When you think of progressive values, topics like menstruation, HIV justice, and sexual rights might not be the first words to cross your mind. But as a fellow in this year’s San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA) Institute class (to train progressive leaders), who is passionate about bringing a voice to taboo sex topics, I was thrilled to find other like-minded activists in my class, namely Shawna Held and Nate Cedilla. We quickly bonded over the importance of sex education and nonjudgmental sexual discussions.
Shawna Held advocates for "menstrual activism," and explains that her intent is to "create a safe space for people who menstruate and do everything I can to take the taboo and shame around it away." I had never even thought about actual activism around menstruation, and love this title. I think it's mind-boggling that something as natural as menstruation is still shrouded in silence and embarassment, especially for young women.
Nate Cedilla is an activist for “HIV justice." He states that in “my formative years as a queer man of color, I struggled to understand my sexuality and learn the significance of independence,” which included engaging in unprotected sexual activities and partying. I've been involved with HIV both as a researcher and educator, and my dissertation was about HIV prevention programs targeting adult women in racial minority communities. I so appreciate the work that Nate does to bring compassion and education to reducing HIV in San Diego.
I promote “sexual health & rights” because sex and sexuality are a natural part of our human experience, yet so much around them remains in the shadows, which leads to miscommunication, fear, exploitation, pain, and sadness. A theme behind the work that the three of us do, which has been clarified and emboldened through our participation in SDLA, is to bring a loud voice to topics and experiences that many wish would stay silenced. Our goal is to reduce shame, stigma, and fear, and increase knowledge, empowerment, and connection. Sex- and body-related topics are relevant to everyone.
We thank the folks at SDLA for warmly accepting our unconventional passions! Look for the three of us at the Happy to be progressive Hour fundraiser this Wednesday, May 14, 2014…we promise to share some lively and fascinating stories with you!
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker