Queer activist, educator discusses LGBTQ+ stigmas with students
Activist Ignacio Rivera visited the Student Center Thursday night to talk with UH students about the issues of sexuality, sex and relationships and how to approach those topics through an inclusive, LGBTQ+ lens.
Through the Let’s Get SexED workshop, Rivera educated students on topics that may be skimmed over in traditional public school sex education, such as LGBTQ+ sex, sexual liberation and setting boundaries with a partner. Rivera works to provide education to the LGBTQ+ community with the goal of making it possible for members to talk about their sexuality and their experiences.
“As a trans person, a person of color and a person who’s experienced homelessness and poverty, I think my identity plays into the population of people that I want to connect with,” Rivera said. “I want to ensure those voices are being heard because with racism and fascism and other forms of oppression, those voices are pushed to the margins.”
Rivera’s workshop opened with the discussion of stigmas around LGBTQ+ sex, with a focus on identifying why the stigmas exist and how people can overcome them. The workshop broached the topics of utilizing boundaries, consent, communication and negotiation as tools to build a healthy relationship or even just navigate through a casual fling.
Students also reflected on themselves, especially in relation to identifying their needs and wants.
Rivera led the students in writing a short introduction for themselves to use as a guide when interacting with new partners to clearly state what they are comfortable with in relationships and what would be beyond their boundaries, with emphasis on re-evaluating personal needs on a day-to-day basis as we follow the ebb and flow of life.
“I am on a journey, constantly checking on what I want and growing,” Rivera said. “I don’t think any relationship is a waste of time. It’s part of the journey, and we all have one.”
Rivera wrapped up the workshop with a Q&A session, fielding question after question from inquisitive students looking to gain insight on topics varying from how to talk with partners who have survived sexual abuse to where to find the most reliable gay- and trans-friendly sex education resources.
“In Texas, there is not really a comprehensive sex education program, especially not one that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities. This is an education that students are usually not getting, and it’s information that is critical,” said organizer Jamie Gonzales, the diversity education coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center at UH. “Students are willing to stay three hours to listen to a program like this because no one else is having this conversation.”
Students left the workshop feeling proud of their identities and more secure in their abilities to live healthy sex lives.
“The workshop was interesting and fun. I feel empowered and excited to embrace my sexuality,” said psychology junior Dane Ashton.
Rivera hopes that working to educate people will not only encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to become more vocal about their sexuality and sexual experiences but will also help to bring equality to the way we think about these topics overall.
“Everyone has a sexual orientation, but we only hear people talking about gay people having to come out. In the same vein, gender is everyone’s issue, not just a trans issue,” Rivera said. “We all need to have these conversations.”