chronic illness are never explored in state offered sexual health education and in fact, many people who live with visible disabilities have experienced not being included in sexual health courses, either at their parent's or the school's request. This lack of representation and inclusion is harmful to the sexual wellbeing of disabled and chronically ill people. The first step in providing visibility in the sexual environment for people with disability and chronic illness is acknowledging people with these conditions can still be sexual.

Myth # 2 - Having disabilities, pain, or illness makes you undesirable.

Emanating off the idea that disabled and chronically ill people are not sexually is the harmful idea that they are also undesirable. Many of us struggle with feelings of being sexually inadequate or unsatisfactory, and the feeling is only heightened when you are part of a marginalized group. Our media continues to feed us imagery that supports the idea that only young, beautiful, hetero, cis, and usually white people are those who are desirable and who sex is for. Anyone out of this idea is less desirable, less sexy, less deserving, and in the case of disabled and chronically ill people who require extra time, communication, and accommodations, a burden.

The truth is people who are disabled or chronically ill have as much to offer in a relationship and a sexual partnership as those who are able bodied. There are large shifts happening in cultural perceptions of beauty and desirability and we must demand representation of all people in the media to normalize all experiences. 

Myth # 3 -  Having to plan sex makes it less fun or enjoyable.

Spontaneous sex being the best kind of sex can be a very harmful concept, especially to disabled and ill folks. Spontaneity also means lack of communication, lack of consent, lack of boundary setting, and lack of planned tools and resources that can be helpful to a sexual experience. Many people who have disabilities require some kind of planning before sex to ensure the experience won’t be lousy, frustrating, or potentially dangerous. Making assumptions about sex and not communicating is one of the easiest ways to make sex less enjoyable.

Envision sex as a road trip. Road trips can be fun adventures but only with the correct planning. Where are you going and what path are you taking to get there? Do you have enough supplies to get there safely? Taking time to plan sex helps up your chances of having a good sexual experience. 

Myth # 4 - If you can’t have penetrative PIV sex, it’s not real sex.

Often the myth that real sex is only penetrative penis in vagina sex is talked about as being erasing to the LGBTQIA+ community but it’s also harmful of the disabled and chronically ill communities too. The umbrella term of disability and illness represents a range of varying bodies, circumstances, and people. Some people can and like to have penetrative sex, while others can’t or don’t want to. Some people with disabilities like to engage with their genitals in other ways than penetration, while other like to focus their sexual energy on other erogenous zones of the body.

An inclusive definition of sex is an sexual stimulating activity. This could be masturbation, mutual masturbation, penetration, oral sex, exploring toys, phone sex, anal sex, tantric sex, BDSM play, role play, or non-genital sex

Myth # 5 - People with disabilities and chronic illness don’t experience sexual violence.

A common part of this myth is that you have to be desirable (in society standards) to encounter sexual assault, therefore people with disabilities aren’t considered targets. This is simply not true. Attackers tend to pray on those who are vulnerable. People with physical and mental disabilities are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those without disabilities. Statistics vary from 2 to 10 percent more likely, though some suggest these figure don’t account for the many people who don’t or can’t report their assault. We need to start acknowledging that people with disabilities are at higher risk of sexual violence so we can create preventative measures to help protect them.

- isabel

There are many sources of advice today to make our sex lives more exciting. Friends, magazines, movies and the Internet are just a few. The physical intimacy that sex provides cannot be trivialised. Below are some tips from experts providing guidance for a healthier sex life.   Lucy Snider Psychosexual, Relationship & Sexual Health Therapist   My number one tip for great sex is

The post Top Sex Tips Ever appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- isabel

It is the beginning of a nightmare. Suddenly your partner doesn’t want to have sex anymore. The fire is gone. You don’t know what you did wrong. Your regular cues are totally ignored. Your partner shoos away your once passionate embrace. It’s like a scene from a horror show. If you are reading this you might be looking for answers or a route map

The post My Partner Doesn’t Want To Have Sex Anymore appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

There are hundreds of sex positions; so many options that you can experiment with a new one every day for an entire year. In addition to the classic positions, a lot of lovers are practicing positions that women do not particularly enjoy. But what are these positions? And why do women hate them? Why Women Dislike Some Sex Positions A lot of lovers are

The post Worst sex positions for women and why they don’t like it appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

Many common sexually transmitted diseases are also transmitted through oral sex. Because most people who have oral sex also do different types of sex, it’s hard for researchers to find out just how much sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted through oral sex. At the same time, we all know that many common sexually transmitted diseases are also transmitted through oral sex. These are:  Chlamydia

The post Are STDs Transmitted Through Oral Sex? appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

What Is The G-Spot The G-spot, which is known to open the way to multiple and intense orgasms, is described as a separate female organ, also called the “female prostate.” Some are still not sure that the G-spot actually exists. Others actively use this particular area of their bodies. In this article, we will discuss everything that you want to know about the G-spot,

The post The G-Spot: What Is It, How To Find It, And What Are The Best Positions That Hit It appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

Studies say that most women find it easier to reach orgasm if sex involves cunnilingus. Cunnilingus helps to relax, focus on yourself and your feelings – perhaps more subtle and diverse than with vaginal sex. It can last from five minutes to an hour. It may lead to orgasm it can be just a part of foreplay. The important thing is that everyone involved

The post The Definitive Guide To Cunnilingus appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

It seems that fingering is underestimated and is considered at best an optional element of foreplay. But in fact, it is a full-fledged sexual practice, which can give a completely new idea about sex. Fingering techniques often spread like wildfire. They are exchanged between partners, they are invented from scratch by couples, and they are taught to new partners. Fingers are an almost universal

The post The Definitive Guide To Fingering appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

Older people refuse physical intimacy. Or do they? In most families, sex is barely talked about or is presented as abstractly as possible – parents would often put the teenager at the dinner table and “give the talk” about how sex works and then proceed to show what a condom looks like. Hollywood and Pornhub also do not give young people realistic ideas about

The post Do People Still Have Sex Beyond The Age of 60? appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

A long autumn, an endless winter, and a sleepy spring is not a reason to refuse sex, although sometimes it is the last thing we want. Here are 7 rules to follow in order to enjoy your sex life all year round. A woman’s legs, when kept warm, increase the likelihood of an orgasm. Keep your body warm. In the cold season, we are constantly

The post Sex During The Winter: How To Regain Desire When You Just Want To Sleep And Stay Warm appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Angelo Jose Carreon

For most individuals, they only perceive sex as an act of putting the penis inside the vagina and making babies. But of course, things are not as simple as that. It just so happens that our language cannot fully express the deep meaning of sex. “Sex” isn’t restricted to a heterosexual couple doing it in a missionary position. From ingenious finger movements to using

The post LGBTQ Views About Sex That You Didn’t Know appeared first on Sexcourses.tv.

- Emmalinda MacLean

Wow. What times we are living in. Our hearts are with you, whatever you are grieving or fearing; whatever you are celebrating, if not the way you had hoped. We’re wishing you all a happy pride month; rest assured it doesn’t take a big glittery rainbow parade for us to be proud of all our beautiful LGBTQ siblings and all of their courage, resilience, and joy. We are especially proud of all those activists and organizers centering the movement for Black lives in this year’s pride celebrations: none of us are free until all of us are free.

- Jill Herbertson

Robin Darling, Advisory Board Member, has been involved in sexuality education for over two decades. She began her career in the field as a peer educator for Planned Parenthood during high school. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego (2004).

- Emmalinda MacLean

Today marks our company’s first cancelled sex-ed classes of the Coronavirus outbreak. We are working to figure out, along with our client schools and the rest of Los Angeles, what we can do to help prevent the spread of illness and care for our communities—below are a few early thoughts; feel free to share yours.

- Emmalinda MacLean

Nothing makes us happier than hearing from the students themselves that our classes make a difference, and we are delighted to share just a tiny sampler of the notes, drawings, and thoughtful questions that made us smile. 

- Jill Herbertson

Thanksgiving is coming! Grammy, Grandpop! Aunties, Uncles, Cousins! Yay! We love those big, boisterous family and friend gatherings! Hugs and all the feels throughout the winter holiday season! Yay! Right? Of course we want our kids to have warm and loving relationships in our circle of friends and family. Of course we want Auntie Lou and all our venerable elders to feel honored and respected at these important get-togethers. But,

- Alicia Lagano

Imagine you’re transgender-gender nonconforming. TGNC individuals, specifically teens, struggle with the fit of clothing. They have no place to shop for finding clothes that genuinely fit them. This is a problem!

- Emmalinda MacLean

I’m turning 32 tomorrow, and all I want for my birthday is for children to learn about consent and bodily autonomy.  You can help make my birthday wish come true by clicking on the link here and purchasing this beautiful and empowering read-aloud for a child in your life, or a school in our community! 

- Emmalinda MacLean

newsletter 201902 em intersections.jpg

Our culture is flooded with messages about sex, bodies, gender roles, relationships, and power: children are absorbing them from an early age.  Without a trusted source of accurate information, these messages become many people’s only sex education.  What messages are your clients receiving?  Which ones are you sending?

 

All adults who work with youth should have training in healthy sexual development.  That’s what More Than Sex-Ed is here for.  Whether you are a social worker, health care provider, teacher, counselor, camp director, youth pastor, or anyone else who cares about teens, we can help you develop skills to communicate openly about sexuality, while holding crucial boundaries.  The youth you serve need well-informed and supportive adults they can trust.  Join us for our Sexual Health Education Training at Antioch University, March 15-17, to gain the knowledge, tools, and resources you need to be ready when they need you. 

Register Now for Mar 15-17 MTSE at Antioch

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- Emmalinda MacLean

As we look towards a bright future and a hope-filled new year, I want to share with you some “detail shots” looking back on this year’s classes, and the wonderful students we have the joy of working with.  Curious, courageous, compassionate young people like these give me all of the hope for the future.  Let me start with a scene I’m grateful to have witnessed many times over:

- Emmalinda MacLean

Our core purpose, in one sentence, is “to nourish healthy sexual development through honest conversations”.  Our company’s core values are: * Respect and curiosity for the complex and beautiful diversity of human sexuality * a culture of inclusion; * personal responsibility; * and honesty and accuracy. 

- Michael Werner, MD, FACS

I am very proud to introduce a new laboratory procedure for male infertility patients called Extended Sperm Search & Microfreeze, or ESSM. We’ve acquired this technology from a company in Israel and Maze Laboratories is the only facility in the U.S. offering this revolutionary procedure at this point in time. What makes the ESSM procedure …

The post New Infertility Procedure Finds Sperm in 44% of Azoospermic Men appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Chaya Rothschild, Andrologist

Our Extended Sperm Search and Microfreeze program, also known as ESSM, saw our first patients in November 2019. This program was designed to: Detect sperm in cases of virtual azoospermia- a sperm count too low to be detected on a standard semen analysis. This is typically a total sperm count below 200 (0.0002‬ million). Isolate …

The post Success after Microfreeze! appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Cruise Dittus, MA

It’s very rare that we see patients who come in with only one symptom. What we often find is a pattern of related symptoms, which often started off as just one mild to moderate symptom. One reason for this is that the underlying cause (such as low testosterone, pelvic floor dysfunction, etc.) can manifest in …

The post Breaking the Cycle: It’s Never Too Late appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Paul Nelson, MA, CCMA

We have all felt “Why me?” at some point in our lives. When it comes to Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS), this is a very common phrase we hear. The short answer is, “Because you are human.”  Basically, if you have a pelvis, things can go wrong with it. But there are a few common …

The post Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – Who Gets it? appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Cruise Dittus, MA

When people think of treatment options for erectile dysfunction, the first thing that comes to mind is typically oral medications, such as Viagra or Cialis. Many aren’t even aware of injections as a treatment option. The truth is, we very commonly use injections as a primary treatment option for our patients. We have had patients …

The post Penile Injections for ED appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jackie Giannelli, FNP-BC

