Gender Stories

Ante up! A conversation with Bianca Laureano - Part 1

February 29, 2020 Alex Iantaffi Season 3 Episode 33
Gender Stories
Ante up! A conversation with Bianca Laureano - Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Alex Iantaffi interviews award-winning educator, curriculum writer and sexologist Bianca I Laureano. In fact, they had so much fun that their conversation is split between two episodes, so make sure to listen to both part 1 & 2. Bianca is a founding member of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) and The LatiNegrxs Project. Her most recent project is ANTE UP! a virtual freedom school for justice workers offering professional development and certification we need for doing the work during these challenging times. Bianca earned her BA in Individual Studies with a focus on Latina Sexualities in 2000 from the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned a Masters of Arts from NYU in Human Sexuality Education in 2002 and a second Masters of Arts from the University of Maryland in Women’s Studies with a focus on sexualities, race, and racialization in 2006.  While at UM she was a CrISP Scholar at the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity and helped create the Intersectional Research Database. She has written several curricula that focus on communities of color: What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity? (2015) and Communication MixTape: Speak On It Vol 1. (2017) and wrote the sexual and reproductive justice discussion guide for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene published in 2018. Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS, the LGBTQ Center at CUNY, and The Black Girl Project; and is currently on the SisterSong board. She currently resides in Oakland, CA with her core partner G and is an AASECT certified sexuality educator and supervisor. Find out more about Bianca at her website BiancaLaureano.com and about ANTE UP! at www.AnteUpPD.com  You can also follow Bianca on Facebook. Bianca's call to action is to support the wonderful Patty Berne's GoFundMe!

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Hosted by Alex Iantaffi
Music by Maxwell von Raven
Logo by Lior Allen

Musical Intro:

There's a whole lotta things I want to tell you about. Adventures, dangerous, and queer. Some you could guess and some I've only hinted at, so please lend me your ear.

Narrator:

Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

Alex Iantaffi:

Hello and welcome to another episode of Gender Stories. This is your host Alex Iantaffi and I am super excited to be interviewing Bianca Laureano today. I know I always say I'm excited. It's because every guest is amazing, let's face it, but Bianca is super amazing. So Bianca is an award winning educator, curriculum writer, and sexologist. She's the founding member of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network and the LatiNegrxs Project. She also has the most recent project which is called ANTE UP! and it's a Virtual Freedom School for justice workers, offering professional development and certifications for the work that we need to do during this challenging times. Bianca has earned her BA in individual studies with a focus on Latina sexualities in 2000 from the University of Maryland, College Park, and then share in the Masters of Arts from NYU in human sexuality education in 2002, and a second Master's of Arts from the University of Maryland in women's studies with a focus on sexualities, race, and racialization in 2006. While at the University of Maryland, she was a CrISP scholar at the Consortium on race, gender and ethnicity and helped create the intersectional research database. Bianca has written several curricula that focus on

communities of color:

What's the REAL DEAL About Love and Solidarity (2015), and Communication Mixtape: Speak on it volume one in 2017, and wrote the sexual and reproductive justice discussion guide for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that was published in 2018. Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS, the LGBTQ Center at CUNY, and The Black Girl Project, and she's currently on the SisterSong board. Bianca resides in Oakland, California with their core partner G, and is an AASECT certified sexuality educator and supervisor. You can find out more about her work at our website, BiancaLaureano.com. And don't worry, all of that is going to be in the episode description. But for now, welcome, Bianca, thank you so much for agreeing to do this today.

Bianca Laureano:

Yes, thank you, Alex. I'm really looking forward to talking with you today as well.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, thank you. Well, you are involved in a number of amazing initiatives. And you have an amazing background in various areas, right? And you're an award winning sex educator, sexologist, activist, you're a founding member of the women of color sexual health network. So I thought we would start from maybe sharing with our listeners kind of why you felt the need to found a network called Women of Color Sexual Health Network.

Bianca Laureano:

Sure. So just so folks know, as I talk, the acronym, we pronounce it WOCSHN. So I might just say WOCSHN, instead of the whole acronym. But that organization turned 10 years old this year in June. And, you know, 10 years ago, I was figuring out how I want to do sexuality education and curriculum writing full time, but also as an independent scholar, and not tied to any particular type of philosophy that was expected for the work that was being done. And so I attended my first AASECT conference in Phoenix, Arizona, at that time, and you know, there were hundreds and hundreds of sexuality therapists and educators, and only about 15 to 18 people of color, that were visiting people of color. And, you know, we kind of all found ourselves in each other's workshops, and talking to each other throughout the conference experience. And towards the last couple of days. You know, we sat down and we were like, how can we stay connected? What are the things that we can do to support each other's work? A lot of the people who were presenting were doing a PhD or some other type of masters focused work. So they were all scholars in their own right, and also searching for a community of people who understood the work that they were also wanting to do by bringing in like a racial justice focus. And so we decided that we would create some kind of network for ourselves and we started with a Yahoo listserv. And, you know, this was 10 years ago, so that has really changed things. But we started there and then we moved on to Facebook because that was where a lot of our members were congregating virtually. Sorry, I might have to be taking some water just because you know, it's the winter, my mouth.

Alex Iantaffi:

Please be hydrated.

