Sexologist Bill Stayton says that whenever the topic of sexuality comes up, three things tend to be present: ignorance, secrecy, and trauma. As a result, we find it intimidating to talk about sex, which makes it hard for the young people in our lives to learn about it. That’s why I create space to have conversations about sexuality in a way that rallies and inspires adults to get past their own unease (even if your first impulse is to bolt).
You, the adult, can then build your capacity (and that of your organization if you’re representing one) to support young folks who need to learn about sexuality from someone they can trust. That’s the real work: raising young people—both typical and diverse learners—who know their bodies and rights can make informed choices, and have healthy relationships.
Sexuality is more than body parts and sex. It includes our gender identity (female, male, both, neither, or somewhere in between), our gender role (how we behave because of our gender identity) and our sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or other identities).
Sexuality includes how we feel about our bodies (our “body image”). It includes our sexual experiences, thoughts, ideas, and fantasies.
Our sexuality is shaped by the media, family, friends, religion, age, life goals, and our self-esteem. It’s how we experience intimacy, touch, love, compassion, joy, sorrow, and a whole other range of emotions. In other words, sexuality is the total of who you are, what you believe, and how you feel and respond.
One of my core offerings is The Askable Adult— a workshop for parents, grandparents & other caregivers to prepare for “the talks”. The curriculum originated with Options for Sexual Health, who give this explanation about why sex education is important:
See, as adults, we model sexuality to children, whether we mean to or not.
We are constantly watched by children, who pick up a lot from our behaviours and what we say. Imagine then, if we could normalize, validate, and clarify their questions. If we could answer honestly and keep checking in.
At the heart of what I do is this seed for thought:
When children learn to communicate about sensitive issues with the people closest to them, you are teaching transferable skills that will benefit their relationships. Learning meaningful communication skills, self-advocacy, and values supports children to foster both health and safety in future relationships.
Doesn’t that sound like something you’d like to be a part of?
My mother was a nurse and was comfortable talking about bodies. She modelled science-based language and always kept things matter of fact. She was a kind, loving role model; and so was my father.
At school things were different. There was so much disrespect and inappropriate behaviour. I couldn’t understand why kids treated each other so poorly and why that was the norm. It fueled a fire in me. I figured there had to be a better way.
Luckily, I also went to camp, starting when I was six, and things were different there. Camp was where I felt like I could safely build my identity and confidence. I was dyslexic and funny. I got comfortable with who I was. I felt part of a bigger community—one that practiced communication skills, had shared experiences, and created meaningful bonds. It was the better way I’d been looking for.
Still, I’d go back to school feeling like I had a mask and armour on. I learned how to play the game. I was the recipient of both wanted and unwanted touch. But I always asked myself what type of person I wanted to be. I believed everyone deserved a sense of love and belonging. I rooted for the underdog. I believed in being kind.
It’s no surprise that I loved being a camp counsellor in my teens. That’s when I first began working with diverse learners and trying to be a role model myself. Then, when I became a young adult I started my own volunteer-run camp for low income kids. Sometimes we took payment in salmon. Eventually, when we lost our funding, I realized I couldn’t volunteer forever because I had my own bills to pay and the camp shut down. I knew I wanted to keep working with kids though, so I got a Bachelor of Education. I became a teacher, and later still a Certified Sexual Health Educator.
Sex ed is now my niche. I’ve created offerings where I see gaps. The work I do is very challenging. It can be exhausting to talk about sexuality in a world that isn’t comfortable talking about it. But I persevere because I believe that if people can have healthier relationships, the planet will be better off. Plus, humour helps take the edge off.
I’m proud to do the work I do. I’m also proud of my own 17-year partnership with my husband, Brian, and my relationships with our three sons. I keep growing, being a better partner, a better parent, and taking care of myself.
As I’ve said, we lead by example.
What kind of leader would you like to be?
How can I support you in bringing healthier relationships to your families, communities, and schools? Please check out my offerings to see if something resonates:
A word of warning though: turns out the world is in need of this kind of work right now and I tend to book up at least six months in advance, so please do plan ahead.
I hope you’ll get in touch.