Being back in school is challenging. Academics are HARD, yo…at least for me! There’s a whole-lot of learnin’ to do and keeping on top of everything isn’t easy. Luckily the part where I love what I’m doing makes the study load feel a little lighter. It’s tough, but kind of in a good way because I feel I’m being pushed in the right direction.

I’m also being stretched emotionally, which is something I didn’t necessarily expect. Our professors don’t just give us factual information, they make us get all introspective and work on ourselves. Seriously! The faculty have this bizzarro philosophy that self-awareness will help us become better, more compassionate professionals. Whazzup with that?

Here’s an example. Sexuality educator and counsellor, Reece Malone (from Winnipeg! Canada represent!) led a seminar on gender variance and diversity. Before his workshop, I’d assumed that I was a super-cool, mega-enlightened kind of gal who didn’t have any trouble embracing the reality that not everyone’s gender is defined their genitals. But then Reece came along with his brilliant teaching that forced me to go beyond the rational, think-y part of my brain. He made me examine my emotions and gut reactions. And it became pretty obvious pretty fast that as much as I want to be the person who’s totally fine if her little boy decides he wants to be girl, I’m not quite there.

Below is an assignment our class was given. In bold are the prompts from Reece, followed by my answers. Doing this exercise forced me to face the reality, that I definitely have some prejudices around gender identity.

(Warning: This gets kind of long. Bear with me, okay?)

When I meet a person on the street whose gender is unclear to me, Iimmediately feel flustered. Despite my intellectual beliefs, I often find myself scrutinizing their face and body, looking for clues about their gender. I have to consciously remind myself that a stranger’s gender is none of my business, has no effect on my life and to stop staring.

If someone I’ve known for a long time told me that they used to be another gender, I…react differently depending on what they look like. If their body or presentation has characteristics of another gender, I might be less startled. I’ve had this experience with a few long-time acquaintances and my first thought was something like “Ohhhh…it all makes sense now.” But someone whose look is completely in line with my concept of what a person of that gender looks like, might surprise me with their confession.

What I do when I am talking to a student/client/person whose gender is unclear to me, isif I don’t need to know, I generally don’t ask and I try to avoid making any gender-specific references in our conversation. If I think gender will be relevant or it becomes relevant in the conversation, I usually share my preferred pronouns in the hopes that it will encourage them to do the same.

When someone says they are neither male nor female, I…become self-conscious about the language I use around gender. I begin to think very hard about certain phrases I tend to use like “opposite sex” or “boys and girls”. I try not express to that person how awkward I feel, because I feel that’s my issue, not theirs (but I worry that they pick on my awkwardness anyway). I also feel guilt. I wish I was as accepting emotionally as I am in my head.

What I think about the statement “people are neither men nor women” is…that isn’t true. I think ignores the identities of people both trans and cisgender who feel very strongly that they are men or they are women. I believe men and women are the genders that are validated and acknowledged in our society and I believe we need to create space for all the other gender identities that exist, but there are people who are men and women.

If a friend wanted to have genital surgery to present more as a woman I…would ask them how I could support them. I love my friends and I want them to be happy. I honestly don’t feel that surgery would bother me. I think I’d be most concerned that they felt loved and accepted and I’d want to make sure they knew that I cared for them.

My reaction to a trans person who does not “pass” as the gender they are presenting is…that it’s fine. I don’t have to prove that I’m a woman. They shouldn’t have to prove their gender either. It is likely I will slip and use the wrong pronouns, so I’ll be apologizing a lot!

If my parent told me they were going to start to present as the opposite gender than I had known, I…would be really surprised. I think my first impulse would be to tell them that I loved them. Knowing my parents, they’d be deeply hurt if they thought I no longer cared for them. I’d be afraid that they would experience rejection from other people in their life, so I certainly wouldn’t want them to feel any from me. That having been said, it’s hard to imagine my mom as a dad or my dad as a mom. I’m fairly certain I’d also be sad. I’ve known them both my whole life, so to watch such a significant part of who they’ve been for me change or disappear would be really tough.

My current thinking about the reasons some people are trans and some are not is…I’ve never thought about it. Being cisgender, I’m rarely challenged to think about why my gender is what it is. Now that I am thinking about it…I still don’t know. I’m not sure that I personally feel a great need to seek out a “reason”. I just feel it’s important that I learn to sincerely accept people as they truly are.