Bianca Laureano:

Thank you. Um, um, so the idea was, let's go to where our people are, so that they can access us. And so a majority of the members were on Facebook so we created a closed Facebook group. And then we created a WOCSHN page that is kind of like that public page where people can go and read about us and how to support us. And from there, we had, like 500 members join within like two years. And so we grew really rapidly with people who were identified as people of color. And they were self identified. So we weren't policing anybody's gender or anybody's identity, it was really based on how people were identifying themselves. And as we grew so rapidly, we realized, okay, we need some kind of structure here. And so three of us emerged as core organizers of WOCSHN and that was myself, Marianna, Gary Smith, who's in Portland, Oregon, and Trina Scott, who's in Washington, DC. And so we became the core founders, of the organization, and we're co directing that space. And, you know, it was difficult when we weren't really trained in, you know, organizational structure and all that good stuff. So it was very much a labor of love for the work that we wanted to do in the sexuality field, as well as creating a space where more of us felt comfortable, and could see each other represented. So a few years in, we decided to create a database, that was a membership, it's a membership organization, like that's what WOCSHN is right now. And we created one of the first membership directories that were online to find people of color doing the work in the field, because a lot of people would say to us, oh, I don't know any people of color who are doing this work. And for many of us, we were like, what do you mean? We're everywhere, you know, we are the people who are doing HIV testing with, the people who are doing it in our communities, we're the people who are managing these grants, that are expecting us to, you know, hold these data points and hire people. And so we're not in the very traditional positions that existed when a sect was created, for example, which was created by an educator. And so you know, the, the really traditional route that educators take was a very academic one into the field, and then going into maybe working in a school, or working with a particular organization, like a Planned Parenthood. And so a lot of people, and still today have that same kind of idea that that's the work that they're gonna go into. But that left out a lot of people who are still doing the work, and who were also people of color. And so we created the organization, and we really wanted to create something that people would value and at the time, people really just want to community. So that's still what we have going on. It's a closed Facebook group, we've created this website so that people can find us online. And that's also, you know, a decision that individuals had to make, like, do I want to be on the membership directory? What does it mean to say that I'm a WOCSHN member? And so currently WOCSHN turned 10 years old in June, and for me, I stepped down two years ago, as active founderess, because I really wanted to focus on different projects that we'll talk about today. But also, you know, my idea of leadership, and my idea of justice and change requires me as you know, a founderess to just to get out of the way, so that there's room for new fresh ideas, new energy, and really to have the organization be guided by people who are bringing in a different, just a different vibe and so what the work needs to be. And I acknowledge that, like, you know, I'm doing the work in a very particular way and I'm not representative of all of all of the people in the organization. And so I'd also reached a particular level of notoriety or, you know, infamy, whatever the word might be. And so it just didn't feel fair to be the face of WOCSHN for us for so long. And our people just come to me, I really wanted it to be a wider opportunity for all people. And so, so I stepped down then, and, you know, the organization has been growing in the way that it needs to and I'm excited for what the future might hold because I don't even know what the member number now is but it's very high. It's well over 500 people. And we're international. You know, we had our first international person about four years ago who joined so it's also becoming something that is expanding into the Caribbean and in South America, so that's also really exciting for what the work we do looks like in the western in the West. And to be able to have that kind of cross collaboration discussion about how things are different in Barbados, or in Jamaica, where we have members who need a different kind of support, to do the work that they're doing. So it's a really beautiful organization that I hold dear to my heart, and I'm so thankful for, and also really excited to see what's going to happen in the future. Some of the highlights of my time being in leadership with WOCSHN. We're really well known, not only for the directory, but also for pushing AASECT and other sexuality organizations to incorporate a racial justice framework, or, or just analysis into the work that we do. And that was really resisted. And it still is by many people, for a variety of reasons but I think the main one is fear, not just fear of Oh, my gosh, we're gonna have a hard conversation. But I think fear of what do I do? And how can I show up for people that I don't really have in my life ever? And what does it mean that the way that I was trained 40 years ago, is not working today? And what do I need to relearn? And what does that mean for the work the body of work that I've created over the past 40 years. So I think it's fear that really doesn't have much to do with us as individuals, as much as it does with like, the shift in what we're seeing in the world, and how it's showing up in the United States. So we held AASECT, accountable in very specific ways, because AASECT was the organization that brought us together. And a lot of us were very much committed to being members of that organization. And so we wrote an open letter, when there was a book that was published called Secret Of The Sex Masters, which was advertised as a book talking to international sexologists and award winning sex professionals. And when you turn the book around, everybody from all over the world was racially white and we were just like, really this exotic, traditional book of brilliance, you know. And so we wrote a letter saying, this is what the problem is and that open letter is probably one of the first open letters that were happening in the sexuality field, especially targeting organization, as well as the individuals who contributed to the book, who were people, not all of them, but many of them were people who were wanting to support our work, but didn't realize that they never asked, Well, who else are you asking to contribute to this text? And so it was also a learning opportunity for the people who wanted to be supporters of ours and be in collaboration with us to really do some reflexive work. And think about, oh, what questions do I need to ask in the future for these kinds of projects, where I won't end up being someone who promoted or supported a very color free conversation, that leaves out everybody else. Um, so that was a really complicated experience online, people were angry, and some people were really thankful. And, you know, we had people who made who use the, the open letter as a as a reason to create, like a parody website. And, you know, there was just a lot of a lot of stuff that were directed towards us as an organization. And I think that was the first time we really like shook the table and said, Hey, we all need to be joining in on making this shift and change. And there were many people who just were like, No, we're not going to, we're not going to do it. And I'm, there's people still in that position today, who will feel that way. And they get to have their own opinion. But also, the world that we live in today is not the world that it was in 1975, or even in 1995. So we're very much about making a movement where we're all going to be able to say that the work that I do, can be useful and intentional and can be inclusive. And so we really want people to understand that. And today, there's a different shift. There's a different focus. We clearly have people who are in supportive us. There are scholarship opportunities available now specifically for underrepresented people. Excuse me, and we were really able to have a larger conversation around class and elitism and what does having all these academic letters behind our name really mean and who are we forgetting? So it was also a really great opportunity for the people of color who have that status like myself, and Trina Marianna, to think about how can we strategically use the privilege that we have as people who are trained in this traditional academic way to make a more inclusive space for people who chose a different route to come into the field. So yeah, so lots and lots of history with that organization and I know I gave you a lot of information. So I'm totally open to any questions you have.

