Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lesson 17: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

Drink more water when it is available.

Life Lesson:

Seriously. You do so much talking, to not have a bottle of water that you may refill and reuse is ludicrous since you have water bottles you've gotten for free at events! You'll realize this the hard way, so just do it now before it gets too difficult! Water will save your life and change it at the same time.

When you start drinking more water you will feel a physical difference too. Not just a level of comfort, but the ability to continue to do your work in the ways you need. You'll feel more energized, not be as tired, and your body will not ache as much as you are used to feeling some times.

Ok, so you were not raised always drinking water, it was available, but it was not always drinkable from the tap as you were growing up. It's not ever drinkable when you are traveling to your homeland outside the US, and sometimes in most areas abroad. So this drinking water thing will be new to you, but the sooner you begin to do this the less negative and difficult experiences you will have as you do trainings and teach.

Plus, you are human. Our bodies need to be taken care of in specific ways and you are learning how to care for your body. Your body needs and wants water on a regular basis. You know what it's like to be deprived of something (a liveable wage, quality food to consume, transportation, healthcare, mentors, etc.) so when you have the ability to not continue that deprivation take it seriously! Just drink the water.

Imagine you are drinking something else if it's a challenge at first, chug that sucker down, feel the refreshing sensation, remember the times you wanted something and could not have it because it was not available and bask in the water you have access to consuming.

You also realize how water is connected to the lives and deaths of so many of the worlds populations. That one of the biggest issues facing us in the future is water availability. The drought going on in the western part of the US is just one sign of what is to come in this country. But don't wait for that, look to what is going on in other parts of the world where water is not available.

Access to water is essential. Just as you advocate for comprehensive sexuality education to include race, class, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, HIV status, disability, incarceration history, and the like, you see how vital water is as well. You don't need to always purchase bottled water, especially in the spaces you occupy most often, so consume it when it is free from the tap as often as you can.

Water is one of the many ways you need to be ready and prepared for what the future will bring. Go read Popular Science's issue on water when you need a reminder.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lesson 16: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

Be careful and make conscious decisions about what organizations, people, spaces, and projects of which you will be affiliated.

Life Lesson:

Folks will exploit you. You may be the first LatiNegra they have ever encountered in the field, and they may want to use you to represent a "diversity" they are not committed to in any way. You may also interact with people who have a history of being oppressive and crappy to other people you care about.

Always research before committing. Ask those hard questions before, like "what are your policies and actions around outreach and maintaining a diverse and inclusive space?" Be ready for folks to come with a standard form response, and be ready to disengage. You don't ever have to endorse someone you don't believe is someone you would want to be affiliated with.

There are lots of folks who have great intentions and do crappy things along the way. It's up to you if you want to build with them. But what you have learned is that when you can't find the space and folks you wish to have around you, you build your own spaces and organizations.

It's also ok to leave those spaces and organizations you've left when the time has come. Those spaces need to grow and evolve just like you did when you created them. Having you in a leadership position isn't always the best thing for the organization or for you. Other folks will have a vision and the energy to push that space in a direction you may not be able to do or go. That is the gift you give those who come after you: a space to push in a new exciting direction.

Ask those hard questions and push folks who you are committed to building with. When people don't have a solid understanding of gender or are using gender specific language, and you believe this is something that impacts a person because of how they were created and born into this world: speak on it! If it is about cervical cancer, push to make language and spaces inclusive of everyone who was born with a cervix and push that org to do better, learn more, reach more broadly, and be more inclusive.

Do that work if you have the energy. Do the work you are dedicated to. Do not let the work run you over, suck you dry, manipulate you, or cause you continuous pain (because this path is painful at times, until you find your way and hold onto your convictions).

Folks need you to do this because you have the power you have and can use it with versus over other folks.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lesson 15: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

You know too well how poor folks rarely are ever granted privacy, for this you will honor it with yourself and those with who you interact.

Life Lesson:

You know this from personal experience. How you have to fill out your entire life on papers, give documents, fotos, have someone else stamp that you are who you say you are. Then give all of that to someone in a cubicle where another person in a similar situation is seated next to you doing the same thing to another worker.