I think the relationship between being trans and mental health is…profound. I can only imagine the emotional pain of living with an identity that many people don’t understand, acknowledge or accept. I also guess that the continual threat of rejection, or worse, violence could cause severe stress. Because many in our society refuse to embrace gender diverse people, I can understand why they are at greater risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression and have a much higher rate of suicide. That is part of the reason I feel so strongly that I need to keep working on my own prejudices and to take part in whatever work needs to be done to create a trans-inclusive society. Everyone has a right to be who they truly are and to thrive with that identity.

The first time I met a trans individual I felt…ashamed. During the first few encounters, I thought they were a man who was coming on to me. I didn’t like the attention and kept my attitude cool and distant. Eventually she confessed that she was biologically male and transitioning to female. She had identified with me as another woman and was trying to reach out. The shame came from knowing that I had pulled away from someone who simply wanted friendship. Once I realize what was happening, I also felt a bit of pride that she wanted me as a friend. Despite my early behaviour we did eventually become pals.

When someone tells me they may be trans, I question…I don’t know that I question, but I’m curious as to what they are feeling. I sometimes ask, “How are you feeling?”

If my child tells me that his/her best friend may be trans, I think…That I need to speak with my son, find out what his understanding of trans is and help explain anything he’s confused or concerned about (assuming I have the answers). I would also tell my son that he should ask his friend what name/pronoun they like, to use that name and model the behaviour by doing the same thing myself.

I think people who…react violently towards transpeople, refuse to use a person’s preferred name/pronoun, who ask questions about a person’s genitals or how they have sex, who claim that gender identity is inappropriate to discuss with children, who ask “are you a girl or a boy?”, who make disparaging comments about trans identities, who refuse to work with or hire trans people, who insist that trans people conceal their true identities…are transphobic

When I was younger I thought trans people were…women who were born men and had penises. The first depiction of a trans person I ever saw was in The Crying Game and for a long time, that was my only point of reference. I assumed there were also men who were born women and had vulvas, though I had never heard of or seen any. I don’t think I knew surgery was an option, beyond maybe breast implants for women.

If my child came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…excited. I love my son and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but before he was born I always dreamed of having a daughter. So I think my very first thought would be, “Yay! I have a little girl!” But I would very quickly start to worry. I would worry about how best to supporting her and helping her navigate her new identity. I’d be terrified about the bigotry she could face and how it would affect her self-worth. And when she was older, I would worry a lot about her facing violence when she was out in the world.

If my partner came out to me as a trans woman/man I would initially feel…concerned. My partner is the most important person in my life. I know how much he loves me and I know how frightening it would be for him to reveal something he thought might end our relationship or worse, drive me away. I know he’d need support. I think my first impulse would be to reach out as his best friend. But with time I would probably be angry. I might feel like I had been cheated out of a husband. And I think I would be profoundly sad. I love my partner the way he is now. If he came out as trans, I’d feel like I’d lost him even though internally she was the same person. Finally, I think I’d feel guilty. Because with any other person in my life, I think sooner or later I’d be able to accept the change and love them all the same…but I’m not sure that I could do that for my partner.

If my brother/sister came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…I don’t have siblings, so I honestly don’t know. I’m thinking about how I would feel if it were my best friend, who’s been in my life for thirty years. I think I’d be surprised but of all the people that are close to me, I suspect that would be the easiest coming out for me to accept. But with time I would…probably feel a lot of responsibility towards them. I might become a little overzealous in my attempts to be supportive. I could totally see us having a conversation where I’d start asking about their transition, their feelings about their transition, what I could do to help their transition and they’d turn to me and say, “Shut up! What Not To Wear is on!”

Yeaaaaah. I doubt I’ll be winning the Nobel Prize for gender acceptance any time soon. But at least now I know where some of my prejudices are and I can think more clearly about how they might affect other people and how I can work to change my attitude. Hopefully that will make me a better educator and maybe a nicer person.

I invite you to consider some of the Reece’s prompts – they’re great food for thought. And if any of you are so inclined, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments.

 

This past weekend I made my way down to f Los Angeles to attend Catalyst Con West, a conference dedicated to the wonderful world of sexuality. I’ve wanted to check a Catalyst event for awhile now and being that L.A. is a short flight from away, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out.

CCon Badge

Flashin’ the badge!

How was it? Phenomenal!

Being at CatCon was like attending awesome summer camp but with hotel rooms instead of cabins and the buzz of vibrators instead of mosquitoes. I played games, made new friends and by the time it was over and by the time I left, I had grown at bit. I learned so much, enough to fill several blog posts. Those are coming but for now I’ll review some of my CatCon highlights. Believe me there were many!