Alex Iantaffi:

That's a lot of great information, I totally and I have about like, 500 different things going off in my in my brain right now. So I'm just gonna go kind of choose the path and go along the path, and then can always go along another one. I mean, that was one of the reasons why I really wanted to interview you was like your impact in the field. You know, I've always had a complex relationship with a select somebody with my kind of a different set of marginalized identities and experiences, and kind of suspicion, almost, you know, and eventually, one of the reasons why I've decided to engage and get certified was because I wanted to make more space for folks in the field, you know. I'm a clinical supervisor, as a family therapist and so what I really love about the network that you created was that it was so grassroots, but also had that moment of thinking, Okay, how do we make space? And how do we keep the field accountable? Right? How do we keep the field accountable to the whiteness problem, that sex education and sex therapy does have, and one of the things that you've chosen to do is to remain an independent scholar. And you know, and you mentioned right at the beginning, that when you came into AASECT, that was something that you were thinking about, and that it was important for you to stay an independent scholar. And I wonder if you could share a little bit more about why that choice? What freedom using that choice gives you? And maybe what cost does that choice have for you?

Bianca Laureano:

Absolutely. Thank you for asking that question. Because it's a question a lot of people ask themselves, like, do I want to go and work for Planned Parenthood? Or do I want to go and work for the school district or, you know, what's the best route? And I think, for me, I had done all of those routes. You know, I had worked with the local Planned Parenthood, I worked in the State Department, not State Department but with the Department of Ed and, you know, the Health Department. And I just saw very early on what the red tape was around being able to do the kind of work that I knew needed to happen. So when I say that, I think about how I found that freedom, to be a little bit more creative with the curriculum that I could offer, specifically students of color and students who were immigrants. I found that freedom and charter schools, which, at the time and like the early 2000s, were really kind of revolutionary because they were focused so much on a particular way that they wanted to support young people who are underresourced. And so one of my first teaching positions was at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, DC. I grew up in Maryland. And that was a school that was created by a civil rights activist and prison abolitionist, who they both were working with young people who were in the juvenile justice system in Washington, DC. and at that time, 100% of the youth incarcerated and in that system were black youth, even though 100% of the youth who were living in DC were not black. So there was a completely racist agenda that was occurring that was really targeting young people. And what what ends up happening is these young people would not be able to go back to their public school. And so they really had nowhere else to go because they were kind of expelled, and no other schools could really support them. So James and David are the founders and they chose to focus on creating a school curriculum that had housing available for young people who maybe were in foster care and could no longer go back to their foster family or group home. So the young people were able to stay in school and also have a place to live. It was also a school that allow these young people to have time to see their parole or probation officers depending on what their issues were, and not be negatively impacted if they had to miss school for it. So I was invited to teach human sexuality class. And, you know, knowing that it's 100% black youth. I know that this Washington DC, which at that time, we didn't know, would have one of the highest rates of HIV transmission and infection. I was able to bring in like current events, popular culture that they were engaging with, and that was something that you just didn't ever see and still don't see. And a lot of the evidence based curriculum that we're required to teach for certain funding that people get across their states. So there's about like 10, evidence based curricula that aren't, you know, great at the end of the day. And for me, I really wanted to teach young people of color and immigrant youth about bodily autonomy. I wanted them to figure out what it meant to feel safe for them and who was a part of that safety network? I really want to have conversations about the power that they have as young people, and how do we misuse that power when we make certain decisions? And how can we use that power to our advantage so that we get the outcome that we want? And those are conversations that no curriculum really embraced? And they really still don't? I just did a curriculum update with Planned Parenthood last year, as an independent writer, and there was a lot of resistance from educators around, can I really teach this topic? I don't think I can. And, you know, that's the kind of thing that I see over and over again, where people have a fear of what do I say though, I'm not someone who knows very much about reproductive justice, but this is a reproductive justice activity. And, you know, the fear of I might say something wrong, and the thing with sexuality you know, it's just so interdisciplinary and there isn't just one right answer ever. And that's really hard for a lot of people who are trained So when I wrote the love and solidarity curriculum that was in a particular way, with young people, especially to tell them guided by young people, excuse me, and that was also guided by that there is a right answer. And so my approach was really young people's written work. So it was guided by their artwork, which I really valued. I've been using media literacy tenants for inclusive of the way that people learn differently, how our so long, and talking for at least the last 10 years about brains work differently, and really offered an accessible way net neutrality with young people as being like one of the big issues of their generation. And I realized that, oh, I need to, where everybody's brain could participate in the classroom. like bring it really back down to like the