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Over 24% of LGBTQ+ students (in the US) have never had any school-based sex education, and of student who have received sex education in school, only 8.2% reported that it was inclusive of LGBTQ+ topics.
As The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Research Institute’s Survey states, “whether legally barred or simply ignored, LGBTQ+-inclusive sex education is not available for most youth, especially for LGBTQ+ youth who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).” (2021)
That’s why menstrual, reproductive, and sexual health care is a vital pillar of Diva’s Impact Program, and why we work collaboratively with organizations offering inclusive sexual and reproductive health services rooted in an intersectional approach.
The SHORE Centre and Northern Birthwork Collective (MakeWay Charitable Society) work to provide inclusive and accurate information for youth, as well as increase access to sexual and reproductive health care within their communities here in Canada.
SHORE Centre was founded in 1972 as Planned Parenthood Kitchener-Waterloo. And was originally housed in the University of Waterloo’s Birth Control Centre. They offer sexual health options, resources and education to all residents of their community. The work that they have done over the last 50 years has increased access to safe resources and improved reproductive health outcomes within their community.
Northern Birthwork Collective is a collective of reproductive justice advocates; birthworkers, parents, and community members. They are committed to creating a safe space with programming and services for pregnant people in the Northwest Territories.
The Northwest Territories are underserved by Government of Canada resources. The NBC aims to provide the necessary reproductive resources to indigenous and racialized individuals within their community. NBC is a community-based organization assisting indigenous peoples with access to “holistic and dignified support that is respectful and free of oppression and racism”.
Here’s our conversation.
Q&A with Our Menstrual, Reproductive, and Sexual Health Care Partners
What is one thing you wish people understood about reproductive and sexual health care?
SHORE: Sexual and reproductive health is a very personal thing that affects everyone, of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations. It’s not a one-size fits all. And people may have to try different options to figure out what works best for them. It shouldn’t be a political issue or a debate.
Northern Birthwork: That western medicine isn’t going to have all the answers to support you as you navigate your reproductive journey, whether that is menstrual health, fertility, or pregnancy and all pregnancy outcomes. Being able to build a team of holistic supports is essential and should be made accessible to all people, not just those who can afford to pay for additional support.
What would you suggest to people who are nervous to take care of their sexual and reproductive health?
- Information is power; having honest conversations and asking questions is the best way to reduce anxiety, even starting small and learning a little bit at a time can give you more confidence around this subject and make you more comfortable with seeking support.
- The internet can be helpful. There are lots of resources on our website to help you learn more about sexual and reproductive health.
- Just like any other type of health issue, taking care of your sexual health improves your quality of life. We really want to emphasize that sexual and reproductive health is part of your general health. And it should be approached in the same way.
- Sexual and reproductive health is nothing to be ashamed of, including learning later in life. People should just be proud of themselves for being curious and prioritizing it.
- Find people you feel safe with and comfortable talking to and ask them questions about their experiences.
- Talking about it makes it more normal and helps to remove the stigma that can surround sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Northern Birthwork: To find support (friends, family, birthworkers, doulas, other practitioners) to help you navigate taking care and exploring this vital aspect of your health. There is so much to learn about your body and about yourself when you take a closer look at your sexual and reproductive health, it’s often hard to know where to start. The right support for those who are nervous can make a big difference.
What is one thing that your organization is really proud of?
SHORE: This year SHORE Centre is celebrating our 50th anniversary! SHORE Centre was founded in 1972 by a group of volunteers — who were sometimes called troublemakers.
A lot has changed since then but a lot has stayed the same too; just like 50 years ago, we continue to offer non-judgmental pregnancy options support and comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education.
Our services have grown and adapted with the addition of our medical clinic and then more recently virtual services. But at our core, we have stayed the same. We are proud that we continue to provide inclusive, accessible client-centred care and education. And work to cultivate an environment where people are able/comfortable to talk about sexual health including menstruation, sexual health education, and reproductive healthcare and rights.
Northern Birthwork: We are really proud that we have positioned ourselves as reproductive justice advocates in our community, on the micro level for people who access care from our birthworkers, but also on the macro level as we learn to navigate advocating for changes to harmful policies that impact people’s reproductive health care.
What Can I Do to Advocate for Menstrual, Reproductive, and Sexual Health Care?
- Support people in need and underserved areas by providing donations to organizations like SHORE Centre and Northern Birthwork Collective, as well as Period Purse, if you’re in Canada.
- If you’re in the US, get to know the organization, PERIOD. and find your local chapter to support.
- Engage in dialogue with friends and family about these initiatives to increase awareness of the issues they are working to combat.
- Visit your local library or community center to gather more information about resources available in your area.
- Further your education by participating in workshops or programs that are applicable to you.
- Follow organizations like the Northern Birthwork Collective, SHORE Centre, Period Purse and PERIOD. on Instagram and other social platforms. Share their posts to help reduce stigma and spread the word about their current initiatives!
With the overturning of Roe V. Wade this year, it’s important that we support health organizations like the SHORE Centre. We’re not safe from having these rights stripped of us here in Canada.
We believe that reproductive and sexual health care should not be a luxury. We stand by the work that Northern Birthwork Collective does with sexual and reproductive health care, as well as increasing access to family planning and abortion support.
We’re continually working with organizations like the SHORE Centre and Northern Birthwork Collective to help reduce menstrual, sexual and reproductive stigmas and increase access to inclusive resources, in an effort towards greater accessibility and equity.
- (2021). A Call to Action: LGBTQ+ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education. Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/41/d5/41d511c2-086f-4894-9df7-bb15ecf0d92e/call_to_action_lgbtq_sex_ed_report_-_final_2.pdf