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Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit Recap.

WARNING This Post may contain links that may take the reader to adult themed websites.  We discuss sex, sexual freedom and personal sexual expression in this post.  NO sexual images or content are hosted on this site or this post.  LINKS NSFW with exceptions.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way……

Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit was amazing, exciting, and informative.  I must say, one of the best conferences I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many.  I have to stop and say though if it were not for Tantus I would not have been able to attend.  They hosted a scholarship for admission via a Twitter contest.  I entered and happened to win!  Thanks TANTUS!  I owe all this to you!
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Now,Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit (SFS from now on), is held in Virginia by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. ” The Sexual Freedom Summit features human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, professionals from the legal and medical fields, authors, sexual freedom movement leaders and organizational partners all working toward the time when sexual freedom is fully recognized as a fundamental human right.  This Summit is for EVERYONE interested in learning about the issues in the realm of sexual freedom, advancing their current knowledge and in gaining the tools to actually create the change we need to accomplish.” And advance my knowledge they did.
Woodhull's Sexual Freedom Summit

Friday I arrived in time for the lunch break and I got to catch up with friends I had not seen in some time.  Of course I did some networking with new folks and made connections that will hopefully bring new and exciting opportunities for all of us in the community.  (More on that another time.)  It became apparent quickly that I was a little fish in a new, large, expansive ocean.  Most of the people I was meeting had LOTS of letters and titles behind their names.  I became pretty aware that I was in a new class of conference.  None the less, I was treated fairly, and on par with everyone. At no point did anyone talk down or act as if they were “dumbing-down” the content or conversation for me.  It was ok to stop them and ask to have something explained or expanded in detail to make sure I understood it.

As the classes got started for the afternoon session, I was torn on what to go to. There were so many exciting classes it was difficult to choose.  Finally I settled on Sex, Laws & Videos: Legal Updates from Woodhull’s Free Speech Advocates (#SFSLegal)
Presented by: Luke Lirot, Lawrence G. Walters, Esq.  This class was not all legalese and lawyer speak.  It was a real world look at how the current laws are affecting sex work and sexuality across the US and where the laws are heading.   I’ll be doing a recap blog post of each of the classes I participated in (with exception of one). This class had lots of great insights into the current state of laws and sex.

Next I went to the Friday Keynote.  Keynote: From Slacktivism to Meaningful Action: Using Tech to Fight for Freedom Presented by: Aida Manduley, MSW, Trina Scott, Cindy Lee Alves .  This was by far one of the best keynotes I have even been to. This group of women from the Women Of Color Sexual Health Network presented this in a way that made me think, made me uncomfortable (in a good way) made me open my mind to view things differently, and then made me cry with the empowerment of a people. This was inspiring and incredibly powerful.   Thank you WOCSHN!

After the Keynote it was dinner and social time mostly.  There was a carnival themed dance and entertainment, but after being awake since 4AM for my flight, I was in no shape to stay up and party.  I crashed out at about 10:30.

Up early in the AM on Saturday for a 3.5 mile run on the treadmill.  It was a run day and there’s no cheating on run day, even if I’m traveling. So up,  run, and grab some breakfast before the first set of classes.   Breakfast was provided by one of the sponsors,

First class of the day, It’s Different for Men: Masculine Victims of Sexual Assault (#SFSAssault) Presented by: Sebastian Sprague M.Ed..  This is the class that I will not be posting a blog entry / review on other than what I say here.  We discussed the effects and causes of sexual assault on men.  Men as victims and why most men don’t come forward to report abuse and assault. Patriarchy, misogyny, and macho-ism.   Systems that harm women, also harm men.   This was a very good class and discussion . We asked that the specifics of our time together be kept confidential.  However personal statement will not be included.  Not even my own.   I did take some photos of the presentation which we were told we could share so I may post those with a bit longer description. This class set the tone for my Saturday however, exploring uncomfortable topics.