individual person. And it just wasn't something that people were able to And, you know, I say that because I was at the Harlem accommodate at the time. It wasn't something, it's still Children's Zone, which is a really famous or infamous organization in New York City that kind of has taken over not, where funding and support it. So I really had to ask Harlem and has the charter school system that they're myself, Bianca, what would it be like if you continue to teach embedded in. And this is kind of like where the arguments and the resistance around charter schools come up, especially like this lesson exceptional curriculum? You know, would it in places like New Orleans post Katrina. Now all the schools are break my spirit? Would I get angry? You know, how would I charter schools in Louisiana. So you know, there's different or cope with knowing that teaching young people how to make a in New Orleans, Louisiana, specifically. So there's different reactions now to charter schools. But at the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not helping them communicate Harlem Children's Zone, I realized, Okay, we have black effectively? And those were some of the, you know, communication youth who are, you know, their families are descendants from people who were enslaved. We have black youth who are activities that were really promoted in sex ed curricula, children of immigrants who have, you know, migrated here from and thank goodness, they're being shifted, but it's a small Africa more recently and then we have children who are Puerto Rican identified, and have lived in Harlem all their lives. So change. And, you know we need bigger change. I mean, just a what they were facing was how do I interact with law enforcement couple of years ago, there was a whole movement for making more because I'm being targeted so much as a young person, as a queer person, as a young queer person of color. And so that was LGBTQ inclusive curriculum. And you know, stuff like that. I'm when I started to really say, oh, sex ed needs to incorporate just like, we've already been doing that work but because it's those conversations too, because that's about safety as well. And a local effort. Yeah. Because it's like, grassroots effort, I brought this video in about how to, you know, say things to police officers, when they stop you, you know, things like, Can because organizations that value youth who are in particular I leave officer, you know, things like, I don't consent to situations, and allowing these young people to guide them, a search. Things like that were really important for young people to learn at the time. And they didn't realize that they individuals just weren't supported and doing that work. have that kind of power, and that they could really speak to And so I made a decision that I would follow that because I did police officers and law enforcement in a way that could ideally not lead to them being arrested or murdered. And a lot have this privilege of having these master's degrees, and of the students really, you know, they giggled about it. And being trained in a Ph. D. program that I eventually left they were like, yes, Bianca just taught us how to, you know, talk in women's studies, which is why I have the terminal Master's. to the police officers, so they don't like mess us up. I mean, giggled about it. But I also recognize that like, that's a You know, I just realized I was like, Oh, I'm, I'm a better type of power that they had never been given before. And teacher, than I am the person who needs to just follow the were spoken to in a way that said, you are responsible for lesson plan, like I'm a better curriculum writer, and I can what you decide to do with yourself. And sometimes those responsibilities look like standing up straight and making really help teachers get comfortable with the content, eye contact with a police officer who's targeted you, and train them on how to use the curriculum. because of how you're dressed, or whatever it might be. So I kind of have a very off the, off the road, main road approach to education. And right now, for me, when people ask me, what is comprehensive sex ed look, like? I say, if you're not talking about how to interact with police officers, you're really not talking about comprehensive sex ed. You know, if you're not talking about like, what is the safety plan, because now we live in a society where people go places and shoot people. So young people need to know that they have options, and that they can choose safety for themselves if they are aware of what's going on. So it's a different level of being present for young people today, where they really need to look for risk factors in a different way. You know, risk factors are just, is your condom expired? You know, risk factors are now are you comfortable going into this place? What if you see someone who has a firearm? What would you do? You know, when would you leave? Would you you know, what's your approach to that?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and I think that's so important, right? Because I think when most people think about sex education, or even, you know, sex therapy, which is more what I do, they, they think about it in this very individualized manner, in this very small manner. And what I'm hearing you talk about is this much more grassroot and systemic approach where you're like, what is actually going on? And if you think about it, you know so much about sexuality is about, you know, body sovereignty, control, safety, right. Without safety, there can be, you no, consent. And so really looking at this bigger factors in the world, you know, you know, think even about some of the one on one kind of more informal work that I've done in the community, is how do you help like a young person of color advocate for themselves, even after they have maybe a PAP prescription, you know, if they've been exposed to potentially being infected with HIV and they have the prescription, sometimes pharmacists might not give them the medication they need because of systemic racism and discrimination. And so kind of teaching that element of like advocating and who are the adults that can go to to help them advocate for themselves, you know, if they're meeting resistance, and those things are not generally covered, in any of the evidence based curricula that I've seen around. They're just not, didn't seem to be written for like black and brown and trans and queer and immigrant folks at all in my experience.

