Challenging Stereotypes around Fatherhood – Sex-Positive Parenting by Everyday Girl Dad

When I became a dad I realized I didn’t know very much about what being a dad meant. Until I picked up a tiny human and felt the true responsibility to help raise them to become a bigger human with values and morals and information to help them grow, I couldn’t have understood the feelings that come with the word “dad.”

It goes well beyond changing diapers or staying up until 3 a.m. with a child with a sore tummy, or becoming a coach of a kid’s soccer team and assigning snack duties to the other parents. Yet those were the things I saw the most growing up about being a father. So I applied the messages around me to what being a dad—and in my case being a dad to two girls—meant.

Dads are often portrayed as the friend of sons and the protector of daughters. This is manifested in pictures of dads holding up shotguns to their daughter’s prom date or dads in shirts that read Dads Against Daughters Dating. They are also often portrayed as being unengaged and uninterested in housework, childcare, and essentially anything that takes them away from football or hockey.

Beyond this, being a dad who challenges these stereotypes leads to praise beyond what should be expected for being an involved parent. Dads need to push back on these ideas, both the stereotypes themselves and the idea that a dad who braids his daughter’s hair or is capable of talking about menstruation is a superhero.

Traditional views on masculinity and their relationship with fatherhood can stunt overwhelming emotions if you are unwilling to push back on them. And the biggest beneficiary of me being willing to challenge what being a man means for me is my parenting

There are a number of learned behaviors I have had to focus on as I try to raise socially conscious children. Admitting there is so much for me to learn and unlearn both as a dad and as a partner is the key to broadening my parenting, and so I try to bring these action items into the way I interact with my kids.

This is where sex-positive parenting becomes so important for my partner and me.

We are the first-responders to questions asked by our kids. They look to us every day to answer questions about how both their bodies and minds are changing. We help them develop and define their identities with the answers we give them and even in the way we give them those answers.  Were we to shut our minds to the things we bring into the lives of our kids, the odds are high that the books they read would feature mostly white children, the movies they watch would feature primarily heterosexual couples, the textbooks they bring home wouldn’t tell the whole story about the history of our country, and there wouldn’t be a single reference to mental health issues.

So, we actively seek out ways to integrate these things into parenting and into our home.

You can easily teach the concepts of consent—of both giving and receiving it—when you hand out goodnight kisses at bedtime or when extended family is over for the holidays. Give your kids the confidence to say no and be sure you respect those times they do say no. Expect the same from them when you are not feeling like a hug or kiss. Work with them on being able to say no to people outside of their family too.

I have addressed my own mental health and talk to my kids about my medications and my therapy. We have talks about “the doctor for my brain” and make a point to talk each day about things that made us happy and things that made us sad.

I know now that a more comprehensive sex and health education would have benefited me greatly. I continue to learn more about my own identity as I get older and as I learn terms and see experiences I had never seen before. We want to make sure these are known identities, that we show our kids as many lived-experiences as we can so that they can note their own identities from a greater pool of people versus from the narrow definition of the man/woman, married/single binary that some sex curriculums teach.

I want my relationship with my daughters to be built on the understanding that they can ask me anything and that we will figure out answers together. I won’t judge who they have a crush on, I won’t judge if they never have a crush on anyone. I won’t get angry if they tell me they keep getting angry at people at school and I won’t panic if their bodies are undergoing changes mine never did.

Raising strong, caring, and socially aware children is less about how they are as kids and more about how you are as parents.

What I have come to see over and over again is that girls are naturally wildly strong and ambitious and caring. It is the work that I can do to shift what it means to be a man, to shape the world into a kinder, more inclusive and welcoming place, that can have one of the biggest impacts on whether or not they can stay that way.

Sexual Health for Life

Sexual health is a vital part of overall health and well-being throughout the life-course.  In order to achieve the best possible health outcomes, good sexual health and positive attitudes toward one’s sexuality are crucial. This includes ensuring that:

  1. Kids and parents have access to accurate, comprehensive information that reflects their diverse needs and realities, and is provided in an age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive and respectful manner that is fully inclusive of gender diversity.
  2. All those who are sexually active know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STI) and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
  3. Conversations with health care providers about sexual health continue as adults age, including risks of STI and how to prevent them.
  4. Patients of all ages can access health care in a safe, trusted and non-judgmental setting where they can talk openly and comfortably to their health care providers.