A short coffee break, sponsored by Chaturbate.  and then back to the learning and brain work.

 

Decolonizing Sex Positivity – Re-thinking Inclusivity (#SFSInclusive)
Presented by: Sonalee Rashatwar, Nafeesa Dawoodbhoy .  This was  a very interesting introspective class that really left me thinking about all the ways we colonize things in our lives.  It challenged the thought that things are like my experience everywhere.  That just because I see the world like X doesn’t make it so. And in order to be truly accepting and inclusive we must accept that another’s view of the world is not only different, but also equally valid as our own, at times even more so.  I have said it in classes about other things but its the idea that Different is no more right or wrong, it is only different.  Of course there is a lot more to it … and Ill expand in my post about this class.

This brings us to the Lunch break that was catered by the hotel and provided by the conference. I could not believe that the day was already half over.  As I joined everyone for the Vicki Recipients’ Roundtable Luncheon Presented by: Carmen Vazquez, Scout, Kenyon Farrow, Carol Leigh AKA Scarlot Harlot, Megan Andelloux, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Yea, its a round table and the award recipients will most likely speak that part I got. What I wasn’t expecting was the level of impact that these award winning social justice warriors have had on the community over all and specifically in their areas of work.  Remember I am a little fish in a big new ocean.  I’m used to local level organizers.  This is where it began to strike me just why I was here.  More about this epiphany in my detail Round-table post.

After the round-table I was in brain overload.  I had so many concepts and thoughts sparked alive that morning, I needed a break.  so I wandered around, played a little Pokemon Go, went to my room and vegged out.  A nice, much needed break.

As the next round of classes was getting ready to begin, I felt a lot better and decided to head back down to participate some more.

The class selection was again challenging, but I saw one that looked very interesting.
Just Don’t Talk About It: The Current State of Men’s Sexual Health, Expression, and Exploration in the United States (#SFSMen) Presented by: David Mandell, Dr. Andrew Siegel, Paul R. Nelson, CCMA, Robert Heasley, PhD, LMFT, Leo Donato . These men and the way that they talked about mens health, they engaged and questioned beliefs and explained issues in a way that was, beautiful.  These men were well educated on their topic, they have good resources and sparked a lot of conversation.  My biggest take away from this class can be found here on my twitter. “When educated about sex from porn you aren’t learning how to have sex.” Men learn how to fuck.  But not how to have meaningful, loving sexual intimacy. More in my SFSMen Post coming soon!

After SFS Men it was again dinner time.  The day was almost over.  Other than the nighttime entertainment and dance later on there wasn’t much more to be done.  I wandered here and there caught up with some new friends, watched some of the Olympics, talked about relationships, ate cheese and bacon fries at the bar…  it was a good time.   I decided to head up to the room and pack my bags.  My 615 Flight meant I once again had to be ready to go at 4AM to the Airport.  Sheesh, will I never learn?  LOL  But I digress….

The evening party time was more award presentations and acceptance speeches from activists.  One of whom made a remark that was so impcatful on me it it is still ringing in my ears today…  “Bisexual erasure by the LGBTQ community isn’t even a microaggression- it’s a macroaggression. Why are there still LGBT organizations that are run only by L or G people? Why aren’t there bisexuals at the helm too?” –@Scoutout   Scout’s story is amazing as well.  But he makes a good point…..

I headed to bed about 10:30, settled in and had everything ready to go , set the alarm.  As I lay down, my brain starts processing everything I have taken in this weekend.  ALL AT ONCE!  I am racing with ideas, topics for discussion, new classes, blog posts… DAMMIT BRAIN SILENCE   I must sleep…  11 comes and goes, still wrenching my brain as it hits a new idea.  11:30… then 11:45.  I am finally able to stop it and that’s when it hits me like a ton of bricks.  You are here to experience the next level of activism.  You are here to see what a national organization can do to affect change, and support different communities while promoting a single root cause.  You are here to be inspired.