Bianca Laureano:

They aren't like, we're totally excluded.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yep.

Bianca Laureano:

Which is also, you know, rageful like, I'm right, I'm filled with rage just talking about it, and that we're still here, and it's going to be 2020 soon. So, yeah, like, it's a lot more work that needs to be done, but I'm definitely seeing a little bit more of a shift. And so for me you know, being that loud advocate, who has always say, this is not enough, this is not enough has led to me having some kind of, like a reputation where people know, okay, if we really want to have an inclusive curriculum, let's reach out to Bianca. And I believe that that's exactly what Planned Parenthood wanted. When I submitted my proposal, and they chose me to do this update, but I don't think they were fully ready to understand that. This is what she means about body autonomy. And this is what you mean about, you know, complicating or calling out the problematic binary of you know, the anatomy and physiology plans and that we don't need to gender genitalia and how that was like a really hard learning curve. For many educators, where they just, they would say, Oh, I'm really excited that you incorporated intersex people and the language that we should be using. And, you know, and encouraging people to not say things like ambiguous, but instead say, you know, a condition that's difficult to categorize, right? So are, you know, having a more inclusive and less judgmental approach to using language. And it was just such a huge shift that there was a lot of resistance and that people were scared. And we're like, I find comfort in the binary language, gentalia and just being, you know, like having that, that aha moment for them. But then also saying, yeah, I'm going to push you a little bit more, because it doesn't have to be that way. Maybe just weren't ready and that's totally fine. And, you know, it takes training to be able to feel comfortable doing that kind of work. And I think that right now, there's just an urgency that we have to no longer ignore because we're doing more harm using these less than exceptional curricula. And you know, I've been saying that for years. And thankfully, there's organizations that are listening, and are really committed to picking up a different approach to working with young people. And so I've kind of had a little bit of a shift from supporting young people in the classroom, creating curricula with them. And now I'm doing a more focused look at adults because I'm like, adults are the ones who really need the help that I can offer.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. Well, and that's the thing you do, you know, in everything you've talked about, there's just so much labor, right? You know, the labor of creaitng a network from scratch, the labor of rewriting curricula, and then that labor of interfacing with people who are pushing back, who are not kind of ready for change, or might not even want change, quite honestly, because the field was very comfortable for them for so long. Right? And so it's is that part of the cost of being that independence scholar that, you know, that pushing and the extra labor that's on your plate? Or? I don't know, I'm just curious about the cost of that choice of maintaining independence from larger system?

Bianca Laureano:

Yeah, I mean, it's been a huge challenge, I don't know many people who could really, you know, live this life for 20 years and not get a steady paycheck, like I recognize, but like, I am so privileged, and that was a part of my life where I was incredibly able bodied as well. And the shift, as I've aged, like, that's no longer the case. And so I'm able to, you know, identify that... Yeah, I chose to pull away from the more concrete traditional setup of our field and choose a different path. And that was very much due to this privilege that I have of higher education, and being able to, you know, do adjunct work in New York City and have like three adjunct gigs that will pay my rent, while I also, you know, worked on the curriculum that I really thought was important to do. And that was my life for a really long period of time, I think I had a lot of burnout. It's not something I encourage people to follow because, you know, it was hard. And, you know, I grew up in a fairly working class family. And so for me identifying what my basic needs were, and focusing on that was how I got by during that time, so I didn't have like vacations. I had, I had to think about, you know, collaboration, what collaborations would look like. You know, when we started WOCSHN, only some of us had jobs, the rest of us were trying to get jobs or trying to be paid a fair or thrivable wage during our sex education work. And so a lot of us were able to attend AASECT after the the Phoenix meeting, because those people who were able to get their job to pay for their registration, their hotel rooms, and their per diem would welcome, like people like myself into their hotel rooms, we would have, you know, lunch and dinner together, and it would be on their per diem. So we were really creative in how we could get each other in these very expensive places but that way, we also need to be present. And so, you know, I remember you saying, like, I chose to come into a relationship with AASECT for to help people and to really offer a different way. And that's also why I've committed to a sec for the last six years. I have crowdsourced all of the fees that were required to pay for membership, you know, certification as an educator and then certification to the supervisor, because I've been like, Hey, y'all, if you committed to this racial justice helped me stay here. You know, I don't have 800 and whatever dollars to submit all this stuff every three years. And I also know that representation matters and I care about what what's the next step after representation, you know, after people see themselves represented, then what? And I really wanted to offer people an option of having an education supervisor who was of color, and who had a similar philosophy of education as they did, or, you know, training or education, philosophy, and one that really reflected people's wholeness. And that was something that I saw was missing in AASECT, people don't really share their philosophies of supervision with people. And so it's really important that I do with potential supervisees, so that they know this is what I offer, it might not be for you as like your core supervisor, but it could help if you need support about how to bring in, for example, a disability justice framework into your workspace or into your organization. And so I've been doing supervision, since I've received the certification to do so with AASECT since January, and I've been, you know, able to or January of last year, so I've been able to meet a lot of people and care for a lot of people in the ways that they just haven't found with some core supervisors. And that really makes me feel good and I also know that that's what it means for me, after representation is to really show up for people in a way that they haven't yet been able to hold. So when I started a supervision group this fall, the first three sessions were all about safety planning. A lot of the sex educators were like, what are you talking about? I'm really mad that we're even talking about the subject. And I say, you know, there's a history of people in our field being murdered, specifically abortion doctors, like we are not, you know, free of being targets. And if there's so many school shootings, and so many of you are working in schools, you should know the safety plan. When there needs to be a shutdown at the school, or you know, what's the protocol, like, this is where we're at now. And that's something that you should just know, to keep yourself safe. And a lot of the people that I supervise, some of them are parents, and they're like, I never thought about an emergency plan for myself, I only think of one for my kid. But never how can people contact me. So it was a really great opportunity for them to think about their own safety, their own families, but also extending like a community care approach, telling people hey, this is what I'm thinking about, will you be one of my health proxies, for example? Or will you be the person that will have the extra key to my house, and, you know, whatever that conversation needs to be, it also helps those individual see how much you care about them, how much you trust them, and it really solidifies relationships for many people. And I think that's really important for many of us, especially many of us who don't have our biological families close to us and have really felt more safety in our chosen family networks. And so, yeah, so that's been a really important piece for this year of my supervision with folks.