GAGS AND SWAG

Next time I go to CatCon, I’ll bring a bigger bag. I was not prepared for the generosity of the conference sponsors. I came away with two beautiful new vibrators, including the much lauded We-Vibe Thrill. Another fave is was Nature Lab’s maple-scented lube.  This Canadian gal is here to tell you that they nailed the aroma. Now I’ll have nice reminder of the True North during frisky times!

SEX-LEBRITY SIGHTINGS

Keynote speakers (L to R): Tristan Taormino, Jackie Strano, Yosenio V. Lewis, Shira Tarrant PhD and Sinnamon Love.

Keynote speakers (L to R): Tristan Taormino, Jackie Strano, Yosenio V. Lewis, Shira Tarrant PhD and Sinnamon Love.

I had the opportunity to meet so many of sexuality heroes. Charlie Glickman, whose thoughts on sex-positivity have shaped my own. Tristan Taormino, one of my favourite porn performers, producers and authors. Carol Queen, one of the most influential sex-positive feminists of all time. And Nina Hartley, who starred in many of the first feminist porn films I ever saw.

I also met Sinnamon Love. I wasn’t familiar with her work in the adult entertainment industry but after meeting her and hearing her speak, I did some Googling and girlfriend is an adult-film superstar! She is also one of the most intelligent, articulate women I have ever heard speak on the subject of sex work. After making her acquaintance this weekend, you best believe I’m a big  Sinnamon Love fangal now!

TALKING THE TALK

The talks I attended at CatCon were full to brimming with ideas and information that I can use to become a better educator, business person and sex-positive advocate. By the end of each day, my fingers were cramped up good from furious note-taking. But it was worth it. I’ve got a Google doc crammed full of great stuff! I didn’t get to every session I wanted to attend (Note for next year: look into cloning options), but such is life.

I’ve now got a bug in my brain about giving my own at a future CatCon. Given what I heard, I’ll have to bring my A+ game.

FRIENDLY FACES

Chatting with the sexuality big-wigs is a thrill and a honour. But there’s nothing that fills the soul like forming new friendships – especially warm, funny, accepting, amazing friends. These are just a few of the folks I met. I highly encourage you to check out the wicked work they’re doing. And if you have a chance to make their acquaintance, do it- you’ll be very happy you did!

Sex Texts

Queerie Bradshaw

Darling Propaganda

Think Banned

Bondassage

Sex Positive Parent

The Ramblings of Zoya Lynne

BONUS BUILDING!

I also got to build my very own vibrator! For reals!  It’s a nifty little number from Crave, with a special design that maximizes genital sensation, while minimizing that pesky hand numbness. It’s also waterproof. I should know. I tested it myself.

Vibe Building_1

My tools :-)

Putting it all together...

Putting it all together…

 

The finished product! (Shout out to my building buddy, Zoya!)

The finished product! (Shout out to my building buddy, Zoya!)

 

So, that was my weekend. A great time and the perfect prelude for this weekend, when I begin classes for my PhD. Wish me luck? It’s been a looooooong time since this gal’s done the school thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My departure from Ottawa is at hand. But first I have to make sure all my sexy essentials are packed and ready to ship out west. Check out the vlog below for a peek at my favourite books, toys and of course my box o’ porn!

It’s no secret that anxiety has affected my sex life in a major way. It’s hard going at times, but I get by with a little help from my friends. My good pal, Natalie Joy also lives with an anxiety disorder. She dropped by the Adorkabode and we had some great girl-chat about living and loving with a mental illness.

 

Time to get my head on straight!

Time to get my head on straight!

After twenty-three years of chemical straightening I’ve returned to my natural hair texture. HUZZAH!

If you have the time and the patience, bear with me. Those of you who’ve read my previous post on the subject, know that I’ve got some major feelings tied up in this hair bid’ness. My shrink already has her hands full with all my other neuroses so this long, rambling blog post serves as stand-in therapy on this issue.

After years of ambivalence, I was motivated to make the change once and for all, when The Man of Mans and I began planning our move to California. One of the first things we had to figure out was we how would afford life in a pricey state on a single income while carrying the cost of my return to school.  We had some major trimming to do budget-wise,  so we began by making a spreadsheet of all our current expenses. When we added up the cost of all of my salon appointments, including taxes and tips, I was spending close to $1500 per year to relax my hair!

DAAAAAG!