It is essential that we work to promote sexual health at all stages of life, especially through efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination and to break down barriers that limit access to effective testing, treatment and care. A concerted effort is needed given that we are continuing to see increasing rates of STI among youth, young adults and older Canadians.

As we begin Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week (February 11-15, 2019), I invite you to reflect on the importance of considering sexual health as not only avoiding negative outcomes, but also acquiring the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to maintain good sexual and reproductive health throughout life.

Events in Manitoba

Event listing for Manitoba, organized by SERC 

SERC will be sharing a different resource everyday on our social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Check out Nine Circles’ new website, Sex Friendly Manitoba: Your questions about sexually transmitted infections, safer sex, transmission, testing, harm reduction and more, answered by health educators.

February 7th in Brandon: Brandon’s Sexual Health Committee will be delivering safer sex supplies (e.g. condoms, lubricant, etc.), sexual health information (e.g. STBBI testing locations in Brandon), and Valentines to various bars and lounges in Brandon to be distributed the weekend before Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week.

February 12th: Visit www.serc.mb.ca for a special #SRHWeek2019 blog about safer sex over 50.

February 13th, 2:30-4:00PM in Winnipeg: Join Nine Circles Community Health Centre (705 Broadway) for an interactive, sex positive, harm reduction based workshop on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections!  Phone a health educator at 204-940-6000 for more information.

February 13th, 6:30-8:00PM in Winnipeg: SERC vous invite à prendre part à un atelier gratuit qui se tiendra le 13 février à la bibliothèque Public de St. Boniface, 100-131 Boulevard Provencher. Dans cet atelier, les participants discuteront au sujet de sur comment parler de la sexualité à nos enfants. Il n’y a pas d’ inscription. Tout le monde est bienvenu.

February 13th, 6:30-8:30PM in Shilo: Join SERC, Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre & Shilo Military Family Resource Centre for a free 3 part workshop series exploring ways to strengthen the parent-teen connection.  SERC will be facilitating a session about communicating with your child(ren) about sexuality as part of this series. For registration and more information, please phone SERC’s Brandon office at (204) 727-0417.

February 14th, 9:00PM-2:00AM in WinnipegSexual Du Voyageur 8 at The Good Will Social Club. Stop by and visit Teen Talk’s table for safer sex supplies!

February 14th: Our social media contest closes, and we will announce the winner of a $50 Chapters Gift Card!

February 15th, 12:00-1:00PM in Winnipeg: Join SERC for a free Lunch & Learn at our Winnipeg office (200-226 Osborne Street North) for teachers and service providers on the topic of “Sexting,” with a particular focus on youth sexual development and the law. Register here!

BC Event: Intersectionality, Sexual Health and Criminalization

Options for Sexual Health is organizing an event on intersectionality, sexual health and criminalization as part of SRH Week 2019!

SRH Week 2019 is Around the Corner!

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week (SRH Week) 2019 is just around the corner! This year, it will take place from February 11-15 with the theme: Sexual health at all ages.

Sexuality and sexual health are integral to wellbeing throughout our lives. Everyone, no matter the age, is entitled to affirming health care, and that includes sexual health.

This year’s campaign will address sexual health at different stages of life, from children and sex-positive parenting all the way to aging and sexuality.

We deserve to be treated as the complex individuals that we are. This means recognizing that from beginning to end, we are sexual beings in need of accurate information about our sexual health.

In addition to the posters designed by Le Burrow, SRH Week 2019 will feature a series of blogposts written by community-based organizations, helpful information on sexual health throughout different phases of life, podcasts, a webinar, and more! We’ll be on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too! Find us @actioncanadashr or download our social media kit at www.srhweek.ca (available early 2019).

The new campaign and material will be available on www.srhweek.ca as of February 11.

Can’t wait until then? The site and all our exciting tools from past campaigns are available year-round with reliable, easy to access, up-to-date and comprehensive bilingual information on sexual and reproductive health. Visit www.srhweek.ca to see for yourself!

Of course, any campaign needs strong voices to really make a difference. Help promote sexual and reproductive health this SRH Week by displaying the posters, following @actioncanadaSHR on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, visiting www.srhweek.ca and helping to spread the word!

