I started my journey as a Sex Educator when I was 15 years old. It was the early aughts… I was, decked out in Lip Smackers, flared jeans, and butterfly clips; listening to the Spice Girls (or Smashing Pumpkins when I was feeling artsy…). I was a full on theatre nerd. I was in every school play, every extra drama class, and even had a (less than) coveted spot on the Hamburger Earmuffs, our school improv team.
When I was in grade 10, the Hamburger Earmuffs were booked as lunchtime entertainment at a conference for high school students looking to make a change in the world. Being that I was also a bit of a keener myself, I was THRILLED we would get to attend the conference sessions for free. While our improv show was somewhat forgettable, what happened next changed my life.
I filed into a conference room to watch a skit and workshop led by a group of Winnipeg teens. I was inspired seeing theatre being used to talk about important topics like alcohol and sexual decision making- especially because they did it in a way that gave more helpful information than the typical “don’t do that!!!” message I was used to. I was so excited that I signed up to join the program on the spot. (classic keener move…)
When I joined the program and took the training, I remember being amazed that there were people who could speak so freely and openly about things that I had always been taught were shameful at worst or impolite at best. It was a profoundly liberating experience to be heard, seen and validated for who I was as a young Queer person and sex ed enthusiast. Little did I know that soon I would be leading workshops, sitting at awareness booths, performing educational skits, doing condom demonstrations in the bathroom between classes, and even teaching my own high school sex ed class alongside the Public Health Nurse! I was hooked on sex education. I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
I started volunteering as a sexual and reproductive health counsellor at a local clinic. I ran a resource centre on my university campus. I offered peer support to anyone who needed some extra support or information about sexuality and sexual health. Then, one day, I was hired as Youth Health Educator in the very program where I had started my sex ed journey. I was thrilled to get to do the work I had seen my mentors doing as a teen.
In my twelve years as a Youth Health Educator, I had the opportunity to facilitate sexual and mental health workshops and Peer Education trainings for thousands of youth in all sorts of settings all over Manitoba. I did this important work alongside people with a beautiful shared vision of heart-led, strengths based, anti-oppressive, anti-racist, harm reduction focused, decolonizing, sex positive education. Ultimately though, we found this work could not be contained within the Community Health organization we were working within. Even though we are no longer in the program together, we have all carried pieces of this work with us and remain strongly connected to the work and each other.
Now, I am ready for something new. I am taking all of the experience, resources, knowledge, skills and relationships I have built over the last 20 years of my life and putting myself out there as an Independent Sex Educator. While yes, it is new and vulnerable to launch a Sex Education practice- ESPECIALLY during a global pandemic- I could not be more excited to share this new sex ed adventure with all of you!
If you are reading this and you are someone I have connected with along my Sex Ed journey, I would love to hear from you! Let me know how we connected, and where you’re at now in the comments!