On International Women's Day - Here are My Heros of Sexual Health and Freedom
I'm finding this International Women's Day a difficult one given the situation in the USA and the current attacks on women's sexual health and freedom. It's 2017 and we still have to fight this hard for access to health care and the right to decide for ourselves what we do and do not do with our own bodies? WTF?
But this morning I thought about some of the people who are inspirations to me because they have never, and still are not taking any of this lying down. Often on IWD, we hear about the history of the women's movement and the great achievements of women in science and politics and social justice. These are important, but I thought I would like to share and lift up the names of women who have done a lot for our sexual and reproductive health and freedom - most of whom still are doing that stuff and most of whom are Canadian (and I even personally know two of them).
So here are some lesser known sheros that I look up to and get my inspiration to keep working.
Dr. Jocelyn Elders - Jocelyn Elders was and is a champion for sex education in the USA and for access to birth control and STI prevention. In her role as surgeon general on the mid 90's she made it her mission to decrease the rates of unwanted teen pregnancies through education and health care programs. She was wildly successful. Sadly, much of her work has been undone in recent years, but she continues to fight, even as she is now in her 80's. She recently set up the USA's very first chair in sex health education, which is located at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Elders is also one of my heros because she got fired (from one of the most important and prestigious jobs in the country, by the President of the United States) for not backing down and taking back something that she said that she believed in.
Joani Blank - She may very well be the reason I am where I am today and the reason the Tickle Trunk exists. Joani Blank was the founder of the very first sex shop owned by women, set up to serve women - Good Vibrations. Blank was an active educator for women's rights to sex education and to pleasure, setting up women's discussion and education groups and hiring amazing educators like Carol Queen to work in her store. She also wrote several sex education books including one of the best books about talking to your kids about sex. She died just this past August, leaving a legacy that will long outlast her.
Kathleen Wynne - The premier of Ontario is a bad ass. When she took office, she made it her business to get the sex education curriculum into Ontario Schools. In the face of very vocal and vehement backlash, Wynne defended the creators of the curriculum and the rights of Ontario students to current, medically accurate, inclusive sex education. she basically stood strong where her predecessor, Dalton McGunity, caved.
Emily and Kathy Dawson - Emily, with the help of her mom, Kathy, filed a human rights complaint against the Edmonton Public School Boards after Emily was forced to attend a presentation in her CALM class given by the Pregnancy Care Centre. Emily said the presentation had a religious bias, contained medically inaccurate information, unnecessarily shamed and blamed girls for their sexual activity, and excluded and shame LGBTQ students. The media attention from the Dawson's claim made public an issue that had been talked about behind closed doors for more than a year - how to ensure that sex education in our public schools is accurate, comprehensive, inclusive, and non-biased. Positive changes in procedures for vetting guests presenters in sex education have resulted. Kathy Dawson continues to be a very vocal activist on issues of access to inclusive, comprehensive sex education.
Laura Budd - In February of last year, Laura won the right to change her Saskatchewan birth certificate to reflect her true name and gender, without having to provide proof of gender confirmation surgery. A birth certificate is required to obtain a driver's license and passport so without this vital piece of ID, transgender people cannot make the necessary changes to the ID they use on a regular basis - leaving them open to invasive questioning, harassment, and denial of important services due to ID that doesn't match. Instead of accepting the discriminatory and unnecessary rule requiring surgery, Laura fought to change it and has now won that right for everyone else in the province.