Want more posters? No problem! If you would like to order more copies of the poster, visit www.srhweek.ca and fill out the poster order form. We’ll be happy to send you more at no charge.

Thanks for your support in recognizing the importance of sexual health at all ages!

Big or small, old or new, your sexual health matters!

We want to hear from you!

February 12th-16th was Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week with the theme Mind Your “Business” that connected the dots between mental health and sexual health.  Now we’re preparing for 2019 and we want to hear from you!

Please take 5-10 minutes to complete the 2018 feedback survey by clicking here »

 

Sex Ed, Broken Hearts & Mental Health

Sexual health is about more than our body parts. The youth I work with understand this inherently.

In my role as Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator at Sexuality Education Resource Centre Manitoba, I work on a number of different projects, one of which is focused exclusively on newcomer youth in Winnipeg. It is called the Our Families Can Talk About Anything project, which brings together parents and youth from newcomer families to talk about sexuality and sexual health and work to build bridges of communication between parents and their teens about these topics.

During these newcomer youth workshops, we spend as much time exploring topics of broken hearts, relationships with parents and consent as much as vaginas, condoms and STIs. Sexuality is a complex and dynamic aspect of our humanity and includes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components, all interconnected.

I really believe that I have the best job in the province. I get to host sexual health workshops and discussions with newcomer youth who are navigating the challenges of being young in Winnipeg in 2018, learning about themselves as they transition to adulthood and struggling with their roles as children of parents who maybe just don’t understand. Add to this the pressures and stresses of puberty, social media and hallway crushes. There is so much to navigate.

With these pieces put together, it becomes clear how mental health plays an integral part of the story. Our hearts, minds and bodies are all connected.

In our sessions, the youth talk about relationships with parents and their struggle to be independent. We explore LGBT2SQ* identities, respect for diversity and how these intersect with religious beliefs. We share about consent, cat-calling and abusive relationships. We explore body image, self-image, valuing ourselves. We dissect the intricacies of decision-making, how to trust ourselves, when to trust in others. We talk about what respect means, how we respect our own bodies and how we respect the bodies of others. We discuss racism, cultural adaptation, bullying and community. We talk about birth control choices, STIs and the science of how bodies work.

We also talk about broken hearts. If there were one thing I would love to communicate fully to you it would be these amazing conversations about broken hearts. Youth understand how mental health connects to physical health. Hearts and feelings directly affect thoughts and actions. They speak with great articulation on feeling the grief of broken relationships and their need to devise strategies to get out of bed on mornings when they are so sad they can barely breathe. They know and experience the pain of breakups and the cloud that hovers above them for months, sometimes years afterwards. They know that hearts and minds are connected; they are working so hard to find a way through this.

We cannot afford to ignore the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of sexual health. Talking about bodies as if they are separate from our relationships, separate from our thoughts and feelings would be missing most of the story.

The 16-year-old woman who is asking for condoms because she feels pressured into sex by her boyfriend, the boyfriend she cannot tell her parents about because they do not want her dating until she is 18, is facing immense pressure from many sides of her life. We let her know that contraceptives are available to her, and with those we also provide information on her sexual rights, on her inherent value as a person, on her agency to use her body the way that she thinks best, on what healthy relationships look and feel like. Providing birth control options is important but not the only part of sexual health that needs attention; all of these are connected.

Sexual health is about more than our body parts. It is about how our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves interact in terms of our sexuality and our understanding of ourselves. It is about mental health, reproductive rights, birth control access, consent, bodies, healthy relationships, body image, smashing the patriarchy, social justice and all of the things that affect our bodies and relationships.

We cannot separate the physical from the mental or the spiritual; it just would not make sense. Effective sexual health education encompasses all of these aspects of our sexuality, while we assist youth in the skills they need to effectively Mind Their “Business”.

The Importance of Queer and Trans-Affirming Mental Health and Substance Use Support

Historically, LGBTQ people have not been made to feel comfortable to talk about their lives and experiences while accessing support in health care and social service settings. To this day, many people suffer from abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination because they are LGBTQ-identified. This certainly also happens in health care settings. Existing services are not designed with LGBTQ people in mind and health care providers are not receiving the proper training to meet the needs of this population. In response, Faith and Tim started Pieces to Pathways (P2P), a peer-based harm reduction program for queer and trans folks.

P2P started as a conversation between Faith and Tim, two friends who met in recovery. The two got sober with the support of 12-Step programs,[1] and this lived experience as sober queer and trans people combined with their histories of grassroots community development inspired the development of the program.

Faith and Tim, who are vocal about their own experiences with addiction and recovery, would regularly get friends or mutual acquaintances sent their way when they struggled with substance use. They would meet with these individuals, often in coffee shops, to discuss their stories and share what had worked for them to get sober and stay sober. When it came time to make a referral to social or health services that were queer and trans affirming, Faith and Tim discovered that there were very few places they felt comfortable referring people to.

In the summer of 2014, Faith and Tim started P2P and in December 2014, they were successful in securing government funding from the Toronto Central LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) to conduct a community based needs assessment. By the end of March 2015, a full literature review analyzing 115 peer-reviewed articles was conducted, 28 different social service providers were interviewed, 640 LGBTQ youth were surveyed, and 5 focus groups were facilitated with 48 participants. The findings, compiled into a final report, echoed Faith and Tim’s experiences:

  • 65% of survey respondents said that provider and/or client orientation towards their LGBTQ identity negatively impacted their service use experiences.
  • Past year substance use prevalence rates among queer/trans youth in Toronto ranged from 1.19 to 57.2 times higher than those of the general Canadian population.
  • 37% of survey respondents would like to or were actively trying to reduce or eliminate their alcohol use.
  • 44% of survey respondents would like to or were actively trying to reduce or eliminate their drug use.

Many queer and trans youth use alcohol and drugs to cope with the daily oppression they face in their lives and many use substances just to survive. When this population thinks they might have a problem with their use, they are unsure if existing services will be able to meet their needs as an LGBTQ person. When this population actually goes to get help and access services, 2 out of 3 have a negative experience because of their queer and trans identity. Survey respondents reported not feeling safe disclosing their identity, not being accepted for their identity, and being actively mistreated by health care providers. This results in an unfortunate situation where queer and trans folks must either access services that may be harmful to them, or completely disengage with services altogether.

To respond to these realities, P2P was envisioned as a peer based program – with all frontline staff being queer and trans identified and having their own lived experiences with substance use and recovery, however defined by each individual. In this model, lived experience is used both as an intervention strategy and as a tool to build community for people that are facing similar struggles. The program is currently housed at Breakaway Addiction Services[2] and, as a harm reduction program, offers 1-to-1 support through case management, hosts 3 community drop-in nights and co-facilitates dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) groups.[3]

Throughout P2P’s work, the access needs for gender variant individuals in health care settings have been made clear.

Top three needs

All-gender bathrooms, inclusive in-take forms, and respect for an individual’s pronouns.

When these needs are not met, patients/clients report feeling like they are not respected or understood for who they are, which can result in them discontinuing treatment or not accessing health care in the future.

10 Tips for Engaging and Supporting LGBTQ Youth

  1. If you don’t know or understand a particular concept, “Google It” or ask a colleague.
  2. Avoid making assumptions about peoples’ gender, sex and sexual orientation.
  3. If you’re unsure about a person’s pronouns, ask them.
  4. If facilitating a group environment, incorporate a “pronoun go-around” and also ask if participants have any access needs.
  5. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Apologize and make it right next time.
  6. Show that you support the LGBTQ community.
  7. Know your limitations in supporting someone and if necessary, refer to a colleague or another organization.
  8. Stay up to date and keep yourself informed about historical and contemporary LGBTQ issues. If you have learned something, share it with others.
  9. Ask the person what they want, what they need and how they want their experiences defined.
  10. Understand that not all queer and trans youth have the same experiences.

 

[1] 12-Step programs are community based supports where individuals who identify as addicts and alcoholics meet to mutually support one another.

[2] Located in the Parkdale area of Toronto

[3] The drop-in spaces include an abstinence night on Monday, a harm reduction space for racialized youth on Tuesdays and a harm reduction night on Thursdays. P2P regularly works with many addiction, harm reduction and mental health service providers in Toronto by providing LGBTQ and harm reduction advocacy, education and training. Once a month, P2P hosts a community harm reduction kit making event that is open to everyone, where participants can make safer use kits for crack use, injection drug use, crystal use and partying, as well as kits for injecting hormones and safer sex practices. P2P regularly attends drop-ins of partnering organizations and parties to do harm reduction outreach and to hand out kits.

