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012: Courtney Brame | Shaking STI Stigma

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast called Something Positive for Positive People hosted by Courtney Brame. His podcast offers a safe space for people living with or affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like herpes and HIV to share their experiences as a way to shake the shame and stigma that exists around these diagnoses. He originally invited me on his podcast to talk sex ed and SPF but little did he know, I too am a person living with HSV2 (herpes simplex virus type 2), and I’m not at all ashamed. So on this episode, I chat with Courtney about his journey toward the great work he is doing shaking stigma around STIs. Our chat touches on why accurate and open talks at home about sexual health are so important, some tips for managing herpes diagnoses, and he shares a really innovative connection he made between the horror film IT and social stigma around herpes.  For additional information about herpes and other sexually transmitted infections, visit the CDC’s online info here or Planned Parenthood here.Want to connect with Courtney? Check out the Something Positive for Positive People podcast on your favorite podcast platform such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean, Podchaser or Podbay. Follow on Instagram here, Twitter here, Reddit here, Tumblr here or follow Courtney on Facebook here. If you’d like to connect with Courtney one-on-one about herpes resources and support options, you can contact him via email at courtneywbrame@gmail.com.And as always: Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for regular sex-positive content and updates. Sign up for our email list Leave a review in Apple Podcasts to let us know how much you’re enjoying the podcast. This gives us great feedback from our community as well as expands the reach and visibility so we can serve more families! TRANSCRIPT{Soft instrumental music plays as introduction} {Person speaking}Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex-positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us! Melissa Carnagey: “Hi Families, I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast called, “Something Positive for Positive People” hosted by Courtney Brame. His podcast offers a safe space for people living with or affected by sexually transmitted infections like herpes and HIV to share their experiences as a way to shake the shame and the stigma that exists around this diagnosis. He originally invited me on his podcast to talk sex ed and SPF, but little did he know I too am a person living with HSV2 and I’m not at all ashamed! So on this episode, I chat with Courtney about his journey toward the great work he is doing shaking stigma around STI’s. Our chat touches on why accurate and open talks at home about sexual health are so important, some tips for managing herpes diagnosis, and he shares a really innovative connection he made between the horror film, ‘IT,’ and social stigma around herpes. Let’s check it out!”M.C.: “Hey Courtney, so I am excited to have you on the SPF podcast!”Courtney Brame: “Melissa thank you very much for having me, always nice to connect with other people who are doing positive things.” [Laughter]M.C.: “Yes.”C.B.: “Pun intended.”M.C.: “I know we are going to dive deep into some very important topics here today, but before we do that I would love for you to tell us about the journey that has led you to the work that you’re doing now.”C.B.: “So what led me to the work that I’m doing, first off contracting herpes was probably a big part of it. Having herpes for going on six years now, I think that the ups and downs throughout that have led me to my personal experiences which I felt would represent well. But I think that the biggest piece that led me to openly discussing herpes and speaking with people living with STDs, not just herpes, but HIV as well, that came from me meeting someone in my dating experience and connecting with her and figuring out how her experience was, and when I found out that she, this particular person, had at one point contemplated suicide it became something that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought to myself, someone gets herpes they want to end their lives, because I’ve always thought suicide as being, with the people around me who have done it or have thought about it, the absolute worst things are going on in your life and you’re ready to end it. But as someone who’s had herpes for several years, coming to find out what having herpes meant to me before I got it, wasn’t exactly what it meant to me after I got it, if that makes sense?”M.C.: “Yeah, that makes sense.”C.B.: “Like they were two different things. So, after she mentioned to me that she had contemplated suicide at one point I just thought, hmm that’s weird. And then I started to see it again and again, in different chat rooms or social media secret groups and I was just like this is silly to me. And not necessarily silly because everyone has their own experience living with herpes but when I got to hear other peoples’ experiences and understand that it can be really painful, or rejection can be a big thing, or there are so many different unexplored areas that I’ve come into connection with that hadn’t ever even crossed my mind. It just felt like I needed to put more experiences into these people’s faces the only way that I knew how, and given that I’ve worked at a podcast ad agency and I’ve had to listen to A LOT of podcasts, it immediately clicked to me like okay, there’s anonymity here, it’s just audio, you can still feel the passion or the feeling the emotion in the person’s voice, so like this is probably a good way to get a point across that having herpes isn’t all that bad. So I found a few people who were willing to talk to me and allow me to record the conversation. Some people were okay with using their real name, some people were open about it, some people were not but ultimately what’s happened is we’ve been able to get a few stories out there just to let the newly diagnosed people know there is an alternative option to suicide if you get past that point when you decide, “okay, I’m gonna live. I’m going to learn to live with this.” Then you can go on to have a normal life. You can have a family. You can have a partner. You can have the kind of sex life you want. You can have the career field you want and ultimately the people who find out we have herpes don’t really care. You know unless it’s a prospective partner, or you know a partner actually after someone’s diagnosed after being in a relationship. I think that the most important thing really is for newly diagnosed people to recognize there are resources out there for them. There’s social groups, interest groups, dating groups. There are all these different things. It took me five years to find and not a lot of people have five years. Some people get diagnosed right away and immediately go down that dark path of “this is the rest of my life and they think that what they thought about having herpes before they got herpes, is what having herpes is going to be like, and that’s not the case.”M.C.: “You’re right. There’s so much shame and stigma that our society and our culture, American culture, in particular, has projected onto sexually transmitted infections. It paints a dark picture and puts people in real isolating places. Are there any other common experiences or themes that you’ve heard come through some of the guests and folks that you’ve been able to connect with through the platform?”C.B.: “Yeah, a lot of the people who I speak with are at a place of acceptance with their diagnosis, some people are single. Some people are struggling today and it’s not even related to herpes. Some people are in relationships or have left toxic relationships. There are so many different perspectives I’ve come across in the twenty-seven, twenty-eight episodes that we’ve done so far. In the first one we had a lady who was a victim of infidelity, the partner cheated, she was in a marriage and left her with herpes and he left and went to his mistress. Her having to recover from that, was a story we just don’t ever really hear from. There was another one where people contracted herpes through kissing, or some people were born with it or at some point just don’t even know how they could have come into contact with it…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “and I think that the most interesting thing is how we immediately look at how negatively- how our sex lives are now going to be affected as opposed to how we can positively use this as an opportunity to impact other things going on in our lives. So we all think, “oh I’m gonna be single no one is going to want me..” and just completely related to sex and that’s not always the case.”M.C.: “What I’m thinking too is, a big component of this is the lack of accurate, honest and shame-free sex education. These messages that start from early, if we were able to better prepare our young people for their sexual health, which can include risks, which can include infections, right? Transmission of different infections, then I think we can get closer to eliminating this stigma that’s been associated with it. So, I’m curious what was your personal experience in terms of sex education? And in what ways, if any, do you feel like your path in sex education may have impacted your own diagnosis or understanding of your diagnosis early on?C.B.: “My sex education was- wear condoms, don’t get anyone pregnant. And then as far as school went they would show us the worst possible STDs..”M.C.: [Laughter] “Right.”C.B.: “…and what it looks like on your genitals. It was like a scare tactic.”M.C.: “Yeah.”C.B.: “And you can only scare someone with the same message for so long. Even after they begin to have other experiences and messaging that completely contradicts that. So, in the household, my sex education was, “don’t get anyone pregnant,” and “be sure to always use condoms,” as if there weren’t any STD’s that could be contracted…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “A condom doesn’t protect you from them all. And so, my biggest concern growing up was making sure I didn’t get anybody pregnant. So when I ended up having sex sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old that was my concern- not getting an STD because the sex education that I had at school made me believe that I could look at a vagina tell if someone had an STD or that I would smell that, “Oh this vagina doesn’t smell very good so she probably has an STD.”M.C.: “Such a great point!” C.B.: “…it never really, and then after having sex and nothing happening, like I didn’t get an STD, I didn’t have burning pee, I was like, “oh this is working. This is what I need to do. I’m fine.” And so you start to develop like a muscle like you continue to do the same thing over and over again without consequences and you think I’m good. I’m confident in this thing that I’m doing, and then you get herpes. So, my education at that point was just like, why didn’t I know about this. I think that was a big problem. Herpes was a joke about kissing. I thought I’ll avoid kissing in college. I would only kiss girls that I dated. Not ones that I was intimate with, which is a completely separate and funny story because I always get asked about that too. Like how did you go without kissing people while having an active sex life…”M.C.: “Feel free to share!” [Laughter]C.B.: [Laughter] “I did that. I tried not to kiss anyone, mono, strep throat…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “Cold sores, like those, were the kind of things that I heard. I heard, “oh you have a cold sore and kiss somebody then they’ll get herpes,”  and the terminology was always mixed up but I remember that sticking to me. So I did everything that I could to avoid it, and even in doing everything that I could to avoid it, which meant no kissing, using condoms, I still ended up with it.” [Laughter]M.C.: “Yeah, so there are a couple of things. One, if we don’t know all of the facts then that can greatly impact the decisions that we make and our understanding of it all. There’s that piece, but then there’s the other piece that sex, sexual contact involves risk and there’s no way that sex is going to be safe from risk…”C.B.: “Right.”M.C.: “…There’s always going to be a risk and I think that is definitely a misnomer that’s out there. It’s not about “safe sex.” Safe sex is impossible. There’s SAFER sex. So if we can teach our young people this and have, even just as adults, have these messages normalized and clarified then I think we can have a better chance of reducing the incidence of transmission, but even at the same time, it’s not going to eliminate it.” C.B.: “Right, right, I think at this point, teaching abstinence or using condoms it helps but it delays the inevitable. We’re going to have sex. We are creatures that…”M.C.: “Yes!” C.B.: “…we have to reproduce! You know, some people choose not to and that’s fine but that’s not going to eliminate the act of sex. And so, one of the things that I wish that I was taught was to have the conversation about STDs/STI’s.”M.C.: “Yes.”C.B.: “So these conversations not only reduce the risk of transmission but also put us in the space where we’re able to talk about it. Where we’re able to be educated and allow people to make informed and educated decisions because I can’t one-hundred percent say that if I did find myself in a situation where I was about to be intimate with someone, for example, and she comes out and she’s like, “well we can do this but I have herpes,” I’m sitting there all the blood and brain juices that are in my brain are now at a completely different part of my body, and I’ll be like, “Oh okay, that’s fine!”…” M.C.: “Mhm.”C.B.: “and make that decision then and there but then after the fact be like, “Ahh Man!” and all I would have to go off of are, it’s the stigma.”M.C.: “Yes.”C.B.: “The exact things that I would have thought about someone living with herpes, of course, that’s what I would’ve begun to associate myself with and that’s just due to the lack of education that I had. I can’t speak for everyone; we as a society like to say as a whole overall I want to say, we want to put a lot of the responsibilities to the education system, whereas I, this starts at home, it really does.”M.C.: “Exactly!”C.B.: “…there’s no way around it. The children that we raise and send out into the world, what they learn at home is what they take to school. We want to avoid the talk, we want to put the burden of responsibility of education to the schools…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “…and that cookie-cutter template does not necessarily work for everyone.”M.C.: “It’s not working! It’s not working. We have a lot of evidence that supports it’s not working. Because there are so many variances in the types of curriculum that are out there, we definitely have a lot of evidence now abstinence-only education does not work. So then there’s this spectrum all the way to comprehensive sex ed, and because of our culture being so sex-negative and the political climate, it’s really inhibiting all of our young people getting consistent messaging. And so, yes, you bring up the great point that then it puts that responsibility in the home. And the parents must create an atmosphere of openness around sexual health…”C.B.: “Yeah.”M.C.: “…and that it’s not just about sex, like you said, there are skills that in terms of communication that we need to be teaching our young people and practicing and modeling ourselves because there’s a lot more to it than just intercourse.”C.B.: “Right, right I always viewed sex as penis, vagina, penetration and there are so many other explorations of sex. And not to say that this was a conversation I was ready to have with my parents at this point but having to explore those things and develop an understanding on my own of what all of that was, such as masturbation, foreplay and getting into kinky stuff like that, I learned that and had to form my interpretation and opinion of exactly what that was. So it’s like, that was my sex education. Porn was my sex education!”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “What I took from school, and what I took from the conversations that were not being had at home, that was what I had to take into my sex life. As a kid, in hindsight, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old even in my early twenties, I mean even now I’m still learning stuff. So this is an ongoing process…”M.C.: “Mhm.”C.B.: “…learning about not just sex but sexual health and I’m just now with everything going on in the media with women coming out about being sexually assaulted…” M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “…it’s like what is consent? Like these are conversations that should be had, or I should have had, that I in hindsight can’t even recall ever having asked someone, “hey is it okay if we have sex?” or going through a negotiation process…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “…with what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable. So it’s an ongoing learning process that requires a necessary foundation to be in place or built from home to be taken out into the real world. Into school, into work, into dating, and into any aspect of intimacy just that hasn’t been built like almost have to build it on our own in a lot of cases.”M.C.: “Yeah, one thing I wanted to bring up is that you had a really great analogy that I saw on your Instagram about the movie, “IT,” and as it relates to stigma. Would you mind sharing that with us?” C.B.: “Oh yeah, so I’ll be paraphrasing it because it never comes out the exact same way whenever I say it.”M.C.: “I love it!”C.B.: “When I watched the movie, ‘IT,’ I realized that each of these individual children in the novel was only able to be attacked by the clown, who’s “IT,” when they were alone and all of them thought that they were alone in that they thought that they were the only person, they thought they were the only ones that could see the clown. They thought they were alone, and essentially that’s what it is. And I’m still trying not to give away spoilers by [Laughter] searching my thoughts for what I’m saying.”M.C.: “You’re very kind!”C.B.: “The clown is herpes. That’s what it is! And the kids represent us, we are, upon diagnosis, scared children who think that we’re alone with this clown. Like clowns are scary, stigma’s scary…”M.C.: “Yeah.”C.B.: “and when we begin to find other people. You look at that group of kids that came together, like that is a very unlikely group of people. And they all had their different experiences, someone was getting bullied, someone was getting abused by their father at home, all of these kids had their different experiences with this clown based on what was going on with them around the time they saw the clown. And so, when they came together, they found each other and they realized, “Oh shit, you can see it too?” like you could see how excited they got first off to not only know they weren’t alone but to also recognize, “Okay, this fear that we have, this clown, this stigma, it is not real. it is only able to attack us separately when we think we are alone and when it’s only held over us but when the kids were able to come together they beat the shit out of the clown and made it go away.”M.C.: [Laughter]C.B.: “and so, one of the proposed solutions that I have is that we have to have better education on how to manage our sexual health and not try and prevent and avoid STDs but just to be like, “okay we want to prevent and avoid STDs but in the event that you get one this is what you need to know, you need to know that these are manageable,” like HIV for example. and with herpes, there’s suppressive therapy and it’s such a tricky virus that it just varies like it’s different from person to person.”