You sit there explaining your life and your current experiences in a room full of cubicles to a worker who could help you get some type of healthcare help, food stamps, access to services, food banks, etc. But you always remember it's never private. You are never in a room with a closed door, never given the impression that you life, information, identity, will ever be treated with dignity, respect, or integrity.

That's why you choose to do things differently. That's why you choose to answer asks privately vs. publicly, why you keep your 'anon' feature on even with the hatemail you receive (always via anon), and why you remind folks that if they seem ready to share something and you are in a situation as a "mandated reporter" you stop them and tell them that so they can decide if that's what they want to still do: share with you.

In a world where folks talk a lot about their experiences online, and in the field you are in that is one way folks build networks and credibility to an extent (esp. when you can't get to a school or training or afford those things), you will choose not to always share or overshare. You will hold some things close to you and privately because you know you deserve that for yourself. You will do this with yourself, your community, your support systems; you do this because you find it is a survival skill. It's also a skill that you've evolved into the person you've wanted to be and have the relationships that you value enough to grant them privacy.

That's when you knew the boo was who you needed to be with at this time: you stopped telling folks everything, you held some things just between the two of you, other things you just told the ocean and water, because you wanted to hold them close to you.

You work to honor folks privacy. We rarely receive it especially as folks who are poor, queer, disabled, Black, immigrant, undocumented, non-English speaking, indigenous, young, incarcerated. We deserve privacy. You will work to make sure you can provide that to folks seeking your help, guidance, mentorship, resources, trainings, workshops, and the like.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lesson 14: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

The work that brings you the most pride and happiness will not always be shared among others who may consider other work you've accomplished as more important or impressive.

Life Lesson

You'll learn this primarily as you search for full-time work. When folks will ask you to give them examples of managing challenging situations or folks, the examples you will give will not be what they want to hear. For example, at the last full-time gig you had, you shared an accountability and responsibility process of which you are a part; one that was public, that was collective, and that connected to so much of what you value and believe in. You are so proud of that work, even if the outcome with the person held accountable did not happen on their end.

You were told that the process didn't matter, all the research, writing, documenting, conversations, building, negotiating, transparency, holding one another accountable in a loving and compassionate way because you are dealing with ways to deconstruct and destroy elitism, misogyny, and colorism. Instead, they will ask for an example of a challenge you dealt with in a *paid* position.

That's your first red flag. They don't value the work you do, all the work you do, that is unpaid or underpaid. Most of the work you are proud of is unpaid and underpaid.

Another example you'll give is when you created a curriculum for a non-profit you helped co-create with several of your local DMV homegirls of color. You created, at Tamika & Friends, Inc (the only national organization focusing on HPV and cervical cancer prevention and education targeting all genders and providing support to caregivers and survivors to.this.day), a curricula for HPV (House Parties of fiVe) parties. Along with one of your homegirls, you created an amazingly accessible curricula that folks used. It was nothing brand new, we just organized things in a particular way for the communities we are reaching out to at the moment.

That curricula was purchased by Merck Pharmaceuticals and used as examples of how to reach out to and engage communities of which you are a part. You learned through this experience that your work is sometimes best when it supports the community. You learned you don't need your name all over everything, you don't need to always get all the shine you think you deserve, that a lot of your work will benefit larger communities and that is enough.

Yet, other folks will be so impressed with this! And it will surprise you at first, but you'll learn it's what folks want to hear because they define success in ways you don't always. That's ok.

It's ok because you know that the work that brings you the most pride: the 20+ year mentorship you have with Candy, a young woman you met when she was in 1st grade and you in 10th; the accountability processes you've been a part of, the organizations you've co-created: Women of Color Sexual Health Network, The LatiNegr@s Project, your presenting at the World Association of Sexual Health (originally called Sexology)  in Havanac, Cuba, presenting in English and Spanish about your personal research and work on Latinxs and pregnancy prevention in the US in 2003; all the students you've impacted just by being on staff/faculty, but by also seeing them as public intellectuals who need support and are hungry for learning more; all the young people, people of Color, queer folks who find confidence and care in reaching out to you to help them cope and understand aspects of their sex/uality, bodies, health, and relationships.

So what you learn instead, is how to convey the stories folks want to hear more than any other when asked. You keep those other stories at the front of your mind because those are what drives you on a regular basis. Those are what is most important to you. And that's when you begin to realize working on your own terms is probably best.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lesson 13: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

You will not always tell folks you are a sexologist because you don't always want to work when you are out with your homies, or at a party.