 

My unconscious bias about young people, reproduction and “women’s health”

My unconscious bias was revealed to me many years ago while working as a registered nurse (RN) at a family planning clinic. A young woman came requesting a pregnancy test. I admit to feeling relief when the test was negative and was genuinely surprised when her reaction was grief. As we discussed the result, she revealed that she had been attempting to achieve pregnancy and had the full support of her partner and family. Where did my reaction come from? Why had I assumed that she was trying to avoid conception rather than trying to achieve it? Had my assumptions caused distress for the patient?

A rights-based approach to reproductive health means that everyone has the right to decide if, when and how often they have children. However, our unconscious bias – our inherent preferences that we’re not knowingly aware of – may impact the mental wellness of patients in our care.

As healthcare providers, we know that the mental wellness of our patients is impacted by many things, including gender, ability, relationships, socio-economic status, education, social support and access to services. But, do we consider the role of how our own comfort and bias impacts people during the significant life events associated with reproductive health care?

Even most of the research on reproductive health and mental wellness has focused on the experience of cisgender women in higher income countries. It’s a fact that the world of reproductive health is hyper-gendered and synonymous with women’s health. Have we unconsciously excluded transgender people, people with non-binary or gender non-conforming identities or men from research and supports that related to reproductive health and wellness? What is the experience of same-sex couples trying to access reproductive health care? Do we have enough information about the intersections of diversity and the impact on mental wellness?

Reproductive health across the lifespan is fraught with transition; consider the list: puberty, trying to prevent pregnancy, trying to get pregnant, infertility, pregnancy, parenting, adoption, abortion, miscarriage, and andropause/menopause. Is that it? I’m not sure, there is probably more. It’s a fact people can have increased risk to their mental wellness during these times of reproductive health transition. We need to be careful not to make assumptions about what the experience means for them, but also be aware of specific risks during these transitions, including:

  • Early puberty may be associated with impacts to self-esteem, body image and early sexualization.
  • Recent studies suggest that depression or feelings of decreased well-being may be possible side-effects of birth control pills. While research is still being conducted, counselling and support around the possibility is needed for patients.
  • Infertility is a stressful experience for all people, which impacts relationships, self-esteem, body-image and can be associated with experiences of anxiety, grief and depression.
  • People with a history of depression have a 20x higher risk of postpartum depression (PPD). Having gestational diabetes also increases the risk for PPD.
  • Risk factors for mental wellness during pregnancy and postpartum include smoking, use of alcohol, use of non-prescription drugs and a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.
  • Rates of mental health problems for women with an unintended pregnancy are the same whether they have had an abortion or have given birth; however, those with underlying mental health concerns may require additional supports.
  • Menopause may impact wellness for people who experience negative effects, including low mood, anxiety, body image, impact to self-esteem over loss of reproductive potential, reduced libido, difficulties with sexual functioning, etc.
  • Andropause may impact wellness for people who experience negative effects, including low mood, reduced libido, fatigue, body image/weight gain and difficulties with sexual function.

There are gaps. We don’t know, what we don’t know. But this is what I know to be true: as health care providers, we have an opportunity to work with vulnerable people during times of transition. For some people, this can be extremely stressful.

  • We need to avoid assumptions about the meaning of the experience and ask them, “How are you doing today?”
  • Avoid assumptions about how they might be impacted; what choices they might make or even whether they are aware of all their choices.
  • Be inclusive when talking about reproductive health and open the conversation to extend past “women’s health.”
  • Use inclusive language and avoid heteronormative assumptions using partner/spouse rather than husband/wife.
  • Know your resources, whether it’s for a person experiencing infertility and looking for assisted reproductive health technologies, a person looking for pregnancy options support, transgender youth during puberty or someone experiencing significant symptoms of perimenopause.

Ultimately, we all need the same thing. Access to timely, inclusive, non-judgmental, non-stigmatizing services. After all, reproductive rights are human rights, for all people.

Some thoughts on why sex is good when I am good

My sexual health means more to me than free condoms and a pamphlet from an event, or getting tested a few times a year.