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “There’s just so much that’s not understood and because we think that we’re alone and we have to face this thing on our own until we can collectively come together and provide enough details and information from people who get symptoms every day or don’t have symptoms at all. Like on that whole range that entire spectrum…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “we’re not really gonna get closer to destigmatizing herpes because just like in the movie they came together. Like, “Okay guys, this is what I notice about the clown, what did you notice about the clown? This is what I noticed about the clown,” and everyone’s experience was different but when they came together, they were able to stand up to it. And like I said, beat the shit out of IT; and that’s the same thing about stigma. When people who are stigmatized can stand up to IT” [Laughter] Then it literally goes away. So over time, that’s what’s gonna happen, and the only way to come into contact with people like us who are “seeing the clown” is to just put yourself out there. You have to take advantage of the opportunities to educate someone or inform someone. No one should just run around and be like, “I HAVE HERPES!” and you know, maybe someone will be like, “yeah me too!” but for the most part, everyone else is gonna be like, “What the fuck is he doing, get down from there! Or else other people are gonna realize I have herpes.” or in terms of ‘IT,’ “Other people are gonna realize I can see the clown too. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m crazy because I’m seeing this clown. Come on, honey, get the kids. Let’s go. Let’s get outta here!” [Laughter]M.C.: [Laughter]C.B.: “but that’s how I view it now, it’s a clown! And it was huge in that movie. It was huge. It was scary. It was ferocious but then when they weren’t scared of it anymore, when they stood up to it, it was nothing. It was just literally a figment of their imagination…” M.C.: “Yes!” C.B.: “…and it could do nothing to them.”M.C.: “I love that! Through communicating, through talking this out, through coming together we have to figure out new ways to look at this.One thing for example that is shifting and I’m excited about it is just down to terminology. For example, you know STD – sexually transmitted disease- is something that was part of our language for a long time. And the word disease can have a different connotation and impact than the word infection, and so I love that now we are switching the language to STI because truly that is the more accurate verbiage to use, and so the language does end up being important because it can then influence our understanding of something. These are infections, the fact that it could ever transition into a disease is not the same for each of these infections or for each person that contracts the infection. So, I think it’s the little things and so this analogy that you bring up is a part of that. It’s just another way that we can look at this and look at it more accurately and basically take away its power in terms of the stigma.”C.B.: “Yeah, and you are taking away “IT’s” power “IT” being the name of the clown, “IT” being stigma here as well. So I just found it was interesting that whenever you can replace “IT” every time “IT” is said in the movie replace it with “herpes” and you have yourself a completely different movie.” M.C.: “Wow, that is awesome! So let me ask you this, what are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned so far through doing this podcast and through hearing the experiences of other folx?” C.B.: “Most people carry a perception of this stigma with them into their diagnosis. That stigma that they carry with them into their diagnosis comes from a time where they didn’t know they had contracted herpes. Nine times out of ten. So, that stigma that was brought with them is one that isn’t their own, it’s not experience-based. It’s based on most often jokes that have been made about people with herpes or statements about people being dirty or the STD that you don’t want to get…”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “…because of herpes. You have all of these negative associations with herpes and the type of person who has herpes and you carry that into your diagnosis. And in the beginning, you think that you are that person, you essentially think that you are that stigma, you are this dirty disgusting person who sleeps around and I guess doesn’t take baths. I don’t understand what dirty means exactly.” M.C.: “Exactly.” C.B.: “But you’re that person now and that’s kinda what we have to unlearn through our education of what herpes means for us. Perfect example, I thought when I was first diagnosed that my penis would look the way it looked forever. I thought that that’s what it was going to look like. I thought it would always itch. I thought it would always have that look to it. But three days later after taking the medication I was prescribed it was gone as if nothing had ever happened. So at that point I had learned there are outbreaks. What are outbreaks? Okay, these things come when you’re sick, your immune system’s down. When you’re eating like shit. When you’re not working out. When you’re not taking care of yourself. So, okay bam! Now I know to take care of myself, and then a year passes two years pass, three years pass where I just go with maybe a slight tingle…”M.C.: “Yeah.”C.B.: “As a reminder, “Hey Courtney, get your ass to the gym,” but even if I get that tingle like I’ll take the medication just to avoid an outbreak completely. And that’s what’s worked for me! What you don’t learn going into it is everyone’s experience is going to be different. You can prepare yourself as best you can, but always expect a plan to fail and when it does you have to throw it away and come up with a new one. So my plan going into herpes went from, “Oh God, I just need to prepare to be in pain, and be on medication and be alone for the rest of my life,” because of that stigma that was instilled in me from people who don’t have herpes. And then after having herpes, dealing with it, being in groups of people who also have it and finding out about their unique experiments like I’ve come up with different treatment remedies. Coconut oil, for example, to like soothe any irritation…”M.C.: “Mhm.”C.B.: “There’s more natural treatments, tea tree oils, and herbs that you can use to treat the virus, not cure the virus, but treat it.” M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “And just learning how to reduce the risk of transmission, and different things that different people are doing. Different things work for different people! And I think that that’s the biggest take away is that this stigma that we go into it with is not our own, and once we learn what having herpes means for us individually then it truly isn’t that big of a deal. As cliche as it sounds, that’s what the case is, it’s a mild inconvenience whenever it gets to that point but in my case herpes has changed my life. I work out every day unless I am absolutely too sore, or I just run out of time. I am more conscious of the food that I put in my body. I don’t eat like gluttonous greasy, ranchy, cheesy, bacony, Chinese meals…” [Laughter]M.C.: [Laughter]C.B.: “as often as I used to, I still do it, but not as often. I’ve learned moderation.” M.C.: “Right.”C.B.: “Herpes has taught me to keep my body in a place of moderation where I don’t overdo things but I don’t underdo things. So in my own personal journey that would be the biggest take away from me and the experience of talking to all of the fantastic people who’ve been so cool to open up about their own experience living with herpes.”M.C.: “What I’m taking away from what you’re saying underlying that is empathy.”C.B.: “Empathy! Yes, Yes!”M.C.: “And it’s just being able to develop that and I think that when we get stronger in our understanding of and application of empathy in our lives that can be one of those things that kills stigma.”C.B.: “Yeah and like we have this whole build-up and collection of experiences that in life, some of them good and some of them bad but all of them are contingent on how we view them. How we receive them. So, I think that empathy puts us in a place to collect these experiences and like have this superpower almost to where we allow something greater to happen through us…”M.C.: “Yes, yes.” C.B.: “…You know Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spiderman. A lot of people’s case’s something tragic happened to them. In my case, I at that point and time I got herpes, that is not the worst thing that’s happened to me.” M.C.: “Right, right.” C.B.: “But you know, it gave me a sense of empathy and understanding and it allowed me to look at people who are vulnerable, who are oppressed or looked down upon and be able to see the humanness in them.”  M.C.: “Yes.”C.B.: “And I always say, you know life isn’t about what happens to you it’s about what happens through you. So, regardless of the things that have happened to you in your past being bad or indifferent to them, as long as there’s good happening through you like, you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing in life.”M.C.: “Absolutely! Well, I think you are demonstrating that through the work that you’re doing and the vulnerability that you’re creating the space for folx to be vulnerable and for their voices to be heard and it’s expanding out and benefiting so many. So let me ask you this…”C.B.: “Okay.” M.C.: “…what does sex positivity mean to you?”C.B.: “Sex positivity means the absence of or management of shame. Like I am ashamed of certain things, I’m not going to lie but I manage it well. And I think one of the things that help is talking about it. So, sex positivity is being able to have an understanding of who you are as a person. What that means for you in bed, the things that you like sexually, being able to identify your organs or the organs that you want and being able to understand how to use them, what they mean to you. In my case, it’s pleasure [Laughter] until it comes time to reproduce, but sex positivity to me just means having that level of comfort with yourself. It means accepting who you are and how it relates to your life, and being able to openly communicate consensually about if you’re doing things with a partner. But you should be able to masturbate without feeling bad, there should never be a moment where you have that and just being able to manage the shame behind the sex. Sex positivity is just the freedom of being able to communicate about your sexuality to yourself and consensually to others.”M.C.: “Lovely, Awesome! So what projects do you have going on in 2018? What are you excited about?” C.B.: “2018…I’m really excited about the growth for my podcast, ‘Something Positive for Positive People.’ I’m excited for the number of guests that have been on, because I really thought that this was gonna be something that I was not gonna be able to get too many people to come on and talk about. About their personal experience living with various STIs, there are people of course with herpes because that’s what I have and that’s who I have access to. HPV, HIV, AIDS, people who have gotten chlamydia, gonorrhea, people who were dating people who have a sexually transmitted infection. I have everyone on the podcast who is either living with or have been affected by STI, and so I’m excited about so many stories to be put out there to the world. I’m excited about the messages I get from people who find the podcast, who find themselves being able to connect to the resources available to them. Who are meeting people in their area, who are telling me that now they disclosed for the first time and they told someone else about their condition. These are the kinds of things that excite me and keep me going and doing the podcast; it just makes me feel like I’m doing a good thing.”M.C.: “It’s been amazing connecting with your platform and just knowing it exists and I was recently a guest. I’m honored to be a guest on there and we were able to connect about my own experience living with HSV2 and living with herpes. And so again it’s just something that affects all of us in different ways and can our young people as well and so it’s great that we have platforms like yours that are saying, “hey let’s talk about this. Let’s connect. We are human beings, and let’s work through this together.” C.B.: “…and I did post the podcast to a specific group and there were few comments in there, and they were like, “Oh my God! Why would you tell your kids you have this?!” M.C.: “Ahh! Yeah!”C.B.: “And I was able to, as a result of the conversation that you and I had, I was able to educate and inform someone like, “Hey, you know this is really what it’s about.” I used the example of; I used the tickling analogy that we talked about in the podcast. I use that everywhere now all of the sudden…”M.C.: “Awe, that’s awesome!”C.B.: “…but as far as disclosing to your kids, like I think that, that has more power in it then telling your kids, “Don’t get an STD,”…”M.C.: “Yes!”C.B.: “…because at that point it’s real. Mom has an STD now…”M.C.: “Right.” C.B.: “Mom, my mom is not the kind of person I thought would be within this stigma of what I thought a person with herpes would look like. So I was able to explain that to her, and what she does with that information, I’ll never know.”M.C.: “Right.”C.B.:  “…but it’s there for other people who may have thought about it and thought, “I’m never telling my kids,” or who have been on the fence about telling their kids. So, thanks to the work that you’re doing, you’re educating a lot more people than you know. And I thank you so much for being on the podcast because of not a lot of people like tune in tightly but there are people who watch it from afar just to avoid the association or being found out about having an STD. And like I said, I just thank you for being so open and so vulnerable with me and sharing that information because now it allows for something greater to happen through this podcast than I would have been able to do on my own. Because otherwise, I would have just talked about herpes but [Laughter]…”M.C.: [Laughter]C.B.: “…here we are now with an idea that can inspire action to eliminate stigma and you know eventually completely free an entire group of people who are self oppressed. Literally, self oppressed.”M.C.: “Yes, that’s such an important perspective! Self oppressed because these secrets, these secrets are what will keep the shame and the stigma alive. We’ve got to come out of those secrets, and yes that means even to the closest folx in our lives. That’s really where it starts. It starts with us and then we expand out, so that may include our children. And like you said, the impact that it can have on shifting this is huge. Thank you for sharing that, that warms my heart, sincerely!” C.B.: “Yeah, just wanted to make sure that you know that! It’s the podcast that we did has gotten some very good feedback and I’m so thankful to have you as a guest and shift the direction that it’s going in and be able to do more good into the world. So thank you so much, Melissa, for what you’re doing.” M.C.: “Thank you, I’m just honored to be connected with you. So tell the listeners where they can find, ‘Something Positive for Positive People.’ What are the different platforms that it’s on?”C.B.: “Okay, so I hope y’all are ready, everybody grabs a pencil, or a paper or opens up the Notes app on your iPhone. I can be found on social media Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, @honmychest. That’s just the letter “H-O-N-M-Y-C-H-E-S-T,” like the letter H is on my chest. The podcast can be found on your favorite podcast player. It’s iTunes available, stitcher, pod bay, podbean. There are so many podcast websites out there. It’s ridiculous. So wherever you listen to podcasts just search ‘something positive for positive people’ and if you do listen, please do like subscribe and leave a review..”M.C.: “Yes.”C.B.: “I make sure to ask everyone to do that, just because it helps other people being able to find the podcast. And then be connected to the resources that they need to help get through their diagnosis. Just be able to rediscover themselves, like all the secret groups and everything that was available to me really helped me with getting through my diagnosis. And discovering who I am, was not who I was before the diagnosis, so help somebody by leaving a review if you check it out.” M.C.: “Absolutely, and we are going to include all of those links into the show notes as well as some resources about some of the topics that we’ve talked about today. That way you can get connected, so I just want to again just with all my heart and soul I want to thank you Courtney for everything that you’re doing, and everything you will do that you have no clue is in your path right now, because I know that it will be great! We are honored to have had your perspective and your voice and your experiences on this podcast.”C.B.: “Thank you, Melissa, it’s been a pleasure!”{Soft instrumental music plays as outro} If you like this episode and podcast please leave a review in iTunes or GooglePlay so more people can find us. And you can always visit us on our website at sexpositivefamilies.com. There you can shop sex-positive swag in our online store. Connect with us across our social media platforms, join our Facebook community, and learn more resources to help support sexual health in your family. Until next time, I’m Melissa Carnagey, thank you for supporting content that strengthens sexual health talks in families.The post 012: Courtney Brame | Shaking STI Stigma appeared first on Sex Positive Families.


