It’s hard to believe that my time at Masakhane has come to an end. It feels like just yesterday that I showed up in Newark. Never in my life has three months gone by so quickly. I’ve learned an incredible amount about sexuality, facilitation, and the Newark community. The skills I’ve acquired are vast, and not all of them are quantifiable. It’s difficult to explain all of the awareness I’ve gained – from just reading participant emotions to understanding that cultural biases are something easily overridden.
My experiences this summer have been invaluable to me. They’ve helped to shape my professional aspirations in a way that I was not expecting. I always new I wanted to work in a field of public health, preferably related to child and maternal health, but now I am much more sure that I want to be working in the field of sexual health and sexuality. I also never truly considered teaching as a career option, but now it’s on the table. Teaching was an incredibly rewarding experience (though difficult at times). Even if I’m not teaching in the “traditional” sense, I would really like to be involved in some form or other of education. I’d like to continue teaching in a more alternative setting throughout the rest of my time at Tulane (perhaps as a doula – otherwise known as a labor specialist).
For anyone who is interested in sexuality or sexual health education, I would encourage them to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Read as many differing opinions as you can. Inform yourself on current events related to sexual health, but also dig deeper. Don’t just use Facebook, reading click bait titled “The Truth About Being Transgender,” – look harder. Be critical, but also be sensitive. Recognize your own truths and biases. It’s easy to get angry and worked up when reading intentionally inflammatory arguments on the Internet. Avoid as much Internet fodder as possible, or you will burn out. Sexual and reproductive health in America are such hot button topics, it’s easy to get mired in the thousands of voices shouting at you that what you believe is wrong, your sexuality is wrong, and that your reproductive health is not yours to control. But sexual health education is so important, so valuable, and so misunderstood; giving up isn’t really an option. At the end of the day, when a participant thanks you, and says, “I can’t wait for next week” – it’s all worth it.
And no, I didn’t get to keep any of my demonstrational sex toys
That’s me scarfing shake shake while other interns look cute in Madison Sq Park after visiting the Museum of Sex together.
I can’t believe it’s already July. So many things have happened since I arrived in New Jersey in May. My training with the Masakhane Center is complete, and I’ve started co-facilitating workshops. I’m also working on a few video projects for the Center, one on pregnancy and one on pornography (to be used in training and in our workshops).
My main goal for this internship was to gain some hands-on experience in the realm of public health, and I’ve hit that goal pretty head on. I facilitate one workshop a week (which will soon be three workshops a week) on a whole host of topics: pregnancy, pregnancy options, safer sex, gender identity 101, sexual orientation 101, and healthy & unhealthy relationships – just to name a few. I’m currently working at Newark Renaissance House, which is an addiction treatment center for teens. I work exclusively with young men – and their energy and enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve been having a wonderful time getting to know my kids and their personalities. Lesson planning is much more rewarding when I feel like I’m able to tailor our activities to their specific needs. When I start facilitating workshops with middle school groups, I will have an all boy group and an all girl group. I’m excited to observe the differences in energy, attitude, etc. with either gender (since I’ve only worked with men so far).
I learn everyday working with the Masakhane Center. Not only am I now much more comfortable talking about STIs and the stages of pregnancy, I’m also more confident in my ability to teach. While I was initially nervous to facilitate, my experiences thus far have been so positive I look forward to it each week. My teaching skill set has vastly expanded since coming to the Masakhane Center. Teaching is an invaluable skill that I feel will help me academically and professionally.
Working with the Masakhane Center has challenged many of my preconceived notions about sexuality, gender, and the way we talk about identity politics – which wasn’t something that I expected. It’s been an eye-opening experience, because in a lot of ways I thought I was progressive and understanding already. However, being an ally and teaching in a way that isn’t heteronormative has been difficult but also rewarding. I hope to carry this newfound understanding and open-mindedness throughout the rest of my life.
Masakhane Summer 2015 Interns feeling united!!