Fifteen hundred dollars could cover our moving expenses. It would pay for my books. Fifteen hundred dollars would take of all my long-distance bills to friends and family. For fifteen hundred dollars, I could attend three national conference. I could buy the family a new computer. I could take my son to a major league baseball game every weekend,  enroll him in an amazing summer camp or we could take a family trip together. There were so many other uses for the money I was spending on relaxers.

It wasn’t worth it.

I’m happy to spend money on my personal care and grooming. But having straight hair hadn’t felt like an investment for quite sometime. It didn’t make me feel good, figuratively or literally. The terrible sting of chemicals on my scalp left me feeling ashamed and resentful. I was straightening my hair, not because I because it made me feel beautiful but because it made me feel safe, inconspicuous. Relaxers made my head uncontroversial. Appeasing others at my own expense is not the person I want to be. But the memory of hurtful things people used to say about my natural hair still loomed large. I was scared.

I realized that this was probably one of those situations where I’d have to face my fears in order to get past them. It was time to invest my money and my energy into better things. I cancelled my next standing appointment at the salon. I was going natural! I felt strong and empowered…for almost ten whole minutes.

Then I panicked.

It had been so long! I didn’t really remember my natural texture. I didn’t know what to do!  Did I just let it grow? Did I need a weave or wigs? Special products? New shampoo? OMG, what?!

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that my head wasn’t going to break out in nappy curls that second. With the exception of some faint kinking at the roots, my hair was still straight. I literally had to grow into this change, which meant I had time to figure stuff out.

I went to the Internet and Googled something like “RELAXED TO NATURAL OMGHAIRFLAIL!”  Bam!  A myriad of websites, blogs and vlogs about the wonderful world of natural black-people hair.

I knew of women who went natural by doing what’s know as The Big Chop. Essentially it means cutting off all your relaxed hair at once and re-growing it from scratch. That scared the crap out of me. My hair wasn’t spectacular…but I needed it. Otherwise, I’d just be a head and face which…ACK and…I couldn’t and…NO!

A second Google search revealed that going natural without a Big Chop is totally a thing. I could let the natural texture grow in while doing “mini-chops” every few weeks to gradually remove my relaxed hair. It would take a long time – a year, maybe two – to rid myself of all the processed hair. It would also be far more challenging to maintain the health of two radically different hair textures. But the alternative was super-short and that was NOT EVER HAPPENING. So I got myself a pair of trimming scissors and settled in for the long transition.

It took about ten weeks before I really started to notice a substantial change in my hair. My new growth was dense, extremely curly and kind of coarse. Managing my naps while the rest of my hair was straight was tough. My hair started snapping off at the place where the two textures met (typical during transition). I started styling my hair in flat twists and up dos. The styles keep my fragile hair reasonably protected and help conceal some of the transitional awkwardness.

Something I heard time and again from women in the natural hair community was that changing my hair was an emotional journey and I might be surprised by what came out of the experience. That was totally true. I would vacillate from one emotional state to another: fear, excitement, fear, joy, fear, fear, pride, fear, absolute terror, fear, wonderment, fear.

One day, I was in the shower, washing my emerging coils and I thought ‘I like these.’ It was nice and very new not to feel at odds with the kink. Suddenly I was overcome by curiosity. I really wanted to see what that hair would looked like all on it’s own. I got out of the shower, found my scissors and cut the relaxer off a discreet lock of hair near the nape of my neck. Once they were free, my natural strands popped back toward my scalp like a tightly wound spring. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘that’s my hair.’

I wanted that hair and only that hair. But I was still terrified of The Big Chop. It was too drastic. Yes, it would grow out eventually but it would take months, years even to regain any significant length. What if I looked awful in the meantime?

Yet every time I put my hands in my hair my curiosity grew. What was going on up there? The darn relaxer was in my way, distorting my texture and altering my curl pattern. I began trimming more aggressively. I cut off more near my neck. I went back to YouTube and watched videos of other women who had big chopped. Many had been afraid going into it, but they all seemed so happy once it was done. I began to think maybe, just maybe I could do it too.

Of course I’d have to find someone to do the chopping. It was one thing to self-cut small sections of my hair but no way could I shear the my entire head without making a hash of it. I didn’t want to see my old stylist for fear they would try to talk me out of my natural plans. After careful consideration, I asked my mom if she would do it during my next visit to her place. She instantly agreed to help, because my mom is lovely that way.

But even after I made the decision, I still had a great deal of anxiety about having super-short hair. (This is where I get a little heavy. I appreciate that you’ve stayed with me this long. Hang in a little longer, ‘kay?)