19 Mar 2018

Rank #1

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011: Ryan Dillon | Supporting Trans & Queer Youth

In this episode, we dive into the gender spectrum exploring how parents and caring adults can support transgender youth. I chat with Ryan Dillon, a licensed professional counselor in private practice at Pride Counseling Austin, who specializes in working with trans, LGBQ+ youth and their families. Ryan offers an empathetic safe space for folx to explore their identities and also teaches comprehensive sex ed classes to middle school-aged students with an organization and curriculum called Unhushed. This episode offers empowering perspectives on how we can support gender identity and expression for the children in our lives.Want to connect with Ryan? Check out Pride Counseling Austin and sign up for the monthly newsletter here. Follow on Instagram here and like on the Facebook page here. Learn more about the Unhushed organization and comprehensive sex education curriculum here.For additional Austin-area and national resources for transgender and queer youth: OutYouth in Austin, Texas Central Texas Transgender Health Coalition  National Center for Transgender Equality Gender Spectrum And as always: Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for regular sex-positive content and updates. Sign up for our email list Leave a review in Apple Podcasts to let us know how much you’re enjoying the podcast. This gives us great feedback from our community as well as expands the reach and visibility so we can serve more families! TRANSCRIPT{Soft instrumental music plays as introduction} {Person speaking}“Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex-positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us!”{Same Person Speaking} “Hi families, in today’s episode we dive into the gender spectrum exploring how parents and caring adults can support transgender youth. I chat with Ryan Dillon, a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice at Pride Counseling Austin who specializes in working with Trans, LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Ryan offers an empathetic safe space for folx to explore their identities and also teaches comprehensive sex ed classes to middle school age students with an organization and curriculum called, Unhushed. This episode offers empowering perspectives on how we can support gender identity and expression for the children in our lives. Let’s have a listen.”M.C.: “Hi Ryan it is amazing to have you on the SPF podcast. How are you?Ryan Dillon: “I’m doing well. Thank you for having me!”M.C.: “Thank you so much. We are excited to learn from you and to get us started; what has your journey been to the work that you’re doing now?”R.D.: “Of course! I grew up in a very accepting family, and I feel very privileged to have done that. I had parents that were always encouraging when I wanted to express my selves in something that was out of societal norms, which happened quite a bit since I was a very expressive young child and then a very, let’s say, handful as a teenager. And I was always expressing myself very feminine and wearing traditional women’s clothing, and not once did they bat an eye at it. It set me up for a lot of confidence going forward, and when I say confidence I don’t mean like chest puffed up being able to walk into a room being able to speak to anybody. I’m very much an introvert, but it was confident on the inside is more of what I mean. I had a really good sense of who I was, and when it was time for me to come out to my parents, I felt very confident in doing so and sitting my parents down and telling them that I was gay was extremely easy. I mean, I have the type of parents that I was like, “Mom, Dad, I’m gay,” and my dad says, “Okay, tell us when you start having sex so we can make sure you’re safe.” M.C.: “Awe, yeah.” R.D.: “So I had a very sex-positive family from the start and very gender positive parents as well.  And getting older and growing up in southern Kentucky was hard.”M.C.: “mmm…I bet.”R.C.: “Yeah a lot of southern Kentucky is more afraid and nervous about things they don’t understand and being able to express that, threw a lot of people off. And more often than not it did put me in some dangerous situations, but I always knew I had a support system with my friends and parents who I knew I could always turn to; and like I said I was always very privileged with that. I got older. I went to college. Got out of Southern Kentucky, which was nice. Kinda the more traditional college story where you got in, you’re going through four years and then you get close to your senior year and you’re like, “What am I gonna do with the rest of my life? And I was a communications bachelor’s degree. I kinda stumbled on counseling and I fell in love with it. I did my internship during school in a very southern Kentucky town called Elizabethtown, and if anyone has ever seen the Orlando Bloom movie, uhm that’s a lie it doesn’t look anything like that.”M.C.: [Laughter] “Don’t believe the lies!”R.D.: “Yeah, that’s rose-colored glasses. It does not look like that! But I had this amazing supervisor who they were like, “Who do you not want to work with?” And I was like, “teenagers,” and they were like, “great you’re gonna work with teenagers!” and I can confidently say the rest is history. I primarily work with teenagers now. I love the population. I love working with queer youth and young adults. It’s fantastic. I became known for seeing trans and non-binary youth in Kentucky and figuring out that in a very small, conservative community that it’s very much needed because there is not education around even when parents wanted to be accepting. It was difficult for them to be accepting because there was nothing around them kind of helping them. There were no resources. It’s not like in a city like Austin where you can go down the street and find a lot of organizations.”M.C.: “Right.”R.D.: “So they wanted to be accepting, but it came across as a whole lot of microaggressions to their children. And seeing how that affects children in the long run, that even if one day their parents become accepting it’s really hard to let go of things your parents have said in the past. So I set on the professional journey of helping queer youth and young adults, and not just them but also their parents. And giving the parents resources they need to create a better family system for their children. So that’s kinda how I got to where I am today.”M.C.: “Wow, that is amazing your path informed your ability to be able to then serve others. You mentioned the word microaggressions, can you help us understand for anyone that may not understand what that means?”R.D.: “Yeah, of course! In the sense that I mean it with working with transgender and non-binary youth, it’s when parents come in and they really don’t understand what they are saying. Like they will come in and they’ll say things like, “They’re too young. They don’t know who they are,” or “It’s just a phase.” Things that kind of chip away at their kid’s personality or their sense of being. It’s those things that kinda get lodged into the back of your head. It’s sometimes easier to get over the big things people say to you, like the things that people need to say to you. A lot of the time it can take a lot of work but it can be easier to get over that. But if you have someone close to your heart like a family or a close friend who says things like, “oh it’s a phase,” or “oh you’re too young you don’t know what you’re talking about,” that can get lodged in your head. And I work with a lot of clients who even after their parents become accepting and I’ve worked with them on language, and teens and the youth still have issues with wanting to talk to their parents, because that’s lodged into their minds, “they’re not going to take me seriously. I’m just a teenager. Why would they take me seriously?” M.C.: “What have you found to be some breakthrough moments in terms of the parents understanding that their young person is identifying as they are even if it’s not along the binary?”R.D.: “I think it’s a lot of different things. A lot of it is breaking down the societal construct of gender because it’s so black and white, this or that and it’s hard for parents to step out of that. And with that societal construct of gender, we also have a societal construct of what it means to be a parent. Those two go hand-in-hand where they’re really fused together, along with like parenting and sex. There’s a lot that your “supposed to do” as a parent – quote on quote. And it’s bringing those walls down and being able to allow those parents to see that gender is vast, it’s a galaxy, and it’s beautiful! You just have to trust that your child knows who they are, and that is a big thing for parents to do, is that trusting in their child no matter how young they are. You have to trust your child that they have a sense of themselves and take them seriously, validate it and allow them to explore it. It’s very important to allow a child to explore their identity, and I’m finding a lot of parents become more comfortable and have breakthroughs when they allow their child to explore their identity. Whether it be a sexual orientation identity or a gender identity, and they see their child get happier and a lot of things they brought them initially to counseling for kinda elevates. It doesn’t make everything go away of course, but their child feeling safe at home to explore and that they not get in trouble, tends to bring parents onto the side that, “Okay, I can understand this,” and get more to accepting.”M.C.: “That’s such a good point! Yeah, because at the core especially of healthy well-meaning parents are just that desire for your child to be happy to feel safe and it’s often the issues of our society that are the problem, not our children.”R.D.: “Exactly, and as I try to tell all parents, the thing that children are trying to do the most are they’re craving to find a sense of belonging and self. And how do they fit within the family system, at school, and other societal constructs; they are trying to find where they belong and they need to have the ability to explore themselves. And that’s like when in teenagers, I try to tell parents that it’s normal for your child to pull away. It’s a normal step in teenage development, is that they’re just trying to find a sense of where they belong. And if a parent kind of takes that brave step of taking a step back and allowing their child to explore themselves and what that means to them, they will see a drastic difference in their child. A lot of the times every child wants to feel safe at home, like they’re accepted and allowing your child to explore their gender, it can make all the difference in the world. Most children are not expecting their parents to be experts they’re just expecting them to be there and be accepting and to be warm.”M.C.: “Exactly! Why is it important for our children to learn about gender?”R.D.: “I think it’s important for children to learn about gender in its vast form, meaning that it’s more than what society says it is. And I love teaching the sex ed class that I do with Unhushed because we teach it in a way that it explores every facet of somebody’s gender identity. And we have them create a physical representation of their gender expression and they get to introduce it to a partner for the first time. And it’s a very exciting activity because it’s something that a child has never been asked before. Seeing them get a brainstorm and what could that mean? And a lot of the times, actually I’ve never seen happen like this, they never put how they’re currently expressing themselves on the paper. They put something extravagant because it’s kinda their being, extravagance, and at a certain point of your life you take part in that extravagance and then that extravagance and you show that off to people. And it’s a beautiful thing to have children learn about gender like that; that it’s not all baseball and trucks for boys and princesses and pink for girls. It can be mix and match. It’s going into a candy store and getting one of those cellophane bags and taking a little bit of everything.”M.C.: [Laughter] “Exactly.”R.D.: “and it’s beautiful to see them explore that side, and the younger kids that I’ve taught it’s been amazing because most of them already have the concepts. Like they know what it is to be trans and non-binary and a lot of the times they are accepting of it, not all of the time, but a lot of the time they are. And it’s beautiful to see that transition in children that they can grasp these concepts that people ten, fifteen years older than they can’t.”M.C.: “Yeah, I feel like we have a lot that we can learn from young people. And it seems that over time we are told in our society that we have to choose across a lot of different things. Aspects of our identity, we need to pick the job we’re going to have, the future that we’re going to have, the partner that we’re going to have, our identity, where we’re going to live. We have to make these finite choices and that they don’t exist on a spectrum. So I think that we as adults start to become socialized out of understanding that experience that I think we all once had of being as wide open as you see these students being.”R.D.: “I think that’s why it’s really important for parents to learn from their youth and I tell parents, it’s okay to be scared. It’s something that you’ve never had to think about whether it is privileged or not it’s scary a lot of the times. And a lot of the times it’s scary because their children are going against societal or society’s construct. That can put a lot of fear in a parent, because what if they get hurt? Everyone watches the news and sees what can happen. But it’s something where they can find themselves and in that, the children finding themselves it can help the parent become more open and understand the world around them.”M.C.: “Right, do you do any classes or workshops as far as getting parents together that may be of these shared or similar experiences?”R.D.: “I’m about to start a parenting class for parents of LGBQ teenagers in April.”M.C.: “Awesome!”R.D.: “Yeah, I’m very excited, I don’t have the dates set just yet but if somebody wants to go to my website, the information is up there for pricing and what to expect.”M.C.: “In the work that you do and the therapeutic work that you do what are some of the key theories or aspects of your practice that you find helpful in working with trans children and their families?”R.D.: “I am a narrative therapist in an expressive arts therapist so I love stories! It’s one of the biggest facets of narrative therapy is finding power in your own story. Making sense of life around you through your narrative. And building confidence in your story and I love listening to my clients tell their stories, because no matter how young someone is they have a very powerful story. And watching a seven-year-old tell their story of transitioning watching their eyes light up the first time that someone called them a “he” or a “she.” You know being able to go in the bathroom that they’ve been dying to go in; it’s so powerful and so heartwarming. And then I can see the same twinkle and spark in the eyes of a teenager, or a thirty-year-old, or a sixty-year-old in just as someone shares their story, especially when you’re sharing your story with someone who you don’t feel is judging you. That’s a very powerful thing to do, and it encourages someone to unravel that story and tell more, and tell more and tell hopes and dreams and just every facet of your life. So that’s why I love stories and why I’m a narrative therapist; so much expressive arts component of that is being a kind of, “express your inner thoughts and feelings through art”  in some way, because sometimes it’s hard to talk about things that are going on in your head. Or maybe sometimes you just don’t have the words for it? M.C.: “Right.”R.D.: “So we’ll do some artwork, which I am not good at art, and that’s not the point of it, you just kind of put your thoughts and feelings on paper in some way. Whether it be with a crayon or a pen, sometimes I break out my sand tray and we build an entire sand world to represent thought and a feeling. And being able to process like that and putting those two together being able to put a story to a piece of art you created whether it’s a story that happened in your life or not. Because you can always find life lessons and themes in fantasy.”M.C.: “I think that that’s so important! So is some of the work that you do with both the parents and the young person in the same space?”R.D.: “Yeah sometimes! I, a lot of the youth mostly teenagers that I work with I usually do a mix of individual with the teenager and then family sessions. I will usually go every four sessions with an individual and then we’ll have a family session. And that’s, I’ve seen that work a lot, that’s the primary way I do things.”M.C.: “Right, and I can see how if you’re allowing that space for that young person and even the parent you know to be able to tell their story or share their perspective and it not be interrupted or shut down that must be transformative and open up opportunities for empathy between them.”R.D.: “Yeah, yeah it definitely does! It’s a very healthy and constructive way to share fears. A lot of times when you’re sharing fears with someone, it can feel heavy. If they’re not presented in a clear and healthy way, you’ll kind of be presenting your fears to the other person and saying, “here hold these,” but in a session where everyone feels like they are being heard it’s when you can say, “these are my fears, and they may have nothing to do with you, but I’m afraid of this.” It can be very empowering for a parent to say to their teenager, and then the teenager has a chance to respond and look at them and say, “I recognize that fear, and I can see why you fear that, but this is why we need to do this.””M.C.: “What would you want people to know or to take away in terms of understanding the experience of trans youth and trans folx in general?”R.D.: “That just like the rest of us, they’re just trying to find where they belong and a sense of self. And when someone holds a lot of privilege that is a lot easier to do. Trying to not be a gatekeeper or a roadblock, validate their experiences, don’t question them on it. And I see a lot of adults do that a lot they’re like, “well how do you know?” and that’s not their question to ask anyone, because a lot of the time the answer is, just do. And kind of trying to step out of the way, allowing them to explore themselves and trust that they know who they are on the inside. And yes, that’s going to change and develop as they get a sense of themselves as it does with all of us. As we get older we figure out what gender means to us as individuals.”M.C.: “Mhm.”R.D.: “That’s the important thing, that gender, and sexuality, it’s an individual thing. We each have slightly different definitions and slightly different understanding of what something is. Where a trans and non-binary youth are answering those questions for themselves.”M.C.: “Yep.”R.D.: “And it’s not being that gatekeeper, that roadblock and encouraging that exploration and trying to ask healthy questions like, “what can I do for you?” “What kind of support do you need from me?” and asking questions that foster support and love.”M.C.:  “I love that. What resources would you offer or “go-to’s” for families so that they can either learn more or get support?”R.D.: “Definitely. We have an amazing organization here in Austin called, Out Youth, and they are amazing! There’s a new organization here in town, been around for a year now we had an amazing conference here last year and it’s The Central Texas Transgender Health Coalition, and they are phenomenal at what they do. We also have organizations like, Allgo, which is for queer people of color. Austin, we are lucky to have a lot of organizations that support LGBT youth, young adults, parents and families. National Center for Transgender Equality, is an amazing organization to go to, they have parts of their website that is dedicated to each state so if you want to learn about different organizations in that state, or different laws in that state, or things such as that, that is the best website and organization to go to for resources.”M.C.: “Awesome! What does sex positivity mean to you?R.D.: “Sex positivity to me means being open and being accepting. It’s an individual process, and like I like to tell my middle schoolers when we create group agreements, it’s all about not yucking someone’s yum.”M.C.: [Laughter] “Yes.”R.D.: “And it’s just about knowing that sex is different for everyone, and everyone’s gonna have a different style and taste of what they want. And accepting that, you don’t have to understand it, you don’t have to question someone about it, it’s just being like, “Okay, I see you, I support you, and I love you.” M.C.: “So what projects are you excited about looking at 2018 the rest of this year?” R.D.: “WHEW! A lot is coming up for 2018, especially April! In April, Adam Maurer and I are having a workshop for mental health professionals who want to serve LGBT clients. It’s kinda like an intro workshop. I also have a parenting class for parents of LGBTQ teenagers coming out in April. I’m going to be having a free information session for that. And sometime in mid-April, I don’t have a date yet, but if someone wants to learn more about it they can go to my website pridecounselingatx.com. And one thing I’m very excited about, I have my first book ever coming out at the end of March. Co-written with Dr. Karen Rayne, of Unhushed that I teach sex ed with…”M.C.: “Awesome.”R.D.: “And I am very excited about that book!”M.C.: “So just a few things, right?” [Laughter]R.D.: “Just a few.” [Laughter]M.C.: “And you have your practice right?”R.D.: “I do. I am in private practice in south Austin and I specialize in working with identity development in queer youth and young adults.”M.C.: “Well it’s obvious that you are doing great work in that space. How can folx connect with you or your platforms or the information that you have to offer?”R.D.: “I have my website pridecounselingatx.com. I put most of my information on there. I also have a monthly newsletter. It comes out on the first of every month. You can sign up for that at my website and my largest platform that I use the most is Instagram. My handle is @pridecounselingatx. I absolutely love using Instagram. I feel like I connect with my population the most through there, and I post absolutely everything on there, including what I’m doing, resources around the city, and book recommendations all the time!” M.C.: “And you have some, you’ve released recently some characters, right? Tell me again what’s the name, and how did that come about?”R.D.: “I have! I have created five graphic characters that I call my “pride partners,” and each pride partner is a different gender identity and sexual orientation. And I came about that while I was visiting my best friend that I graduated grad school with in Seattle. And I was reading a book and it was a book that was a half comic book, a half novel about a queer teen. And it made me think about all my clients, and a large portion of my clients are extremely artistic and it just popped into my head creating artistic representations of what gender and sexuality can look like. So, I have characters as I said of all different gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and all that information in all five of their bios can be found on my website and I will be hopefully releasing small novels for each by the end of the year.”M.C.: “Oh wow, that’s ambitious! That’s awesome!”R.D.: “Thank you!”M.C.: “And how have those been useful? How have the folks that you’ve been working with really connected with those characters?”R.D.: “A lot of my parents have been reading and connecting with them. It’s easy to read the bios, which were created to represent one possible story and hopefully introduce a new perspective for people who have a binary view on gender and sexuality. So it’s kinda geared towards parents who may need a starting point and at the end of each bio of the five pride partners, there are resources and videos that they can go to, to learn more. So, they’ve been received extremely well and I’m very happy about that. M.C.: “Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us and for doing the great work that you do.” R.D.: “Thank you so much for having me! And thank you for all the work that you are doing, I love connecting with fellow sex education geeks that are around the city.”M.C.: “Proud geeks, right!?” [Laughter] R.D.: [Laughter]M.C.: “Thank you so much, Ryan!” {Person Speaking} “If you like this episode and podcast please leave a review in iTunes or GooglePlay so more people can find us. And you can always visit us on our website at sexpositivefamilies.com, there you can shop sex-positive swag in our online store. Connect with us across our social media platforms, join our Facebook community, and learn more resources to help support sexual health in your family. Until next time, I’m Melissa Carnagey, thank you for supporting content that strengthens sexual health talks in families.” {Soft instrumental music plays as outro} The post 011: Ryan Dillon | Supporting Trans & Queer Youth appeared first on Sex Positive Families.


