How did you learn to talk about sex and how did you, from there, got to learn more about sexuality and help people as a sexual queer educator?
I’m still very much learning how to talk about sex! While I’ve certainly grown and evolved as a communicator, there is always more to learn. The skills that I do have are things that I’ve learned from watching others. Working in a sex shop throughout my 20’s exposed me to a lot of different kinds of people and ways of having sex/experiencing pleasure, so that taught me a lot. And too, growing up disabled forced me to get comfortable discussing human bodies at a young age – the ways we function, the messes we make, the things we need. Talking about sex and talking about disability can really mirror one another in the vulnerability that both conversations may elicit.
You are the author of “Hot, Wet and Shaking”. Was it motivating and fundamental to write this book and being able to talk about your experience as someone who was sexually ignorant as well as about your path along your learning and sexual experiences? What did you learn while writing this book?
Oh man, writing a book is hard work! Hot, Wet & Shaking is over two years old now and my feelings about it are ones of relative discomfort. I am glad that I wrote it and that another personal narrative of sex and disability exists in the world, but sometimes thinking about it makes me feel like I’m 16 again and standing naked in the middle of my high school cafeteria. So, while I am not sure that I would call the experience of writing it motivational or fundamental, I would say that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to write a book, and that I really believe that more and more disabled voices need to be heard in the world.
In different interviews as in your book you make note of your disability. Is it important for you to talk about disability in sexuality? For someone who was once shy about sex, how was it to overcome twofold the barriers and to learn and teach about sexuality to people of all conditions?
Yes, talking about sexuality and disability in tandem is of great importance to me. The perceptions of people with disabilities is so skewed and limited – we are so often cast as not having sexual desires nor being sexually desirable; or we are rendered invisible; or we are fetishized in a way that might feel good for some but alienating for others. Rarely are disabled people allowed the opportunity to define our selves outside of these socially constructed parameters. So for me initiating conversations that broaden our collective ideas about bodies and value is really important.
As a queer sex educator you took part in Halifax Dyke & Trans march, you read “Show Yourself To Me: Queer Kink Erotica” and you hold a section dedicated to queer culture. How important have the reading, your part in the march and the exclusive writing on queer culture been important to the knowledge and queer living and evolution for you as a sexual queer educator?
Wow, you’ve done your research! Yep, I definitely get around and get involved in a lot of different things.
Identifying as queer is really important to me, and participating in queer culture is a place where I feel safe. Queerness makes sense for me because it often feels like when I am with a bunch of people who have already had to push beyond the traditional limits of gender and orientation, my body can be more seen and understood. While queerness and disability are not the same, I think that often difference can meet difference with more openness.
Your work is also about organizing sexual toys workshops and approaching the sexual health topic. How are sex toys important and essential to everyone’s sexuality and eroticism? In your workshops how do you present sex toys and the ways in which they can be used as a complement and beneficial to sexuality?
I love sex toys! I’m not going to claim that they are important for every single human to enjoy or to use, but in my experience, sex toys can offer a chance to experience and own your body in whole new ways. Sex toys can create sensations, can reach new places, and can offer a sense of pleasure that for some, it can be hard or impossible to do solo. For some folks who have a hard time reaching orgasm, sex toys can be totally eye opening. For people with injuries, disabilities and/or limited mobility, sex toys can provide a lot more access to pleasure.
I respect and understand that a lot of people might be imitated by sex toys. I think some people view them as competition, or others think that they are only for single people. So in my work I try to present sex toys as just another way one might want to experience physical pleasure – just as fun as eating a really good sandwich.
You have approached the sexual health topic in your work. Having in consideration the on going marginalization of disable and general sexuality, what is your perspective on the sexual health issue?
Disabled people are marginalized in a myriad of ways. We are excluded by the inaccessibility of spaces, by the unwillingness of nondisabled people to look at us and take us seriously, by so many visible and invisible barriers. Sexuality is one of many arenaa where we don’t get to experience the full breadth of our human rights – the right to pleasure, the right to self-identify, the right to treatment (often doctor’s offices are inaccessible and STI tests can’t be conducted). And so I am heartened by disabled folks who are doing work to make sexuality and sexual health more accessible (see Andrew Gurza, Loree Erikson, or Lyric Seal for example).
Thanks for your time, and all the best wishes for your work.
Project Let’s Talk About Sexuality
Interview: Pedro Marques
Translation and Correction and: Joana Correia