Exactly one week ago I was preparing for a workshop at Creating Change in Minneapolis. The session was led by Ricci Levy, Executive Director of Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and consisted of a panel and story telling exercises.
Our goal was to show how powerful story telling is for building empathy and connection with a group of people and communicating about the kinds of change that you care about. Robert Perez, of Fenton (a stellar communications firm) talked about story telling in general terms and offered examples. I talked about the problems of jargon and identity politics. Ignacio Rivera, performance artist and educator, talked about the need to introduce new language and educate people. Carmen Vazquez, long-time activist and advocate for sexual liberation and human rights, talked about the need to communicate about desire, sex, and connection. Then participants had a chance to identify changes they wanted to see, and to begin to create stories that would help them talk about those changes. It was a powerful session.
This is what I said.
When I was at Woodhull Freedom Foundation's National Sexual Freedom Day press conference on September 23rd I participated in a video interview project exploring what sexual freedom means to people. To me, sexual freedom means the freedom to be my whole self instead of having to hide the parts of myself that relate to my sexuality.
Paul Berese, the videographer (from quimera.tv) asked me for an example of a place where I don't feel free to be my whole self. The first place that came to mind was "at work." I stumbled around a bit trying to explain. At work I do not discuss the lovers I have but to whom I am not married. I do not have many family pictures out, but the ones I do have are only of my legal family. If I am invited to a campus event and Will, my life partner and the person to whom I am happily married, cannot come, I do not bring another partner. I have a few friends at work to whom I am out as polyamorous, but it is not something that is easy to share routinely.
There are much starker examples of where people have had their freedom limited because of their sexuality. This week alone I read about Melissa Petro, 30-year-old New York City school teacher who was removed from her classroom and placed on administrative duty because she had the audacity to write freely about her past experiences as a sex worker and about, Anderson Cooper reported on Michigan Assistant Attorney General ... writing a blog that stalks the openly gay student body president of University of Michigan, including an image of a rainbow flag superimposed with a swastika and the word "resign" (YouTube here, with image at :48), and a college student who killed himself after his sexual interactions with another man were broadcast live via iChat without his knowledge (and this in a month where at least 5 gay teens have committed suicide.)*
Simply speaking about your sexuality can cost you your job. Shame and stigma surrounding sexuality can cost one one's life.
This video was made by Tiye Massey, daughter of Woodhull Freedom Foundation advisory council members Dan Massey and Alison Gardner. It is a 12 minute long look at what sexual freedom means to a range of people she interviewed on the street and around town. And just in time for National Sexual Freedom Day! Thanks Tiye!
So, what does sexual freedom mean to you? Share your definitions and your ideas in the comments.
Several months ago I tweeted about things being very busy and very exciting and about some new projects in the works. Now I can tell you about some of that, and, even better, ask you to participate!
The first exciting bit of news is that I joined the Woodhull Freedom Foundation's advisory council over the summer. Woodhull Freedom Foundation is perhaps the only organization I can think of whose mission involves recognizing sexual freedom in its entirety as a fundamental human right. There are lots of amazing organizations that focus on expanding sexual civil rights in one or another direction, or for one or another population. Woodhull's approach is to move beyond identity politics and establish sexual freedom itself as a right. I'm tremendously excited to be working with them!
The second exciting bit of news relates to the first project I was asked to work on. That project is a the first annual report on the state of sexual freedom in the United States. The idea, in the words of Ricci Levy, Woodhull's Executive Director, is to:
publish regular reports on the sexual freedom movement, designed to help identify the social changes taking place, or that must take place for progress to be made, on the diverse issues on which we work. We are particularly interested in recognizing opportunities for already-established sexual freedom issue groups to work together.
It's very important work for reasons that go beyond the annual report, as well. Gloria Brame took the survey in an early stage, provided feedback, and encouraged her readers to take it by explaining:
The survey was very interesting because it made me re-think and prioritize freedoms -- relatively speaking, how important is sex ed? how important is birth control? what about censorship and sexual freedom of speech? or should we all be focused on equality rights for now?