Life Lesson:

Because once folks find out what you do all the questions roll in. You won't ever be able to have a "break" from your work and have some fun. You will constantly be "on" answering questions, correcting information, debunking myths, and challenging folks to push beyond binaries.

You get to chose when to do this. Sometimes it will be clear when you want to take a break versus when you want to work. You deserve a break. You deserve to not always work, for free at that! Folks at parties think this type of talk is fun, but for you it's your life's work. It's fun, sure, but sometimes you want to sit back and talk about something else!

Other times you may just sit quietly while others discuss sex/uality topics. This may be difficult if you hear misinformation. Eventually, your homies and support systems will recognize when you need a break, they will help protect and shield you from nonsense coming your way. They will understand why you may choose to be silent during such topics and conversations. Other times you'll have to remind them in case they forget. It's not personal, they are proud of you and want to brag about you to show their love and adoration for the work you do. Recognize that and hold onto it when you have the ability to.

Sometimes, being silent will work to your advantage because if you do choose to engage, folks will listen more intently. You will rock folks world when you share the knowledge you have. When you choose to of course. You will also learn a lot by listening to what others have to say. This is always important.

You decide what and how much you wish to share with folks. As a LatiNegra sharing personal experiences and realities give a different layer and complexity to your work. But it is also exhausting, revealing, and you deserve privacy and safety. 

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lesson 12: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

You have the capacity to see how sex/uality intersections with many different life experiences, theories, and systems. 


Life Lesson:

Not many folks have this gift. Others have similar gifts around other things like music, technology, color, energy, and the like. Yours is centered around recognizing this connection in sex/uality. It will impact the book clubs you join and the selections you suggest (Push by Sapphire; Quiet Violence of Dreams by Sello Duiker; No Mercy: Short Stories by Pat Califia), so much that you build your own "Sexy Bookclub" to read erotica and stories with a sex/uality theme. And folks will love it and miss it when you leave for NYC.

This gift is one that you will sometimes find exhausting. Why won't your brain stop making those connections? Why does it feel automatic at times? When will you ever rest? But you will learn how to rest while making these connections. It won't be a burden when you realize how it works in your favor and is not a distraction.

Recognizing this as a gift is one of the essential parts of maintaining this gift. Sure, it sounds fantastic to say the universe chose you for this gift, and it may be true. What is also true is that you are the one who knows how to nurture and maintain the gift. You are invested in this gift even when you are exhausted by having it.

This is why folks will ask for your opinion. This is why they will include you, seek you out, choose you to build a project or film or organization with: because of your gift. You won't ever realize it until one day your roommate says it as a compliment and your life will gain a bit more clarity when you recognize and embrace.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lesson 11: Lessons Learned as a LatiNegra Sexologist

Lesson:

You have so much power you don't even realize it all, and maybe you wont, but you have more power than you can ever imagine!


Life Lesson:

That's why you are still here; doing this work; building this life and community. You belong here doing this right now. There are times when you know, by the way the creators have built you, that you have presence. Being 6ft tall, packing ass, big curly hair, freckles, skin that changes during the season, and a sense of style like no other. Your femme identity and representation already brings you attention and power.

But you don't always realize that power. But it is there. You have power when you walk into a room. Students connect with you, they see you as something they can trust because you look like a member of their community who has something important to share and build with them. Strangers on the subway and street look at you because you are stunning, confident, unashamed, unapologetic to take up space and be completely all you are.

You have power when you choose to treat folks well even when they don't treat you well. You have power when folks read the way you decor your body and even stare. You have power when you mirror back those rude stares that are not met with words. You have power when you are in public with your boo(s). You have power when you are at work, sending an email. YOU HAVE POWER.

Sure, that power shifts, but don't ever forget it is yours. You had power when you had a developed body at a young age and you misunderstood what to do with that power. You know better now and so you do things with a new consciousness and level of knowledge.

You have power and you must always choose to have power-with versus power-over; especially in the classroom or where you have power over others because of a hierarchy of which you have no control. You have power to not mirror that hierarchy in your daily interactions. There is no liberation or freedom in upholding power-over.

For inquiries or to hire bi visit her site or email bianca@biancalaureano.com