Not a day has gone by yet where I have not done something related to my experience at SFS.  Be it a blog post., Facebook outreach, building new workshops in other cities, reaching for our brand, starting new recognition programs, or just a thoughtful conversation about sexuality as a human right. SFS16 lit a fire under me and in me that I hope isn’t extinguished, ever.

I am again very thankful for the opportunity provided to me by TANTUS for the Membership and by Relationship Equality Foundation for paying my travel expenses. Thank you to the amazing presenters, speakers, moderators that lend their knowledge to this conference.  Thank you to the Organizers, staff and board of WoodHull.  This was a life changing experience.
If you would like to support more individuals having these types experiences, perhaps even yourself, then I highly recommend joining REF as a supporting member today.
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Catching up- You Me Her.

Hiya folks,

First, let me apologize for my absence.  Life has been pretty busy the last few weeks.  I am preparing to take and pass the CAPM exam this Friday.  Additionally,  Atlanta Poly Weekend is right around the corner and its all hands on deck planning team for that.  Also I have a family that wants to see  me and I need some me time every now and then.

Speaking of ME time looks like that’s what Izzy is going to be doing ….

So recapping quickly if you aren’t current,  Izzy went to Jack and Emma’s to try and patch things up from the whole bit where she scared the crap out of them emotionally.   ANd ends up doing it again.

Izzy,  who is truly head over heals in NRE with Jack and Emma,  is exhibiting classic NRE behavior or reading a lot into what’s happening, moving with emotions and not thinking through her actions.  And Jack and Emma,  being more seasoned in the long term relationship application of principles, seem to be moving with a fun and logical approach (in their eyes) to the decisions,  EVEN though those decisions do not take Izzy’s feelings into account. They don’t see that.  Until it’s too late and Izzy is hurt. They are confused.  And everything is upside down again.   This is where/how it becomes problematic in Poly relationships.  I think the show gets this right.

Izzy has been hurt a few times in quick succession and is scared that she is making huge mistakes that will end up ruining her life.  What’s a person to do?  Go Home.  Yep back to the safety of Mom and look for the guidance that was there as a child.   I understand this response.  There were many times in early poly days I wished I could run away from it all and find wisdom…..  But I didn’t have anywhere to run.  Izzy at least has a safe harbor to return to, clear her head, and then decide if this really is something she wants to pursue.

This show really highlights a phenomenon that happens a lot in the Poly community.  Where a couple has one set of expectations and a 3rd person comes in and has a different set of expectations. ANd the couple is looking out for the couple’s best interest (jobs, community standing, peer acceptance, etc)  and the 3rd individual just wants to be a part of something that they feel is really satisfying. In real life it isn’t always as fast a 7 days like it is in the show, although I have seen it move that quickly.

There is a lot of growth from this in the poly community as of late .  The focus is moving from couple centric thinking and practice to  an individuals right to choose what is best for themself.  In doing so it is really helping to circumvent some of the problems that come into poly relationships with regard to hierarchy and power exchange.

I kinda wish they had more time to put into the show to highlight the resolutions styles that the people are using.  But hey its a first season sitcom,  what can I expect.  A LOT more communication takes place than what they are able to show in the time they have allowed.  And sometimes, its not as pretty as TV would depict it.  Don’t get me wrong, this show isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs, however,  conversations go more like “The Morning After” a lot more frequently than one would think.  ESPECIALLY early in the relationship building period.

I want to bring to light one thing that I haven’t touched on yet… Jack and Emma,  they still have the same problem they had before Izzy came into the picture.   Granted they are having sex,  but they didn’t do anything to FIX that problem… All they did was introduce a distraction from that problem.  ANd that is how they are treating Izzy as well, as a distracting, treatment for an underlying issue that they both are contributing to.  Polyamory, is NOT a cure for a hurting relationship.  I think Jack and Emma have some personal issues that they need to work on before they can be individually healthy enough to move into a full Poly relationship.  Jack is insecure and unsure of himself,  Emma feels alone and without support from her partner of many years.
IN MY OPINION.  Relationship problems = People Problems.  I don’t care what kind of relationship one is in….. If it has issues, problems or isn’t working the way it was when you started,  and nothing has changed,  may want to take a deeper look into ones self,  chances are you will find where that change occurred inside.