That's really the point. We need to be thinking in creative ways about what are the most important issues and about how they fit together. Please help us do that. We want to know what are the most important changes you think need to occur in order to make sure that sexual freedom is established as a fundamental human right? What are your priorities? What paths toward change do you think are most effective? And what intersections do you see between your priorities and all the other sexual freedom issues that need to be addressed?
Click here to access a relatively short questionnaire and tell us what you think. If you include an email address we will forward you a copy of the report just before it is publicly released.
As mentioned earlier, on June 23 (next Monday) I'll be hosting the fifth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy. If you have written or plan to write something pertaining to sexuality, sexual freedom, feminism, gender, etc., send your submission to amberlr [at] gmail [dot] com, or mark the post for me in del.cio.us. You can (and should!) also submit posts by your favorite bloggers. The carnival's mission statement, once again:
It's Labor Day in the United States, and in the US for many people that doesn't mean "let's celebrate workers," it means "let's get to the beach" so I was pleased to find a story in this morning's New York Times that was a beach-related public/private space kind of story that touches on issues of sexuality and human rights.
The question is whether the Boardwalk Pavilion in Ocean Grove, NJ, is public space or private space, and whether the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (a Methodist organization) must let the space be used by by gay and lesbian couples for the same purposes that straight couples use it: that is, for ceremonies celebrating their state-recognized unions.
I'm more than tired of all the uproar over whether sexuality is biologically determined or chosen. Actually, that's not true. I'm frustrated by the denial that sexuality isomplicated than that question would indicate, and the refusal to believe that the answer has no place in a discussion of rights for gays.
If you can't come to our "coming out party" because you're in San Francisco then consider this very worthwhile event. Nora Dye rode across the country on her bike to promote sex education, and sexual and reproductive freedom. She is a remarkable young woman and her project is worthy of tremendous celebration!
Nora Dye says: 15 weeks on my bicycle. 4600 miles across the country. 19 states. 2 massive dog bites. Wrong turns, dazzling vistas, bears, moose, and midwestern misadventures.
Plus enough stories about sex, politics and culture to tease your brain and challenge all the things you thought you knew about the politics of sexual freedom in America.
Join me, Rhonda and my temporarily rock hard calves for a report back and slide show of my adventures across the US. Find out what they're thinking in Wyoming, why they can't get enough of masturbation in Ithaca and why they're doing things in Madison that will blow your mind.
Join us for a fun filled night of adventures, laughter and good conversation!
6:30 PM Appetizers and refreshments
7:00 PM Slide show and stories from Nora
What are you doing for Fathers Day? My partner, a father of five children all adopted or conceived long before I entered the picture, is off sailing for two days on the Schooner Pioneer and enjoying parts of the Clearwater Festival. (Check his blog for an account, probably Tuesday.)
Our fathers and grandfathers have all passed away (my father when I was a child, my partner’s father just a few months ago) but my partner is himself a father and today I thank him for helping to shape the lives of five truly unique and wonderful individuals. I am honored to know them, and glad that they came into my life as adults so that we could develop relationships based on something other than a step-parent/step-child dynamic. (Don’t get me wrong, step-families can be wonderful! I had an amazing step-mother myself for a while, but I’m grateful for having the chance to know these people without the inevitable difficulties that come with any kind of parent/child relationship.)
Please write a short note of support for the Palmer House Hilton, host hotel for International Mr. Leather, thanking them for not discriminating against any guests or groups based on their sexual orientation. The anti-gay group, Americans For Truth, posted an action alert calling for people to protest the "homosexual orgies" that take place at the "sadistic sexual perversion-fest known as International Mr. Leather." AFT website: http://tinyurl.com/3atcsg
The Palmer House Hilton has been a staunch supporter of the Fair Accommodations Act in working with alternative lifestyle groups, particularly IML. Please email your note of appreciation to:
Stephen Bollenback, CEO
Hilton Hotels Corporation
Hilton Hotels Corporation
Peter Lynn, General Manager
Palmer House Hilton
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression.
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
822 Guilford Avenue, Box 127
Baltimore, MD 21202-3707
media at ncsfreedom dot org