12 Mar 2018

Rank #2

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003: Dr. Uchenna ‘UC’ Ossai | Demystifying Our Pelvic Floor

In this episode, I talk with sex-positive pelvic health physical therapist, sex educator and counselor, Dr. Uchenna ‘UC’ Ossai. UC demystifies the correlation between pelvic health and sexual health, defining for us what the pelvic floor is, why it is so important to sexual health and functioning, and discusses some common issues people can experience. We also learn some background into what ignited the work she is doing in the medical field as well as in her sex education work for grown folks via her platform, YouSeeLogic.Want to connect with UC’s services and content? Visit her website here and follow her on Instagram here to catch the Bourbon Talez and Swagger Tips series. Catch Dr. UC live-streaming as a Pleasure Professional every Tuesday at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern to learn more about pelvic health and sexual health.Additional resources : To find a pelvic health practitioner near you, visit pelvicrehab.com. And as always: Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for regular sex-positive content and updates. Sign up for our email list Leave a review in Apple Podcasts to let us know how much you’re enjoying the podcast. This gives us great feedback from our community as well as expands the reach and visibility so we can serve more families! TRANSCRIPT {Soft instrumental music plays as introduction} {Person speaking} Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex-positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us!  {Same person speaking}            Hi Families, so an important part of being a sex-positive family is maintaining the sexual wellness of the adults in the equation. Parents or caretakers can model attention to our sexual health, which sets a living example and gives our children permission to follow suit.  So on this episode, I had the pleasure of learning about the connection between pelvic health to sexual health from Dr. Uchenna Ossai who is a pelvic health physical therapist and AASECT certified sexuality counselor. Alongside her work in the medical field, she also has her own business called “You See Logic” which is a platform that focuses on improving the sexual intelligence of adults through innovative content and honest discussion that is free of judgment. That’s actually how we became connected, I watched her ‘Bourbon Tales’ series that she does on Instagram, so make sure you go follow her @YouSeeLogic so that you can get some grown and sexy sexual health information. So get comfy, and get ready to learn about sexual health and pelvic health because the doctor is in! Melissa Carnagey: “Alright, so we have with us Dr. Uchenna Ossai, or better known as You See Logic, thank you so much for joining us today.” Uchenna Ossai: “Thank you, I am so happy to be here with everyone. I’ve been a pelvic health physical therapist for about 7 years now, and really what started my journey was an internship when I was about 15 years old, a summer internship, with a wonderful woman named Kathy Tesco in Dallas, TX. When I interned with her I thought originally that it was just a regular orthopedic physical therapy job. But it was actually a pelvic health physical therapy job. She saw women and men with pelvic floor issues, so I thought: ‘Wow, this is amazing’, it ignited something deeper in me. I thought I wanted to either do business or med school, I was one of those nerdy kids who did Med School Camp and Math Camp. I thought this is it, this is what I’m going to do and when I did this job I thought whoa, I felt at home. So the reason why I went to P.T. (physical therapy) school was to be a pelvic health P.T. (Physical Therapist). I had an interesting journey, I went to college in Boston, I went to Boston University and I was in their Masters Physical Therapy Program, as a freshman. But I partied too hard and was like I want to enjoy college life. I don’t want to be in a Master’s Program at 18. So I switched majors, and then came back to my senses once I graduated and thought, “I do want to be a P.T.,” so I just did research for two years and went to grad school at 24.” M.C.: “Wow, so you’ve been in practice since then or do they have clinical work or how does that work?” U.O.: “So I did a 3-year clinical doctorate program and that’s the terminal degree in physical therapy so that leads to a PharmD or a doctor in nursing. Then I went on to do my residency in women’s health at Washington University in Saint Louis. And then I was practicing for a couple of years before I decided to do some other post-graduate work at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, at their sexuality education…(corrects self) Sexual Health Certificate Program. That’s where I was actually able to get a lot of didactic learning and clinical mentorship for treating patients with sexual dysfunction because I didn’t have anything like this. There wasn’t anything like this in P.T. school. There wasn’t anything like this in my residency where I learned to be a pelvic health physical therapist. When you’re treating people who have complex pelvic floor dysfunction and are dealing with urinary incontinence, constipation, painful sex, general pain… you name it. Of course, they’re coming to you because they want to stop having bladder accidents or they want to stop having pelvic pain but that also impacts their sexual function, and that impacts your whole sense of self and identity. I felt a huge lack of competency and knowledge in addressing these needs for my patients. Literally, for the first couple of years, I was just reading as many books as I could, trying to take courses here and there. I felt like I needed to do something more and that’s why I did the Michigan program.” M.C.: “Wow…and you… kind of speaking on that, you are one of three licensed physical therapists with this certification. Is that right?” U.O.: “Yeah, yeah I’m one of three pelvic health physical therapists in the world with an AASECT Certification in Sexuality Counseling. I’m also a Board Certified Women’s Health Clinical Specialist, which it’s kind of like being a board-certified Ob-Gyn so your gynecologist went to med school and then did 4 years of residency, then sat for their boards to be a gynecologist, and so that’s the physical therapy version of that.” M.C.: “Gotcha, gotcha. What intrigued you about and drew you to sexual health? Did you have any type of early experiences or curiosities or anything that tied you to this specific area?” U.O. “You know I wish I could tell you there’s one specific thing but I have to say now that we’re talking to Sex Positive Families, it was my mother… it was my mom. My mother is like a Nigerian tour-de-force. You know, she’s a chemist… M.C.: “Shout out to Mom!” U.O.: “She’s a superstar. She’s a chemist. She’s an immigrant. She is a fierce Catholic. So it was really interesting growing up in a house where your mother is a scientist but also a hardcore Catholic, who goes to church twice a week. And she tells you to stay virginal until you’re married but that sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. And that you shouldn’t give it away to some guy but then she’s also saying that masturbation is okay. I would go to church three times a week because I was in parochial school my entire life until I went to college. It was very interesting ‘cause she wasn’t afraid to talk to us about sex. I feel like my sister and I lucked out with our mother because here she is trying to raise children in a certain religious belief system, but then also recognizing that she separated the religious belief with the sexual component. But then she also didn’t because she still firmly wanted us to be virgins, but not be virgins until marriage but until we were in love with someone until we were in a mutually respectful relationship. And that is a very radical thing for a hardcore Catholic mommy to say to her daughter. And it wasn’t because she was like ‘oh my precious female child, you know you need to stay pure for your man.’ It was more because she wanted us to have a beautiful experience, she wanted us to be able to give our whole selves to the person that was with. Even now I struggle with that because I’m like ‘Mom I’m not giving myself to anyone. I’m experiencing sex and you told me that was supposed to be mutually pleasurable experience…’ and she’s like ‘Of course, of course,’ and I think for her there is some patriarchal kind of ideologies that slip in there, even when she’s trying to be a very progressive parent. Not for the sake of being progressive but for the sake of her children, you know?  Because this is a woman who came from Nigeria, who was born and raised in Nigeria, in an environment where female genital mutilation was a common practice. I think from watching that and seeing that in her life, she wanted her children to have a robust experience but also be in line with our Catholic beliefs at the time… with her Catholic beliefs, at the time.” M.C.: “Wow, that’s something that so many people are challenged with and struggle with, just those deep-rooted beliefs…” U.O.: “But I also want to say I still hid the fact that I was having sex from my mom…(Laughs) I just want to make that clear…” M.C.: (Laughs) “You’re not alone I think a lot of people listening can certainly raise their hand to that…” U.O.: “Oh yeah… It wasn’t like I was like ‘Mommy I’m having all these great orgasms with this dude’ it was just more I knew what to do, I was on birth control and used a condom every time. I protected myself, and sex was more of exploring. I viewed sex differently, it wasn’t something that I did because I wanted to please the person I was with. I just wanted to do it because it was fun for me, and I was curious. So that’s a different place to be, especially than some of my classmates at the time, who were having sex to keep their boyfriend or girlfriend.” M.C.: “Well, she did well!  Why is pelvic health so relevant to sexual health? Help us understand, for folx who may be new to talking about and learning about the pelvic floor, help us understand. Break it down for us.” U.O.: “The pelvic floor is the muscles at the floor of your pelvis. So they are the muscles that attach at your pubic bone, that bone right in your lower abdomen and all the way back to your tailbone. They hold up all of your organs and their primary job is to keep your organs inside of you and to stabilize your pelvis and your spine. They help you with urination, defecation, sex, babies if you have a uterus and a vagina, and urination. And they also pump all the blood from your lower extremities back to your heart, and they also distribute your lymphatic fluid. So they have a lot… (both laugh) they’re doing a lot. They keep the train on the track. Those are huge components and I would have to say, why is your pelvic floor important for sexual health? Well because those are your sphincter muscles, right? So they say, if your bladder is full, those muscles have to relax and contract back up. If you have to have a bowel movement, the same thing, they relax. During sex, those muscles are going to compress and they’re going to release. They’re going to pump blood into the penis and the clitoris. They’re going to expand and contract through orgasm and during arousal. You know it’s going to work in synergy with your nervous system that’s getting up-regulated and as you get emotionally stimulated and triggered, they work in tandem, so it doesn’t work in isolation. It’s part of the team. If your pelvic floor isn’t acting right, if it’s acting a fool, then all of the other components related to that do get disrupted. The pelvic floor is kind of mechanical in that it has to contract and relax in a pattern that’s specific to the individual. In order for you to have the sexual experience you’re looking for, to feel the sexual experience fully.” M.C.: “See, and what’s coming to mind for me, and I don’t know if this is just me and my life experience, but I don’t feel like I got a whole lot of education amongst all the anatomy oriented education that I had, specific to pelvic health or the pelvic floor. Is that just me or is that common?” U.O.: “No, that’s very common. Very, very common. It’s almost shocking to me when you see, even formal sex education in schools, or whatever you want to call them, how they just totally ignore this body part. Hell most biology classes even don’t explore this part of your body, but it’s such an important part, but I think they stay away from it because it’s around the genitals. One of the components about your pelvic floor that I want people to understand… one of the things I want them to take away is that your pelvic floor is a muscle. Just like your abs are muscles, just like your bicep is a muscle, your booty is a muscle- your gluteal muscles, right? So let’s say you’ve had a stressful day right? Let’s use me as an example when I am truly stressed I get headaches, and my neck just doesn’t want to act right…” M.C.: “Yes, that’s me too…” U.O.: “Right? So my body keeps the score, and it happens to keep the score in my neck, in my trapezius muscles, in my levator muscles. For somebody else, it might be their lower back. For someone else it may be their gut. For another person it might be their pelvic floor. So when you’re thinking about your pelvic floor muscle, it’s very sensitive to what’s going on in your life and day to day routine. And you may be a person where your pelvic floor isn’t affected by stress, but then you may be someone that is. And if you aren’t aware that that muscle exists, that can be a real problem. Because then you’re thinking “What is going on with my body? Why am I having pain or having a hard time pooping right now? Why can’t I pee right?” M.C.: “That makes perfect sense, so then leading into that, what are some common dysfunctions you see that are correlated to the pelvic floor/pelvic health?” U.O.: “Pelvic floor dysfunction is an umbrella term to describe any problems below the navel and above the knee. So let’s use men as an example, some men come to the urologist and say “Oh you know, I’m having pain in my prostate or I can’t pee or I’m having pain with ejaculation” right?  Then the Urologist will say “Oh you have an infection, here are some antibiotics.” And then the guy will take it and then he thinks he is fine. Then maybe a couple of weeks later, it’s still there. So after a few years, the doctor will say you don’t have an infection. I’m not giving you any more antibiotics. Well, it’s the public floor. So what they call that is male prostatitis, but it’s male pelvic pain. For women, there are things like dyspareunia, which is pain with intercourse. Vaginismus which is when the muscles around the opening of the vagina are too tight so nothing can go in. Right? Not a finger, not a tampon, not a speculum, not a dildo- Nothing. Right? Or when it does go in it’s extremely painful. Feels like they are being ripped apart vaginally. So pelvic floor dysfunction is constipation, the inability to empty your bowel or not getting the urge to have a bowel movement. It can be urinary urgency. Feeling like you always need to pee, but then you go to the bathroom and nothing comes out. You know that feeling when you need to pee really badly and get that relief once you’ve emptied? Imagine never having that relief, all the time, all day.” M.C.: “That would be maddening…” U.O.: “Maddening, right? Would you want to have sex if you feel like that all the time?” M.C.: “Absolutely not, nothing is going inside of me if that’s happening (laughs)…” U.O.: “(Laughs) Exactly. So, those are common conditions that you’ll see. Pregnancy and postpartum, that’s another thing, a lot of women postpartum, whether C-section or vaginal… Let’s say C-section, some women end up having a pubic symphysis separation, so the bone that connects to your pelvis in the front gets separated, which can be extremely painful. You might have an infection at the C-section, and mind you with a C-section they’ve cut through 3 layers of fat or not fat, excuse me, abdominal muscles. And your abdominal muscles are very important for what? Spine stabilization, pelvic girdle stabilization, pelvic floor function. Remember we talked about the team sport that the pelvic floor plays with the rest of your body? If your abs are off the field, it’s almost like hockey. I don’t know how many people play on a team, but let’s say 6 people play at a time. Let’s say one dude is in the penalty box, everyone else has to pick up the slack. So that is how you want to think about that postpartum period, and you’re at a hormonal disadvantage particularly if you’re breastfeeding. Because your estrogen stores have bottomed out. So that means all that juicy lube, that I call estrogen, goes away from your joints, your skin. Which means your vagina is drier than the Sahara Desert. Your joints are loosey-goosey. You don’t feel quite right and you’re sleep-deprived…” M.C.: “Been there!” Both: (Laughing) M.C.: “And I know we have listeners who have been there so I’m sure they are saying amen on that! It makes it so, so hard to tap into intimacy and sexuality when all of that is going on, it’s crazy.” U.O.: “It’s so hard. You know, one of the things I always tell a lot of my patients is that… particularly my postpartum patients, such strong exceptional humans in this group- I mean good lord. So what I say is that ‘right now your body is not acting right. Ok, we accept that. But we also need to look at the fact that you’re not getting as much sleep as you’re used to getting, you’re also taking care of a new human…’ Let’s say there are any issues with sex, even in the slightest before this came into play, that is going to rear its ugly head. Right? Because it sucks, you have to be… I was listening to a podcast by my colleague, Pleasure Mechanics, listening to Esther Perel talk about this very issue, and she says that women need to be a little more narcissistic in bed…” M.C.: “Good point! (laughs)” U.O.: “Right? When you’re going through that postpartum phase, where your whole mind and soul- Every cell in your body is focused on that baby, and it’s hard to kind of rip yourself out of “caretaking mode” to do you. So it’s really about counseling yourself, but also counseling your partner or partners to kind of support you in that. Because it may be that intimacy is your love language during that time in your life. You might need a partner who will anticipate every need you have so that you can at least have the bandwidth to consider sex.” M.C.: “Yeah, and just with taking that load off of the many responsibilities because you can feel like a machine. Levels of your life are being sucked from you, sometimes literally, and it’s on this certain schedule, and the schedule is not yours anymore. As you said, the time to recoup and recharge through rest, or through even eating, through bathing through just some basic just kind of ‘self-care’ components. I think arguably within the first year at least, if you’re in a partnership and having a partner who is just willing to just take some of that load off, that can get those juices flowing!” (laughs) U.O.: “It totally can. Or if you’re single, establishing community partners, ‘tribe partners.’ Because being a single parent is not easy, you know? My mother was a single parent with me starting at age 12 and granted my sister and I were toileting independently at that time, we could feed ourselves. But I remember that was a really tough time in our lives. When you have a new baby and you don’t have a partner sharing the same space with you it’s going to be a lot like… preserving your sexy means identifying partners to help you out even if this means that they can watch the baby for two hours while you shower and get a quick nap in. You know and something as small as that can make a huge difference in finding yourself again. But establishing those patterns, those behaviors early is going to be key to get you out of that postpartum period. You know once the baby is big enough when the baby is a little bit more independent.” M.C.: “So by day you are immersed in this pelvic health work, but by night you get into other things… Is that right? What is that? Tell us about that.” U.O.: “Yeah (laughs) I started my platform @YouSeeLogic Y-O-U-S-E-E Logic mainly as a platform for grown folx. So it stems from my patients, after years of treating people of all genders, ages, partner structures, one of the most common things I heard was “I wish I met you 10 years ago. I wish I knew this… I wish I knew that I could do this… I wish I knew I could go to someone about this. I was so sad that I was able to address my issue with you in two months when I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years.”  And that bugs me, so I started asking my patients “why did you wait so long? What was it?” They said things like “When I went to my doctor they told me to drink a glass of wine and chill out or they told me it was in my head and I just have to live with it. I didn’t think… I thought as an adult I already knew what I needed to know.” M.C.:  “Yeah you trust that you’re getting the education you’re supposed to have to ‘adult’.” U.O.:  “And you’re just like yeah I’m grown, what else am I supposed to know about sex? What else is there about sex that I need to know? What else is there about my body that I should know, other than the fact that it hurts or it’s not fun or I can’t maintain an erection or I can’t get orgasms. I’m just like dang…So it’s really about this lack of audacity or being aware of this permission to continue to seek knowledge about these things. That’s when I started learning and I decided that I need to do some more graduate work. Because I said to myself, well what is that about? Where is that coming from, you know? When you think about sex, you have to look at it from a biopsychosocial angle, right? There’s a biological piece that we talked about hormones. The psychological piece where we talked about stress or like hey maybe a person that’s more leaning towards an asexual point of view. Or you have a history with mental health or bipolar disorder. You know… or maybe you’re just a kind of a type B personality that can influence how your sex is.  And also how you grew up, what was your sociocultural environment growing up? And what’s your socio-cultural environment now? What are the cultural aspects of it- to their relationship… the relationship you have with your family, with your partner- if you have a partner, with your friends all of that informs your sexual footprint.” M.C.: “Very well said. Through the work you’ve been doing in the sex education space you’re helping people to reach these breakthroughs and come to a better understanding of themselves with their sexuality and in their sexual health.” U.O.: ” Absolutely, and that’s why I sometimes… Well, that’s why I started “Bourbon Tales,” because I’m like, if I’m going to talk about sex, I need to be drinking bourbon because that’s like my life juice. It’s a video format on Instagram, where I answer people’s questions about sex and it’s just a 60-second response. But I wanted to give people… I wanted people to be comfortable asking those questions and I wanted them to know that no one’s judging you and we are all wondering about the same question that you had the bravery to ask. And that’s why I also have this thing called “Swagger Tips” on Instagram as well trying to give people tips on how to maintain their sexy swagger. Sometimes they’re not about sex, sometimes they’re about what’s going on in society or culturally. I make comments on that or say ‘be kind’ or sometimes ‘you have to take a knee’ and it doesn’t necessarily need to be about the National Anthem it can be about anything going on in your life and understanding that that is going to impact how you express yourself sexually.” M.C.: “Well Bourbon Tales is how SPF got to know you and your presence. You not only have a wealth of knowledge but also coupled with a real, genuine, honest perspective. It’s clear that you are passionately connected to serving in this way. So I highly encourage anyone listening who have not connected to @youseelogic on Instagram, you need to run over there and do that now! Check out the Bourbon Tales. You have a catalog of them at this point and you will still have new ones in the new year, right? We’ll see more Bourbon Tales? Because it’s 60 seconds but you hit all the key points and you do it with such a renewed perspective. Thank you. Thank you for bringing that in and filling that gap for a lot of us.” U.O.: “Oh my pleasure! It’s a joy and I love doing it. And I will always do Bourbon Tales. They come out every Sunday, sometime in the evening and will always be there. You know I’m going to try to use some new formats this year, there’s stuff coming, but Bourbon Tales is my mainstay for sure.” M.C.: “Well you are killing it. I have a couple more curiosities before we have to wind this out. One of them is what are some of your colleagues in the field thinking? Do they know or are they tapped into this work that you do outside of the day job?” U.O.: “They’re starting to. I think that I’ve been very quiet about… Not because I’m ashamed because I love the work that I do… But you know how sometimes when you create projects it’s really for you and for the audience that you’re trying to reach. When I started this I genuinely had no idea that it would turn into what it is now. I generally just thought, let me just do a couple of videos here and there on Instagram and just tell a few people about it. Honestly, I made the first few videos for my friends, who have been asking me questions for years. I think the first eight videos were just strictly from my friends. So then when I decided to expand @youseelogic and make an effort to put it out there, which I didn’t decide to do until mid-June. That was when I was like ‘wow I’m going to start sharing this more!’ And my colleagues have been super, super generous, super accommodating and they want me to teach them and they want me to put out education for them so they can address this need with their patients. It’s really exciting. It’s a really exciting time.” M.C.: “Yeah because then… I mean in the medical field, across all these different disciplines or sub-disciplines there is just a marked gap in terms of sex education and continuing sexual health education. There’s so much specialization that happens, certainly in our country in terms of healthcare. And you know it’s like ‘oh starting to go in that sex direction, we need to refer out!’ Or give the patient some other version of what could be wrong with them or what remedy can support them that doesn’t have to do with sex. So you’re really filling the gap there too. So that’s exciting. That’s exciting that you get to teach your colleagues.” U.O.: “Yes, yes, and hopefully I’ll get these education pieces out for them soon. Just doing it one day at a time, you know?” M.C.: “You are just one person right, at the end of the day. And the other thing before we fully wrap up… What advice do you have for those folx about how they can strengthen the pelvic floor?” U.O.: “So here’s what I’m going to tell everyone. Not everyone should be doing Kegel exercises or strengthening their pelvic floor, and not everyone should be doing pelvic floor relaxation exercises. You need to know where you stand. So like all of us doing any type of sex education or counseling, we need to know where our biases stand and we need to know where we first live in our own space before we can start addressing other people’s needs. So what I would suggest for people is that if you have the opportunity or the ability to have your pelvic floor assessed by your healthcare provider, like a midwife, urologist, physician- have them assess your pelvic floor and say ‘am I doing this right?’ Because that is going to be the best way to know if you’re doing it correctly. Because what you want to be feeling is you want to feel your pelvic floor contract around your finger, wherever you insert that -into your vagina or your anus- you want to feel it squeeze your finger and if you’re sitting up it is almost like you’re lifting your finger towards your head, right? And you need to not be moving any other part of your body. So if you’re doing a Kegel it should just look like you’re staring into space. You shouldn’t be moving your shoulders, you shouldn’t be holding your breath, you shouldn’t be arching your back, you shouldn’t be squeezing your butt cheeks. You should be isolating only your pelvic floor muscles, between the legs. And you should be able to fully relax. The relaxation is just as important as the contraction, so if you have a history of pain or difficulty with constant constipation or emptying your bladder you should not do Kegel exercises without supervision. That would be my recommendation.” M.C.: “That’s good to know because I feel like there’s so much out there about Kegel exercises, that I don’t know if that’s always what people understand in terms of having that kind of support through that process.” U.O.: “Yeah it’s very complicated. When I say everything is connected, everything truly is connected. So if you have issues with your back or with your hips, I recommend that you see a pelvic health physical therapist if you can. If you don’t have access to one, what I would suggest is go ahead and use your finger or a dildo or if your partner has a penis, using that to kind of help assess your pelvic floor. And like I said you’re going to squeeze and lift up from the pelvic floor and then release.” M.C.: “You heard it here folx, so that’s your homework assignment! So what are some big projects you have going on for 2018?” U.O.: “My primary project right now is that I’m working on a collaboration with Icon Underwear and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom about sexuality education. I also will be putting out a YouTube series hopefully in the summertime but with a different perspective, less “Bourbon Tales,” more documentary-style sexual interviewing with different people in different relationship structures, different backgrounds, different educations, and gender identities. So that’s what’s up the chain…” M.C.: “Wow that’s awesome!” U.O.: “And just building my private practice and helping as many of my colleagues as I can to move forward. Do more clinical research, now that I’m a Professor it’s important for me to do research with what I do, and I want to make sure I get some publications under my belt this year, so that’s my goal!” M.C.: “Absolutely, absolutely. How can people connect with you? How can people find you?” U.O.: “You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @Youseelogic or you can find me on my website www.youseelogic.com. You can also email me at info@youseelogic.com. I forgot to mention this but I’m also a brand ambassador for Lifestyle Condoms so if you go on their website and just type in UC or Dr. Ossai, you will see several videos on their YouTube channel, as well as on their website, and I’ve written blogs for them too. So hopefully you guys can reach me on one of those avenues. Then just feel free to shoot me a DM or to email to say hi or post a question for Bourbon Tales.” M.C.: “Yeah and I think I also saw you this past Tuesday night doing something… are you going to continue doing that…?” U.O.: “Oh yeah, yeah… oh my God I forgot about that!” (laughs) M.C.: “Yeah UC keep up with what you’re doing!” U.O.:  “Right? There are so many things… I’m there and I’m doing it and then I got to move on to the next thing. Yes, yes oh yes. I am a pleasure professional for O.School. Which is an amazing organization that’s changing the game for sex education, and I have a weekly show that I live stream, called “The Pelvic Hour with Doctor UC” and we talk about the pelvic floor, we talk about pleasure, we talk about anything that has to do with the pelvis and even unrelated. So please, please join me on my show. I love it. It’s super fun! I don’t even feel like it’s work. It’s me just sitting there drinking bourbon and talking about the pelvis.” M.C.: “It’s so fun. It’s so informative and again you’re so relatable and knowledgeable. I mean this has been super informative. I feel like we could certainly go on and on. Thank you so much for doing what you do in both the medical realm and also in terms of connecting with folx about their sexual health and keeping it grown and sexy!” U.O.: “My pleasure! It was wonderful chatting with you, and I wish you the best in 2018!” M.C.: “Thank you so much. We will continue to bring information and content that supports sexual health and families, so thank you for being a part of that mission.” U.O.: “My pleasure!” M.C.: “Big thanks to UC for demystifying the connection between the pelvis and sexual health. Links to her contact info can be found in the Show Notes, so be sure to connect and support. If you like this episode of the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes or Google Play, so more people can find us. And you can always visit us at our website www.sexpositivefamilies.com. There you can shop sex-positive swag in our online store, connect with us across our social media platforms and join our Facebook community and learn more about resources to help support sexual health in your family. Until next time I’m Melissa Carnagey, thank you for supporting content that strengthens sexual health talks and families. {Soft instrumental music plays as outro} The post 003: Dr. Uchenna ‘UC’ Ossai | Demystifying Our Pelvic Floor appeared first on Sex Positive Families.


