They were once called “health classes.” But for the past few decades, it’s simply been called sex education. And depending on where you live, it’s an often politically charged topic, especially when it’s part of the curriculum in K-12 schools.
But there’s a case to be made that all of us could use a refresher course, particularly as our situations change over the course of our lives. We get older. We could have a chronic illness that affects our sexual expression. And then, there are the people who don’t fall into the traditional sexual paradigm.
All of those dynamics can make things complicated if you’re a healthcare provider. Organizers of the Milwaukee SHARE conference are specifically working to educate healthcare providers about integrating sex and patient identity questions as part of their practice.
"I think a lot of times when they're looking at a patient or a client, they're not exactly sure what they're seeing," says Lucky Tomaszek, a sexual educator at the Tool Shed, the organization presenting the conference. "I think that we used to live in a world where we felt pretty safe assuming that everyone was one of two genders, and everyone was one of a small handful of orientations, and that everyone's... acts of pleasure probably all went forth pretty much the same way. And we've learned in the last 10 or 15 years, that that's just not the case."
"Having medical providers that understand the needs of transgender people is just critical," says Ashley Altadonna, a Milwaukee-based filmmaker who is also transgender. Altadonna works with the Tool Shed and will be one of the presenters at Milwaukee SHARE.
The conference will be held next Monday at Alverno College and will look at the obstacles to discussing sexuality. Healthcare providers and community members have been invited to attend the conference, which will look at a variety of topics ranging from transgender healthcare and STI prevention, to proper techniques for having rough sex. One session will specifically address the issues surrounding sex in old age, a topic which remains taboo.
"People who are over whatever age we're gonna demarc[ate] senior citizenship at, want to have sex and can have sex. And you might make modifications to what you like to do, but you don't have to give up," says Tomaszek.