I was worried about what others would think. But when I told people my plans, I received an outpouring of enthusiastic support. My partner was uber-excited for me. My friends sent me pictures of women rocking short, stylish afros. I certainly didn’t have to worry about being shunned by my loved ones.

I was very concerned about the fact I didn’t know what I’d look like. A super-short style would change the dynamics of my face, even my body and who knew what the results would be. I might be less attractive. And then it struck me, in a super-clear moment of disempowering shame that thought of being unattractive, scares the crap out of me.

I legit love clothes and make-up and all that look-y look dress up stuff. I adored styling my dolls as a little girl and now that I’m grown, I’m like my own doll, except way better because I’m not plastic. I’m a real person with thoughts, a heart, a soul and a life. Score!

But even though I enjoy clothing and grooming myself (in ways that are very much line with conventional notions of femininity) I also feel I’m expected, if not to attain, to at least strive toward certain beauty standards. I should want to be pretty and if I can’t be, I should feel badly about it. There are times when I really do feel that my right to be seen, to be heard and to take up space in a room is proportional to my perceived level of attractiveness.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I constantly hear people, especially women apologize and castigate themselves because they’re the “wrong” size/shape, because they lack the expected adornments or because they’ve committed some other perceived offense, which basically amounts to “I Had The Audacity To Be Out In The World Looking Like What I Actually Look Like”. I want to tell them to stop saying those things. Sometimes I do. Which might be helpful but I realize it’s also hypocritical. The truth is I struggle with those same feelings and I know I’ve buckled under the weight of those expectations more than once. I do feel, at times, that beauty is my obligation and making myself attractive is a major clause in my contract with the rest of society. I feel like I’m always expected to care about how I look or that being pretty is something I’m supposed to want.

Except it isn’t true. It’s pervasive and I feel it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a big pile of toxic bullshit crapping all over my self worth. It gives me feelings; feelings that are very strong and very real. But the truth is, I can choose to take beauty off my list of priorities and that is totally okay.

I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago and sat down to have a serious talk with myself. I said to myself, Self…

That is some toxic nonsense! Don’t make choices based on toxic nonsense. You know you have value, no matter what you look like. This is your body and your hair and you’re allowed to do whatever you want to do with it. If you don’t love the way short hair looks on you, that’s okay. You can still love who you are. So get over yourself, Nadine. It’s just hair.’

My real self-talk wasn’t nearly that Hallmark-ish,  but the gist was there. I felt more courageous about The Big Chop. And even though I’m kind of embarrassed that I needed courage to get a haircut, that’s honestly what it took. Don’t judge me too harshly, okay?

It took two decades of hair trauma and six month of transition but I’m finally learning embrace my hair, as is. I’m becoming reacquainted with my kinky, nappy head and you know what? I really am happy I did this! I’m newly minted naturalista and I’m happy to report that so far life post-relaxer is great and not so scary.

Not so scary at all.

IMG_6298

 

Photo Credit: James Glover via Compfight cc

Confession:  I haven’t been having much sex lately.

I know that many people experience ebbs and flows of libido. Mine has been in a prolonged period of ebb…long enough that I know there’s some underlying cause. What is it? I’ve been thinking about it. A lot. The Man of Mans and I have talked about it at length. I began writing about it a few times, then back out.  Truth is…I was embaraased. I was afraid to admit that despite all of my professional experience, when it comes to my own sexual issues, I don’t have the answers.

I don’t know anything. I don’t know for certain why I’m less inclined to sex these days. But I’ve cobbled together a working theory that it’s related to some changes go beyond what happens in my bedroom.

Two summers ago, I was hit by the sudden onset of depression. I didn’t understand it. My life with brimming with great things. My marriage and my child. I was playwriting, blogging and working a dream job in sex ed.  I was training for a half-marathon, keeping a full social calendar and enjoying the company of dear friends. There was so much awesome, I barely had time for more than four hours of sleep a night!  It was tiring, but it was worth it!  I was doing it all and I pulling off…until, I wasn’t.  Suddenly, I was breaking down. Neither my body, nor my mind could keep up with the pace I’d set for myself.  I became strangely sad and withdrawn. I was overcome by  fatigue. I didn’t understand what was wrong, but I knew I needed help.

