I just finished three amazing days in New Brunswick, NJ at the 30th annual Sex Education Conference, hosted by the Center for Sex Education. My time was filled with keynotes and workshops, networking and socializing, presenting and discussing, and encouraging and leading. This was my third time attending the conference, my third year as a member of the Sex Ed Network, and my third year witnessing success and growth.
Many of the workshops I attended were about engaging youth and meeting them where they are at. This included through social media platforms and interactive games, but it also meant acknowledging the variations of gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, physical ability, developmental ability, trauma, and more. Many people encouraged this discussion including the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (wocshn.org), as well as individual presenters and keynote speakers. While I am conscious of who my audience is when teaching sex education or doing sex therapy, I felt challenged to have this on the fore-front of my brain, rather than as an after thought. Specifically, the WoCSHN encouraged ALL presenters during the opening keynote, to alter their presentations and include an aspect of inclusivity on race and people of color. I presented on polyamory, open relationships, and swinging (and the differences among them) and I wasn’t sure how to embrace this challenge. When the topic of cultural values arose during my presentation, a clear path developed and both myself, and those engaging in my presentation, were able to go down that road together. It was a learning moment for myself and others in the room.
While I had my own learning moments during the conference and was able to acknowledge that I continue to grow as a person, educator, and therapist, I also had the opportunity to share my knowledge with others. As I mentioned, I led a workshop about polyamory, open relationships, and swinging. Monogamy was also discussed during this conversation and its historic roots. I was able to provide definitions and resources, as well as my own expertise working with people with different identities. “That’s just an excuse to cheat” was a myth I was able to clear up among quite a few people. During the discussion I was able to emphasize communication, honesty, and more communication. The topic was new and vulnerable for many, but others identified it as a safe space to come out and share their own stories.
In between sessions, I also volunteered at the AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) table. As the leader of the Nebraska AASECT chapter, the Chair of the Development Committee for the national organization, and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, this organization is extremely important to me. There were many people that approached the table asking how to become involved with AASECT, how to get certified, why they should get certified, and how to learn more. Thankfully, my “sales pitch” to them wasn’t actually a pitch at all since I am so passionate about AASECT. It’s my professional home and where I am able to find a sense of community within my professional career. You can’t sell that! I was really glad to see people inquiring about the organization though and wanting more information. It reminded me of my own passion that was sparked when I was in college which pushed me into this field.
Another wonderful thing that occurred at the National Sex Education Conference was meeting Kirsten deFur, the editor and contributor to the 4th Edition of Unequal Partners, the book that some of my own sex education lessons on consent will be published in! She is also the editor and contributor for another book, that has yet to be named, chock full of LGBTQ lessons, which I will also be published in! In addition to meeting Kirsten, and giving each other a big hug, she gave a wonderful keynote presentation all about consent and how simple, yet oh so complicated, it is. She was a great speaker on such an important topic.
The last highlight of the conference was having Laci Green present as the final keynote speaker. Laci Green is a sex educator youtube media sensation (https://www.youtube.com/user/lacigreen). She has over 5 million viewers from each video she posts, and has had viewers from every single country. Wow! She shared her own personal story, acknowledged her privilege, added humor and humbleness, and spoke about reaching youth where they are at, the Internet. When she finished her presentation, she filmed people from the audience (with a special shout out to PoC who wanted to speak) about what they had learned at the conference. Guess what? I was filmed and will get to be a part of an original Laci Green youtube video! I got so nervous I forgot to share my youtube handle (#KristenLilla) but I did share how important the topic of consent is, and how it needs to start at a young age. I will definitely post a link to the video once it’s completed (she said it will probably be available in January 2016).
All in all, I would say the 30th National Sex Education Conference, and the 3rd annual one for me, was a SUCCESS! Shoutout to all the wonderful people at the Center for Sex Education for pulling off their biggest conference yet.