For many couples, having a reliable and permanent method of birth control equates to peace of mind. Many women are unable to take hormones for a variety of reasons; therefore, a vasectomy may be an option worth exploring. A vasectomy is a procedure done to block or cut both of the vas deferens tubes within …

The post Vasectomy and Sex – What to expect appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Tristan Charran, Laboratory Technician, CPT

Couples having trouble conceiving will likely be advised to uate the male partner’s fertility by getting a semen analysis test. This noninvasive test measures the quantity and quality of semen and sperm. This isn’t a thrilling prospect for most men because the actual process is a little awkward and the possibility of having a fertility …

The post What is a Semen Analysis and what are the basic tests involved? appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Cruise Dittus, MA

Clarus Therapeutics has finally gained FDA approval for Jatenzo, the first oral form of testosterone available in the United States. Previously, oral formulations of testosterone had been shown to cause liver toxicity. But, Jatenzo has been shown to successfully bypass the liver, instead entering the lymphatic system and then the blood circulation. Jatenzo comes in …

The post Oral Testosterone (Jatenzo) is Finally Available appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Michael Tavolacci, MA

There are many reasons someone may fall susceptible to the perils of erectile dysfunction (ED). For some, it may be genetics, trauma, injury, or, commonly, prostate cancer. But, there are the handful of lifestyle factors and activities that contribute to the development of ED and can be prevented. One of these common activities is bicycle …

The post Does Bicycle Riding Cause Erectile Dysfunction? appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Paul Nelson, MA, CCMA

One of the most common questions I hear, even by mental health professionals, is that if sexual function issues are anxiety based, why do we recommend using medical intervention? Their assumption is that if it is not a physiological problem, why treat it medically? I could write a whole book on the interconnectedness of the …

The post Whole Person Sex Treatments appeared first on Treating Low-T, Erectile Dysfunction & Peyronie’s | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jackie Giannelli, FNP-BC

Have you heard of “Femtech”?  If not, listen up.  Femtech involves the use of digital health to motivate patients to access and use applications for managing women’s health issues.  It is hailed as the next big phenomenon in the women’s health market, projected to reach a $50 billion valuation by 2050.  As such, many women-led …

The post Vibrating, the Smart Way appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jennifer Dembo, LMSW

Musical theatre fans might be familiar with song titles such as “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin and “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella (the tele-staged musical version – not the Disney-fied one). And of course, we’re well-acquainted with the boxing corner, where fighters go to rehydrate and catch their breath. Whether you prefer …

The post When Was the Last Time You Went to Your Corner? appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jackie Giannelli, FNP-BC

Most women, when asked “what is menopause?” can answer the question.  However, much confusion and ambiguity surround the time in a woman’s life known as “perimenopause”, something we take a deeper dive into here in this blog post! First of all, the word “perimenopause” literally means “around menopause”.  It refers to the transition period between …

The post What exactly is Perimenopause? appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Stephen Snyder, MD

I recently attended a Zoom meeting with 20+ other New York City sex and relationship therapists on the subject of how online counseling, or “TeleHealth,” has transformed their practices. Some of what I heard surprised me. Many said they missed seeing their clients in person, and that TeleHealth therapy was harder and took more energy. …

The post Is TeleHealth Sex & Relationship Therapy Effective? 7 Ways it Might Be Better appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jennifer Dembo, LMSW

In a world where click-bait reigns supreme, this blog title just might have grabbed you. And maybe I’ve got your attention for approximately 35 seconds. So I’ll make this quick. There really is nothing salacious about treating sexual issues. Of course, there are physiological factors to diagnose and address, but equally critical is the practice …

The post The Secrets of Sex Therapy appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Leslie Turner, WHNP, CNM

At Maze, we generally recommend dilating for 10 minutes per day.  We find that 10 minutes is a good amount of time, because it is long enough for the muscles to begin to lengthen and stretch around the dilator but is short enough to be physically tolerable. Usually even the busiest of us can carve …

The post To Sleep With a Dilator Inserted, or Not? appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Shoshana Benjamin

I’ve always wanted to live in a Jane Austen novel, but this is not what I had in mind. Sitting around all the time, a walk as the only form of entertainment, not being able to get too close to the person you’re dating, and everyone being scandalized by a slight touch of the hand. …

The post Dating in Quarantine: It’s Not All Bad appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jackie Giannelli, FNP-BC

Low libido (defined as low desire for sexual activity) in women has traditionally been a challenge to treat.  For many years, low libido was thought of as being only in a woman’s “head”, or as a secondary consequence of other medical problems.  However, as we are becoming more educated about the roles that hormones play …

The post Testosterone Therapy for Women to Treat Low Libido appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Helen Leff, LCSW

I recently signed up to receive a biweekly delivery of “Mischief Box” which is filled with vegetables and I never know exactly what’s inside until I open it (like on Chopped!). Being a creature of habit, the kind of person who dips her big toe slowly into the pool and not one to dive right …

The post Make a Little Mischief appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Jennifer Dembo, LMSW

If you’re in the mood for stand-up comedy that’s raw, intelligent, insightful, and explicit, I can’t recommend more highly Marc Maron’s new Netflix special entitled “End Times Fun.” Believe it or not, it was recorded before the pandemic! Prophetic? Hmmmmm… Well, even if Maron didn’t employ his self-admitted interest in mysticism during this performance that …

The post Sex in the Media: Marc Maron’s “End Times Fun” appeared first on Treating Vaginismus, Low Sex Drive, Hormone Imbalances | Sexual Health Experts.

- Nadiah Mohajir

I want my daughter to know that protecting her religious freedom means protecting her right to access birth control at every stage of her life.

The post Muslims Have a Right to Contraception. Why Can Evangelical Bosses Take That Away? appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Rewire.News Staff

The good news is that most people will still have birth control after this decision because most employers want to cover it.

The post What’s Next for Your Birth Control Coverage After ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Alys Brooks

Restrictions on training are not unusual, and it can prevent medical professionals from providing good care.

The post Medical Students Can’t Provide Abortions If They Never Learn How appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Brooke Knisley

COVID-19 continues to spread, and the colleges and universities that are opting for remote learning are doing a terrible job of implementing it.

The post As Universities Move Fall Classes Online, Are Disabled Students Being Considered? appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Lisa Needham

Judge Allison Jones Rushing's decision gives police a racist road map.

The post Meet the Judge Who Thinks a Black Man Walking Around Is a Crime appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Mary Tuma

The standards could have a strong influence on textbook content across the United States.

The post ‘Once in a Generation’ Chance for Texas to Move Beyond Abstinence-Only Sex Education appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Jessica Mason Pieklo

With Dr. Leah Torres as its new medical director, West Alabama Women's Center will expand its services in a state hostile to abortion rights.

The post Exclusive: Meet the Doctor Helping Transform Abortion Care in Alabama appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Vilissa Thompson

The true harm of gossip and speculation about a public figure of this visibility is the way it seeps into the fabric of how we view the people around us with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

The post When You Mock Kanye’s Mental Health, You’re Not Just Mocking Kanye appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Jen Deerinwater

It means we deserve to live on stolen lands for free.

The post What Does Housing Justice Really Mean? appeared first on Rewire.News.

- Elizabeth Brico

Parental homelessness does not serve a child’s best interest. I'm fighting back.

The post To ‘Protect’ My Kids, the State Made Me Homeless appeared first on Rewire.News.

- admin

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr ASHA stands in solidarity with protesters across the country demanding an end to police brutality and the institutionalized racism that underpins it. Racism is insidious, pervasive and tightly woven into the fabric of our nation. […]

The post Black Lives Matter appeared first on .

- admin

Nearly all women use birth control at some point in their lives, and soon they’ll have one more option available. On May 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Phexxi, a non-hormonal contraceptive gel that works by keeping the pH levels in the vagina acidic, and thus inhospitable to sperm. What makes this […]

The post FDA Approves New Hormone-Free Contraceptive Option appeared first on .

- admin

Use these posters and social media graphics on your websites and social media platforms to encourage others to get involved! In addition to promoting the value of HIV testing, treatment (including PrEP), and safer sex these graphics include a selection focused on the need to face stigma head on through finding their voices, speaking up, […]

The post HIV Toolkit appeared first on .

- admin

ASHA recognizes each May as Women’s Health Month. It officially kicks off this year on May 10 with National Women’s Health Week, an annual observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. ASHA will spotlight women’s health throughout the month of May with new content, a social media campaign, podcasts, […]

The post Women’s Health Month appeared first on .

- admin

Last updated: June 14, 2020. Note: This page continues to be updated to reflect new information and guidance on COVID-19 as it becomes available. While many states across the country are easing COVID-19-related restrictions and businesses are beginning to open up, the threat posed by the pandemic is still present. Data as of June 13 […]

The post Sex in the Time of COVID-19 appeared first on .

- admin

Of course sexual pleasure feels good but did you know it’s actually good for you, too? Whether alone or with a partner, pleasure is healthy for mind and body. Whether we’re attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender or both, the truth is: We learn how to experience sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake by […]

The post What’s Your Pleasure? appeared first on .

- admin

Feel like you can let go and take a breath yet? Like so many others, the ASHA team and I are working from home, ordering online, and trying to grasp all that’s happening due to coronavirus. There are actually many types of coronaviruses and the novel (or “new”) coronavirus dominating our attention can cause illness […]

The post A Message on COVID-19 from ASHA’s President  appeared first on .

- admin

Programs to prevent sexually transmitted infections are crucial to public health but they don’t always have the resources they need. Seventeen organizations have come together to make sure someone takes care of the people who take care of us all.   Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) continue to rise but funding for prevention and treatment […]

The post The National STI Coalition Launches appeared first on .

- iwadmin

#STDMonth20 Each April ASHA recognizes STD Awareness Month. This year’s observation – like most things – is set against a backdrop where COVID-19 dominates our thoughts. Spring has sprung but dating and sex aren’t quite the same when social distancing has us mentally calculating imaginary six foot barriers all around us! Read on for all […]

- iwadmin

What are condoms? Condoms are an effective barrier method that protect against STD/STIs. They are available over the counter at drug stores and some grocery stores. Some health departments have free condoms. Top Ten Reasons to Use a Condom (EVERY time) 10. Condoms give you control over your body and can help protect your health. […]

- iwadmin

JOIN THE MOVEMENT Are you active on Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? In the blogosphere? Then you can be part of the movement to improve sexual health! We hear it all the time – people today want to do something to create positive change in the world, but they’re unsure about how to get started. You have […]

- iwadmin

Kids and young teens can now be protected against HPV with just two doses of vaccine instead of three—incentive to get vaccinated early! On October 12, 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a 2-dose schedule for Merck’s Gardasil-9® HPV vaccine for males and females ages 9-14. Gardasil® 9® covers protects against 9 types […]

- iwadmin

How should someone get tested for herpes? What do test results mean? Get answers to these questions and learn the basics of herpes testing with the infographic below (also available as a PDF download).

- iwadmin

In late February, the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines that require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice rather than the one corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate. ASHA president and CEO Lynn B. Barclay points out that while laws remain in place that protect transgender students […]

- iwadmin

Estimating how many sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases occur is not a simple task. First, most STIs can be “silent,” with no noticeable symptoms. These asymptomatic infections can be diagnosed only through testing. Unfortunately, routine screening programs are not widespread, and social stigma and lack of public awareness gets in the way of discussions between […]

- iwadmin

Can someone be infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from oral sex? Yes. Many STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, can be spread through oral sex. However, the chances of giving or getting STIs during oral sex can be lowered by using a condom or dental dam. What is oral sex? By definition, oral sex […]

- The Hello Doctor Team

The first week of September is one of the most popular weeks for unprotected sex in South Africa. We don’t know if it’s the smell of blossoms in the air, the first rays of sun or those floral skirts parading the streets, but this time of year, people everywhere are getting it on.

- Content Editor

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and urinary tract infections (UTI) share very common symptoms and are misdiagnosed more often than you think.

- The Hello Doctor Team

Do you have painless sores, blisters or ulcers on your penis, vagina, and anus, or inside your mouth or on the lips? You could have syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection is caused by a type of bacteria. Here's how to diagnose and treat it.

- The Hello Doctor Team

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a type of bacteria. The disease can affect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat, while men are vulnerable in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.

- The Hello Doctor Team

What does the strength of your pelvic floor have to do with orgasms? A lot – if you want an amazing sex life! The pelvic floor is a powerful set of muscles that sits between your tailbone and pubic bone 3.8 pob 다운로드. It supports your core and the organs of your lower abdomen. A strong pelvic floor could mean more intense and longer-lasting orgasms, since it’s those very pelvic floor muscles that contract during an orgasm. Arnold Henry Kegel, an American gynaecologist, invented the Kegel exercises (also called pelvic floor exercises) as a non-surgical treatment for genital relaxation. These...

- The Hello Doctor Team

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) spread from person to person during any sexual activity. A mother can even pass these on to her baby during pregnancy and birth. You must always, under all circumstances, practise safe sex! Use a new condom every single time you have sex. This applies to oral sex too. According to the World Health Organization, more than a million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day, worldwide Download the butterfly from the road. The majority of STIs either have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognised as an STI. Sexually transmitted diseases are...

- The Hello Doctor Team

Not feeling in the mood lately? Your weight might be to blame. Being overweight isn’t just an unpleasant experience because you can’t fit into your clothes touchen nxkey. Extra body fat can lead to heart and other health problems. And, it can also affect your sex life. For both men and women, high levels of body fat mean higher levels of a chemical called “sex hormone binding globulin”. When there’s too much, you may lose your sexual appetite. Heavy weight, low sex-drive Knowing the different ways sexual drive is affected by your weight can help motivate you to get into...

- The Hello Doctor Team

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in adults worldwide. HPV is the name for a group of viruses that affect the skin and the moist membranes lining the body, for example in the anus, cervix, mouth and throat 슈퍼스타 bts 다운로드. There are more than 100 types of HPV, around 40 of which can affect the genital area. HPV can cause genital warts, and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, particularly through unprotected vaginal and oral sex. It’s very contagious, and while the virus often presents no visible symptoms, it’s linked to the development of certain...

- The Hello Doctor Team

You used to enjoy sex, but now it hurts like hell. Here are the possible reasons why, and how you can deal with it. Women: Vaginal dryness This is most commonly caused by too little arousal before sex. When a woman becomes sexually aroused, her vaginal glands secrete a fluid that acts as a lubricant. If this process is disrupted, not enough lubrication can make sex uncomfortable and painful latest 3dp chip. This issue can also stem from a drop in oestrogen levels after menopause, childbirth or during breastfeeding. Certain medications can also constrain arousal, and decrease lubrication. These include...

- The Hello Doctor Team

A new strain of gonorrhoea is infecting people all over the world. And, it’s untreatable, warns the World Health Organization (WHO) NetFramework 4.8 Download. What is gonorrhoea? Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease, affecting over 70 million people each year. The bacteria that cause the infection live in warm, moist areas of the body, including the urethra, vagina, anus, throat, and female reproductive tract. Gonorrhoea is passed from person to person via unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex. People with more than one sexual partner or who don’t use condoms have a high risk of gonorrhoea. The infection can also...

- Jennifer Gibson

Due to a current technical issue with our online booking portal, we ask that any new clients please call us […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Just a reminder that a long weekend brings changed hours of operation for our Quadra Street clinic. We will be […]

- Jennifer Gibson

**Update: Our Survey is now closed. Many thanks to all of you who took the time to provide such valuable […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Just a reminder that this Saturday, July 25, 2020, we don’t have a doctor or nurse on site. This means […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Our Quadra Street clinic will be closed Wednesday July 1st for the Statutory Holiday. We will re-open Thursday July 2 […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Statement of Solidarity Against Racism As an organization, Island Sexual Health recognizes our individual and collective responsibility to listen, reflect, […]

- Jennifer Gibson

  Job Opportunity Gender Affirming Apparel Access Consultant [PDF}       Organization Overview Island Sexual Health society offers all […]

- Jennifer Gibson

***CLINIC SERVICES UPDATE*** Please see below for information on appointments and supply/medication pick up. ***CLINIC SERVICES UPDATE*** Island Sexual Health […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Thanks to all who completed the survey for Gender Affirming Apparel. We are currently in the process of following through […]

- Jennifer Gibson

Sex Safety During COVID-19 Please note: As per Health Canada and BC Ministry of Health guidelines, all non-symptomatic Canadian and […]

- Sexual Health Alliance

Dear SHA Community Members,

We are outraged and saddened by the horrific displays of continuous police brutality among the Black community and the ruthless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and countless other names and lives.We are dedicated to our mission of radical collaboration, which includes the fight against oppression and racism. We strive to be actively anti-racist and will continue raising the bar for ourselves and the organization from events and conferences to our certificate programs and educational materials.  Commitment to Inclusion & Fighting InjusticeAs an educational organization, we believe our best work can be done by helping you, our community members and students gain insight, education, key resources and learning how to advocate for your Black clients and patients. This also includes helping you fight for social justice expand your reach and impact. We will continue to listen and learn how we can advocate in addition to providing resources, scholarships, doing our own work and collaborating with more Black educators, counselors, therapists and community members. 

Below are some resources we have found helpful:Justice June https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1H-Vxs6jEUByXylMS2BjGH1kQ7mEuZnHpPSs1Bpaqmw0/mobilebasic

Antiracist Resourceshttps://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1PrAq4iBNb4nVIcTsLcNlW8zjaQXBLkWayL8EaPlh0bc/mobilebasic

Ted Talkhttps://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality

How else can we help you to be actively antiracist? In the therapy room, in coaching spaces, medical exam rooms, other healing spaces and in our communities? How can we use our voices, our skills, and our drive to reform local, state, and federal policies to help improve the lives of our fellow Americans, and citizens of this world? These are big questions to ask, and it's important to sit with them and understand how even the smallest of actions can add up to drive change. 

Organizations and Directorieshttps://blackmamasmatter.org/https://antiracismcenter.com/https://www.blackwomenphysicians.orghttps://www.blacktherapistsrock.comhttps://therapyforblackgirls.comhttps://therapyforblackmen.orghttp://www.abpsi.org/find-psychologists/https://blacktherapistnetwork.com/?s=

- Alexandra Whitman

How do we talk to our kids about sex? Ask Sexual Health Alliance’s Director of Clinical Education and LoveLine host, Dr. Chris Donaghue! He recently sat down on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with actor, Kristin Bell, to talk about how to approach the basics of sex ed with our kids. Dr. Chris states, “As soon as your kids can start to talk, you need to start to have THE TALK.” We love seeing Dr. Chris continuing to promote an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to sexuality at every age.

Catch Dr. Chris’ segment below!

- Alexandra Whitman

Hey all you cool cats & kittens!

We hope everyone is staying safe and quarantined. We understand this is an absolutely unprecedented and uncertain time for all and we want to be here for you in any way possible. For our CE program students, we are offering a catch up and support group via Zoom tomorrow afternoon.

And as many of you know, we have made adjustments to our Spring 2020 conferences to adhere to the CDC guidelines of no group gatherings. Our conferences this season will now be live online via the Zoom platform instead of in-person BUT attendees and students will be able to receive in-person credit per AASECT. Our instructors are prepared for the usual powerpoints, worksheets, live group discussions and questions. We are working to make the online conferences just as interactive as they would be in the flesh…just in the comfort of your own home!

Check out our confirmed LIVE ONLINE SPRING CONFERENCES below!

Addressing Modern Sexual Issues in Therapy and Education with Dr. David Ley - March 21-22, 2020Sex, Anxiety & Reproductive Health w/ Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist RH, Dr. Eli Sheff & Melissa Novak, LCSW, CST - April 17th-18th, 2020Our Intimate Selves: Exploring Sex, Gender, Orientation, and Transgender Awareness w/ Lee Harrington - April 24-25, 2020

More to come…!

Stay safe and and wash those hands!

- Taylor Spaziani

Check out our interview with Denver SHA Team member Taylor Spaziani and unique couple Dan and Pebble! Dan is a sex therapist and Pebble is a sexual medicine doctor. Together they create a relationship full of radical collaboration! 🌟🧠

- Taylor Spaziani

Check out our interview with SHA member Taylor Spaziani and Neuroscientist, Sex Therapist Dr. Nan! Dr. Nan is a neuroscientist on the sexual brain and such an authentic, admirable professional. In this interview, she also discussed the impact of the Coronavirus as sexual functioning and mentions the importance of staying connected to one another at this time. 🌟Find her on social media @AskDoctorNan

https://youtu.be/eIlNnZrv10Y

- Taylor Spaziani

A-KiltedPhotography.jpg

Getting to know…

Lee Harrington

Tell us about yourself and your career. 

 I have been a sexuality educator and author for almost 20 years, having a deep love for erotic authenticity, personal delight, and finding compassion and passion in our lives. Before taking on adult sexuality and gender education, I began as a peer sex educator, helping my fellow high schoolers understand safer sex and better tools for their relationships alike. Now 40, I have had a chance to write extensively on these topics, including in my book "Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities," and have taught in all 50 states and 6 other countries worldwide. It is my belief that each of us deserves not just human decency, but to be seen and heard for all that we are.

 

What are the top 3 items on your bucket list?

 Three of my current bucket list items include learning aerial dance, writing a second collection of poetry (my first is "On Starry Thighs: Sacred and Sensual Poetry"), and taking courses in massage therapy to best support my partner's health and wellbeing.

 

Who is your sexual role model?

 I have deep admiration for the work of Annie Sprinkle, whose Ecosexuality Manifesto helped me examine our relationship to the earth as sexual beings, and whose work in self-love broke open an entire realm of sexual exploration for so many people.

 

What are some of your most important everyday values? 

There are a series of mantras I practice every day, and one of my core workings is the concept of: Compassion - Balance - Patience - Forgiveness - Gratitude. It is important for me to not just embrace these things, but to also not dive so deeply into them that they harm us. For example, Forgiveness that is too magnified allows us to be used or gas-lit, and when lacking in our lives, leaves us cut off from the world and carrying anger with every breath. It is about balance in each of these.

 

What is some bad advice you have heard people in our field give out?

 I have found deep concern with advice such as "if you follow my system, all of your problems will be resolved." There is no single cure-all pill for everyone. Each of us is unique, and what will guide us is a unique combination of the tools for sexual evolution out there.

 

The Sexual Health Alliance (SHA) is centered around providing Provocative Dialogue and Radical Collaboration. What does radical collaboration look like to you? What would you want other practitioners to incorporate into their practice? 

 For me, Radical Collaboration is about the power of intersectionality. When we take any one voice as gospel, we diffuse the magic that comes from hearing a chorus of perspective. Even if I, as a queer transgender man, speak on transgender awareness, I carry only my own voice, as well as the stories, knowledge, and experiences gifted to me by others. However, having other voices share their lens on gender, orientation, sexual behavior, and transgender and gender diverse experience will paint a far more complex and enriching viewpoint. This is why empowering attendees and panelists alike to speak up matters so much. Your voice matters, and together we can dive deeper into a topic.

 

 

As a prominent sexuality professional, you have made a wonderful career as a sex educator. What would you recommend to young educators or therapists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

There are a number of approaches to becoming a sexuality educator or therapist. For some, it is about taking an academic path, pursuing a Masters or PhD in the specialty you are drawn to with passion. Another is through peer support and volunteerism, learning on your feet and being mentored directly by those already doing the work. Sometimes it is about bringing a skill you already have and translating it into this field, for example nurses bringing their medical knowledge into this field, yoga instructors who bring their somatic knowledge into this path, or adult performers  who bring a hands-on body of skills into teaching others from that knowledge. Valuing all of these is important, and examining where your passions are is key to developing a path that serves others from your place of excellence. Don’t let others potentially judging where you got here from stop you from serving the world.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I am reading a few different books at this time, and alternate between them. My current lineup includes:

* “This Heart Holds Many: My Life as the Nonbinary Millennial Child of a Polyamorous Family” by Koe Creation

* “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander

* “Akata Warrior” by Nnedi Okorafor

* “Amenti Oracle Guide Book: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World” by Jennifer Sodini

What’s the most important thing you talk about with your students and classes you teach?Authenticity, passion, and kindness are key in my work. That includes not just kindness to others, but kindness to yourself as you learn new things and stumble when making mistakes. Passion is not just about sexual and emotional drive, it is also about finding where you can put your passions out into the world and use them to connect with those you care about, meeting them where there passions are as well. Finally, authenticity is about diving into yourself to find what is there, having the courage to bring that awareness to your life, and be open to learning new things that may change how you look at the world… and yourself. What are your top 2 books that have influenced you and why?Two books that immediately come to mind are “Palimpsest” by Catherynne Valente and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan. Palimsest is a story set in a dark fairyland that is rife with sexual and emotional beauty and trauma alike, and it led me not just on a self-examination of how I connect with others, but on a personal note led Valente and I to become friends but travel with her and others as a performing artist. On the other hand, Pollan’s work had me examine how individuals and environments overlap with one another, and led to me presenting a keynote on the interactions between sexuality communities and scarcity at the Transcending Boundaries Conference. You can watch it, or read it, at http://passionandsoul.com/news/tbckeynote/

SHA utilizes social media to reach our members as well as to find new sexuality content and research, how do you think social media has influenced our culture’s sexuality?

One of the ways social media has changed sexuality worldwide is that it has allowed us to interact with people we might never met otherwise. Suddenly, the single transgender person in a small town can have allies around the globe, and no longer feel alone. An individual of specific erotic interests can find partners, or have discussions with their peers that they may have never met. This is a radical shift over the past twenty or so years, and has been so inspirational to be part of.

Our team finds podcasts, youtube and other social media platforms sometimes more educational and useful than traditional models. Do you think social media should have a place in formal training, and if so, how much?

I love multi-medium approaches to education. There are so many types of learners out there, and having tools available for people who learn through hearing, watching, taking notes, discussing, doing something side by side, and teaching others is important. Podcasts (such as my own Passion And Soul Podcast) might be great for someone who listens to learn, while someone who thrives with discussion will benefit from interactive discussions on Twitter or Facebook. Adding social media platforms to classic education can allow for diverse learners from around the world to interact with each other outside of a single mode of learning or a single bubble of people they might be exposed to otherwise.

Where is your next dream vacation?

Though I would love to do a long trip to Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, in all honesty, after SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) truly passes, I would love a window of time gathering with dear friends, indulging in a cuddle pile or sitting a camp fire sharing our hearts.

What are 2 of the most important things you do every day?

Every day I set myself up for success by taking my medication along with healthy food, and spending time in front of my altar or reading from an inspirational book. One takes care of my physical health, and the other centers me in my emotional and spiritual health.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveling to for your job and why?Every year I attend two campground based events in Northern Maryland. Camp Crucible and Dark Odyssey are both crossover events between a variety of alternative sexuality communities, where for either 9 days (Crucible) or 5 days (Dark Odyssey) people are offered a safe space to explore and expand their sexual and emotional expression amongst their peers, setting aside judgement, and learning (and playing) on a diverse set of topics. They take place on the same land with one being a massive festival (Dark Odyssey) and the other a more intimate gathering (Crucible). I love them both!

What’s your favorite story to tell?

As an educator on gender and transgender issues, I am often moved to share the story of one of my students who over time is becoming a friend. They were assigned male at birth, sixty plus years ago, and never quite felt like the gender norms for being male fit for them. First they thought they might be a crossdresser, and though their wife supported this, it wasn’t quite right. Then they debated whether they might be a transgender woman, but it wasn’t the right fit. Then, just a few years ago, they met a genderqueer person in their twenties. Their heart lit up. They finally had a term for themselves and a way to describe themselves to the world, after sixty years. It changed their life. It reminded me that we keep evolving, and language keeps evolving, and it can help us express our hearts in beautiful and powerful ways.

Red Carpet Question: Tell the world what you’re working on! What would you like everyone to know or check out?

 My anthology, "Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries," co-edited with Tai Fenix Kulystin, is on bookshelves now, and I am so proud of it. Over 40 contributors shared their voices in the form of academic essays, emotional poetry, interviews with elders, beautiful artwork, and more to paint a picture of the intersections of queer experience and magic or spiritual practices from around the world. You can also find my blog going back to 1998, a catalogue of my podcasts, and my upcoming travel schedule at PassionAndSoul.com

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- Taylor Spaziani

Check out our interview with Certified Sex Therapist and Licensed Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Melissa Novak! Tune in to learn more about the fun and bright Melissa Novak & listen to her speak about the importance between anxiety and sex and her work around it all. See her in Austin on Saturday April 18th on her lecture about Anxiety, Sex and Reproductive Health! https://youtu.be/HMuGob0Im2I

- Taylor Spaziani

Taylor Spaziani Interviews SHA’s Advisory Board Member Dr. Chris Donaghue for his 5-Minutes-of-Fame with SHA 💎

- Taylor Spaziani

Check out our short interview with social worker and certified sex therapist Molly Adler.

- Taylor Spaziani

Dr. Ryan Scoats, specializes in the sociology of gender, sexuality and sexual behavior; in particular, threesomes and group sex.

Dr. Ryan Scoats, specializes in the sociology of gender, sexuality and sexual behavior; in particular, threesomes and group sex.

Tell us about yourself and your career. 

 

My academic career started in 2010 when I undertook a master’s in research and sociology with the hope that this would start me on the academic path. My initial interests related to masculinity and how young men were engaging with each other in more intimate, less homophobic ways. During some time spent away from studies, teaching English in Japan, I read a book by my former supervisor on monogamy and infidelity: The Monogamy Gap. This book in particular piqued my interest and opened me up to the prospect of studying not only masculinities, but monogamy as well. This in turn lead to an interest in consensual non-monogamy and finally my PhD in threesomes. 

 

I am now an assistant professor of sociology in the UK and have had some fantastic opportunities to help educate others around consensual non-monogamy, and in particular, threesomes. As someone who is not shy talking about sex, I love to engage with others to help dispel some of the myths around sex and relationship practices. I also find academic research a fascinating pursuit and hope that my growing body of research on threesomes can help encourage future sexology research. 

 

When I’m not reading, writing, talking, or teaching sex, I like to get outside climbing, cycling and camping. Unfortunately, British weather can make this a little difficult, so board games and a pub with a fire are also a good option.[RS1] 

 

 

·  What are the top 3 items on your bucket list?

 

To Visit Chernobyl

To travel down the Norwegian Fjords by kayak

To spend time working somewhere extremely remote (like the Antarctic)

 

 

·  Who is your sexual role model?

 

To pin down one role model is tricky, but there are certainly lots of people I have huge respect for. For example, I really admire Dan Savage and how he uses rational thinking (rather than knee-jerk reaction) when delving into people’s unusual sexual experiences. I think a lot of people would automatically stigmatise and chastise these people, whereas he doesn’t. In terms of other scholars, the work of people like Katherine Frank is often quite astounding in its level of detail and insight, particularly regarding group sex. Then there is my academic mentor, Eric Anderson, who has guided me in my studies since my undergraduate degree and still provides a lot of wisdom.

 

·  What is some bad advice you have heard people in our field give out?

 

If your partner is sexually interested in someone else, this means they no longer love you.

 

 

·  At SHA our goal is to provide therapists & healthcare providers with high-quality sexuality training because they often receive little to no education in sexual health. What is the most important piece about sex that you want all providers to know? What you want them to incorporate into their practice?

 

Many people have and engage in a wide and varied range of sexual practices and interests. Just because a sexual interest is niche, or something you have not come across before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a harmful practice or is a symptom of some other deficiency. Try not to project your own sexual ethics and preferences onto others and judge them for their difference.

- edcappa

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, C-CSAS, CPCS “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”  We have all heard someone ask this question and perhaps we have asked the question ourselves. Many great theologians, academic scholars, and philosophers have spent years pondering this thought but have fallen short of providing an answer that brings ultimate comfort … Continue reading Tomorrow is Coming →

- edcappa

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, C-CSAS, CPCS “I have something I need to tell you,” said Daryl, a 32-year-old client who has been watching pornography since he was 13 and recently lost his job after being caught viewing it on his company phone. “The reason I have struggled to stop watching porn is that I like … Continue reading There’s More on the Other Side of the Camera than Sex →

- edcappa

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS Relationships. We long for loving and healthy ones. However, many of us struggle to engage in partnerships that are nurtured and growing. In fact, it’s just the opposite. For a variety of reasons, our relationships die a slow death. One major reason is unresolved trauma, much of which occurred … Continue reading FREE Online Event: Breaking Free of Relationship Trauma →

- edcappa

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CSCP You may think the bullying you endured in middle school is far behind you. Or the insults hurled by your mother are a thing of the past. Or the beatings you took from your older sibling have been long forgotten.  But that may not be the case. In fact, … Continue reading Unresolved Childhood Pain Points Impact Sex/Porn Addictions →

- edcappa

What a woman needs to see from the man who betrayed her is real change and that involves more than simply managing your addictive behavior. It requires changing how you approach relationships.

- edcappa

Blaming Wives of Sex/Porn Addicts is Counter-productive By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, C-CSAS, CPCS “He told me I should learn to be a better wife and lover,” Karen said with tears in her eyes as she recalled visiting her pastor for advice on how to deal with her husband’s pornography addiction. “I was shocked to hear … Continue reading We are Leaving Spouses Behind? →

- edcappa

If you believe learning to manage your sex or porn addiction is the end of your recovery walk, you are sadly mistaken. Over the years in working with men who have struggled with these addictions, I have identified numerous character traits that hinder their ability to develop healthy relationships. These personality issues also are troubling … Continue reading Becoming the New Guy: Going Beyond Managing Your Sex/Porn Addiction →

- edcappa

I always enjoy when we have guest contributors but this one is especially exciting. Timothy Reigle is founder of Into the Wilderness Ministries, which assist men in overcoming sexual addiction and transforming their lives. Today he uses a popular story from the Old Testament to encourage us to find the right individual who will always … Continue reading Who is Your Nathan? →

- edcappa

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS “I have something I need to tell you,” said Daryl, a 32-year-old client who has been watching pornography since he was 13 and recently loss his job after being caught viewing it on his company phone. “The reason I have struggled to stop watching porn is because I like … Continue reading The Real Struggle to Give Up Porn: We Like It →

- edcappa

I had an opportunity to sit with Dr. Rob Weiss on his Sex, Love, and Addiction Podcast. Among many topics, we spoke about the potential correlation between arrested emotional development and sexual compulsive disorders. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/httpsexandrelationshiphealinglibsyncomrss/sex-addiction-101

- Maureen McGrath

Last week I saw a female patient in my clinical practice who wanted to get back on the dating scene. She'd recently been divorced and

- Maureen McGrath

In my effort to expand access to information and products about sexuality and intimate health, I've been setting up "clinics within clinics." I have developed

- Maureen McGrath

"There is!, "I exclaimed to my patient who said this to me with some degree of frustration. Not only is there a home kit called

- Maureen McGrath

Update on my own progress halfway through WEEK 1 of the Biodiet, the science based Ketogenic diet. https://www.biodiet.org Doctor approval -check Hip/waist Measurements- Check (Ugh)

- Maureen McGrath

In BioDiet, educator, researcher and health consultant, Dr. David G. Harper, and journalist, Dale Drewery, have created the essential guide to taking control of your

- Maureen McGrath

A recent survey done by Ipsos commissioned by Global News revealed that Canadians are dissatisfied with their sex and romantic lives. A whopping 41%! Brrr….This

- Maureen McGrath

I spent much of New Year's Eve at a party explaining "responsive desire" to a crowd of couples who'd been married anywhere between 3 and

- Maureen McGrath

We were both waiting at the gate waiting for our connecting flights and connected on designing educational programs. She then asked me what I did

- Maureen McGrath

- Maureen McGrath

This from any one of a number of patients who come to see me in my clinical practice. Kegels or Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises are

Zac Cannell – Sexual Health Counsellor, SHINE SA

Sean Miller – Peer Support Worker/Volunteer Coordinator, Trans Wellbeing Service, SHINE SA

October, 2017

The state of South Australia has had a long history of political blockades and community confusion to service provision for the trans and gender diverse community. This has rippled out to medical and community practitioners who may then be unsure about who can provide a service and how this can be done safely. Much of the confusion in SA can be attributed to the creation and implementation of the Sex Reassignment Act 1988 (SA) which, although considered progressive 29 years ago, was repealed in late 2016 as it had numerous areas of concern for the community. For decades, this piece of legislation hindered the community in accessing services and led to the belief that less than a handful of doctors could provide a service to those questioning their gender or wishing to medically transition, causing increased wait times and increased financial costs for those accessing care.