Only one episode is left in this season and we haven’t heard if there will be a second season or not.  I’m really looking forward to seeing it.  its going to really sum up my whole thought process on this show.  Up to this point I really think the show has done a fairly accurate representation of how ONE style of Polyamory is initiated.  Something to remember is that there is no one true way for polyamory.  There isnt a cookie cutter design.  Polyamory is best practiced as individuals making connections with other individuals.  Even if those individuals are in other coupled or non coupled relationships.

Thanks to John Scott Shepherd  for putting together a great show. And also for mentioning my reviews in an interview.  I am happy to provide feedback and glad you like what you are hearing.  Also thank to the YOU ME Her Social media team for engaging with us on twitter and facebook.  I look forward to getting my umbrella soon!   I wish there was more time to get you all to come to Atlanta Poly Weekend this year.

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Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016 ( Preview)

Well, its that time of year again.  In just 2 weeks Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016 will be taking over its new hotel home.  Yep , if you hadn’t heard they are moving to a new venue this year.  The new home for #APW2016 is the Sheraton Downtown Atlanta ! APW is excited for this move as it indicates growth, change, and expansion.

Along with the new hotel,  lots of other new things are happening this year, the most presenters they have ever had, 30 as well as, the most new presenters they have ever had, 18!  That’s over 50% NEW FACES teaching classes.  But of course they brought back your favorites from previous years. Some of the presenters listed include, Tikva Wolf (Kimchi Cuddles) Dr. Eli Sheff, Joreth, Bettie Bullet, Amanda Anatra, Ricci Levy, and  myself.
Classes this year have been extended to 1 hour 30 minuets, so plan accordingly. They will have a 15 minuet break between classes that should help with restroom times and stretching the legs.

New events happening this year include a Pool Party (pack your swim suit) in place of a dance.  Organizers have said the dance has been poorly attended in years past so they wanted to try something new.  The Pool party will be on Friday Night from 7-10Pm.  Make sure you are there for all the fun! Also this year brings back the loved game of Match Game against Humanity.   This  is a mash-up of the traditional Match Game, and CAH, where the staff choose the Black cards out of a deck of CAH for the questions,  and the panelists answer with their own made up white card answers. It is a lot of fun.  Not one for the kiddos though.

Classes look really interesting this year, as usual.  APW really prides itself on not only the amount of classes they offer, but the quality as well.  With classes ranging on topic feom Asexuality, to Yoga, to communication and coming out,  you name it I think they have it covered.  With this year a night time Adult track of topics restricted to 18+ years old.  See the full line up and descriptions here .

In addition to all the new programming that APW has this year, never before have this many community organizations been represented at APW.  over 12 different organizations have come out already to support this wonderful event.  They include, Relationship Equality Foundation, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, NCSF, Atlanta Poly, AID Atlanta, Lost n Found Youth, Relate Con, and several more.  Its amazing to see this much support for the event that started so humbly 6 years ago in the basement of  a hotel.

With all this awesome going on, I ask you will I see you there?  If you have not already bought your tickets,  go now and get them HERE Badges are only $60.00 per adult. Meet some of the best presenters, activist and advocates in the Poly Community,  learn skills and expand your minds view on different topics, make new friends,  but most importantly, have a good time.
Ill see you June 3-5 2016 at Atlanta Poly Weekend!

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Leadership, Education, and how we are seen.

Had a few thoughts today on Polyamory leadership, teaching, and the way educators are viewed by those who they teach. As well as a nugget of thought I have been mulling around. And this probably applies to many areas of instruction, however, since I am a poly educator, I will stick to my own yard.