Fast forward to the present. I’m lucky. I’ve been able to access great support through doctors, a therapists and loving community of friends and family. I’ve done a bunch of self-exploration and made few subtle but profound discoveries. I realized the jammed-packed life I was leading was the manifestation of a life-long habit of multitasking and flitting from one activity to another.  I’ve always felt the need to keep my mind super-busy.  Not in the lofty sense of being an avid learner or great thinker, but as protection. I don’t cope well with quiet or stillness. As I kid, I was always buried in books, pretend-play, projects and anything else that would keep my mind occupied. I never wanted to stop, because when I did,  feelings would come.  Feelings I didn’t understand, didn’t like and didn’t know how to deal with. So I learned to avoid them by creating endless distractions.

I still have the same struggle today. When I’m not immersed in an activity, I’m forced to stop, to think and to feel things I don’t like. Stillness is pretty intimidating prospect for me.

When I look at my sexual history, I see those same behaviour patterns at play.  Sex was always best for me when there was a lot going on. Constantly stimulation. Deep, involved fantasy.  A lot of noise. Anything too slow, too quiet or too tender created a prime opportunity for those uncomfortable emotions to break through.  Getting into the deep feels during naked time always left me feeling way too vulnerable to do anything other than cry. And crying was definitely not on my list sexy things.

But thing thing is those uncomfortable emotions are there.  Like every one else on earth, I’ve been hurt and battle-scarred from life. For a long time, distraction was easier than dealing with the pain. It’s still easier. But I’m beginning to realize that just because it’s easy and familiar, that doesn’t mean it’s good for me. I’m older . My frenetic habits are taking a bigger toll both physically and psychologically. This all started when I was a child. Back then I didn’t know what else to do. Now I’m a grown woman and I can deal with my shit.  I can take care of myself.

I’m trying. I try to quiet down and let the pain do its thing. I’m not very good at it. My busy-making impulses are part of who I am. More often than not, I fill my head and my life with stuff that block out the pain. But I do manage the occasional moment of stillness, where I sit and breathe and let those deep-down feelings float up through all my mental floatsam to the surface. It’s unpleasant. I get anxious. Sometimes I cry.  Still, I find I don’t hate it as much as I once did. These past couple of months, I’ve started wanting that quiet confrontation with my pain. It’s yucky but when it’s over, there a peaceful moments and I feel a little happier.

I think these experiences might be affecting my sex drive.  I suspect my desires  around sex are changing. These days I’m less inclined towards the busy, somewhat frantic glut of sensation I used to want. I’m interested something that’s a little calmer, less rooted in fantasy and more connected to the present reality. But at the same time I’m intimidated by that prospect. It’s new, beyond my present comfort zone and my body is holding back a bit. I suspect this is one of those situations, where I need to tread slowly into new sexual territory. “Be gentle” with myself, as my shrink likes to say. I’m trying, but it’s hard not feel like there’s something wrong with me or that I’m failing on some level.

I definitely don’t feel like a sex expert in my own life. This stuff is HARD, yo!

Yesterday evening, I took some time to meditate. It was a rough-shot attempt, but it did sometthing. Feelings were triggered. Tears were shed.  When the crying stopped, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I was wanting sex with both my partner and myself. My libido hasn’t left me. It’s just changing. It’s a shit ton of stuff to figure out.  But it’s my job to take care of myself, so I’m willing to patient and give myself the time I need to figure it all out.


It’s International Women’s Day. In honour of the occasion this week’s question is:

Who are the amazing women in your life?

I feel blessed by the abundance of super cool gals in my life. Each deserves a blog post of her very own and if I had the time to write them all I would. For now, I’d like to give a special shout out to the women of my family. Wonderful people, each of whom has helped shape me and sustain me as I stumble through this obstacle course called life.

My mom. My chattiness, my love of bright colours and my need for control all come from her. Sometimes we butt heads but at the end of the day it’s the little things – like her support of this blog – that let me know she’s always on my side. I love you, Mom. Without you none of this would be possible – literally.

My mother-in-law defies every stereotype associated with the role. She is warm, smart, honest, supportive and a ton of fun. She managed to build an impressive career in education, while has raising three exceptional, accomplished children. She is a tremendous role model and one of my dearest friends.

My sisters-in-law are pretty impressive gals too. The older is a doctor, the younger a lawyer. My “big sister”  is kind, funny and good everything from medicine, to mothering, to writing and words (she kicks my ass at Scrabble every time!). My “little sister” could run the world and we’d in very good hands. She’s brave, strong and loving. Their girls are very, very lucky to have these women as their mothers.

