Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2016
August 4-7, 2016
#SFS16 on Twitter
I didn’t get to attend nearly half of what I wanted due to reaching maximum flare-up state by Saturday. But I promised several people notes, so here’s the few notes that I took relating to disability accessibility and inclusion.
The feedback form at the end of the conference asked if social justice issues such as gender and class were addressed. Disability was not included as one of the issues listed. That sums up the conference fairly well.
For Woodhull’s Opening Institute: The Personal is Political: A Human Rights Institute, there were ten people featured as speakers. Of those ten, three speakers have work that focuses on HIV and AIDS. Another, Erin Basler, focuses on disability, specifically sexual education for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I wasn’t able to attend this institute, so I can’t speak toward what was said during it. However, I find it disappointing that with an entire ‘track’ devoted to sexuality and disability, the conference provided little representation for that track during this institute.
There were six focuses and five tracks during this conference. Ageing was its own pre-conference workshop series while the other focuses were considered ‘tracks.’ Of these, Social Media, Sex Work, Men’s Sexuality (why was this not ‘masculine’ sexuality?), and Race and Racism all had seven sessions, while Disability had six sessions. Were not enough proposals received to fill seven session slots related to disability?
The workshops in the Disability track were as follows:
- Black, Gay, and Disabled: Three Stigmas… You’re Out (Christopher Smith and Antonio Ellis)
- Dis/Abling Sexuality to Expand Erotic Empowerment: The Intersection of Sex Work, Disability, and Performance Art
- Eugenics: It’s Still A Thing (Erin Basler)
- Facing the Monster Under the Bed: Continuing the Conversation About Sex and Depression (Stephen Biggs and JoEllen Notte)
- Sexualizing Cancer (Rebecca Hiles, Harmony Eichsteadt, and Ericka Hart)
- Side Effects May Vary (Rebecca Hiles and Crista Anne)
There was also a session called The Importance of Being Trauma-Informed for Sexuality Professionals (Ashley Manta), which could have been under the Disability track, but was not in any track. (There were a total of 16 sessions not included in any of the five tracks or six focuses.) Similarly, Black, Gay, and Disabled and Dis/Abling Sexuality were wonderfully intersectional; the former could have been in the Men’s Sexuality, Race and Racism, or Disability tracks, and the latter could have been in the Sex Work or Disability tracks.
Additionally, of the eleven presenters in the Disability track, all but three made more than one speaking appearance at the conference. The only ones who did not were Antonio Ellis, Amber DiPietra, and Harmony Eichsteadt. (Crista Anne is listed on the Summit website only as speaking during the above session, but she was also a speaker at the event Bedpost Confessions.)
Of the six sessions included in the Disability track, three focused on multiple disabilities, one on mental health, focused on cancer, and one on chronic illness with an emphasis on mental health. Plus, the Trauma-Intensive session, which had its focus on mental health. That’s a lot of mental health focus and not much in other areas of neurodiversity, medical, physical, or other disabilities. Again, were not enough proposals received to be diverse and inclusive of a wider range of disabilities? And if those proposals weren’t received, why not? Could it be that this conference isn’t reaching those educating about disability and sex? Could it be that the conference is somehow not accessible to disabled educators and a disabled audience? (More on this to come in another post.)
The two plenaries focused on racial justice. I did not make it to the first one, but the description/bio mentioned nothing of disability. I made it to the second one, in which disability was essentially not mentioned (there was one mention of “access” as in “accessibility,” but not specifically as pertaining to disability) in the plenary, nor was it mentioned in the description of the event.
During the Family Matters Roundtable which closed the conference, the four speakers (there were scheduled to be five; two didn’t show and there was one stand-in) discussed the importance of family and the diversity behind what makes a family. It was emphasized that “societies [must] recognize and respect this diversity of family by creating new approaches and policies that embrace and embody these differences” (quote from the event description). There was no mention of disability and how that plays into family structures. None of the speakers were introduced as identifying as disabled so it appeared that disability was not represented. When I commented on that during the audience participation time, I was told that one of the speakers has arthritis. Unfortunately, she did not speak from a place of disability advocacy during this roundtable, so it is impossible to say that the disability community and perspective was included.
Considering that this roundtable wrapped up the conference — a conference with five workshop tracks — shouldn’t the voices from those tracks somehow have been included? Cris Sardina, the coordinator of Desiree Alliance, rightfully pointed out from the audience that sex work (one of the tracks) was not mentioned by the roundtable. On Twitter, Elias J (@strawberreli) also pointed out that there was no trans representation on the roundtable, as well as multiple “gender yikes” throughout the entirety of the conference.
Sadly, I have much, much more to add about access and inclusion regarding Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2016. This post is already at a very serious TL;DR length, so I’m going to cut it off here. Look for Part 2.5 next week.