However, this changed when a number of transgender-identified people in SA sought to clarify the legislation and then work to rebuild community knowledge and engagement.  It led to the abolishment of the Act and the creation of Trans Health South Australia. This website, found at www.transhealthsa.com, became the first of its kind in the nation. It is a resource aimed at professional service providers, the gender diverse community and their other supports, and is independently funded and operated by the transgender community.

Vickie KnightSenior Clinical Nurse ConsultantSydney Sexual Health Centre

September, 2017

The US Centers for Disease Control defines Transgender as a term for people whose expression of gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term gender identity refers to a person’s intrinsic understanding of their own gender. The term gender expression describes how a person outwardly presents their gender (eg. how they dress). In NSW, recently there has been increasing discussion about the HIV and sexual health needs of people who are trans and gender diverse.

In order for clinicians, researchers and the community to understand the needs of people who are trans and gender diverse we need, first and foremost, to be able to identify trans people in our communities and services. Unfortunately, data on people who are trans and gender diverse accessing sexual health and HIV services in NSW is poorly collected. This is mainly due to a lack of clarity and agreement on sexuality and gender indicators to capture these groups of people in data sets. Do other jurisdictions in Australia have standardised and agreed definitions for trans and gender diverse people?

Associate Professor Tiffany Jones (PhD),

ARC DECRA Fellow, ARCSHS La Trobe

Assume Marriage Inequality

The E-Males study, in which 273 FtM transgender Australians discussed their sexual health via an online survey and blog, showed sexual health workers must not carry any pre-concieved ideas about FtM transgender peoples’ sex lives. Perhaps the only assumption one can make in Australia, is that they do not yet experience marriage equality. FtM transgender people legally recognised as men (only) can get married to a woman (only), but all other options are off the table, and they also can’t maintain any pre-existing marriage to a man post-transition. Thus, the majority of participants had never married (66%), and 18% were in de facto relationships. However some smaller groups had engaged in legal marriages either prior to or after transition – 8% were married, 5% were divorced, and 2% were separated.

SAS Logo Dr Christopher Fox

Sex therapy is also referred to sex counselling, sexual health counselling, (clinical) sexology or sexual therapy. In Australia, the Society of Australian Sexologists, the National professional body for sex therapists and educators, uses the term Psychosexual Therapist for accredited members who must meet stringent educational standards.

What is Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy is a specialist form of counselling/therapy. It is just like other forms of psychological counselling only with a focus on human sexuality. Sex therapists are not a deviant bunch – they are professionals with specialist training and experience in dealing with issues of human sexuality.

Male Sex Work and Society

Male Sex Work and Society, edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott

Review by By Dr Margaret Redelman OAM, MBBS, MPsychotherapy

This very easy to read very pro-gay and pro sex worker book gives a wide-ranging introduction to ideas and concepts that need further scientific discourse and research in the field of male sex workers. The book mostly presents anecdotal and soft research data and repeatedly reiterates that this area is poorly researched and especially when compared to female sex workers.

There are few hypotheses and conclusions but maybe it’s too early for these and the material presented here can be the launching pad for more scientific work. 

The Secrets of the ANZACS

The Secrets of the ANZACS: The Untold Story of Venereal Disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919 by Raden Dunbar

Published October 2014 and distributed by Penguin Books New Zealand. RRP $37.00

Review by Dame Margaret Sparrow, a doctor, reproductive rights advocate and author.

During World War 1 about 60,000 soldiers or 13-15% of troops in the Australian Army were treated for venereal disease (VD), mainly gonorrhoea, less commonly syphilis and fewer still for chancroid. In this pre-antibiotic era treatments were often prolonged and unsatisfactory and soldiers also had to cope with the stigma surrounding VD. The book is in three parts.

Sexual Health A Multidisciplinary ApproachEdited by A/Prof. Meredith Temple-Smith

Review by Dr Lynnette Wray MBBS (Hons1) MM (VenSci), FAChSHM, President Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine

This new book is a sequel to and an expansion of the original book Sexual Health: An Australian Perspective which was first published in 2005 and gave us for the first time in Australia, a book which covered the broader concepts of sexual health, by focusing on a bio-psychosocial approach, rather than a disease and diagnosis focused text.

- Elna Rudolph

My Sexual Health (MSH) offers membership to healthcare providers with a special interest in Sexual Health. Contact us if you are interested in joining the biggest team of Sexual Health Providers in South Africa.

- Elna Rudolph

Did you know that it is a thing? Image Consulting specifically for Transgender clients. At My Sexual Health, we have had a long relationship with Suret Alive, who is an internationally trained image consultant for Transgender clients! She has helped many of our MTF patients become the woman they know that they are on the […]

- Elna Rudolph

Minki van der Westhuizen is one of the most loved South Africa celebrities.  She is the presenter of the MINKI Show – a talk show where she invites famous South Africans into her lounge for heartfelt discussions.  The show is in its 5th season and loved by many South Africans. Dr Elna Rudolph, the Clinical […]

- Dr. Jireh Serfontein

- Elna Rudolph

  What is an unconsummated marriage or relationship? An unconsummated marriage or relationship is one in which the couple has been unable to perform successful sexual intercourse. What is the cause of an unconsummated marriage or relationship? The most common cause of an unconsummated relationship is vaginismus. There can be other causes like erectile dysfunction […]

- Dr. Jireh Serfontein

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- Becky Scheer

Even though Pride 2020 will look a little different this year, there are still so many ways to show your pride! Here’s a few things that we hope you’ll check out!   Pride Brunch in support of Camp Fyrefly Your favourite Pride Brunch tradition is a go, and this year we’re moving online! All the best parts of Pride Brunch – but you won’t even have to get out of your PJs. Save the date for Sept 5th – tickets … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

Are you interested in helping queer and trans youth? The 2020 Alberta GSA Conference is looking for community members to join the planning committee! As a committee member you will attend digital Zoom meetings, share your thoughts and help make decisions to shape the conference and increase accessibility. Youth, teachers and community members are encouraged to apply. The committee will be meeting 5 times between August and November for 1-2 hours per meeting. Our first meeting is August 18th from 4:30 – … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

  Giving back isn’t cancelled. On #GivingTuesdayNow, you can express generosity right from your own home. We’re proud partners of #GivingTuesdayNow. Join us on May 5 in this global day of giving and unity.    At the Centre, we’re providing much-needed online and phone support to our LGBTQ+ community during this crisis. We know many people are feeling isolated from their communities, particularly LGBTQ+ youth who are no longer attending their school GSA meetings. Many LGBTQ+ youth are at home with … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

To our supporters, I hope you and your loved ones are well. This is a challenging time for everyone, and we want to take a moment to check in, update you on what’s happening at the Centre, and say thank you. Our physical office is currently closed, our regular programs have been cancelled, and our staff are working from home. As we always do when our office is closed, we are providing free condoms and pregnancy tests at the office doors … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

  Our Training Centre is now offering online opportunities for parents, professionals and more. Please see the upcoming opportunities listed below, or check out our list of available topics for professional development workshops and parent workshops to contact us to book a session.   Professional Development Workshops Transitioning from In-Person to Online Practical Tools and Tips to Providing Dating Violence Prevention Programming in an Online World June 10, 2020 1:00 PM EST Looking for practical tips for providing Teen Dating Violence prevention programming in an … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

  Our physical office is closed but you can connect with us online. Given the most up-to-date information from Alberta Health Services and the recommendations for social distancing, the Centre for Sexuality’s office is closed until further notice. Please continue to practice safe hygiene and risk mitigation to keep everyone safe. More information from the Alberta Government can be found here:  https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx ► Many of our services have moved online. Please see below for more information. Keep checking back as we announce more … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

  We are looking for a diverse group of youth (ages 14-24) to form the Camp fYrefly Youth Advisory Committee starting in March. As a member of a Camp fYrefly Committee, you will brainstorm ideas, activities and workshops, connect with other youth and be an important part of Camp fYrefly 2020. We value multiple perspectives and want to hear lots of different voices at this table. Everyone is welcome to apply! We are especially hoping to hear from people of … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

Reprom is just two weeks away. Looking to get into the prom spirit? Take in Theatre Calgary’s show-stopping musical inspired by Canadian Marc Hall’s true life story of his fight to bring his boyfriend to prom. This is the first LGBTQ+ show Theatre Calgary has brought to their stage in 29 years, so you can also be a part of a little history, and celebrate the diverse communities that make up our city. At the age of 17, Marc fought … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

  CONTEST ALERT! We want to see your Promposal! (…or your RePromposal?) We want to see all the romantic, clever, cheesy, funny, creative ways you’re asking your partner (or friend!) to ReProm! All you have to do is take a video or photos of your Promposal, then share on social with the hashtag #repromposal2020 and the following tags: Twitter / Instagram: @yycsexualhealth and @mikesbloggity Facebook: @CalgarySexualHealthCentre and @mikesbloggityblog ► Thanks to our awesome friend Mike Morrison, everyone who does a … Continued

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- Becky Scheer

Do you want to hang out with other LGBTQ2S+ youth and chat about Healthy Relationships? Come to our LGBTQ2S+ Healthy Relationships group, starting on Tuesdays in January 2020! Sessions on topics like identity, coming out,dating and mental health. To register, please email hmutch@centreforsexuality.ca.    

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- Lorna Mungur

Last February 11th-15th was Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week with the theme Sexual Health at All Ages. Now we’re preparing for 2020 and we want to hear from you! Please take 5-10 minutes to complete the 2019 feedback survey. Click here to complete the survey >>  Thank you for your feedback!