1> Poly educators have it all figured out and don’t make mistakes.They have perfect poly lives.  And all the answers. 
In reality, We make as many mistakes as others or already have made the mistakes we are teaching about. We teach the lessons we learned to hopefully give others the foresight to avoid it or at least see it coming and how to navigate through it. We aren’t Preventative Maintenance technicians.

2> Poly leaders / educators are sometimes seen as “Great wise people on the mountain”.
In reality, we are normal folks, we have not been gifted this great knowledge from on high. Most, if not all, of what we know we lived. We screwed up, and we learned from it. Knowledge is knowing what you did, Wisdom is not repeating the mistake. Some of us have a greater desire to learn new and challenging concepts.  Others just wing it.  Some of us read all the books as they come out, others of us just try to live our live as authentically as we can.  There are many guides to poly/ non-monogamy,  but there is no one true way to get it right.  But there are lots of really easy ways to screw it up.

3 Poly problems = (typically) People Problems. Many times I hear people say… ” Poly didnt work out for me because I/they was/were too jealous”
Here’s the deal, If a person has people problems, (Here is the really important part) AND THEY DONT ACKNOWLEDGE AND WORK ON BEING A BETTER PERSON> they will have a much harder time in not only Poly relationships, but also mono and non romantic relationships in general.
My poly life got better when I addressed the issues I was facing internally.

Finally I want to close with a word of advice for those who may be looking at going to classes….  If you haven’t ever heard of the person presenting , do your homework on them.  Look them up on the web, ask other poly people if they have heard of them.  There are more and more people getting into teaching classes as ” experts”  Im not an Expert on polyamory.  Dont claim to be.  People have called me one, but I am not.   An expert is someone who knows everything about a particular topic/subject.  I dont believe such a thing can exist in polyamory.  There are too many styles of relationships.

Here come holidays, here comes family…. UGH!

WIth the holidays coming up quickly I wanted to put out a bit of early advice .  I get asked every year many times over, “How do I tell my family that I am Poly?” and “Should I come out at family holiday gatherings?”

The answer to the first question is complicated so I will skip it for now.
The answer to the second one is an easy one for me…. No.   My reason is as follows.  There is so much stress and so many opinions at holiday dinners that most families won’t have the emotional reserves to process all the information that they will need to to fully accept you for who you are. So standing up and making this huge announcement, while admirable as your intentions may be,  can backfire and be a horrid disaster.   There will also be a lot of questions in most cases.  So will you have the emotional reserves to deal with that?

I suggest that IF you want to tell your family that you are poly you follow these few steps.  and do it well before or a few days after the holiday gathering.  This is the long complicated step of the first question.

