outreach

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LGBTQ Youth of Color Development Workshops - Organizing 101

As part of the Youth Pride Center (YPC) LGBTQ Youth of Color Development Workshop Series, Gender JUST Organizers Renisha Campbell, Eric Amaya, & Sam Finkelstein will be offering an:

Organizing 101 Training:
How to build power and develop leadership in your community through organizing!

• Do you want to develop a basic understanding of grassroots organizing?
• Do you have a hard time getting people to come out to meetings, actions, or events?
• Would you like to develop a better analysis of power?
• Are you looking for a deeper grasp of strategy?
• Do you want to understand direct-action?


Come to the Organizing 101 Training, as a part of YPC’s LGBTQ Youth of Color Development Workshop Series.

Presented by Gender JUST Organizers Renisha Campbell, Eric Amaya, & Sam Finkelstein

Tuesday, September 15th from 6 - 8pm
1525 E 55th St, Chicago
Free for members/$1 for non-members
MAKE SURE TO RSVP TO genderjust@gmail.com

*2 Credit Hours of Service Learning Available!

Training format will be based in participatory popular education, where we will work together to develop a shared understanding of organizing and its implications for our communities.

arvan's picture

GENDER JUST PUSHES FOR EQUITABLE AND TRANSPARENT FUNDING FOR HIV/AIDS PREVENTION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 24, 2009
Tel: (312) 545-6871
Email: course@genderjust.org

On July 23nd, 2009, members of Gender JUST’s Committee on Urban Resource Sustainability and Equity (COURSE) met with officials from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) about concerns related to the equitability and transparency in funding for HIV/AIDS prevention services. “Our primary concern,” said Gender JUST member Ivan Gallardo, “is that those of us living on the South and West sides of the city have to take the bus to the Northside in order to receive services.”

Other concerns brought up in the meeting included the difficulty of attaining information about how to get involved in the planning process, a shortage of services for young people and transgender communities, and the lack of broad community involvement in these important funding decisions.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Interview with Daniel Bergner, author of “The Other Side of Desire”

I was all set to dislike Daniel Bergner. As a member of the BDSM community and an advocate for greater societal acceptance of BDSM, I was unimpressed by the reviews of his new book, The Other Side of Desire. I get annoyed when I see media depictions that play into BDSM stereotypes or create other problems for the BDSM community image; it seemed to me that Bergner had written a book that did just that. At best, it sounded naïve — at worst, cynical and insensitive. I requested an interview with him, wondering whether we’d end up at each other’s throats … and then I read the book.

The Other Side of Desire is far more complex than I initially gave it credit for. There’s too much silence around alternative sexuality, and it breaks that silence — not by promoting an agenda, but with a plea for personal understanding. I found myself believing that Daniel Bergner really had done his best — not to put us deviants on display like animals in a zoo, but to give profiles of human beings thinking about human concerns. Still, there were gaps in the book that I found very troubling, and I wanted to see if he could defend them.

I arranged to meet Daniel at the Leather Archives and Museum, a museum devoted to leather / fetish / BDSM on Chicago’s north side. There, I found him looking over the Archives’ BDSM history timeline. As he greeted me, I was impressed by his measured speech and unexpectedly dark eyes. There was an openness to him — even, perhaps, a vulnerability — that didn’t come across in photographs. I could see how he’d gotten so many people to open up about their sexuality, and I warmed to him instantly.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Interview with Richard Berkowitz, star of “Sex Positive” and icon of safer sex activism

Our second film at Sex+++ was “Sex Positive”, a fascinating documentary about the history of safer sex. I’ll be honest: I was psyched about “Sex Positive” from day one, long before I’d even seen it. It was the first film I chose for my film list. In fact, the whole idea for the film series came out of a conversation I had with Lisa (our lovely Hull-House Museum education coordinator) in which I said that I wanted to see “Sex Positive”, and then added, “There are so many sexuality movies I want to see. You and I should have a regular movie night!” She looked at me and said thoughtfully, “You know, I bet people besides us would come to that ….”