- Ross Prince

Who would have ever thought that people or organizations would be interested in learning about how sexuality changes as we age? The idea conjures up images of nieces or nephews with looks of horror on their faces, unable to stop themselves from visualizing it and begging their elders to stop talking about it. The truth […]

- Centre for Sexuality

By Laura Shiels LGBTQ2S+ Natural Supports Worker at the Centre for Sexuality, Calgary As the LGBTQ2S+ Natural Supports Worker at the Centre for Sexuality in Calgary, I support youth and their caregivers throughout the “coming out” process, the majority of which are looking for help supporting their gender questioning or gender diverse kid. Although I […]

- National Youth Advisory Board

What does being healthy mean to you? Why is it important to include young people in sexual health campaigns? TOPAZA YU lives in Saskatoon, SK. She is a woman of colour who once felt confused about sexual health and her sexual rights, and is now passionate about destigmatizing   youth sexual health. I believe that being […]

- Shelley Taylor

by Shelley Taylor, Certified Sexual Health Educator In 1998, I founded Venus Envy, an inclusive and affirming sexual health education shop. What started as a teeny tiny space in an out of the way location in Halifax ended up as two bustling store-fronts in two cities. At this point, I have been in the business […]

- Lorna Mungur

Want to send a Valentine’s Day Day card to a loved one AND support sexual health and rights? For a donation of $5 or more to Action Canada, you can send a feminist card of your choosing! We know Valentine’s Day can be a tricky one – so this is for everyone celebrating Valentine’s Day, […]

- Kate Macdonald

My name is Kate Macdonald. I’m a patient advocate and complaint doula based in Toronto, Ontario and the founder of a patient advocacy initiative called The Reproductive Justice Story Project. With this year’s theme of “Sexual Health at All Ages” in mind, I’d like to highlight the epidemic of disrespectful and abusive treatment in sexual […]

- Youth Co

Too many youth in BC are not getting the sex-ed they need to make informed decisions. That message became clear throughout the work that YouthCO has done this past year. Last winter we heard from more than 600 high school aged youth through our BC-wide youth-led sex-ed curriculum review. Two YouthCO staff members visited high […]

- sexual9

Talking ”Sexual Health at All Ages” – An SRH Week Podcast In this podcast, Brittany from Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights chats with Nadine Thornhill, Kaeden Seburn and Shelley Taylor about sexual health across the lifespan as part of SRH Week 2019! Sex-Positive Parenting and Social Justice Scott Neigh from Rabble interviews Frédérique […]

- Sarah Edo Nuance

To be from elsewhere while growing up in Canada prompts questions around “home,” diasporic longing, and nostalgia to geographies where connection is lost. When I asked friends where they first encountered sexual health resources, nearly all said they have no recollection, besides the bit of high school sex-ed they can remember that was mostly based […]

SHIFT NC mourns the murders of Black people by police in the United States. Most recently, these murders include those of Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade. We also condemn the violence against Christian Cooper. Along with many others, we are processing the life-threatening police phone call made against him in Central Park. The white supremacy that fuels this violence permeates all aspects and every sector of our society. We all must seek to understand white supremacy and the violence it causes, and, as we are able, help our friends and neighbors in their understanding.

As individual people and as a society, we must also identify our biases and look deeply at how our behaviors and policies need to change in order to stop racially charged violence and to demand the safety and freedom of Black communities. It is especially important that oppressors and people holding power – most specifically, white people – must continuously examine and confront their own racism, teach others to do so, and hold each other accountable. Furthermore, white people have the responsibility to actively build understanding, share it with other white people, and hold other white people accountable. To put this onus on Black people perpetuates harm.

Individual and systemic racism have disproportionate negative impacts on young people’s sexual and reproductive health. As advocates, we cannot significantly improve young people’s health without also ending all forms of oppression and racism, including the structural and systemic racism caused by white supremacy and upheld by cultural norms in all sectors of society.

We recognize the need for all people to grieve and process these tragedies, especially our Black family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are most affected. SHIFT NC stands in solidarity with all of you. These events strengthen our own ongoing commitment to anti-racism efforts and to uplifting the lives and needs of Black people. Black lives matter.

May is #SexEdForAll Month, a month to highlight the need to work toward sex education that is comprehensive, medically accurate, LGBTQ+-inclusive, and culturally responsive.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on young people’s ability to access sex ed. It also provides a good opportunity to examine what sex ed really looks like – and how it could look in the future. 

Listen to us talk about the impact of Covid-19 on The State of Things on WUNC. 

The Impact of Coronavirus on Sex Ed

School- and community-based sex education programs have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, leaving students without access to critical knowledge and support systems. The same social distancing designed to keep us all safe makes it impossible for school classes and group programs to meet in person.  In addition, the strain on schools, health departments, and social services agencies to pivot to more immediate pandemic needs has drawn resources away from sex ed and other health education programs.

In schools, students most greatly impacted are those in grades 7-9, as well as those in 5th grade puberty class. Many of these students will miss core knowledge provide for by the 2009 Healthy Youth Act, including basic, medically accurate facts about abstinence, contraception, STI prevention, and healthy relationships.

 In community settings, group facilitators have taken a variety of approaches. Some have tried to fill in gaps with Zoom calls and other digital check-ins. Others are waiting until groups can meet in person, noting that many participants are isolated in challenging living environments where participation might be unsafe. And, some long-time facilitators have been reassigned to help with local pandemic response.

Sex Ed Elsewhere: Finding Inclusive Solutions

The temporary halt on school- and community-based sex ed programs shifts the onus to parents, other adults, and young people themselves to access medically accurate information about sexual health. Fortunately – in the spirit of #SexEdForAll – the proliferation of online resources is far more sex-positive, inclusive, and culturally appropriate than what schools generally provide.

For parents, resources like Amaze and PreparedParent can help guide lessons and conversations ranging from the most basic facts to stickier issues.

For young people, online spots like The Playbook, Bedsider, and Scarleteen are good go-to resources to bookmark, pandemic or not.

At some point, we will all need to settle into a new normal, whether we go back to our traditional physical spaces or adjust to distancing ourselves from each other. Students cannot afford a permanent pause on sex education. As we start to reestablish programs, let’s commit to making them work for all young people.

 

 

We have been closely monitoring the spread, impact of, and response to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in North Carolina. We recognize that the virus will continue to have an impact on you, your families, and your colleagues, as well as on the systems and organizations you rely on in your daily lives.  Our goal is to continue to provide services when possible, while prioritizing everyone’s safety and well-being. We are altering some of our upcoming events in response, and in consultation with our partners and funders.    Trainings, Meetings, and Capacity-Building Services Our project managers and trainers are working with partners to determine how to proceed with trainings, meetings, and capacity-building services on a case-by-case basis. When possible, these events will be provided online. Decisions to hold events in-person are being made based on geographic location, group size, participant restrictions, and project need. For any in-person services, we are reminding both participants and trainers to follow the guidance of NC DHHS and the CDC, including staying home when sick, frequently washing hands, and increasing sanitation measures.   State of Adolescent Sexual Health Forum The State of Adolescent Sexual Health Forum scheduled for Monday, March 16, will be postponed. We are currently exploring new dates. Current registrants will have the option to roll their registration forward or have their ticket cost refunded. If you are registered and have questions or want to request a refund, contact training@shiftnc.org.   Sex Ed Storytelling Our Sex Ed Storytelling event scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, at the Pinhook in Durham, will be rescheduled for a later date. All tickets will be refunded. We look forward to presenting this hilarious and uplifting event at a more appropriate future date.   Annual Conference on Adolescent Sexual Health The 2020 Annual Conference on Adolescent Sexual Health is scheduled for May 13-15 in RTP. We are closely monitoring public health recommendations regarding events and meeting, as well as coordinating with the event venue, to make a determination about how to proceed with the conference. A designated COVID-19 page will be added to shiftncconference.org to keep participants up-to-date.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that cases of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have reached an all-time high. Here in North Carolina, these increases are alarming – and they disproportionately impact young people, especially young people of color.

In North Carolina in 2018, young people ages 15-24 accounted for: 66% of new Chlamydia diagnoses 48% of new Gonorrhea diagnoses More than a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses What does this all mean? It means that reducing STIs in North Carolina will require strategies designed specifically to improve young people's health. It can be difficult to know why STI rates increase, especially because increased testing – an essential component of keeping people healthy – can increase rates simply by identifying infections that might otherwise go unreported. However, we already know that North Carolina can do more to reduce the impact of STIs on young people. We can: Ensure that all young people have access to high quality sex education and other health information so they understand STIs and how to maintain their own health. Increase access to teen-friendly healthcare – including testing, treatment, and PrEP for HIV prevention – and build providers’ capacity to serve adolescent patients. Engage existing tools, systems, and opportunities to address STIs and identify where we need implement new strategies. Challenge stigma with both young people and adults while building awareness of the rising STI rates and strategies to address them. The pressing need to address STIs is clear. Making sure that North Carolina has strategies designed specifically to reach young people will be essential to turning STI rates around. Learn More North Carolina County Profiles: Pregnancy, HIV, and STI Rates 2018 North Carolina STD Surveillance Report 2018 North Carolina HIV Surveillance Report 

 

October is Let's Talk Month, a time to focus on the critical importance of talking about sexual health. In surveys, young people consistently say that their parents or guardians influence their decisions on sex, safety, and relationships more than anyone else - including friends or the media. 

As powerful influencers, parents have a great opportunity to share information of lifelong importance. And, although there's so much emphasis on "the talk", most parents know that talking early and often, answering questions as they come, is the way to go - whether it's names of body parts or explaining where babies come from. As kids age, though, conversations can get more complicated. That's why we've created Prepared Parent. 

Prepared Parent is a choose-your-own-adventure mobile website that guides parents or guardians of teens through conversations about sex, relationships, and safety. A few simple clicks can guide parents through explaining their values, providing factually accurate health information, finding a doctor, and tailoring conversations to their teens' identity. Visit PreparedParent.org to guide your conversations during Let's Talk Month and beyond. 

Ten years ago, our state passed two critical pieces of legislation thanks to the efforts of thousands of young people, some amazing advocates, and a bipartisan group of legislators.The Healthy Youth Act put an end to North Carolina’s restrictive and unscientific abstinence-only-until-marriage education rules and required schools to provide medically accurate sex education that includes contraception, STIs, healthy relationships, and more. The School Violence Prevention Act expanded bullying protections for students, including bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Why celebrate? It is absolutely essential that young people get medically accurate information in schools  - something only required in 13 states - and that they can have an opportunity to be themselves in a safe learning environment.   Having strong basic laws in place is only a start, though. Not every student is getting the sex ed they're entitled to. Not every student is safe and affirmed at school. We all have a lot more work to do.  Since the passage of these two bills, we've trained teachers in school systems serving more than 300,000 on how to provide sex education - everything from how to find the urethra on a chart to how to answer really sensitive questions in a room of 8th graders to how students' past trauma might affect learning. Teachers need access to more of this type of professional development! We've also trained school personnel serving hundreds of thousands of students on how to create safe and supportive school environments so that they can protect students from bullying, help LGBTQ+ students thrive, and create a safer environment for everyone.  We've also seen challenges. We continue to push back on legislative attempts to weaken sex ed in schools by cutting back on content or making it harder for students and parents to access classes.  We will continue to fight for sex ed and safer schools for LGBTQ youth so we can look forward to another 10 years of progress for young people. 

By: Madison Poupard 

Are you ready for Adolescent Health Advocacy Day (AHAD) 2019? With less than one month until AHAD 2019, SHIFT NC is gearing up for the best event to date! 

AHAD 2019 will take place on March 13, 2019, and we have an incredible program scheduled for our young advocates. Check-in will start at 8AM in Daniels Auditorium at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh. From 9AM to 12:30PM, participants will engage in programming based on this year’s theme - #YOUthLEADingCHANGE. In the afternoon, participants will travel across the street to the NC General Assembly to meet directly with legislators and share why sexual health is important to them.  

The event will feature a keynote speech from the Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Mandy Cohen. Since her appointment as Secretary in January of 2017, Cohen has been fearless in her work to end the opioid crisis, strengthen Medicaid, and enhance early childhood education. Secretary Cohen holds both a medical degree from Yale and a Master’s of Public Health degree from Harvard. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear her speak! 

AHAD 2019 will also include special performances from inspiring spoken word poets, unique perspectives from a panel of young sexual health superstars, opportunities for artistic expression, and awesome giveaways! To guide young people in their activism, SHIFT NC staff will explain the importance of sexual health advocacy and youth engagement. Participants will also learn to voice their concerns about NC’s sexual health policies to their legislators by using their personal strengths and talents. By the end of AHAD 2019, we hope our young participants will have had the opportunity to connect with other young people, express themselves in different ways, use their voices to promote adolescent sexual health, and feel inspired and empowered to advocate for themselves and young people across NC. 

We hope you are just as excited for AHAD 2019 as we are! Registration is OPEN, so be sure to register before it closes on March 6th. We can’t wait to see #YOUthLEADingCHANGE. See you at AHAD 2019! 

 Register for AHAD now!

More than 110 people showed up to support SHIFT NC for our first-ever Sex Ed Storytelling event at Motorco in Durham on Thursday, December 13. The event highlighted a diverse range of stories about how people learn and teach about sex. 

