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!
Tantus

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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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!

So , I made Playgirl Magazine!

Scratch that off the bucket list. No, I wasnt a model. But they did use my picture. In fact they used the Picture of 3 of us. It was a story on Polyamory and its growing numbers. There were a few things I didnt like about it.
One, it was a Whitewashed Middle Class viewpoint. Granted we are talking about Playgirl Mag. There was however lots of opportunity to connect the author with POC groups. Whether there was any interest from those groups is yet to be known.
Two, Calling it a “Craze” and using terms that in many ways cut the movement’s strength and direction as something that may be around as long a parachute pants. A fad if you will. Even though the people interviewed had all had long lasting Poly relationships and talked about the movement and its direction.
Third, and most selfishly, the Picture they used of us was TINY! Lol i know page size, format, yadda yadda. But everyone else had a more distinct photo.

So not that much bad about it. I think over all it was a good story. It did talk about a lot of the concepts and directions poly people are coming from . Well enough of me.. Here read it for yourself.

PG068_074-077Polyamory

Our Poly Family.

http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/lifestyle/true-believers-one-big-happy-poly-family-n127396

A few months back we did a news story with NBC Universal. They came and spent 36 hours with us . Cameras, mics, schedules, being followed to Starbucks and restaurants. It was truly an experience. One that made us all very sure we never wanted to be on reality TV. LOL This was enough.

The producers and cameraman we very professional, caring, and conscious of the people and the story that was to be told. To them I say Thank you. Amna, and her team I am truly grateful to have worked with such professional folks.

So I will just put the link for video here for all to watch. enjoy and share.
http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/lifestyle/true-believers-one-big-happy-poly-family-n127396

Coming out Poly.

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I talk to polys all the time who are deathly afraid of being out to even their closest friends; let alone anyone in the family or at work.  I always tell them this same thing… ” Why do you think they wont like you any more? What has changed about who you are? Nothing”  SO I offer advice and talk about all the different reasons to be more visible and ways to come out. Remember there are different levels of out and how out you want to be can and will likely change as you move through life.Hopefully in this post I can offer you some of these things. Lets start by listing the most common reasons for staying in the closet and what we can do about them. . 

  1.  I could lose my job/kids/home. – This is a real possibility in some states, especially the south.  How ever more times than not this is not the case.  A good Employer should be more worried about job performance than the are with your home life.   Courts are looking at the well being of the child not your relationships. If they find no evidence of neglect, abuse etc they walk away ( i know of 3 cases in GA personally, one was mine) 
  2.  I’m afraid my family will disown me. This too can happen especially if your family is closed minded. However a lot of times family members, like others, dont understand and a little education and the right timeing can make all the difference in the world. 
  3. I dont want to rub it in anyone’s face.  And you arent unless you are a real jerk about how you are out. Most people will be supportive or at the very least, neutral about it.

These are the top 3 reasons I hear.  If we look at the reasons people keep anything in the closet, Poly, Gay, kink, illness, etc the main driving force is that they dont want to be judged by others for the differences.  That is really what it all comes down to.  So how then do we come out and not be judged?  That is really the hard part isnt it.

I have a few suggestions.

First, my wife says it best  ” You don’t have to wave a banner to carry it.”   By that she means there isn’t a need to shout from the roof tops, draw attention and make a scene, but rather by living our lives quietly and openly we can make a big impression.  Show those around you that you are still you there is just now one more part to you they know about.  

Second, be honest in what you say and do.  If you want people to accept you promote an accepting atmosphere when you tell them about you.  Don’t be hush hush and quiet about it. Talk to them like you’ve said it a thousand times.  When you are hush hush and restrict yourself fro talking openly it creates a sense of shame. Like you are ashamed of who you are.  And I don’t know anyone who is ashamed of who they are if they are living true.  t can be as simple as walking down the aisle at the store holding hands with all your partners,or buying a milkshake with 3 straws. 

Third, have information and educational resources available in case they want to know more. Inform them of how it works for you and that its not just a sex thing. The more knowledge you can give a willing person the more accepting they will be. 

Forth, Don’t be an island. Take a friend that knows, or a member of the local community.  Make sure you let them know you arent the only people like this that there are people all over the world, who have the ability to make this work.  It is awesome and you are happy. 

Lastly, i would say let them know you aren’t out to convert anyone.  Just because you are poly it doesn’t mean that monogamy is bad, or that you want the world to be poly, it just means you’re poly.  

