Submitted by the University Activities Commission
Here are the facts: only 15 states require sex education instruction to be “medically accurate,” and 37 states have laws requiring abstinence is included in the instruction.
Still, only 18 states require educators to also share information on birth control, as reported by Planned Parenthood.
Further, only nine states currently require discussion of LGBTQ identities and relationships to be inclusive and affirming.
Alternatively, seven Southern states either prohibit sex educators from discussing — or even answering questions about — LGBTQ identities and relationships, or require sex educators to frame LGBTQ identities and relationships negatively.
According to Planned Parenthood, state and local laws regarding sex education leave a lot of young people uneducated or misinformed.
Notably, LGBTQ youth are neglected in instruction — leaving them without the information they need to protect their sexual health and consequently putting them at greater risk for unhealthy or abusive relationships.
To learn more, the University Activities Commission, UW-Eau Claire’s event programming board, welcomed Ebony Stewart, an international traveling poet and performance artist, to host “Sex, Love and Above” at 6 p.m. April 22 via Zoom.
This virtual workshop explored all the many layers of body image, sexual orientation, reproductive health and genitals, gender roles and identity, relationships and love and affection.
This was done through discussion and activities that allowed attendees to investigate the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories interfere with how we see and accept others.
“I am always grateful to be invited to colleges and universities as well as having the opportunity to discuss topics that remove shame and help folks feel seen,” Stewart said.
Stewart is a knowledgeable sexual health advocate — being a former sexual health educator — and currently in graduate school to be a clinical social work therapist, she said.
The event was intentionally left open-ended to encourage an unrestricted, two-way discourse between Stewart and attendees, Joann Martin, coordinator of student activities, said.
“I use poetry as a guided conversation to talk about sexual health that consists of sex, body image, dating, relationships and consent,” Stewart said.
According to her website, Stewart’s work speaks to the black experience, with emphasis on gender, sexuality, womanhood and race, with the hopes to be relatable, remove shame, heal minds, encourage dialogue and inspire folks in marginalized communities.
“Her poetry really captures the beauty of intersectionality and does so in a beautiful and healing way,” Martin said.
Stewart said she first started writing poetry in her journal when she was just 8 years old — to cope with childhood trauma — and her focus for writing about sexual health, then, came about during her time as a sexual health educator, back in 2011.
“I find the motivation to write everywhere and anywhere,” she said, “I’m a life writer and since life is happening all the time, I’m inspired by just paying attention.”
Stewart said she finds influences from many different movies, music, graffiti, memes, Ntozake Shange, Augusten Burroughs and family.
Martin and her program director, Avery Hartling, selected Stewart because she stood out to them, seeing that she speaks on a wide-range of topics, Martin said.
“She’s fantastic and truly, just, a well-rounded activist. She hits on so many different topics, so well,” Martin said.
In fact, at just 32 years old, Stewart is an award-winning poet and playwright, and a three-time published author. Her books “Home.Girl.Hood” and “Love Letters to Balled Fists” can be purchased on her website.
As one of the most decorated poets in Texas, Stewart is a respected coach and mentor, one of the top touring poets in the country and a Woman of the World Slam Champion.
At “Sex, love and above,” Stewart shared her works: “Transparent,” “Box,” “Flirt” and “Fear” — and also shared a poem for attendees to watch outside of the event called, “White Men Say Weird Things To Me,” she said.
“I hope that the students found the poetry and conversation to be enjoyable,” Stewart said, “I also hope that they got to express themselves and learn something new about themselves too.”
You can find Stewart on Facebook and Instagram @GullyPrincess, and on Twitter @EbPoetry.
Steiler can be reached at [email protected].