Alex Iantaffi:

And I think that's such a beautiful piece, because, you know, I don't know about your experience but definitely my experience. You know, I've been a immigrant now for since some years, 25-26 years, I don't know, I've lost count. I've been an immigrant more than I've lived in my country, because I left when I was 22. So yeah, must be 26 years now. And one of the things that I've come to terms with over the years, especially in queer communities, that we didn't all mean the same thing when we talked about family or community, right? And what I'm hearing you talk about is that interdependence, which is very in line with like a disability justice framework and the racial justice framework, and then integration, you know, kind of framework more generally. And that's really missing from our field, in so many different ways, right? There is this kind of very individualized focus. And even if we talk about kind of dominant culture, I don't think we really look at all the ways it then impacts different bodies and different people, right, and how somebodys are more policed around everything, including sexuality, you know, than others. And, and what I love is exactly, you're not just doing the work with young people, but also with educators. You know, you have been amazing online course on intersectionality, which I was so grateful when I saw that because I was like, people need to stop using that word. I don't think that word means what you think it means. You know, now you're like, white people. You

Bianca Laureano:

Right. know in general and so I was really glad when you were offering that and, and, you know, also kind of the pushback that I've seen, but do you want to talk a little bit more about this piece of educating the educators right? Educate in the field, which you are doing kind of so well, and I think it's part of kind of antia, but also this online course on intersectionality that you offer. Yeah, so when I stepped down for WOCSHN, and it was primarily because I was like, wow, people are really using words that don't mean what they think they mean. And for me someone who was trained as an intersectional scholar and my PhD work in creating the intersectional research database, participating in that work, I just know, I was just trained. And I know it's kind of like a muscle memory of what intersectionality is, but also what intersectionality is not. And for me right now, it's just basic grammar, and how people are really not understanding that intersectionality is a noun. And so when they use it, not as a noun, it's grammatically incorrect. And it's just a red flag to me, that this person doesn't know what they're talking about, or how to use this framework or analysis in their work. So it's going to be not great. And I see so much of this happen, especially now, because intersectionality has become a buzzword. And people, again, don't know how to use it. But also people think that if they use the term intersection, that automatically means you're talking about intersectionality. And it's like intersection has its own word and its own right, and doesn't mean that that's what you're using. So there's a, you know, a way of my own frustration that I saw continuously in our field. And you know, I've always been one that, okay, I'm going to complain about it but what's the solution too. Like, I want to be solution oriented, as well, because that makes me feel like I'm using my rage and acting on it in a useful way. So I created the intersectionality course two years ago. And it's shifted, in many ways, because what I originally envisioned as like a four week course of two hours per session, really was so much for many people that they couldn't continue with that level of discussion. So I've now shortened the course, to four hours, for to two hour sessions each. And it really is a more direct, traditional PowerPoint slash, you know, conversation that I offer now but it also is really helpful for people whose brains have been trained to understand information in that way. And to be honest, like we're talking about a really elite, academic, law focused framework, and theory that came from a very particular place that we don't really ever talk about, like Harvard, Yale. These are where intersectionality as a term was fostered for Kimberly Crenshaw, but also that people have been doing intersectional work for generations. We just now have the language that Kimberly Crenshaw offered us and so also being able to understand intersectionality so that we can see, okay, let me think back, let me look at my family tree and be able to see how there is an intersectional framework, or analysis of what people have done in our families in our own families, but also in around the world. So I really do want to encourage people to continue to make intersectionality a realistic and everyday interaction that they really want to maintain, and be able to eloquently talk about, and share their ways that they're utilizing an intersectional analysis, but also helping people understand and unlearn the ways that they've been taught to talk about sexuality that are incorrect. So, for example, some really common ones are only talking about multiple identities, and not anything else. And another issue is people not talking about power when they're talking about oppression. And so, you know, intersectionality is a theory of oppression, it shows us where oppression is occurring. And some of the critiques of intersectionality are, oh, everybody gets to claim an oppression. And I say yes, because white supremacy hurts us all. Colonization hurts us all, you know, and that none of us are free from the pain and the trauma that those things have brought on us. Even if we privilege from some of those things. There's still there's debris that causes lots of trauma, and so on. And so those are, you know, things that