The evening kicked off with Cumberland County Health Hero Tamra Morris, who prompted riotous laughter with her tale, Sex and the #Sweetbabyjesus, an account of navigating her curiosity about sex with her religious family. Natalie Rich detailed her past career as a medical school pelvic exam model, and how student's reactions to performing their first pelvic exams often mirrored broader cultural ideas about women's bodies. Durham Academy senior Davi Sapiro-Gheiler received all the snaps and wowed everybody with a straightforward account of the lack of sex education for LGBTQ+ youth and the challenges in trying to fill the gaps.

After a short intermission, professional storyteller Ray Christian shared a powerful account of how a local child abuser interacted with children in his poor neighborhood and the trauma he inflicted. Marails Mercado Emerson shared how sex was an out-of-bounds topic in her immigrant household and how she ultimately became a professional sex educator to many - including her mother. Finally, trauma professional and founder of Complete Consent Culture, walked through how she talked to her own children about sex - trying with each to perfect "the talk."  SHIFT NC's Sam Peterson and Elizabeth Finley hosted, each sharing their own stories along the way. 

Thanks to everyone who attended, to our speakers, and to Motorco. 

In honor of Black History Month, we honored the strong Black Women working in sexual health.

We commit to continue to honor the trailblazing Black Women in our field, and we're also committed to honor Women of Color. 

We will continue recognizing those courageous women, our pillars of our community, and the institutions that are driving progress in our field--and we want to encourage you to do the same! We are highlighting the people and organizations who help drive the field - and who make a healthier, safer, more just world for young people. 

We’ll take nominations of women of color and organizations led by and supporting women of color that work so tirelessly, persistently, in sexual health. Email Tamara or Madison with your nominated person or institution, and contact information. We'll highlight the week's nominees in a growing post honoring the amazing women of color in our field. 

Nadiyah Barrow and Christina Worthington  

Nadiyah Barrow and Christina Worthington are sexual assault survivors and advocates from Durham, NC. They founded the support group Worthy Women on the campus of North Carolina Central University nearly 4 1/2 years ago. The purpose for the support group is to have a safe space for women to heal after experiencing sexual assault and/or abuse. Since then, they have created an apparel line that encompasses many items that serve as a reminder that you are still worthy of self love and happiness. It is their mission to create a culture of consent and help women reclaim their voice and their power back after traumatic incidents. 

 

 

Candace Bond-Theriault, Esq., LL.M.

Senior Policy Counsel, Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice Democracy Project Director 

Candace Bond-Theriault is a writer, yogi, lipstick enthusiast, and aspiring optimist. She is the senior policy counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice, and the democracy project director at the National LGBTQ Task Force where she works through a black queer feminist lens to create change and shift culture towards intersectional liberation. Candace received her LL.M. degree in politics and legislation from the American University Washington College of Law, her J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and her B.A. in Human Rights with a focus on race, gender, and sexuality from the College of William and Mary. Her writing has appeared in the Advocate, the Grio, SELF magazine, and the Huffington Post. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and the cutest yorkie you've ever seen. 

Carla Mena

Carla Mena received her Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from Meredith College. Currently, she works at the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research as a bilingual project coordinator, where she serves as the project coordinator of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). The NC Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Branch, funded TPPI and PREP to prevent teenage pregnancy and HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) transmission among youth, ages 13-17, in Craven County, North Carolina. 

As a strong advocate for social justice and equity, she is continuously involved in public health research projects related to minority disparities and volunteers in many community outreach programs. She currently serves in leadership roles on various community organizations dedicated to improving the well-being of minorities in North Carolina. Previously, she served as a reproductive health educator at El Pueblo Inc, which collaborated with SHIFT NC, formerly known as APPCNC, to organize community forums and conferences. 

 

Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant

Today we honor Dr. Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant, who passed this February 15.

Dr. Grant was a media psychologist, counselor, and advocate for sex education. Her Essence magazine column, Sexual Health, impacted three decades of readership. Dr. Grant earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling and behavioral science, as well as a doctorate in both theology and education.  Her career covered assertiveness training, multicultural issues, affirmative action, sexual harassment issues, elder care, stress management, parenting, human sexuality, male-female relationships, and sex-role stereotyping. She put her expertise to work for a number of Fortune 500 companies and on the talk show circuit. Her book, The Best Kind of Loving: A Black Womans Guide to Finding Intimacy, published in 1995 is still in print, as readers find her no-nonsense wisdom relevant today.

She also conducted research and studied for a year at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences at the University of New Jersey’s Medicine and Dentistry College. She was active in a variety of organizations, including the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Council of Negro Women. In the words of Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence, “Dr. Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant was an irrepressible enthusiast with a needed disregard for convention,” who was “as fly as she was fearless and courageous.”

Thank you for your strength, inspiration, and wisdom, Dr. Grant—rest in peace.

Joycelyn Elders

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology, was the sixteenth Surgeon General of the United States, the first African American and only the second woman to head the U.S. Public Health Service.

Elders did an internship in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, and in 1961 returned to the University of Arkansas for her residency. Elders became chief resident in charge of the all-white, all-male residents and interns. Her research in pediatric endocrinology led her to study of sexual behavior and advocacy on behalf of adolescents. She helped her patients to control their fertility and advised them on the safest time to start a family.

Governor Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Elders head of the Arkansas Department of Health in 1987. As she campaigned for clinics and expanded sex education, she caused a storm of controversy among conservatives and some religious groups. Yet, largely because of her lobbying, in 1989 the Arkansas Legislature mandated a K-12 curriculum that included sex education, substance-abuse prevention, and programs to promote self-esteem. From 1987 to 1992, she nearly doubled childhood immunizations, expanded the state's prenatal care program, and increased home-care options for the chronically or terminally ill.

In 1993, President Clinton appointed Dr. Elders U.S. Surgeon General. Despite opposition from conservative critics, she was confirmed and sworn in on September 10, 1993. During her fifteen months in office she continued to bring controversial issues up for debate. As she later concluded, change can only come about when the Surgeon General can get people to listen and talk about difficult subjects.

She returned to the University of Arkansas as a faculty researcher and professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Arkansas Children's Hospital. In 1996 she wrote her autobiography, Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.

Now retired from practice, she is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, and remains active in public health education.

 

Kia Thacker

Kia Thacker, MPH, has a passion for public health, social justice and health equity. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from UNC Chapel Hill and a Master of Public Health Degree with a concentration in Community Health Education from UNC Greensboro. Her specific interests are working to build the capacity of organizations to support prevention and best practice strategies and working with professionals and systems that serve marginalized youth to help all youth make healthy and informed decisions. 

In her current role with SHIFT NC, Kia serves as the Director of Priority Populations where she works to improve sexual health outcomes for vulnerable youth in North Carolina. She currently manages SHIFT NC’s Every Teen Counts Initiative, an OAH (Office of Adolescent Health) funded project that focuses on building the organizational and programmatic capacities of the Juvenile Justice and Foster Care Systems in North Carolina to better integrate evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies within these two systems. 

Kia previously worked as the Priority Populations Coordinator on SHIFT NC’s 5-year joint CDC and OAH funded project, Gaston Youth Connected, where she managed youth outreach, outreach to the most high-risk populations in Gaston County and provided technical assistance to community implementation partners. She also successfully coordinated the local youth leadership team, the Teen Action Council, which has since been sustained by the local health department. 

Prior to joining SHIFT NC, Kia worked in the field of substance abuse prevention where she planned and facilitated prevention programs in schools and communities, coordinated professional development trainings and provided technical assistance to organizations and coalitions implementing substance abuse prevention programs and environmental prevention strategies.

Martina Sconiers-Talbert

Martina Sconiers-Talbert has over 8 years of experience working in the field of public health. She is the Cape Fear Regional Coordinator for the March of Dimes North Carolina Preconception Health Campaign. As a coordinator she is inspired to share educational topics of preconception health with health care providers, adolescents and the community. She serves on multiple coalitions throughout the Cape Fear region to include the SHIFTNC North Carolina Youth Connected project based in Cumberland County.

She previously worked for Cumberland County Department of Public Health where soon became the “birth control expert” she focused on reducing teen pregnancy using evidence-based comprehensive sexual health education throughout the community. She has eagerly supported undergraduate and graduate level students in meeting requirements for graduation at various universities in the area. Martina is passionate about reproductive health and adolescent health issues. She is a proud alumna of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Walden University. In her spare time she enjoys time with family and friends, mentoring, traveling, attending concerts and various other entertainment.

DeVetta Holman

Dr. DeVetta Holman has held leadership positions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for over 30 years and has been the recipient of many decorated awards within UNC’s Student Affairs.  Her passion and primary responsibility is student success and academic achievement. In this role, she ensures that each student successfully navigates their UNC experience both in and out of the classroom and serves as a life skills coach. 

As a professionally trained health educator and primary prevention specialist, DeVetta earned her B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as her Masters Degree in Public Health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She earned her Ph.D. degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Leadership Studies.  It is her dissertation, “Perception Analytics of African American Male Students' Personal Agency, emphasizing self-concept and its relevance to personal agency in the classroom, which propels her to educate, mentor and affirm the lived experiences of historically marginalized middle school students. Her professional, community, and civic engagement all support the premise that academic achievement, critical thinking and high expectations converge to shift the paradigm in developing and molding future 21st century leaders. 

DeVetta is certified by the Drug and Alcohol Institute, the HIV/AIDS Higher Education Leadership Forum, and as a National Addiction Prevention Specialist. In addition to her other responsibilities, she has served as manager of the North Carolina Governor’s Academy for Prevention Professionals, officially recognized by the Annapolis Coalition for Innovation in Workforce Development. DeVetta has served on the Board of Directors for SHIFTNC for many years as a leader in adolescent pregnancy prevention where she has met with North Carolina legislators, community leaders, educators, clinicians, and families to adopt evidence-based approaches to teen pregnancy prevention. 

 Dr. Holman’s inspiring work with students positions her to be an asset as she provides hands-on leadership in counseling, advocating, advising, mentoring, nurturing and guiding students. Her years of professional experience as a counselor and educator, along with her genuine concern for students’ well-being, enhances the learning and living environments of adolescents and young adults.  She is member of UNC General Alumni Association.

Jamika Lynch

Jamika Lynch was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in rural Columbus County, NC.  She began her professional career as the Program Coordinator at the Columbus County’s DREAM Center, a local non-profit organization. She is a Health Educator for the Columbus County Department of Public Health.

Lynch’s loyalty to commitment to sexual health education can be associated with the reduced rate of teenage pregnancy in Columbus County.  This rate has fallen over 13 percent since her start in adolescent sexual health. In Columbus County, Lynch is responsible for the facilitation of sexual and reproductive health education to adolescents. She is continuously honing her skills to be of the best service to youth. Lynch’s familiar presence is both welcomed and appreciated among the youth in her community and her colleagues statewide.

 

Alicia Andrews

Alicia is currently working as a Youth Development Educator with Wake County’s Cooperative Extension 4-H Program, specializing in sexuality education.  As a trained and experienced Public Health Sexologist, she is passionate about educating and cultivating an environment where sexuality education methods and comprehensive programming is adopted and integrated into traditional sectors. With a Public Health Education degree from NC Central University and a Master of Education degree in Human Sexuality Studies from Widener University, Alicia has merged her love of public health education and the complex support of sexuality studies.  She loves planning programs and events that are effective and relevant for all populations.  She also enjoys talking about the things that people do not want to talk about, SEX and SEXUALITY. 

It is with this passion, she is motivated to expose the community-at-large on how sexuality impacts total well-being through holistic, sex-positive strategies and methods.  Alicia has 10 years of experience working in the Public Health/Sexual Health field as a programmatic expert, developing and implementing community education for youth and adults.   Alicia was honored to be one of the few called to execute the vision of her mentor, Tanya Bass, during the inception of the North Carolina Sexual Health Conference, serving over 400 professionals in 2016 and 2017.  In addition, Alicia has provided her expertise to assist with the planning and consultation of other statewide sexuality-themed conferences and social health events.