What’s going on in the rest of my life has a major impact on the decisions I make around sex, the amount of sex that I have, and the way that I feel about it before, during, and after. I want to share my thoughts on a few things that can help support our mental health, our sexual health, and have a positive impact on our overall wellbeing:

  1. accessible and competent services and service providers, and
  2. spaces to deconstruct and process stigma and discrimination.

It is important to discuss these things because sexuality is often disconnected from other parts of our lives. Making this connection is necessary to explore the ways in which our mental health and our sexual health are interrelated.

It is necessary that medical professionals ask us about what is going on in the rest of our lives. When they do, they have a better understanding of how our relationships, our social lives, our work and school impact our health and wellbeing. If health services are not culturally safe or socially informed, especially when it comes to gender and sexual minorities, people may not receive the level of care that they require and deserve. For example, this might mean that we don’t get the right swabs during routine STI testing. It could also mean trans men not being asked about birth control due to heteronormative assumptions about the sex that they are having. Or, it might look like gay, bi, and queer men not gaining access to PrEP when they need it, even though they are the most disproportionately affected population by HIV in Canada.

Increasing access to HIV treatment, PrEP, and contraception can be a means of confidence and comfort for people when it comes to sex, and it also has a direct impact on our sexual and mental health. With less worry about HIV or pregnancy, this may mean less stress or anxiety for some people. But it could also mean we have a greater opportunity to have conversations with our partners about the sex that we want, and feel confident that we have the tools and support to make it happen.

Access to competent mental health service providers is equally important. I wish I were more shocked to hear stories of people seeing a therapist (sometimes for years) and never being asked about sex or sexuality. If we can’t speak about our sexual identities in a space as safe as a therapy session, we can’t use therapy to connect sexual identity to other parts of our life.

There are broader consequences of not being able to speak openly and honestly to your doctor, your therapist, or the clinician at the sexual health clinic. Beyond the immediate impact on our wellbeing, and specifically on our sexual health, it perpetuates the idea that discretion is the basis of a normal and expected rapport with one’s practitioner. It also fails to normalize sex and sexuality as an integral topic when discussing a healthy human life.

It is important to identify and deconstruct stigma within our communities. Stigmatizing language within our own communities has broad negative impacts. For example, sex between men is continually described through a lens of risk rather than pleasure, which perpetuates the idea that people within, or associated with, these communities are a threat to public health. On an individual level, people from within those communities may internalize these messages and regard their actions or behaviours in a negative way.

Consider how stigma has impacted different aspects of your life. When we constantly hear stigmatized language and use it when we speak about the sex that we have, what impact does this have on our wellbeing? How might this change the way that we speak about sex with our partners, or how might it influence the types of sex that we have compared to the sex that we want? When I have spaces to speak about and normalize queer sex and mental health challenges, I have the opportunity to deconstruct some of the anxiety and shame that can come from internalizing stigmatizing language.

This has been a key factor in how I understand my own queer sexuality beyond sex. It helps me feel that my value as a queer person is not based on how sexually desirable I am, and that my ability to establish and nurture relationships is not based on the sex that I’m having or not having. When I feel mentally healthy, and I’m able to affirm these sentiments for myself, I have confidence in the choices that I make around my sexual health.

Supporting mental health and normalizing challenges with mental health must be a component in our approach to sexual health and sex education. This may seem like a lot to take on when mental health services are often inaccessible. But we have the capacity to support more positive attitudes around mental health in our organizations, in our schools, and in our communities. If we are conscious of the ways that mental health is important to our sexual health, then we can use this understanding to be responsive to stigmatizing language, develop programs and curriculum that recognize and reflect the importance of holistic sexual health, and advocate for policies that ensure this link on institutional and structural levels.

I don’t have a definite prescription for how to address all these issues in one blog post, as they are so interconnected to many broader social, political, and economic issues. But I wanted to briefly reflect on a few ways that leaving sexuality out of discussions about our mental health and wellbeing can disconnect people from thinking about their sexual health more holistically.

Having a good therapist and a good doctor is only part of supporting our wellbeing. Building and connecting to community can help abate feelings of loneliness and isolation, and let us know that queer people deserve space and that queer sexuality is valid. But this is important for everyone at every intersection. Sexual health is social, and we must not dismiss parts of our wellbeing as we aim for better sexual health for ourselves and for our communities.