And speaking of those girls…let’s talk about my nieces. Four women-in-the-making. Four BIG loves in my life. Not only is my twelve-year-old niece a gifted athlete, she’s also kind, responsible and an all-around beautiful person. The eight-year-old is feisty, spirited and perhaps most clever kid I’ve ever met. My three year old niece is a charming, little storyteller, eager to regale the world with tales of all kind. And the one year old is an adorable baby muffin with bright eyes and a smile. They are the four best girls an aunt could hope for.

And Steph. The sister of my soul. We’ve been together since we were seven years old. She’s my oldest friend, my best friend and she knows me in a way that no one else can. When The Bean was born, I asked her to be his godmother. Though neither of is religious, I couldn’t think of anyone better to be my child’s moral guide through life. Steph’s sense of fairness, justice and equality are tremendous. She reads all the books. She knows all the sports. And you can tell me there’s a better best friend out there…but I won’t believe you!

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about the wonderful women that make your life awesome! The comments are open. Happy IWD, everyone!

 

The other night my pal stepc brought my attention to the following news item via Twitter. It’s a quick read but if you’re pressed for time, the gist is this:

Cathy Sanders, the mother of a 13-year-old Nanaimo boy objects to the distribution of an animated flip book in her son’s grade 8 class room. The book, produced by Catie.ca and distributed by AIDS Vancouver Island features an explicit demonstration of a woman putting a condom on her erect partner’s penis and having sex with him.  According to the article, Ms. Sanders is pissed about the graphic nature of the pamphlet and the fact that it apparently upset her kid quite a bit.

(If you’d like to see for yourself, check out Ian A Martin’s latest blog post.  He turned the flipbook in to a pretty nifty animated gif. As I said, it’s graphic, so exercise necessary discretion when clicking through.)

I have to admit that when I first read the article, my initial reaction was ‘Bah! It’s not that big a deal. Cathy Sanders is uptight, overprotective and blowing this thing WAY out of proportion!‘.  I even composed a tweet to that effect. But as I looked over my 140 characters snark, I thought, ‘Hold up there, Judgey!‘ . Sanders may be affronted by flip-book sex but I have my own set of biases…

  • I am building a career predicated on the belief that frank, open and explicit communication about sexual health and pleasure are a good thing. Not everyone shares that belief.
  • I’ve worked in the sexual health/pleasure field for several years. Graphic depictions of sexstuffs have become normal and commonplace for me. This isn’t the case for most people.
  • I’ve spent the last three years of my sex education career working with youth. I know that many teenagers are sexually aware. I’ve become extremely comfortable with the reality that teens may be sexually active and may have sexual partners. But sexual readiness comes at different times for different people. Just because many of the youth I’ve encountered have been interested in sex that doesn’t mean this woman’s son felt the same way.

I’m also biased because I’ve spent a lot of my career advocating in favour of sex education for youth that goes beyond the telling them how sex will get them pregnant or sick. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy defending against the type of inflammatory rhetoric that calls a museum exhibit pornographic or claims that comprehensive sex ed curriculum will “teach kids how to have anal sex”.

So I read the article and because of my biases, my first impulse was to get defensive. But then I thought a little more. I thought, ‘This woman probably loves her son and wants what she feels is best for him.‘ I thought about how it might feel to be confronted by your troubled child and a cartoon erection if you weren’t expecting either of those things. I thought about parents and the type of messages we’re given about the role we’re supposed to play in our children’s sexual education.

I don’t feel the pamphlet was pornographic nor would I say that it was categorically age-inappropriate for 13-year-olds. But it may have been age-inappropriate for this particular 13-year-old, or at least unsettling. And when I stop to consider his mother’s position I do feel some sympathy for her. ‘Cause in my experience, parents are primed on exactly three types of sex talks: The Birds, The Bees and The BasicsYour Body Is Going Through Some Changes; and finally Only Have Sex When You Are Ready (You Are NOT Ready!) Son, Let’s Talk About This Naked Flip Book And Why It’s Bothering You, isn’t in the parents’ sex talk playbook. For the most part, we’re told it’s our job to dissuade our kids from having sex. So while I disagree with Ms. Sanders’ characterization of the book, I can sympathize a bit too.

As I was discussing this article on Twitter and later with The MoMs, I realized that as much as I talk and teach about sex, I rarely talk about sex education as part of parenting. And I think I need to change that. Yes, I have a certain level of factual knowledge. But how to convey that information to my son? I know my role when I walk into a classroom or workshop. What is my role as a parent?