“Sex Positive” tells the story of Richard Berkowitz — and how he was one of the first to spread the word about safer sex in America. Berkowitz, a talented writer, started out as a hot-blooded participant in the promiscuous gay bathhouse culture; later, he became an S&M hustler. When AIDS started decimating the gay community, Berkowitz was instrumental in teaching his community (and the world) about safer sex. As it became clear to some medical professionals that sexual promiscuity spread AIDS, Berkowitz tried to tell the world about their findings. But there was a huge backlash against him — because in those days, the promiscuous bathhouse culture was seen by many gay men as a huge part of identifying as gay and sex-positive … and anyone who argued against it, or tried to modify it, was therefore cast by many people as sex-negative.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

So yeah, I’m going to Africa for years … starting next week

So it seems I’m leaving Chicago soon — very soon! — and going to Africa.

When I try to tell the story of the sex-positive activism I’ve done here in Chicago, it’s kinda difficult. A lot of it snuck up on me. A lot of it was rather a surprise.

I’ve been on a career track towards going to Africa to do AIDS education for the last two years. I was never sure when I was going to be sent away, though — in fact, my departure was delayed twice. In the meantime, I was solidifying my BDSM identity; I came into that four years ago, and the learning process has only accelerated recently. I was also running lots of events for fun; I didn’t think of it this way at the time, but in retrospect, that was an incredibly helpful learning experience. And I’ve always been extremely interested in sex and culture.

Last year, I briefly dated a documentary filmmaker. Dating him both got me more interested in documentaries — I had previously been far more interested in fiction — and gave me a small window into what the film festival process is like. When I heard that “Passion and Power” (a history of vibrators and female sexuality) was screening in Chicago, I dragged my favorite gender studies friend Lisa to come see it with me.

After “Passion and Power”, the conversation went something like this:

Me: That was great! You and I should have a regular sexuality film night.
Lisa: You know, I bet people besides us would come to see that ….

Clarisse Thorn's picture

My KinkForAll NYC presentation: Outreach, media management, privilege, BDSM orientation, more!

Back in March, I attended a sex-positive unconference in New York City called KinkForAll; it was mostly slanted towards BDSM, but there was a lot of generally sex-positive talk as well. (You can read my post-KinkForAll followup thoughts by clicking here!) Part of the deal at KinkForAll was that everyone contributed in some way to the event, many of us by doing 20-minute presentations. I loved the loose, quasi-anarchist conference model. It worked very effectively (and if you’re interested in that kind of thing, I encourage you to read more at the KinkForAll website about how such events are organized).

At KinkForAll New York City (KFANYC), event organizer Maymay felt strongly that he wanted all the available information made further available to the general public, so he recorded all the presentations to be posted on the Internet. I don’t post images of myself, so he just took an audio recording of my quick talk on BDSM outreach strategies. You can download the recording by clicking here.

I had less than 20 minutes, and I didn’t have much time that week to prepare for KFANYC … to my ear, my talk sounds rushed and disorganized. I guess that’s how it goes. Certainly, expect it to be informal when you listen to it!

Clarisse Thorn's picture

One split in the BDSM subculture: the desire for transgression vs. the dislike of stigma

(Image courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society)

I'm behind on everything, and every time I manage to take a day where I swear I'll catch up, I get sidetracked by some other huge thing. But this Thursday I'll be presenting at a conference hosted by Chicago's very own LGBT community center, Center on Halsted: "The 2009 Alternative Sexualities Conference: Cultural Competence and Clinical Issues". I, and some other people in the community, will be speaking about the role of communities in the BDSM experience. I can't possibly get sidetracked from that, and I'm pretty excited about it!

Now I've said before, and I say as often as I can, that BDSM communities are filled with many different voices -- plus, there are many BDSM communities out there, not just one. I hope no one ever takes me as "speaking for BDSM" or accurately describing every possible BDSM community out there. But there are some elements common in the BDSM subculture, and some very general splits that I often find myself noticing within it. (I do welcome other voices, ideas, additions, or disagreements with what I'm about to say! Feel free to leave comments! Especially disagreements -- I relish getting different perspectives on the BDSM scene and questioning my own assumptions. Absolutely relish it. Delicious.)