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. people haven't ever been told about intersectionality. And, you know, today, like what I trained and I teach therapists through Assad Incorporated, intersectional lens. People are now like, yeah, but what's the practical use? And for me, and I remind people that, you know, if you're choosing to incorporate an intersectional analysis into your work, it's going to allow you to ask different questions. And what that means is, you're aware that certain people are going to have an interaction that might be completely different than what's expected. And knowing that I'm being prepared to like, support your client, who might have vocal pain, and who may never have had a man touched their body, because they're a woman who comes from particular community, blah, blah, blah. Like those questions will really help your therapy client who's preparing for or a very invasive type of procedure to help her cope with the pain that she's experiencing in her body and her genitals. And, you know, that's the kind of support that I want to help therapists understand is that sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. And intersectionality allows us to create more opportunities and paths to ask people the questions that they really need to be asked so that they can prepare themselves and find the support that they need to show up as they need to for their own care. Yeah and to think about it through that lens of like power and oppression on a systemic level, right? When I'm standing there with an individual, if I don't have that framework, then I can only help up to a point, you know. I can only support this person up to a point if I don't understand kind of the historical trauma or the intergenerational trauma that they might have experienced. And now that's showing up in their body through pain or through challenges and interacting with healthcare providers and so on.

Bianca Laureano:

Absolutely. Yeah and those are the components that people forget is the multiple identities, is the systems, is the power. Most times people just want to talk about it and see I'm including all these different people. And what I'm talking about, and it's like, no, no, no, that's not intersectionality. That's you doing diversity work. You're doing intersectional. I mean, what I

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah here's a checklist. see currently in our field is a lot of people using intersectionality, as a point of entry to talk about trauma and BDSM, or kink activities. And the problem there is that people aren't seeing the systems that are at play for people who choose kink as a therapeutic experience for them. So when I say that, I mean, okay, well, what's the trailer? You know, what, how do people get to the place that they want to have this experience? Is it accessible? A lot of dungeons have state have steps. There's no elevators in some spaces. So this really limits the people who have mobility needs. Or, you know, there's usually dark spaces and so what about the people who are needing different visual support, different light. So there's all sorts of things that are emerging, and those types of systems, people haven't really been able to incorporate well into their work, talking about intersectionality and the work that they do. So I'm glad to see that the extension that WOCSHN has offered is that we now have people with disabilities who are people of color, who are disabled, who can talk about here are the issues with me going into a BDSM space. And here's how I want to help you create a code of ethics, or create values for the space that you want to create that really holds our entire bodies as precious, important pieces of this work, which is exciting, and which I think would not have happened so quickly, if WOCSHN was very dormant, and early on Absolutely. when we were doing our work. So I'm really excited to be able to say, oh, I can think of three King educators, where people of color, have disabilities or have, you know, whatever, and can offer like a more holistic referral to people who are in need. And that's something that I also really delight in, because that, to me is a different way of shifting the reality of surviving capitalism, where, you know, we can set the rates that we believe we should be paid. Where we can create a collaboration with people with there's often been a hierarchy that separates us, and where we can share the knowledge that we have with our clients. You know, that some of that's really

Bianca Laureano:

For years, like those are really concrete, exciting for me, and I've seen it in action, like how, you know, someone having 10 sessions with a therapist who paid their full rate allowed them to get a vehicle that supported their family. immediate changes that I think are really necessary in our field.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah and it's really necessary to think about that piece of access, right? That's something I talk about a lot with colleagues, you know, some of us who are licensed who are able, for example, to take insurance. You know, what does it mean, if we choose not to take insurance in terms of the clients we can serve? Right? And, you know, if if we kind of close that portal for a lot of people, and I see that happening a lot with the the more specialized folks are, the harder it is for lower income folks to access things like somatic experiencing, for example, which is one of my specialty, or a sex therapist, you know. That's part of my ongoing commitment to kind of balance sustainability and accessibility with really serving community right, and having those conversations that I think a lot of people are not used to having in our field, because it's like, well, I'm trained in all those things, and I'm gonna go off and charge $400 an hour and I'm gonna only be self paid. You know, it's like, oh awesome and what is the impact on your community when you do that?

Bianca Laureano:

Right. Right. And that's, you know, incorporation into my supervision approach for educators, where, you know, there are educators that will do like, a whole three hour event for $50 still. Well, you know, I have to remind them that you are worth more than this amount. And, you know thinking about the amount of money that you want to make, you know, conversations about money, make everybody anxious. I think it's a very emotional topic.

Alex Iantaffi:

But there's no important, right?

Bianca Laureano:

Absolutely. I mean, yeah, because we're talking about our own survival. And we're talking about communities that we want to create in the world that we want to be a part of and so I always have a conversation about rates and barter options, and you know, how to think about what you can barter? What do you have to offer? What are the things that you need and how that can really be a shift? You know, supporting therapists and thinking about, okay, my rate is going to be this, because I want to be able to see two clients for free every month. So I need, you know, and so that's just a different way of thinking about your rates and also working outside of a system that, you know, causes harm, you know, and that's another thing like, we're representing a system that has harmed people. And...