Now, what happens after you have had this talk is just as important as the talk itself.  be open to questions. They wil likely be invasive, personal , and sometimes rude. But you opened the door and let this out now that person has a chance to ask questions and get a better personal understanding of Poly and how they can relate to it. They will range form who you sleep with, to communication, scheduling and jealousy.  Be as honest as you can.   Some people will accept it at face value and say ” OK Cool! You GO” Others will be more along the lines of ” I dont know if I could do that. it sounds like a lot of work”   Ands you will have those who just cant get tit.. And thats ok too.  because most likely they will still respect you as a friend.   In extreme cases you will get the person who trys to tell you you’re wrong and should change.  But you know whats best for you. And if that person truly is your friend and cares abotu you they will still be there.  

But WHY?  Why go through all this?  Is it really worth it?  To me yes.  

Lets look for a minuet at who it affects by staying in the closet.

 YOU.  You are not living your life the way you want to. This builds contradictions in the mind and emotions that can lead to emotional and psychological issues.  

Your partners.  How you ask?  Well if you cant tell anyone about them because your afraid they will judge you then you are essentially lying about that relationship to others. It devalues the relationship in that persons mind.  Yes they may understand why you don’t want to say anything, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. 

Your Kids (if you have them)  Kids learn from what they see and if they see you hiding your relationships they will think its taboo or not ok and then begin to question why you live in the shadows. They wont bring friends over. They wont want to be a part of family activities. all based on fear and shame. 

Your community.  Yep when we hide it affects everyone in the community poly and beyond.  We will never be accepted as a people in society if we stay in the shadows .  If only a hand ful of people are out across the world then it can appear that the Poly is some rare phenomenon that is practiced by a fringe group. When in reality there are millions of Polys in the world. Strength in numbers and al that. 

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So do yourself a favor and no matter what shape that closet is come on out.  Step out of that shadow a little.  It really is freeing and relaxing when you arent hiding something that isnt a big deal . Just do the things you do but be proud of it. and show the world your POLY PRIDE! 

 

 

Why being out is a good thing,

(From my examiner.com page.) 

Being “out” as polyamorous can be scary, worrisome, and confusing. Public opinion, while changing, is still not that positive about responsible,ethical multi-love relationships. There are laws (although most are now unconstitutional) that can still affect polyamorous people. And polyamorous people often get confused with other non-monogamous groups like swingers and polygamists. In light of all this, being out is important.

A presenter at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2012 (http://www.atlantapolyweekend.com) said in their speech, “Not being out means we are giving our oppressors the power to keep oppressing us.” How does that work? It works because if we hide, they think we went away. They keep us quiet and in the shadows.  We can’t be equals if we chose to stay hidden. It works because if we hide, the people who want to see us and find us and know we exist, cannot. Then we cant grow as individuals and a community. 

If we are quiet and don’t fight back, won’t our opponents just ignore the Poly Movement? Not exactly. In a recent tweet the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) said, “Nearly 1 in 4 now believe #marriage can be legally redefined to include more than 2 people: http://myop.us/HajZyQ”.  The Conservative media has turned its eye toward multi-partner relationships as well.  So has liberal media, in a positive way.  (This is very encouraging for polyamory activists because it means non-monogamy is gaining support in the public eye. That’s what being out does. It raises awareness and acceptability in the mainstream community.

You don’t need to be an activist to be out. You don’t need to flaunt it. As my wife say, “You don’t have to wave a banner in order to carry it”. Being out simply means deciding to not live in fear, and to be open and honest about your life as the subject arises. It’s about being visible as who you are. By being visible in the local community and being out about your relationship status, you help lift the taboo of the word polyamory. This can show to the mainstream community that while yes we are polyamorous, we are otherwise just like the rest of the world. We have jobs, bills, and stress. The only major difference between poly folks and mono folks is that poly folks have more support when it comes to dealing with those jobs, bills, and stress. More hands to fold the laundry, more help unloading the groceries, more shoulders to cry on after a bad day. 

So I encourage you to be out and be proud to be polyamorous. Do it however you can, whether by wearing a hat with the infinity-heart symbol or hosting a Town Hall about polyamory, or just being honest when discussing your life with friends and family.  Being poly should not be shameful. Be open, be visible, be “OUT” I AM and its not as scary anymore.