14 Jan 2018

Rank #3

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002: Kristin Hambridge | Talking Tricky People, Healthy Boundaries & Unsafe Touch

Keeping our children safe is a top priority of parents and caring adults especially in the context of sexual health. In this episode, I talk with licensed clinical social worker and sex therapist, Kristin Hambridge (aka ‘SexStuffwithKristin’), about strategies caring adults can use to promote body autonomy, self-awareness and a sense of safety within our children. Kristin explains the concept of ‘tricky people,’ why it is important to allow your child choice, fostering healthy body boundaries, and teaching your child how to connect with their gut instincts. She emphasizes that these strategies are not about being scared but being prepared.Want to connect with Kristin’s services and content? Visit her website here and follow her on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel for sex-positive videos here.Resources referenced in this episode: Safely Ever After, Inc by Pattie Fitzgerald Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network)- Safety Support for Parents Additional resources for families And as always: Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for regular sex-positive content and updates. Sign up for our email list Leave a review in Apple Podcasts to let us know how much you’re enjoying the podcast. This gives us great feedback from our community as well as expands the reach and visibility so we can serve more families! TRANSCRIPT {Soft instrumental music plays as introduction}  {Person speaking}  Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex-positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us!  {Person speaking} Hello families! So since starting Sex Positive Families, one of the most requested topics parents and caring adults seek consultation on is safety. How can we raise sexually healthy children and keep them safe from harm?  Because this is such an important piece of parenting in a sex-positive way, I decided we should start here and give you some knowledge and strategies to approach this aspect more confidently.  So on today’s episode, I have Kristin Hambridge who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Sex Therapist working toward her board certification from AASECT.  If you’re on Instagram and follow sexual health content, then you may know her already as @sexstuffwithkristin. Kristin is a blogger and contributing writer for a number of online magazines as well as a YouTube vlogger covering a myriad of sexual health and sex-positive topics.  Alongside her professional passions, she is a parent of a three-year-old son, so she is living sex-positive parenting every day. This episode has a wealth of safety tips and strategies for parents and caring adults, so let’s get started. Melissa Carnagey: “We are on today with Kristin Hambridge. Some of you may know her as @sexstuffwithkristin (now @sexstuffwithkris). Kristin, how are you?” Kristin Hambridge: “I am good. Thanks for having me! I’m really excited to be on your podcast! This is awesome.” M.C.: “We are so excited to have you and we are excited to pick your brain because you do a lot for the community in terms of sexual health messages and really getting creative, or as you coin at your shop, ‘a little snarky with it’, and so I’m excited to have you in this space.  I’ve been a follower for a while now and I love your content and I know that there are a lot of listeners who feel the same way.  You create blogs, you create vlogs on a range of sex-positive and sexual health topics. You’re a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, but tell us about your journey to this work that you’re doing now.” K.H.: “So as you said, I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and after a period of years of working with children, teens, and adults, I felt like there was a big part of my work that was missing. That was, making sure that I was trained and had expertise in sex, sexuality, and gender.  It felt like something that is so important, but unfortunately not in all higher education, as far as social work and licensed mental health counseling and some doctoral programs, it’s not a huge focus, which is a problem and needs to be changed. But I think that there’s a lot going on that’s moving in that direction.  I felt like that was an aspect of my studies that was missing and it was coming up so often in the work that I was doing in lots of different ways. So, I decided to go back and work towards my board certification in Sex Therapy through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. So, that’s currently what I’m doing, I’m very close to finally getting my certification. I have all of the educational pieces done as far as the courses I need to take and things like that, I’m just finishing up on my supervision hours that are required with a board-certified Sex Therapy Supervisor. So I’m doing that now, and that’s kind of the direction I’ve gone.  Like I said I’ve worked with so many different people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, different demographics and you know one thing I think that we absolutely have in common, even though there are lots of things we have in common, is sex and sexuality. That’s kind of where that brought me.” M.C.:  “Yeah, we have that common thread, yet especially in America, you know there’s such a taboo and such shame and such secrecy surrounding sex, sexual health and sexuality. This then makes it challenging certainly as a parent, you know, when you move into that role and you’re trying to raise the next generation and educate.  We often as parents did not get the fullest education, and perspectives in preparation for that. So aside from all that you have worked for in terms of your career path, personally, you can relate in terms of parenting, is that right?”  K.H.:  “Yes I have a 3-year-old son. So I am kind of in the thick of a lot of this, right? Because 3- year-olds are super curious, they ask a ton of questions. They want to know about their own bodies, they want to know about the bodies of people who are important in their lives.  So while I have this educational training, I’m also probably like many of your listeners in these situations all the time I spend with my son, who’s asking a billion questions about everything, and it’s really been, it’s so fun. It can be exhausting, obviously, as I’m sure many of your listeners can relate to. But it’s fun! You totally see the world in general in a different way through the eyes of your kids.  But absolutely, when it comes to sex and sexuality, because it starts at birth, really. You know, questions and education all of those things start so, so young that, like you said, many of us don’t have a lot of support or the education to always feel comfortable and always feel like we know what the answers should be, or how to best direct our kids.  So that’s why it’s really great to have podcasts like these and social media and blogs /vlogs and all that stuff, because we can really create a supportive environment as parents for one another and help each other feel competent, feel good and feel like we have a handle on something. Because parenting, you know, we often feel like we don’t have a handle on much. At least, I am speaking for myself (M.C. interjects and says “Oh yeah”) too, about those times when we say “I don’t know what I’m doing!” (Laughs) M.C.: (Laughs) It’s the total imposter syndrome where we’re out there, just the struggle. So, one topic that’s definitely really important, and especially as we talk about nurturing our younger children, is around safety and around healthy boundaries, and so that’s really what we’re going to explore in this episode.  So one thing that recently, and I shared this in our Facebook Group not too long ago, it was kind of eye-opening for me, was that transition now from the concept of “stranger danger” to “tricky people”. Can you help us understand that?”  K.H.: “Yeah so “tricky people” was coined by Patty Fitzgerald of “Safely Ever After”. The idea of tricky people is that strangers… Oftentimes, the people who are potentially grooming or looking towards our kids in a way that is not appropriate are people that we know.  So according to RAINN,which is the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 93% of perpetrators were known to their victims. Which is huge, right?  So, when we were young, the idea of strangers was sort of based out of this idea that if you’re playing outside, someone you don’t know, typically someone who is male-identified, who’s probably creepy looking, right? This whole “scary-looking guy” idea…” M.C.: “Who is in a van with a dog they want you to pet…” (laughs) K.H.: “Right. This idea we were sort of told of that is how it happens, and don’t go with strangers, right?  But, like I said, oftentimes the people who are looking towards our kids in inappropriate ways are actually people they know. So, the idea of tricky people is essentially that a tricky person can be any adult, right?  This is somebody who tries to engage in a child in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or hurts them in some sort of way. And so when we talk to our kids about tricky people, it’s sort of tricky people versus safe grown-ups. So, for example, a safe grown-up doesn’t ask a kid for help, safe grown-ups ask other grown-ups for help. Kind of going back to the whole “Can you help me with directions?” or “Can you come with me and do this?” There are certain things that adults are not going to ask for kids’ help.  So giving our kids a better understanding of what to look for that isn’t appropriate or isn’t right, so that’s where that stems from.” M.C.: “So, on that thought, framing it as “tricky people could be anyone”, how can parents really reconcile that, you know, and not be operating from a place of fear? You know that “Everyone, anyone! How can I ever leave my child with someone else? How can I establish trust?”  Especially if and when there’s a parent, which there are many parents, who have experienced unsafe scenarios in their upbringing, whether they’ve been addressed, unaddressed or tended to. You know, how can… What are some tips or thoughts on that in terms of how parents can reconcile that?”   K.H.:  This topic can be extremely triggering, I think, for any parent, regardless of our history of whether we have a trauma history or not. I think because of that, it’s often a topic we tend to avoid, right?  It can bring up anxiety and fear. When something is scary and uncomfortable, sometimes our go-to is to put it on the back burner and hope that everything goes okay because we’re really uncomfortable about that. I always tell parents and kids and teens “don’t be scared, be prepared”. It’s a great little jingle sort of thing that makes so much sense. When we act out of preparation and we’re being proactive, we respond so much differently than when we respond or react out of fear.  So, a big part of this is teaching your kids specific safety strategies like, “what would you do if you got lost?” Well, who’s typically a safer person to go to? A safer person to go to might be a mom with kids vs someone who may be an older male who doesn’t have children. Some of these are, I think, assumptions on our part, but I would say that if you see a mom with some kids at a store, she’s probably safer to go to. So it’s like that sort of thing, and talking to your kids about adults who might encourage them to break their safety rules. A safe, healthy adult isn’t going to encourage a kid to do something that their parents said they shouldn’t, and that could be someone in a family, or that could be someone they have never met before.  Another great strategy is a safety word, which is actually something that my mom did with me when I was a kid, so it’s definitely something that’s been out there. But if someone say, comes to your kid’s school, and says, “hey your mom said I was supposed to pick you up today.” This could be a family member, this could be anyone. “Oh, Mom said I’m supposed to pick you up today” and you know that that wasn’t a discussion that you had with your mom. Well, that person should know the safety word, right? Your parents would tell them that. So it’s different things that you can do. These strategies are all about preparation and being proactive and they aren’t about scaring your kid either. We don’t want these things to be scare tactics because we don’t want kids to feel unsafe, right?  I think the world is a really safe place in a lot of ways, and so we don’t want to make kids feel like it’s scary to be with their aunt or uncle, or that it’s scary to go out on the playground with their friends. We just want them to be prepared in the off chance that something may happen.” M.C.: “Right, and that puts a sense of control into their hands, so I like that, definitely. So, let’s talk about touch. So, how can we help our young children and young adults, even, to understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch?” K.H.:  “Sure, so we think about… I like to put it also in terms of comfortable vs. uncomfortable touch or icky touch, you know? You can use words that your kid understands, obviously, this is going to be dependent on the type of language you use in your home. But I think a good example, Patty talks about this in Safely Ever After, that I really like is (pause) like uncomfortable touch might be like being held too tightly. If you’re going to give somebody a hug and they squeeze you too tight or hold you too long you kind of know what that feels like. I think we’ve all probably been there in some form where touch has been uncomfortable in that way. Or being tickled too hard, I think a lot of us have been there and I know I do this with my kid, and my kid will do it back with me. Tickling and then suddenly you don’t want to be tickled anymore, so if somebody kept tickling you, even though you said no or stop or I don’t want to do this anymore. That’s uncomfortable touch.  Another thing that we think about, and I know this is really popular particularly this year because the Girl Scouts… I’m sure many parents who are online have read this article that the Girls Scouts put out around girls… and this goes for any gender- boys, any identified gender shouldn’t feel forced to hug or kiss family during the holidays and this goes all the time with feeling forced to give somebody a hug or a kiss. And this was… and I don’t know about you Melissa, but I remember when I was younger and you went to the holidays you saw a family member and your parent says “go hug Grandma or Grandpa” but you didn’t want a hug from them, but you felt like you had to, right? Well, that’s kind of sending the message to our kids that their body isn’t really their own in all circumstances. They don’t have the autonomy to say “I don’t want someone to touch me right now, I’m just not comfortable with that”. I think we, you know, parents for a long time were doing that because they didn’t want to hurt a family member’s feelings or they didn’t want to look like their kid was being bratty or rude. But in all actuality adults should be figuring out their emotions. So, I expect that if my son goes to my mother’s house or my father’s house and they asked for a hug and he doesn’t want to, I expect that my parents understand that he just doesn’t want to give a hug right now. Maybe he wants to give a high-five, maybe he wants to do a fist-bump, maybe he wants to wave those are all appropriate other options. And so we want our kids to know that whether they’re in a situation with a tricky person or they’re in a situation with a grandparent who just loves them very much and wants a hug they have that autonomy to turn it down when they’re not comfortable. Their body is their own.” M.C.: “Right and that’s a real shift for a lot of us. Like you said, where there may have been more of an emphasis on the power dynamics ‘adults versus children’, and so some folx may feel uncomfortable or at least wondering “how can I give my child that much power versus this is what you do because my mom said this is what I have to do” but instead we’re saying “no, they are their own individual and we want them to have an awareness of what feels good to them, what doesn’t feel good to them, to prepare them, so we can prepare them for healthy adulthoods.” Yeah, this is, I think a great shift for our culture in general.” K.H.: Absolutely. I’ve found with most kids, my own child included, that I’ve worked with that choice can always be great and reduces a power struggle, which always happens with a three- year- old and definitely older kids as well. But when you give a choice to a child and they feel like they have the ability to make it their own, it can really diffuse a situation. So, I think like I said if I go to a family member’s and the family member asked for a hug and my son says “no, I don’t want to do a hug”, can we think of alternatives that are more comfortable that he might like to do?  