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes.

Bianca Laureano:

What how do we cope with that? No. And what do we do when we fail? Those are also the types of support conversations and classes that I want to offer. So I'm currently working on a course arouns failure, and apologies, you know, we're all, we all will mess up, we all will fail. And I tell people this all the time, I'm like, try to find some kind of comfort with failure. It's not always gonna feel great but it's gonna happen. I don't know when or how, but it will show up and the way that you respond to it. If you see the failure as a gift, you really have an exceptional opportunity to do so much better and to also offer other options to other people.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, absolutely. I talk to supervisees all the time about it's okay to fail, it's okay to mess up. It's what you do afterwards, right? And especially if somebody is letting you know that you failed them or not including them or kind of messed up, what a gift right to then offer repair. Whether they take up the offer for repair or not just the fact that you know, if if we can be not defensive and just be like, yeah, oh, yeah, I did that. What can I do to repair this relationship? That already in itself can be so healing. Because often people don't have that opportunity to just have somebody go, Yeah, I shouldn't have said that or I totally acknowledge that I messed up in this way and so what can I do? If anything, right, you know to repair this relationship now.

Bianca Laureano:

Right? And, you know, we're doing so much racial justice work early on. That's a scary thing for many racially white people, where they're like, I don't want to mess up and be called a racist. Like that's the worst thing ever. And, for me, I'm like, but we're all gonna mess up. It's not so much that it's the label that you're being called. But like, it really is, it's, it's about being grateful that there are people who care enough about you and the community, you're a part of that they say, Hey, that's a really hurtful term, or the way that you're talking makes me feel this way. And, you know, I usually try to encourage people to like, you know, figure out what you need to do take a deep breath, if it's comfortable for you. But really, if you find it in yourself, where you your first reaction to someone saying that to you is thank you, can really do escalate you and the situation in such brilliant ways, that it really is a different way of receiving critique. And, you know, they feel that as a person who had been in the field for 23 years, and I'm at a point in my career where it's really difficult for me to get constructive criticism because there's people who are like, Oh, no, what you said, everything you said was brilliant. And I was like, No, I really want to know what I can do better. And so you know, that's also something that I desire for myself because it's something that I need that I know that I can completely maintain and be ready for a different change. And so, you know, it's a hard thing, but it's also the accountability piece, where, you know, I come from an organization that really wanted to hold a sector accountable, and I feel accountable. And that's because I value accountability and I don't value disposability. Like, I don't think throwing people out of our community is always the first useful response. And, you know I think that a call out is the act of love that says, hey, you messed up. I saw it, it hurt me. It's hurting other people. Here's a book or whatever it is, you know, I have a very different position about call outs. I think they're acts of love. But I totally understand that they're also scary and aggressive and that's to me where the love is, the love is in that fierce response.

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly and I think that response comes from passion, right? I'm not gonna get angry, if I don't care about the field, or if I don't care about somebody, right? And it is such a gift and when people want to talk to people are like, Well, I'm worried about messing up, whether it's race, or where there's gender or other stuff. I'm like, Well, what's worse than messing up or being hauled? Or something else? It's actually keep upholding the systems of white supremacy and settler colonialism and cisgenderism, that's worse, right? And then people are like oh, yeah. Because partially, you know, white supremacy, gives people that freeze, I can't talk about race because I'm gonna mess up. And so, you know, I see that freeze, I can't say the thing. And I remember feeling in my body when I moved to the US and going, oh, this is interesting. This is right and this is kind of how this works, right? We don't talk about we don't talk about whiteness. We don't talk about racism. We're just like in this free state in case we do something wrong and then that's how white supremacy kind of perpetuates in the field. Yup.

Bianca Laureano:

Right? Absolutely. And, you know, one of the, you know, one of the ways that I choose to create these courses through any app, which is the professional development freedom School that I created, which I'll talk a little bit about in a moment, but the courses that I'm really also building up from the failure and apology course. Because also the power of an apology like that. Also, the powerful, intentional apology can really create such amazing collaborations and connections. But I'm also creating course, about a more colorful history of the US sexuality field. Because, you know, when we talk about the history and how it was created, it's very white. It's Harry Benjamin, Masters and Johnson. Like, there were so many other people of color who were doing work. Why aren't we including them in this conversation? And that some of that still occurring, you know, people will do. Oh, and today we have a more feminist, you know, look, and they'll fight Whipple and Dodson and, and it's like, you know, these people are all still alive. And there's more people are all still alive, who are doing radical important work as well. And so what did that eraser mean? What does it mean when we don't allow for a fuller inclusion of a historical understanding of how our field came to be? And also recognizing that our field was built on a framework of dehumanization? That's, that's just fact like and what are we gonna do with the legacy of what that leaves us with? And that's really part of my training that I do with with educators and therapists is, you need to understand this legacy because you have inherited it or you might represent it to other people. And you need to be ready to see what it means to you and what it means to your work.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah, absolutely. Because here we are kind of in a field that has pathologized a lot of, you know, the folks we work with and our own identities and experiences in lots of different ways and yeah.

Narrator:

The conversation doesn't stop there gender stories listeners. Have a listen to the next episode, where Alex and Bianca continue their discussion.