Like most parents, ultimately I want my son to grow into a healthy, happy, decent human being. I know that as an adult his sexuality will most likely affect that health and happiness. But what do I say? How do I impart my ethical belief that everyone has the right to make their own choices about their own bodies, when my parental instincts are already hollering at me to MAKE HIM WEAR A CONDOM!?

If he chooses to be sexuality active, long-term I want him to enjoy those experiences without shame or fear. But if it turns out he’s straight, there’s a reasonable chance I’m going to ruin is early dating life by screaming “DON’T GET ANYONE PREGNANT!” every time he’s with a girl.

I want to tell him that he should have sex when he feels ready? But if he asks me, “Mum, how do I know when I’m ready?”, I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if that’s my question to answer.

All of this to say, that it’s hard. Parenting means flying blind most of the time, especially when it comes to sex. I guess this blog post is my way of sending out a signal. Tell me, fellow parents, how do you feel about sex-educating your kids? Do you have fears, issues you feel ill-equipped to deal with? Do your emotions and the instinct to protect your young ever clash with your general belief system?

It’s sobering to realize how quick to judgement I can be. It can be far too easy to position myself as the enlightened sex expert in these situations. But while our boundaries may differ, Cathy Sanders is probably a loving, well-intentioned parent who found herself in a situation she probably didn’t know how to handle. I can sympathize with that, because I’ve been there…and I will be again.

Aaaand…we’re back!

As I mentioned earlier, The MoMs, The Green Bean and I took a quick trip down to San Francisco.  Spending time in the Bay Area is always a pleasure, but we also had much business to take care of, namely scoping out neighbourhoods, looking at homes and meeting the locals.

By now, many of you know (and the rest of you have probably guessed) that come June, the family and I will be leaving Ottawa and moving to San Francisco!

Actually, it looks like we’ll be moving to Berkeley, where a slightly less expensive rental market will afford us an extra bedroom for guests. It’s a pretty happening city in its own right and a short BART ride away from its sister across the Bay. We spent the bulk of our time Berkeley this week and the friendly people, bountiful markets and vibrant night life were seductive indeed.

Why the move?

I decided several months ago that I wanted to continue my career as a sexuality educator. To do so, I knew I’d have to further my education. After a lot of research, discussion with colleagues, discussion with mentors and discussion with my family, I decided to I would apply to begin graduate studies in Human Sexuality this fall. The program that best suited my needs was the The Insititute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, located smack dab in the middle of San Francisco.

The family I and briefly considered the distance option, which would have meant travelling from Ottawa to San Francisco for two to three weeks at a time, every four months. It was doable, but the more The MoMs and I thought about it, the more we realized that that much time apart was going to heap a ton of extra stress and work onto both of our shoulders – something that neither of us wanted.

What we wanted was to spend more time with each other and with The Bean. We wanted a break from some of the obligations that have us both a bit bogged down. The MoMs’ brother and his family recently made a big move to Australia. It was a risk leaving their very established life behind, but the fresh start has done them a world of good. The MoMs and I began to wonder if a new beginning might do us good too. Both of us love San Francisco. Nice weather and the opportunity to be outside in sunshine year-round would undoubtedly be good for the Bean. The MoMs could work there. I’d have access to some of the best sexuality resources and experts in the world. The more we thought about it, the more we realized heading out to California was a no-brainer. So we’re going.

The plan as it stands now is to go for a least a year. I have very strong attachments to Ottawa – especially the family of friends I’ve made in the almost fifteen years I’ve lived here. I also see that there’s a real need for sex positive resources in our city. Eventually I’d love to come back and continue working as a sexuality educator here in the capital. We’ll see what life has in store.

So that’s the jam. There’s a triple-long list of to-dos to get done before we pull up stakes. While part of me is champing at the bit to start this new adventure, I know the next few months are going to race by and I know I’m going to miss the shit out of Ottawa once we go. So I will enjoy the time I have left here, while I look forward to a new set of experiences and the chance to cross item number 8 of my 40 Before 40 off the list!

I’ve found my way onto the talk show circuit. One show…that counts as a circuit, right?

Jesse Reynolds is a performer, local media personality and connoisseur of all things fabulous. We met years ago as fellow actors and formed an instant friendship. Sharing the stage with Jesse was such a blast! When he invited me to be a guest on his new show From Zero to Jesse, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Check out the episode below! Jesse and I chat about embarrassing sex stories, a real life fruit ninja and a few fun toys. We also put musical guest/best dressed man I’ve ever met, Danniel Oickle to the test in The Gay Electric Chair.