And then maybe my son will say no, I don’t want to do a high five or a fist bump. Then he runs away and goes and gets his toys, that’s fine. But we had that opportunity that sometimes it’s like, cool do you want to give him a high-five? Yeah, awesome, alright and you know there’s that engagement and that interaction and it’s comfortable and it was on his own terms. I think that’s what is really, really important is we really want to empower our kids to feel like they have a say over their body because as you said, our kids are going to be sexual people and there may be a time when they are with someone, and maybe feel pressured, and the last thing we want is for them to kind of have this idea in their minds that the situation in which they don’t want to do something, but should to make someone else feel happy or should to provide somebody else pleasure and that’s where we don’t want to go with this.   So I think for parents they kind of struggle with that as well. It can be helpful to look at the bigger picture and say ‘okay, yeah, I don’t want my son or daughter to ever be in a relationship in which they feel like they have to do something that makes them really uncomfortable for the sake of somebody else’s feelings because that other person can’t manage or regulate their own feelings and emotions on their own.’” M.C. “And we are seeing unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, things playing out currently in the climate in terms of the MeToo Movement. Many folx, victims, in those scenarios, are of these generations who have been raised without that sense of power of themselves and their own body and their own voice in the equation. So I think we can move… so again what your highlighting here is we can move our next generation into that place of empowerment and hopefully lessen those kinds of outcomes because they feel… they know their voice and they also know when something starts to be unsafe. So on that note, how can we help them understand what that means and what their gut feelings are like?”  K.H.: “So I always tell kids that I work with and my son, to the extent that he can understand it now, is that being in weird and uncomfortable or bad situations often times we have a gut feeling and I think that’s probably common language or terminology to most people. You have a gut feeling you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, maybe you feel a little sick and I always tell kids to respond to that. To pay attention to that.  We want to pay attention to our body and that’s not just when it comes to unsafe touch but that’s when it comes to anxiety, depression, things like that- when we’re not feeling well. Paying attention to ourselves is really, really important and this is no different. So if you are in a situation where your stomach feels kind of funny and something doesn’t feel right, chances are it’s not right. Because we as people are really intuitive whether we realize it or not, and the last thing we want to do is ignore our bodies cues and signs that something is not going right. So if you start to feel uneasy in a situation, go to someone you know and trust (i.e. your teacher, your parent, a friend) and let them know that you need help, that something doesn’t feel right. And keep encouraging that with your kids. Have a discussion about how to pay attention to your body and how important that is.” M.C.:   “I think that that’s definitely huge, and I think it’s also something that we can all relate to. Our gut, in general, is an amazing thing and it does so much; we need to capitalize on that.  If and when scenarios move into the direction, with someone that are  unsafe, how can we talk with them about the appropriateness of secrets?” K.H.: ” So there are different approaches to secrets. Now, Pattie Fitzgerald has a very straightforward approach just by saying that ‘there are no such thing as secrets. No secrets are kept, we talk about everything’, that sort of thing. I think you can go in that direction if you want. You can encourage kids not to keep secrets, “there are no secrets in the house”, all of that. I do think that may not be as realistic. Kids keep secrets all the time.  They tell each other stuff, it’s usually harmless, and so I like to think of it as good secrets or bad secrets. There’s actually this really great book, and I’ll give you the name of it, Melissa, so that your listeners and followers can look into this if they’d like. My son got it recently for the holidays and I think it’s called “My secret…something…” (The book is “Do you have a secret- Let’s talk about it!) he loves it he’s three and he loves it. He understands it to a degree, but it’s all about what good secrets are and what bad secrets are.  So, they break it down beautifully around ‘what’s a good secret?’ Well, a good secret is something that’s going to make everybody happy, it’s not going to make anybody feel bad so that might be keeping the surprise party secret right? Your friend is having a surprise birthday party, you don’t want to tell them and ruin it for them, you’re going to wait and keep that secret. And what’s going to happen? Well, that person’s going to have a party, so that’s going to feel great and you don’t feel bad about keeping it a secret. When it comes to bad secrets, those secrets are something that hurt somebody else, hurts you, that someone does by threatening you and making you feel bad. So those are the secrets that we what to tell somebody we trust. Those are the ones that shouldn’t be kept. They’re not good, nothing good is going to come from that.  And my son loves this, he thinks this is so cool he’ll be like “tell me your secrets” We’ll make up a secret when we’re reading, it’s really fun and it’s kind of starts this idea of which secrets are okay and which aren’t.  I think also what we say to my son, and this is kind of a combination of how Pattie responds with Safely Ever After, the response that “a secret is still a secret if you tell your parents.” At a young age, he understands this.  If we’re going to get a little more specific, someone may say “keep this secret or I’m going to hurt someone” or “don’t tell anybody or something bad’s going to happen.” Well, technically, you’re not breaking the secret because it’s still a secret if you tell Mom or it’s still a secret if you tell Dad, Grandma, Aunt, or a caretaker. So we encourage that with our son too that he can tell secrets to us and it’s still technically a secret, so no rule is being broken. And so I think that it’s really important to have this discussion about secrets and what they are and what’s okay to be kept quiet and what isn’t.”   M.C.: “So definitely, it sounds like the theme here is that having the conversation and the preparatory dialogue with them early is what can help frame and plant those seeds and then as they continue to grow and they develop, the conversations can go deeper and scenarios can change.” K.H.: “Absolutely, yeah it’s about starting to have a discussion. Even if you’re listening to this right now and you don’t have a three-year-old, you have a twelve-year-old or thirteen-year-old, it’s never too late to start having these discussions with your kids. To have an open dialogue about it, to look things up together in books or online and to talk about it, have some real discussions. And be open-minded, be validating and listen. That’s so important.  A big chunk of being a parent is really just allowing yourself to listen to your kids and their experiences. Validate what they’re going through and being a safe person they feel like they can talk to if something happens, that we hope wouldn’t happen. But if it does, to be able to be that person they can go to to talk about it.” M.C.: “And on that note what if a parent finds themselves in a scenario where, whether there has been an outcry or their gut is telling them that something unsafe may have happened to their child, what resources should they consider first as their go-to because those are very emotional and difficult moments…”  K.H.: “Oftentimes working in sex therapy and working with children, if there is a situation in which a parent isn’t sure about what’s going on and they have some questions you can look to a local therapist, you can look to a local Mental Health Center, you can talk to your doctor or your pediatrician. Have a discussion about some of the things that you’re seeing that you’re concerned about and what the next best steps are.  They can refer you out as well, and obviously if something happens in a which you know for sure the situation relating to your children that was unsafe, you can also talk to the pediatrician, you can call the police, you can call your local… Here in Massachusetts, where I’m based in Greater Boston, we have what’s called the “Department of Children and Families” but that can be different names in different states… You can contact them and run information by them. So there are a lot of places you can go for support.” M.C.: “Yes, absolutely! Those are all great options and also the element of needing to believe them, right?” K.H.:  “Yes, I’ve worked with many people as adults who have come in and said… they talked about how damaging it was to have expressed to a trusted adult who didn’t believe them. They were likely dealing with their own issues and were having difficulty reconciling something happened to their kids. I think it’s really important to remember that we do our absolute best as parents, but sometimes things happen, even when we try our best to keep our kids as safe as possible. But listen to your kids, believe them. Reach out for support. If you think something’s happened to your child and you’re doing everything for them, make sure you’re taking care of yourself, whether that be talking to a trusted friend or family member, or reaching out to a therapist.” M.C.: ” I love that you bring that up, because again, this is where the silence can happen or the trepidation in terms of approaching these topics, because there’s that fear that can come with addressing these topics or even approaching them or guiding conversations, or planting seeds. It can feel overwhelming. Some people fear “well, this can open up a door, but I’m not really feeling prepared emotionally to enter”. But I think with all sexual health conversations, once we step over that threshold, and as you said, listening is a huge piece to it. So really, a lot of times we’re not the ones doing all the talking. We’re doing a lot more listening, and that allows us to know where to go with the conversations and to pick up on the context clues and non-verbal cues that our children give us. It ends up being a lot easier then we fear, so we definitely want parents to step into these discussions and thinking of it as preparation.” K.H.: “And I think especially for parents with younger children I highly recommend, and I say this to all the parents that I work with, I do this approach with my son- I always use anatomically correct words for body parts and I think that’s really important when it comes to kids being able to verbalize that something has happened. Not only because I think that as a Sex Educator and Therapist, I think there’s nothing wrong with saying vulva or penis or anything else, so that’s my own part of trying my best to be as sex-positive as possible. But I think also, if something were to happen, we want our kids to be able to have the right words and tools to be able to tell us, to be able to tell other adults, to be able to tell the police or social workers or whomever is if it ever got to that point, what was going on. So I think that that’s really, really important, so I just wanted to add that in.” M.C.: “Great point. So we are winding it down. This has been extremely informative and I will be sure that we include some links to some resources that you’ve discussed and some additional ones that are out there that parents can definitely benefit from to connect on these topics deeper. I want to ask you “what does sex positive mean to you and how does it show up in your life?””  K.H.: “So I would say “sex positivity is not being afraid of trying my hardest. Not to be afraid of having  conversations around sex and sexuality with the people that I care about, with my kids, with the people that I work with. I think because we can be so uncomfortable and there’s so much shame in our society around sex and sexuality, that we don’t have conversations that are necessary and so I think being really open to that, listening to other people and having an open mind, I think that that’s huge when it comes to being sex-positive. And so I do my best. We try our hardest, we’ve all been… When you’re brought up in the United States particularly, you probably know that you don’t always have the greatest sex education. There’s a lot of taboos around certain things, a lot of shame, a lot of misinformation and confusion. So doing your best to try and have these discussions and to listen and be open-minded around other people, is a big part of sex-positivity for me.” M.C.: “I love that. And so you are certainly creating a footprint and an opportunity for a lot of other folx to connect with sexual health and sex-positivity through the work that you’re doing. Looking at 2018, what projects do you have coming up?”  K.H.: “So, I have a new shop that has popped up. So, it’s about sex positivity and I color it with a little bit of snark and sarcasm. For kids, teens, adults… so shirts, sweatshirts and pillows and mugs and all that sort of stuff. You can find it if you follow me at @sexstuffwithkristin on Instagram, I have a link there. I will continue to do my educational vlogs on YouTube, which is also under ‘Sex Stuff with Kristin’ and I’m just going to keep blogging. I like to try and blog once a week about topics that I think a lot of people may have misinformation about or don’t really understand them at all… it gives an opportunity for my readers to learn something new, decrease stigma and shame around sex and sexuality, and so I’m going to be doing that. If you’re so inclined feel free to follow me @sexstuffwithkristin.”   M.C.: “Make sure you follow her. Not if you are so inclined, you need to follow @sexstuffwithkristin, okay?!” K.H.: “I also have @sexpositiveparenting which is a smaller Instagram, it doesn’t have as many followers, but I try and post things that I feel like parents would want. And like I said Sex Stuff with Kristin on YouTube and I have my website kristinhambridgelicsw.com, where you can find lots and information. If you are in the Greater Boston area and you’re looking for sex therapists or consulting, you can also go to my web page find a way to contact me. I would be happy to chat with you and see if I can help.” M.C.: “Awesome! So what about for folx that are not fortunate enough to be close to you in proximity, do you do anything in terms of coaching or therapy or anything like that because you are a wealth of knowledge.”  K.H.: “I do coaching. I can do that via phone, Skype or email,  if you live outside of the area where you could not come see me in my office. I don’t do therapy via Skype or phone, but I do consultations. That can look like 45 minutes to an hour, if you have a specific question or issue that you need help  or guidance on, I can absolutely help you with that. So you can find that on my web page as well where you see consultation, you can fill out a form and if you are in this area and are looking for a Sex Therapist, I have a private practice in Greater Boston so you can go over to the tab that says “Sex Therapy” and learn more about that. That’s what I do, that’s what I’m doing.”  M.C.: “Excellent, well this has been a really rich discussion and I am excited that as we are launching this, that we are able to bring this type of content and really get families engaged and comfortable, even when it may feel uncomfortable. And so this information you shared today is going to really help people to get to that place. So thank you so much for your time and your talent and your passion for this work. And like I said, it is your homework listeners, to make sure that you connect with and follow @sexstuffwithkristin!”   K.H.: “Thank you so much, thanks for having me and I hope to see you all around my social media!”  {Person Speaking}  If you like this episode and podcast, please leave a review on iTunes or Google Play so more people can find us. And you can always visit us on our website at sexpositivefamilies.com. There, you can shop sex-positive swag in our online store, connect with us across our social media platforms, join our Facebook community and learn more resources to help support sexual health in your family. Until next time, I’m Melissa Carnagey. Thank you for supporting content that strengthens sexual health talks in families.  {Soft instrumental music plays as outro}  **This episode was recorded before Kristin’s Instagram username change to @sexstuffwithkris The post 002: Kristin Hambridge | Talking Tricky People, Healthy Boundaries & Unsafe Touch appeared first on Sex Positive Families.