  • Step 1. Gather Information that will help each family member relate to you and not to your relationship.  Include things that they know you hold as core values.  Be it Family, kids, self acceptance,  what ever defines you as a person in their eyes,  focus on that in your discussion.  Have flyers, definitions and sources of scientific research and mainstream media articles and maybe even videos available to share.  But remember not to force them to watch it just have it available to leave with them.  ( I will link a few resources at the bottom of the post)
  • Step 2.  Know what you are talking about.  It sounds simple, I know, but sometimes in emotional conversations we can get caught up and forget where we are going.  It’s ok to have note cards or sticky notes or draw it out on a white board, whatever can help you say focused and on point.
  • Step 3 Start with the most accepting family member first.  This way you can build  a support network. Maybe your sister, brother or cousin are really close to you.  Having this support going into more conversations is huge.  Being supported gives you strength. But also talking to a more open minded person can give you the confidence and practice you need to talk to more family members .
  • Step 4.  Never start with “Family member,  I know you love me/support me,  but I need to talk to you.”  This can immediately put whoever you are talking to into a mindset that you have done something they will not approve of.  Instead try, “Family Member,  I have something new in my life I would like to share with you.”  And IF they are open to hearing about it… that’s when you can set up the rules of the conversation.
  • Step 5.  Setting conversational boundaries.  This can get dicey .  Afterall you are opening up…. but how far you are willing to open up is completely up to you.  If you don’t want to talk about a particular thing,  don’t.  You are talking to your cousin, and you have told them that there is something you want to share with them…. Next,  perhaps say… something like.. “The thing I am going to tell you is a personal decision.  I will be open to any questions but please let me finish first.”  Most people are actually willing to do this.  If not then they likely won’t be very supportive to hear what you want to say.   I’m not advocating to be rude here.. SImply saying standing up for oneself is the important thing.. this is about you.
  • Step 6. Start talking.  Try not to blurt it out unless you are really comfortable with your self and the person you are talking to.  “I’m Polyamorous”  can be sort of a shock/stinging moment for most people who are unfamiliar with the concept.     Try a softer approach.  ” Ive been dating this person and they are really awesome.  Additionally I met this other person and they too are awesome.   Im dating them both and its all working out great. Its a relationship style called Polyamory.”   (your situation may be slightly different but I think you see what the aim is.) Here is a chance to define it. Define it as you see it.  however if you need a definition this works well  “Polyamory has been defined as the philosophy and practice of loving more than one person at a time with honesty and integrity.” Who can argue with honesty and integrity?
  • Step 7 You can explain a little of how your dynamic works, dating, time sharing, coping with jealousy  whatever you want to share about your relationship.  After all, its this awesome thing and you want to share it. CAUTION Don’t share anything that you aren’t comfortable being asked about in the Q&A phase of this conversation.
  •  Step 8.  Q&A   Renegotiate the boundaries of your conversation…. If talking about your sex life is not something you don’t want to do then now.  This is best done by saying , “I am open to questions about anything I have just told you. ”  If they ask a question that is off the table .. politely remind them that that is outside the scope of the conversation.  ” What about Sex? DO you sleep with both of them”  (This is  very common first question from family and if you aren’t willing to answer it you can easily say  “Well, our sex life is private”  or  ” That wasn’t part of anything I divulged to you earlier, so for now its not something I am comfortable sharing with you.”  Another approach is to give them all the details.  They asked .  LOL  This is not really something I recommend.
    There will be some tough questions. If you have children, they will ask about the interaction with the kids.  A common questions is ” WHat does your boss think”   My answer is ” It’s none of his business what I do at home so I dont really care what he thinks” .  But I’m a smart ass at times.
    My best advice when answering questions is to be as honest as possible.  It highlights one of the tenants of Polyamory, Honesty.    Offer the resources  share the knowledge you have … SHow them you arent alone in what you are doing. There are literally millions of Poly people around the world.
    If they are unaccepting and want to bash your choice,  you have every right to get up and walk away.  You don’t need to argue with them …  leave the resources on the table and tell them “thank you for your time… This is my decision.  If you have any questions Ill be happy to talk.” The politely walk away.
  • Step 9. Remind them that you aren’t trying to convert anyone nor are you judging monogamy, that this is your decision to manage your life .  You are still the same person that they knew before you told them this.  If you want them to keep it to themself…  Ask them to do so.  Let them know that you may need their support when you go to the next family member.  That you would really like to have this conversation with everyone, but you will doing it over time with each person who needs to know.   And that you support them in their decision of _____-gamy. And that you appreciate their willingness to hear you .
  • Step 10 Celebrate with your family.

I hope this little guide helps.  When we came out to our family, we didn’t have the choice to wait.  My father-in-law had passed away and our partner, J, then of 2 years insisted that he was coming to the funeral.    We had to talk to my Mother in law the day before she laid her husband of 30 years to rest…..  that we were poly.  Luckily her response was positive.  And J was accepted as part of the family .    The family even asked him to participate int he flag ceremony.

Here are some resources to information that may help you.
Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality- Polyamory
More than Two- Poly Resources
My Poly Family
Loving More Poly NonProfit Resource