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 by the Numbers

Atlanta Poly Weekend was held a few weeks ago. A great time was had by all. Many new faces, lots of returning friends.
I was grateful to be included not only as a staff member this year but additionally as a presenter. 2 gave solo classes, 1 joint class and was on a panel discussion.
I gave a class on the struggles that we can face in hierarchy set relationships and how to navigate around them as well as strategies for avoiding them all together. My second class was abut coming out. Who, why, what, and when.
Both classes were well attended and I had a very fun and open group of people that shared a lot of experiences.

The joint class I gave was with co creator Rose Hagalaz. She and I had an idea for a discussion about the generational gap in the greater non-monogamy movement and what the driving force behind it is. We came away with a great deal of input, knowledge and some reassuring of our own thoughts. But the biggest point that we made and others agreed with was that we should be working to unite the different relationship styles, discuss our commonalities and where we can work together. Not pushing each other away because we have different philosophies.

My panel discussion on the Poly in the Media with Co-panelists, Tikva Wolf and Joreth, was really big. It had a great turn out (about 20 folks) and we had a wonderful time discussing and chatting different media coverage. How to protect ones self in the media, and from the media. We all shared experiences and watched a few videos to compare how the media can spin your story.

My Coming out class was the best one yet.  I say that every time but really, it gets better each and every time I give it.  This particular time after the class I had a person come up and discuss with me the desire to come out to her children as she no longer wants to hide her true self from them.  This was a great moment in my teaching times… I inspired a person to take a leap and act on something I had taught. And thats all it takes for me, is if one person walks away with one thing that I said and it inspires them to do one thing in their life that helps them my class was a success.  I will soon be making a list of techniques for coming out to folks but in the mean time should anyone need help talking to a loved one,  there is a book out now called “When Someone you love is Polyamorous.”  Its a fairly basic info book to give to them or read with them so they can have a better understanding and develop questions.

My other class was “There is no Winning in Polyamory” I may tweak the title of this one as it evolves.  It was an early morning class and was only attended by a handful of folks.  We did get to discuss the topic in a free form manner and bounce ideas around about what hierarchy is, how it is sometimes done in an unethical manner and how to avoid that. We concluded that relationships are more positive and healthy when they are  prescriptive rather than descriptive.  Descriptive relationships take away the agency of the individuals and allow for social scripting and expectations to drive the relationships.  Prescriptive relationships give the individuals the power and information they need to build the relationship together, making it more fulfilling for them.  Just a thought.

Other happenings at APW 2016:  The hotel was new.  A last minuet sale by the previous property management group forced the directors to find a new venue with only 45 days remaining in their  prep time.  KUDOS to the Sheraton Atlanta Downtown for working with the directors and assisting with hosting their wonderful event on such short notice.  If you haven’t been this hotel is beautiful. Its all been recently renovated and it really is a nice hotel.
By the numbers APW 2016 looked like this:
Total Attendees- 226 (thats up in attendance from last year by 34 people I think. )
Presenters: 30, Staff: 15,Merchants: 7,Volunteers: 2,Sponsors: 2,Community Organizations: 10, Hotel Room Nights 101, Hospitality suites 2.

Atlanta Poly Weekend again supported Lost N Found Youth of Atlanta with a charity auction.   Relationship Equality Foundation, APW host organization,  Matched the first $1000.00 and a total donation of over $2400.00 was made to the organization.

Next years dates have been announced along with a brand new website design for Atlanta Poly Weekend June 2-4, 2017 Again will be hosted at the Sheraton Atlanta Downtown.  Current registration is $50.00 for adults.  Pricing will increase to $75.00 as the event gets closer. Make sure you get your tickets soon!  I hope to see you there in 2017!

My poly story.

I get asked this question all the time. So, What made you be poly? Or this one, Why are you poly?  The simple answer is , its who I am.  I don’t have limited resources of love and commitment.  I have the capacity to openly love more than one person at a time and it feels great to do so.

The long answer goes like this.

About 15 years ago, my brother was involved with a situation that cost him his marriage. No it wasn’t a cheating escapade. But his wife of the time thought it was.  She didn’t trust easily, and had other problems that limited her ability to be a rational person at times. (‘Im trying to be as nice as I can here).  Having seen this explosion of mistrust, and harmful behavior almost destroy my brother and tear his family apart, it was obvious we never wanted to experience that in our lives. So, Melissa came to me and said ” Hey i never want to have to worry about where you are or who you’re with. If you see someone your interested in go for it. We are adults we can work it out.”
We sat down and drafted our first set of rules. they were limiting and controlling and based in fear of emotional pain.  They also assured mutual destruction “If I can’t ____ then you cant ____ either. ” They were messy and horrible and all around caused more problems than they were worth.