12 Jan 2018

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001: Welcome to Sex Positive Families!

SPF is now podcasting! This first episode of the Sex Positive Families podcast welcomes parents, caring adults and sexual health advocates to join us as we dive into topics that strengthen sexual health talks in families. Get to know the host and founder, Melissa Pintor Carnagey, how SPF got its start, what sex-positivity and parenting have to do with each other, and what you can expect from this community moving forward. Melissa also shares some shout-outs to those that have supported SPF’s launch and mission, because it definitely takes a village! This podcast will challenge you to shake the shame and trash taboos around your sexual health and help you see the amazing role you can play in influencing healthier outcomes for the children in your life. We’re so glad you’re joining us! Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for regular sex-positive content and updates. Sign up for our email list Leave a review in Apple Podcasts to let us know how much you’re enjoying the podcast. This gives us great feedback from our community as well as expands the reach and visibility so we can serve more families! TRANSCRIPT{Soft Instrumental music plays as introduction} {Person speaking} Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us! {Same person speaking} Hey Families, it’s Melissa Carnagey with Sex Positive Families, and I am excited because this is the introductory episode of the podcast. We are transforming the platform and bringing information, knowledge, strategies, perspectives, and sex positivity in parenting, straight to your ears. Thank you so much for tuning in. This introductory episode is going to be all about calibrating all of us. Who am I, how did Sex Positive Families get it’s start, what is sex positivity and how does it relate to parenting and children, some topics that we’re going to be covering this season, and lastly some shout-outs because nothing is done truly alone. There are a lot of folx that have been along this path with me in these last six months and have contributed to the success of Sex Positive Families, so I want to shine light on them. First, who am I? I am a licensed social worker in the state of Texas. I have been working in the field of sexual health for the last ten years. I’ve had positions in direct services, so in case management, and then in program management and then I transitioned to macro level, so working for the state government as a consultant in the realm of HIV, STD and sexual health. In 2017 I received my certification as a life coach. My focus is on parent empowerment coaching. I was able to tie these two pieces together of sexual health and of parenting and coaching. That’s really kind of the foundation and focus of Sex Positive Families and the services that we offer. But the biggest role that I have and the most relevant and my real “why” is in my role as a parent. I am a parent to three children: I have an eighteen year old daughter who is a freshman in college, an eight year old son, and then a four year old “bonus” son with my partner, Ryan. So our family is rich, when it comes to the love and the support and the levels of communication that we share between us. We use a lot of strategies regularly with all three of our children that really speak to ensuring that they have the knowledge, the autonomy and the confidence to approach their sexual health in their bodies, their relationships with others. All of those things are discussed as they continue to develop. In age appropriate ways, we are approaching these different topics with all of them because we want them to be fierce, we want them to be empowered, we want them as emerging adults to have wonderful sex lives and not to experience some of the things that I know I’ve experienced, and that many of you all listening have experienced as well. As you know we all have our sexual health journeys and we can kind of think back and point to: Where did we first learn about sex? Where did we first get those messages about our bodies and whether they were worthy enough? This is what we seek to do in being parents in sex positivity is create another story, a more empowered experience, and a more informed experience for our next generation. So, again I’m so excited that you all are joining me in this, and that you are looking for the unique perspectives of the guests that I will bring on to this show. There are so many different angles to sexual health and to sex positivity, and the different ways that folx are living their lives in honor of these missions and goals. I believe that parents and caring adults are the number one influencers in children’s lives. We can’t rely on our school systems, like it or not. Our school systems, especially in America, are very flawed and in terms of providing sex education there are so many inconsistencies across the United States. Big chunks of information, especially as it relates to pleasure, are left out of the discussion when it comes to sex ed and sexual health. So we can’t rely on our schools to give all of the information that’s going to prepare our children to have healthy sex lives and healthy futures when it comes to their bodies. That puts a lot of responsibility on us and that’s good news though because we have the highest influence and we spend some real pivotal times with our children. And the goal is that we create homes of safety and of honesty, so when there is that curiosity that they have when something comes in their path that has to do with sexuality or sex that they’ll feel safe enough to ask us those questions and not be shamed, not have it be a big secret or taboo because those are those things that ultimately inhibit them and could potentially impact their safety. We have a big job and again the goal of Sex Positive Families is to empower parents and to help parents feel confident and competent when approaching these discussions. SPF got its start six months ago, and it was my transition from my nine to five. I was feeling boxed in, like I have more creative energy, and more to my story, then all that I had worked toward. I was reaching certain levels of success, but it wasn’t fully fulfilling me. It wasn’t feeling like a good fit, which was an identity shaker because of course I worked so hard for my social work degree and the path that I had walked up to that point, but I had to listen to my gut. So I took a big risk. I took a chance. I quit my job, and I thankfully have a very strong support in my partner Ryan and with our children. It wasn’t but a week after leaving my position that the light bulb went off in a conversation with a colleague and I really was like “I want to help work with parents. I want to help them realize the influence they have when it comes to providing sexual health knowledge and support to their children.” The very next day I started researching, well what does this look like, and what other companies or businesses or services are out there doing this? That’s where it really all began and it has not stopped since. A lot of the work so far has been on social media across our platforms, and so we’ve been building an audience of followers and of families, and of like minded folx, and even folx that are intrigued and interested and want to learn, from across the world, literally across the world. I feel so honored, and so grateful to be walking this path with so many of you, and knowing that there are so many more to come, because you all are sharing the information and the word about SPF, so the reach is just expanding. Let’s talk a little bit about what sex positivity is and how it relates to parenting and children. When we talk about sex positivity, really it’s about embracing sexuality. Sex is natural, its a natural part of the human experience. But definitely in our American culture, it can be much more limiting, much more taboo, much more sex negative. And so that can be really confusing if this is what you’ve grown up around and you’ve had these kinds of limits and certain schemas set up a certain way that support that more “sex negative” and closed off approach. But sex positivity, it promotes consent, and pleasure, and body positivity, and honest, comprehensive sex education, as well as inclusivity. It’s not about marginalizing, or limiting, or taboo or shame. It doesn’t make moral distinctions between things like sexual orientation, or gender identity, or something like masturbation. It’s about tolerance and empowerment. This is the definition of sex positivity that our work is based on, but I’m definitely going to, as we move through this podcast and meet a lot of really interesting folx and advocates and families, I’m really going to ask what is your definition of sex positivity, and how is it playing out in your life? Because it can mean so many different things. But it is really about an openness, and an acceptance of sexuality as it is naturally, and with consent of course. So how does it relate to children and families? Well, like I mentioned, our school system is not reliable when it comes to providing comprehensive sex education and sexual health information so parents and families are number one influencers. That’s another thing that when we talk about families here we’re not speaking of one type of family or an example a nuclear family or anything like that. Family is really defined by you, the individual, and that can be through blood bonds, that can be through folx that you have a shared connection or shared commitment with, regardless of blood. So just know that when we say families there’s not one way that families look. It’s not about Mom and Dad and two kids, if it is for you great, but that’s not the whole story as far as our audience goes and we love that level of diversity. As caretakers and caring adults we have to be armed with knowledge and with confidence. Knowing the effort that we want to put into connecting with the children in our lives that we are seeking to influence having a sex positive approach, allows us to have deep conversations that start early in age-appropriate, age congruent ways that share a message about sexual health and positivity. So from infancy we’re trying to establish trust, an attachment going all the way through to the teen years where there’s a craving for independence. What are our everyday strategies that we can use to support our children’s sexual health, and many of these things do not even relate directly to sex? The important thing that we want to remember is that talking with our children creates the bonds that prepare them for sexual health and can prevent some adverse outcomes. You want to be the person that your child confides in or asks those burning questions. There are real communication strategies that sex positive parents can use to lay the foundation and walk confidently through the parts of parenthood, no matter the topic- no taboos, no shame, just honest and loving support. What Sex Positive Families seeks to do is to bring those strategies to the fore front and share them and challenge all of us as parents on this journey. Teaching us what can we be doing more for our children to give them a different experience, a more empowering experience than we may have had in our lives. In the podcast we are going to be using some different formats so sometimes I’m going to be interviewing folx, sometimes I’m going to be doing some solo episodes and addressing some topics such as sexual health from a professional sex educator perspective. I’m going to also do some Q and A type questions that you submit, those will usually be shorter episodes but I will take time to answer those questions because knowledge is power. Under the umbrella of sexual health in terms of the topics that we’re going to cover it could be anything from talking about pleasure, talking about sexuality to talking about gender stereotypes. Another component isn’t just in terms of children and their safety and sexuality. All of this really starts with you as a parent, or as the caring adult or adult family member. We need to take care of ourselves, we need to ensure that we are sexually healthy. So we’re going to have a lot of episodes that start there and focus on the adult and the parent, we hope that through all of this we bring content that really speaks to your experiences and opens your mind and perspectives. That is the gist of what SPF Podcast is seeking to do. So again folx that may be new to this, here are some ways some of you may already be plugged in. We have a website sexpositivefamilies.com we have all kinds of resources there that we create and also that we curate. We try to keep an updated resource list, we have pretty lengthy reading list because books are definitely a path way to sharing knowledge and having those conversations with children and even in growing in our own sexual health, so we have a great list of sex-positive reads that’s always available. We try to keep that updated, so check out our website at sexpositivefamilies.com.Through the website you can connect with our different social media platforms we’re on Instagram, we have a Facebook page, we are on Twitter, and we are on YouTube with all of our videos.We do a lot of video content. We also have a Facebook Group, right now it’s a little over 400 families and caring adults on a daily basis who are chatting about all kinds of different sexual health topics. It’s a great place if you are someone who is looking for a community of like-minded folx or if you’re just interested in getting to know more about what this is all about. I would highly recommend that you join the Facebook group. It’s Sex Positive Families and they’re having a lot of courageous conversations every day. *Please note that the above mentioned group is no longer active, you can find the new group here.Also you’ll want to sign up for our email list through our website we have a free downloadable tool called “Preparing for the Sex Talks” so for any of you all who are kind of waiting or a little bit hesitant to have some sexual health talks with a child in your life, this tool will really help you think through and create an action plan so that you can feel confident and prepared to approach any sexual health topic with your child. We also have an online store so you can get some sex positive swag and I will have links to all of these different platforms in the show notes and again you can check out our website and get connected with all of them as well. Before we go I definitely have to give gratitude and shout out some folx who have been really influential in the last six months in bringing SPF to where it’s at today and where it’s going. First and foremost my partner, Ryan. I could not do so much of this without him, he is such a support and such a loving, strong, caretaker and role model to our children and just a really strong life partner. Thank you so much Ryan, for all of your support and in helping me build what SPF is today. I have to definitely shout out our children. Our children are amazing, they are so supportive! You may have seen some videos with my 18 year old and with my eight year old so they are very actively involved. They do know what Sex Positive Families is and what it’s mission is and every day there are new ways that they show their levels of support for this mission. So thank you so much to our children. Also I have walked this journey alongside 2 folx who also are building businesses and being brave and being bold. We have weekly calls because you got to have those accountability partners, those folx that are in it at the same level as you are and understand passion and purpose. So Christie and Rosela, thank you so much for your partnership and for your camaraderie in this journey. We are continuing to do great and bold things and I wouldn’t want to do it alongside anyone else. Two folx who have also been here since day one, have been strong collaborators and also great friends, great supporters in my real life, La’Toya and Aubrey. Thank you both so much! Some of you may have seen them, if you’re definitely a part of the Facebook group. I’ve done some videos with them. They’re also sex educators working in the field and this won’t be the last time you see them or hear from them. I’ve also had a lot of coaches that I’ve consulted with along the way because as any entrepreneur out their knows, there’s a lot that you have to do to build a business and to get clear about your message and your vision and your purpose. So I just want to shout out Kristin, Cameron, Kim, Carrie, Cynthia, Ben and Terry. You all have been so purposeful, I feel the universe brought you all here at different points in this journey and I’m so grateful for all of you. I’ve learned so much. Your support has not been forgotten. I also want to give a special shout-out to the members of our Facebook group. Many of you have been around since the beginning and have watched things grow and have taken on some real courageous conversations. I’ve gotten vulnerable in the group and I appreciate your trust and your willingness to learn and to teach within that space, so big shout-out to our many Facebook group members. That’s about it! That’s it for this first episode. I hope that will fill in some gaps and really gets you excited for what is to come. We’re going to be covering a lot in 2018, so let’s shake the shame and trash the taboos together. Thank you so much for joining our family. Let’s do this! {Soft Instrumental music plays as outro} The post 001: Welcome to Sex Positive Families! appeared first on Sex Positive Families.


11 Jan 2018

Rank #5