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Interview with Daniel Bergner, author of “The Other Side of Desire”

I was all set to dislike Daniel Bergner. As a member of the BDSM community and an advocate for greater societal acceptance of BDSM, I was unimpressed by the reviews of his new book, The Other Side of Desire. I get annoyed when I see media depictions that play into BDSM stereotypes or create other problems for the BDSM community image; it seemed to me that Bergner had written a book that did just that. At best, it sounded naïve — at worst, cynical and insensitive. I requested an interview with him, wondering whether we’d end up at each other’s throats … and then I read the book.

The Other Side of Desire is far more complex than I initially gave it credit for. There’s too much silence around alternative sexuality, and it breaks that silence — not by promoting an agenda, but with a plea for personal understanding. I found myself believing that Daniel Bergner really had done his best — not to put us deviants on display like animals in a zoo, but to give profiles of human beings thinking about human concerns. Still, there were gaps in the book that I found very troubling, and I wanted to see if he could defend them.

I arranged to meet Daniel at the Leather Archives and Museum, a museum devoted to leather / fetish / BDSM on Chicago’s north side. There, I found him looking over the Archives’ BDSM history timeline. As he greeted me, I was impressed by his measured speech and unexpectedly dark eyes. There was an openness to him — even, perhaps, a vulnerability — that didn’t come across in photographs. I could see how he’d gotten so many people to open up about their sexuality, and I warmed to him instantly.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex-positive documentary report #7: "It's Still Elementary"

I half-suspected this would happen: after our sixth screening (the bisexuality documentary) was overwhelmed with people, the seventh movie in my sex-positive film series was far quieter. It was nice to have breathing room! The really cool thing about this is that I can now promote the film series to new groups ... I've been afraid to do any new promotion because we've had so many people at some screenings, I'm nervous that we'll be overwhelmed. So now that I can do some more reaching out, I'd love new ideas about new people I can tell about the film series!

In the meantime ....

I've taken a while to post about it because I went to San Francisco on the interim, but the last Sex+++ film was "It's Still Elementary" -- courtesy of GroundSpark: Igniting Change Through Film.

"It's Still Elementary" is a bit of a meta-documentary: a documentary about a documentary! In 1996, a film called "It's Elementary" confronted the question of how to educate grade-school kids about gay and lesbian issues. It showed a number of grade-school educators taking on the issue -- in the 1996 political climate, they risked their jobs to do so! -- and it also showed the kids in their classes creating their own respectful, honest conversations on the subject. Of course there was a firestorm of controversy around "It's Elementary", especially when it was broadcast on TV in 1999. Conservative religious groups did things like call it a "powerful pro-homosexual propaganda film" and mount fundraising campaigns against airing it, writing to their followers that "If we fail to take a stand to put a stop to this outrage, the sin of sexual perversion could be promoted to a potential audience of tens of millions of children" (source).

Clarisse Thorn's picture

"There is no 'should'" and the sex-positive "agenda"

Arvan suggested that my first authorial post to Sex/Gender/Body be this one, which I wrote a couple months ago. Enjoy!

What's my "agenda"? What does it mean to be a "pro-BDSM activist"? What's the "sex-positive agenda"? Who is part of the "sex-positive movement"? These are all questions I've been thinking about a lot lately -- and they seem to constantly recur around the blogosphere, in varying forms. But here's a question that's rarely posed explicitly, and it's the one that preoccupies me the most: What action can I take in the real world to help create a powerful, energetic sex-positive -- and pro-BDSM -- movement?

I'm thinking fairly pragmatically and concretely these days. Sure, I love discussing highly theoretical questions like, "Why is there stigma against certain sexual identities?" But what I really want is to have a larger cultural impact, not just worry ineffectually at these mysteries like a dog worrying at a bone.

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