After a while, we ditched them all together and went commando, lawless, rule free.  That wasn’t pretty either . Neither one of us had the skill set to be as open as we were trying to be.  When something would happen that caused jealousy, we didn’t know how to work through it.  We would blame the other and not accept our own part in the reaction.  We didn’t know how to talk to each other about it rationally.  There was no community where we were and we had no support. we were all alone.  At the time we had no idea there was a word for what we were doing. We felt alone, strange, and awkward.

Then we met someone we both liked and it was good, no GREAT! _____was, and still is to this day, an amazing person.  She loved us both. She was our unicorn.  And it was beautiful.    We dated for a little over a year, the three of us together and separate.  Doing things as a group was good, as individuals was good, we were happy.  But as it does, life happened and _____got married and moved overseas for like 8 years!  Our relationship ended for the time . we still talked and chatted occasionally. Melissa more so than me.  Now shes back in the states with her hubby and  things are friendly among us all.

Now in that time of 8 years while ____ was gone we searched high and low for someone ANYONE that could replace her.  Yea that was bad MKAY. We were miserable. Sure there were highlights and good times but there was never another _____And now I have learned there wont ever be another ____.  She is unique and basing all relationships off of that one will ensure only one thing, they will fail.  I have learned that each relationship is unique and individual to those in it.

After learning that lesson over and over it finally sank in and we moved on.  a few years went by and there weren’t any real relationships to speak of.  a Date here a date there hook up at a con.  But nothing serious, Util I met Jeremy. Jeremy and i met at DuckStock, a 21+ alternative lifestyle event through a mutual friend. We hung out a lot that weekend and really clicked.  I thought “WOW this guy is cool!  I bet Melissa would like him too.”  So I called her before I left and told her all about him, and how I thought shed like him.  She laughed and said, ” Not likely you have bad taste in guys for me.”  LOL Little did she know at the time I picked a winner!

Jeremy met Melissa about 3 months later at a con called Play On Con in Birmingham AL.  See Jeremy lived in Montgomery at the time we met.  So there we all were hanging out talking enjoying the time together.  We spent the weekend being a great group of new friends. On the way home i asked M what she thought of Jeremy. She said ” He’s nice and cute but I dont think he likes me”  … Well we talked about that  all on the way home.

Months go by until Santa Con, a pub crawl of Santas .  Yes its as awesome as it sounds.  We were hanging out and who shows up, Jeremy.  We all are talking and hanging out. I go off to do Santa songs with the group.  The two of them hung back and talked and got to know about each other a bit better.  then they started making out and cuddling.  It was so cute.  We invited J to the house the next weekend for a new years / double birthday party.  He hasn’t left yet! LOL That was lie going on 6 years now.

Things have been fairly quiet on the dating scene since then.  I went out with a few people but nothing serious happened for a while. I wanted something serious. As Jeremy and Melissa grew closer together. Our relationship started out as a triad for sure we all did everything together.  In more recent time it seems that we are growing more into a V configuration. And thats ok because relationships change.  So I started back up on OK Cupid and checking my matches and got an  interesting hit about a year ago now.

It was a couple profile but we had like a 98% match or something ridiculous.  So, intrigued I d165012_487166709172_503954172_5625810_4257458_sug in and started reading.  They looked like a cute couple. Just starting out in the poly waters. they had been together a long time.  I messaged  them and started a conversation. we chatted back and forth a couple times and I invited them to a meetup of our local poly group so they could 1 see others that live this life and 2 so we could meet.   From the moment I laid eyes on them i felt a connection. Lie a long time standing connection. That has only happened a handful of times in my life.  We spent the next 2 hours chatting and laughing and trying to figure out where we knew each other from. They had the same feeling I did.  We had met SOMEWHERE before.  But no lines could be drawn to connect us. We didnt have mutual friends, we didn’t have common hang out places.  It was really weird.   Lindsey and Brian and I hit it off real well.  I was interested in dating Lindsey but I saw the oppurtunity to make a new friend with Brian.

We talked a lot wen on group outing together had coffee almost weekly for the first few weeks then slowly Lindsey and I started taking more alone trips and dating more one on one.  There have been bumps in the road and there have been struggles . However I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything. It has really been a positive and healthy relationship. We have both grown as individuals in a positive way. .  I hope we have many more years of dating together.  Currently we have a V style where Lindsey is the hinge between Brian and I .  Brian and I talk and hang out on occasion.

So that’s my poly story up to this point.  Granted this is the readers digest version. There so much more that goes on but I just don’t have the time to put it all down.    Maybe one day I can right a book.