Alicia recognizes the unspoken need for quality sexuality/sexual health education and professional development opportunities in NC, and the Southeastern region of this country, which has prompted her to execute her vision of operating as an independent consultant in this field. This new venture will allow Alicia to work toward executing her vision to engage communities by navigating courageous conversations to address sexual health disparities, which impact the public's health and sexual well-being.  Alicia's goal is to normalize the conversations related to sexuality and motivating the community to recognize the importance of understanding and applying the knowledge that one's total well-being is impacted by the comprehension of their sexual beingness.  She continues to live by her undergraduate alma mater’s motto, “Truth and Service”.  She is committed to educating the communities and being an asset to those in need, on all levels.  Alicia hopes her work will be able to free people for the bondage of oppression and lack of knowledge.  She believes freedom lies in the power of communication and knowledge.  Her philosophy is to “be free of ignorance, be free of fear, and be free to love with a side of compassion”.

Donna Oriowo

Dr. Donna Oriowo (Oreo-Whoa!) is a keynote speaker, clinical social worker, sex and relationship educator and therapist in the Washington D.C. metro area. Dr. Donna is the owner and lead therapist of AnnodRight, whose mission it is to help others reclaim their sexuality, identity, and self love by being their most wise, free, and authentic selves in addressing intersectionality, culture, and race in educational and therapeutic settings. She loves books, unsalted pretzels, penne pasta, great quotes, travelling, doing therapy, learning, and teaching. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Annodright. OR you can always visit her (day or night) at www.AnnodRight.com

Gabrielle Evans, MPH, CHES, and Shemeka Thorpe, MS, of The Minority Sex Report.

In Case You Don’t Know: “The Minority Sex Report is a space for people of color to have conversations about sexuality freely. Our goal is to provide representation in sexuality education.” 

Shemeka and Gabrielle fearlessly facilitate workshops and presentations on a variety of salient subjects such as Consent, Sex-Positive Approaches, and Black and Native Women’s Sexuality. Their audiences are online and IRL, and are as diverse as fraternities, faith-based communities, and physicians. Both women bring an acuity and sense of humor to our challenging efforts, and for this, and the thousand other great things they do, we honor them. We continue to be inspired by and in awe of their work. 

Michelle Reese

In Case You Don’t Know: Michelle is our Director of Clinic Improvement Services, whose work in HIV/AIDS won her 2017’s coveted Red Pump Award for her efforts to raise awareness and education in the community. 

Michelle continues to bring her expertise and educator’s eye to her work, from mobilizing teen pregnancy prevention efforts in Gaston County to improving clinical services for teens and beyond. She has more than 22 years of experience working in adolescents reproductive health issues. While working in Gaston County, she worked to reduce the impact of HIV by providing counseling and testing, and by managing non-traditional HIV testing programs, reaching people in nightclubs, hotels, and other community settings. She followed that work by leading community mobilization efforts to reduce teen pregnancy through the Gaston Youth Connected initiative. Michelle has served as a master trainer with the North Carolina School Health Training Center for 19 years, and has mentored sexual health young professionals for 12 years. We honor her for her steadfast efforts to improve the health of young people, and the ability of communities, educators, and clinicians to support adolescent sexual and reproductive health. 

Tanya Bass, Southern Sexologist

In Case You Don’t Know: With over 20 years of public health education experience, Tanya Bass is a subject matter expert in the areas of minority health, pregnancy prevention, HIV/STDs and reproductive/sexual health. She is a tireless advocate for reducing health disparities. She is an alumna of North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Department of Public Health Education, where she has served as an adjunct instructor for the past 15 years. Tanya is working towards her doctoral degree in Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University in an effort to identify and bring attention to societal and environmental factors impacting sexual health and sexual behavior. She is a highly requested trainer, facilitator and mentor. Tanya Bass is illimitable - truly someone who continues to trail blaze through the sexual health thickets of North Carolina: we honor her!

Want to nominate someone - or yourself? Contact Tamara or Madison . This project is coordinated by Tamara Robertson, MPH, CHES, Capacity Building Specialist - Foster Care System, Madison Ward Willis, MPA, NC Youth Connected Community Coordinator, and Sam Peterson, Marketing and Outreach Specialist. 

SHIFT NC is seeking presenters for the 2018 Annual Conference on Adolescent Sexual Health, scheduled for May 17-18 in RTP, North Carolina. The conference draws more than 250 youth-serving professionals who are seeking top-notch content on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The 2018 conference theme is Blazing the Trail: Sustaining Progress and Exploring New Territory. 

Proposal Instructions and Application Materials

Submissions are due by January 26th, 2018. 

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Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and for many it’s a wonderful time of romance and love. Unfortunately for others, it can be a poignant reminder of certain performance-related difficulties. Flowers and chocolates are great gifts that every woman loves, but wouldn’t it be nice to take things one step further, just like you used to?…

- stlmensclinic

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  • Health Connected
  • Morethan sex-ed
- Patricia Suma

Before a Health Connected educator walks into a classroom, we do a self-check of sorts. Like all humans, we have our own personal values and biases which have to be examined before we begin discussing sexual health and relationships with students. Moreover, we have to be conscious of the limits of our biases, which is not always easy. An article published this year in Teen Vogue, “Transgenger People on What They Wish They Had Learned in Sex Ed” by Syd Stephenson prompted me to reflect on how my

- Abigail Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

It’s hard to know how to express my feelings about the state of our country at the moment, namely the pandemic of racial injustice that has been laid bare, yet again, for us to see in all of its awfulness. Many others have spoken eloquently about the perpetual institutional violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. I echo their outrage and sadness about the continued injustices - large and small, those that shatter our headlines and those that are experienced in silence daily.The

- Health Connected Staff

Updated June 25, 2020We have moved our full Distance Learning FAQs here. Read below for a brief overview of our distance learning questions.Just like most schools, Health Connected has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Since shelter-in-place orders went into effect in mid-March, our team has been hard at work adapting our in-person programs and services for distance learning. Read on for more information about how this might impact your school, district, family, or student.

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

Dear friends, A few months ago, when we selected the theme for our annual fundraising luncheon, we landed on Finding Power in Connection. Little did we know how relevant these words would be now, as we learn how to connect in entirely new ways during the shelter-in-place orders. When we originally came up with the theme, it was about the idea that in an increasingly disconnected world there is power in connection. An essential part of Health Connected's work is to build that connection and

- Hannah Brown, Senior Health Educator

Today is Day 15 of the shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area, a policy implemented to slow the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been over two weeks now since I have physically been in the classroom; my workdays are now spent navigating virtual educational spaces and digital tools that will allow me to teach remotely. And after a long day of working from home, what does a cooped-up health educator do with her free time? Like many lately, I opt for a closet clean-out! Not only is this one

- George Eloïse Hosein, Teen Talk High School student

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be sheltering in place due to a COVID-19 pandemic and talking to you about how I really liked my sex ed class, I would have laughed. But, here we are. My name is George Eloïse Hosein. I’m a 15 year old Freshman living in Menlo Park, CA. I was educated with Health Connected curricula in both 5th and 7th grades in my private school. Those classes were taught by my English teachers, and I mainly remember the classic anatomy lesson and a condom

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

Dear friends of Health Connected, As I write to you today, I am mindful that many of you are currently grappling with navigating life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who has been part of the Health Connected community, I want to let you know how we are finding our way through these difficult times. As you are probably aware, nonprofits across the United States and locally are being heavily affected by the current circumstances. For us, the rapidly-changing nature of COVID-19

- Abi Karlin-Resnick, Executive Director

What does “inclusive” mean when it comes to sex ed? For the last several years, Health Connected has put particular focus on LGBTQ-inclusivity to ensure that students of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel included, reflected, affirmed, and safe in our curricula. But LGBTQ-inclusivity is not the only set of identities that we want to be inclusive of. Every student arrives in the classrooms with identities informed by their class, religion, ethnicity, family immigration experience,

- Kelly McNinch, Health Educator

Penis! Vagina! Sex! Oh my! The dominant discourse about sexual health education in the U.S. is often boiled down to giggly conversations, embarrassing anatomy lessons and condom-sheathed bananas. But at Health Connected, we understand the importance of treating sexual education like a living, breathing, ever-evolving creature in need of constant updates. This summer, I worked alongside two student interns– a high school senior and a university fourth year– inspiring me to reflect on the current

- Hannah Brown

If you follow current affairs in the U.S., you have probably heard the phrase “unaccompanied immigrant minor” many times over the last few years. The Trump administration’s focus on the issue of immigration has intensified public discourse and left many immigrants feeling uncertain about their future prospects in the United States. At Health Connected, we serve a diverse cross-section of students across the Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area by delivering in-class instruction on puberty and

- Emmalinda MacLean

Wow. What times we are living in. Our hearts are with you, whatever you are grieving or fearing; whatever you are celebrating, if not the way you had hoped. We’re wishing you all a happy pride month; rest assured it doesn’t take a big glittery rainbow parade for us to be proud of all our beautiful LGBTQ siblings and all of their courage, resilience, and joy. We are especially proud of all those activists and organizers centering the movement for Black lives in this year’s pride celebrations: none of us are free until all of us are free.

- Jill Herbertson

Robin Darling, Advisory Board Member, has been involved in sexuality education for over two decades. She began her career in the field as a peer educator for Planned Parenthood during high school. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego (2004).

- Emmalinda MacLean

Today marks our company’s first cancelled sex-ed classes of the Coronavirus outbreak. We are working to figure out, along with our client schools and the rest of Los Angeles, what we can do to help prevent the spread of illness and care for our communities—below are a few early thoughts; feel free to share yours.

- Emmalinda MacLean

Nothing makes us happier than hearing from the students themselves that our classes make a difference, and we are delighted to share just a tiny sampler of the notes, drawings, and thoughtful questions that made us smile. 

- Jill Herbertson

Thanksgiving is coming! Grammy, Grandpop! Aunties, Uncles, Cousins! Yay! We love those big, boisterous family and friend gatherings! Hugs and all the feels throughout the winter holiday season! Yay! Right? Of course we want our kids to have warm and loving relationships in our circle of friends and family. Of course we want Auntie Lou and all our venerable elders to feel honored and respected at these important get-togethers. But,

- Alicia Lagano

Imagine you’re transgender-gender nonconforming. TGNC individuals, specifically teens, struggle with the fit of clothing. They have no place to shop for finding clothes that genuinely fit them. This is a problem!

- Emmalinda MacLean

I’m turning 32 tomorrow, and all I want for my birthday is for children to learn about consent and bodily autonomy.  You can help make my birthday wish come true by clicking on the link here and purchasing this beautiful and empowering read-aloud for a child in your life, or a school in our community! 

- Emmalinda MacLean

newsletter 201902 em intersections.jpg

Our culture is flooded with messages about sex, bodies, gender roles, relationships, and power: children are absorbing them from an early age.  Without a trusted source of accurate information, these messages become many people’s only sex education.  What messages are your clients receiving?  Which ones are you sending?

 

All adults who work with youth should have training in healthy sexual development.  That’s what More Than Sex-Ed is here for.  Whether you are a social worker, health care provider, teacher, counselor, camp director, youth pastor, or anyone else who cares about teens, we can help you develop skills to communicate openly about sexuality, while holding crucial boundaries.  The youth you serve need well-informed and supportive adults they can trust.  Join us for our Sexual Health Education Training at Antioch University, March 15-17, to gain the knowledge, tools, and resources you need to be ready when they need you. 

Register Now for Mar 15-17 MTSE at Antioch

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- Emmalinda MacLean

As we look towards a bright future and a hope-filled new year, I want to share with you some “detail shots” looking back on this year’s classes, and the wonderful students we have the joy of working with.  Curious, courageous, compassionate young people like these give me all of the hope for the future.  Let me start with a scene I’m grateful to have witnessed many times over:

- Emmalinda MacLean

Our core purpose, in one sentence, is “to nourish healthy sexual development through honest conversations”.  Our company’s core values are: * Respect and curiosity for the complex and beautiful diversity of human sexuality * a culture of inclusion; * personal responsibility; * and honesty and accuracy.