///ACSEXE+///Hodan///

TEXT OF THE VIDEO

(Music)

(Chalk noises+music)

Deaf Identity

 

During my childhood I identified like a normal person, which is to say that with my parents,with my brothers and sisters I found thatwe were all equal, all the same.My parents didn’t give me any specific education about this subject.Then I went to secondary school, got my diploma, and it’s at this time that I really did a lot of personal learning independently,it wasn’t my parents that gave me a particular education, so when I got my diploma I moved to Montreal, and that’s where I saw that really there was a particular culture and identity for Deaf people,

Really we had experimented the same frustrations,it was a big relief to meet other Deaf people, and to feel the same as them.But I’ll tell you, that came a little late, I must have been 25 or 26 when I really discovered that there could be a Deaf identity. So, because we had effectively the same identity:  we were all Deaf we had had the same problems, the same obstacles, and that’s where I identified myself as a Deaf woman, but not just Deaf, a Deaf woman, feminist but not disabled. It’s really society who gives us the label of being a disabled person. I think that with time we have to make people aware, to really inform them, that in the end to be a Deaf person it’s absolutely not a disability and that we have to be considered on the same level as hearing people.

In my daily life, like I said, with my friends I feel like I’m on the same level as them, I find that’s great. It’s more on the level of hearing society, at the level of accessibility of government services, such as the Ministry of Health or Education, really that there are obstacles and we have to continue our struggles and battles, and I know that it’s long but I think it’s in the same way that other disabilities have their struggles and battles, it takes time.

There are very few adaptations that have been made, there aren’t always interpretation services available or accessible, so in Canada there’s a huge delay. And what’s more, it’s 2015! And we don’t yet have access to the services that we would have a right to . Whereas in the US they’re very very advanced in this area, and similarly, in terms of communications technology they’re a lot more advanced than Canada.

 

(music)

Deafness and sexuality

When I was young, I never had a boyfriend, so I met my first boyfriend, would was hearing, I must have been 23 years old I think. when I was young I’ve never had a boyfriend before I think that I was a little hesitant, I was on the defensive, I felt physical unready, I had friends who had already had sexual experiences, Deaf boyfriends, who had gotten into couples, I asked them questions and we discussed, they told me a little bit of what happened and shared their experiences, and their, you know one day I met my boyfriend who was hearing, so I remember everything that my friends had told me of their experiences of being in a couple, and I asked myself if that would be any different because I was with a hearing person.

So I asked myself if sexually there would be a difference or not. It’s funny, really, my body, I felt it, hesitancies like I was on the defensive, I didn’t know too much how to do it, on a sexual level, but my boyfriend was really patient, for a whole year he was very patient with me. So one day he asked the question “but Hodan how can we make love?” “How can we have sex?” – and it’s funny but that made me like, a feeling of a loss of self-confidence but it’s true he said “we can’t talk, you can’t hear my voice” And I’d say that that developed even more hesitance and defensiveness on my side, so I finally decided to abandon all of that.

It took a certain amount of time, but finally, three years later, ya it took three years, that we didn’t see each other, and I returned to the same guy and we started dating again, and we went, I would say 6 months, he was very respectful. Myself, I understood more about sexuality as a Deaf person, I understood that everything had to go through looks, through our eyes, through the visual, that it wasn’t a question that we would make love with the lights off. I hadn’t mentioned it before because I didn’t understand what it was, but with all the experience, the understanding, and to finally tryt it, I saw a big difference. But emotionally, I had no more feelings with him, so we decided to end that relationship.

With time I realized, also, that I had much more self-confidence as a woman, with my sexuality, with my body. And my current partner, we’ve been together for 5 years, we have a little girl, and really, we are very happy. We have a normal relationship, just like hearing people, except that the only difference is that we’re Deaf.

My daughter is a CODA (Child of as Deaf Adult), that means that her two parents use sign language with her, because her parents are Deaf, but you see everything is going very well at the level of communication. I’m really happy in my relationship, I’m very happy with my daughter.

 

Between Deaf people

(music)

So, for real, I will tell you that I prefer to be in a relationship with a Deaf man, because, at the level of understanding, and identity, we’re the same, fundamentally we’re the same. If I was with a hearing person, for sure he could probably understand some things about Deafness, but not from A to Z, probably just some of it, and he would always miss some things about Deafness that he couldn’t understand.

But , with a Deaf person, it flows, our communication is fluid. Sexually, it goes really well as well. So, I don’t want to generalize, it’s not the same for everybody, but I would say that me and my partner, on a fundamental level are the same, we’ve had similar experiences, it goes well, whereas  a hearing person would have difficulty understanding the frustrations that we’ve lived in regards to lack of accessibility and all that.

All that means that, for me, as a Deaf woman, I prefer to be with a Deaf man.

(music)

 

These video have been produced by FQPN and realised by Rozen Potin. Responsible for the project: Charli Lessard and Aimee Louw. With the participation of Isabelle, Caroline and Hodan. Translation: Aimee Louw

***See all the ACSEXE+ video***

///ACSEXE+///Caroline///

(Instrumental music with talks in English)
(Music and chalk noises)

I’m a trans woman. I’m… I  identify as asexual, but, not like aromantic. Because I like… I like to have special relationships. And umm, I’m on the autism spectrum, lots of weird anxiety things, I have experienced lots of things, relationships… maybe also sexuality, all these things, which is… particular and I think there are lots of things that combine as part of my experience that are unique and that I’d like to share.

I know that often, when I see other people’s experiences it’s rare that there’s something that I find represents me well. And I think that we need more special cases of weird people.

(Instrumental music)

Internalized Ableism

One barrier is that, in general, we have expectations about how people behave and how they use… move, interact, we have expectations about these and these expectations aren’t necessary… it’s not everybody who can… fulfill respond to these expectations. And so just living, in general, in the world, with these people, and trying to do in that world, it’s something that burns up my energy, because I always have to conform to these behavioral standards.

For a long part of my life I tried just to… not exist and to take up as little space as possible, and to make as few movements as possible because, it was safer. Now, I try to take up more space and to take that space in my own way. There’s a bit of… when I try to state my needs, especially when it’s something really specific in a particular moment, often it’s difficult for me because I find my needs illegitimate, and that it’s just too complicated. So there’s lots of internalized ableism.

When I try to explain to my girlfriend, certain of these needs that I could have, it can relate a lot to internalized ableism, so that could be hard. Difficult for me, but also difficult in terms of education because when I’m becoming really anxious because I find that I’m asking for illegitimate things that are just complicated and that I try to ——, that doesn’t put me in a good position to education people because I have the impression that I’m bad. So…

Generally, in my experience, the moments that autism or anxiety become visible are when I’m really not doing well. So, stating my needs in advance, that could be really positive. It’s also really important in terms of consent. But when that comes up in the moment, when I feel bad I can’t give advice to someone on how to interact with me. I have to say: “Ok, that, that works generally, but if I do this, ‘stop’.”

(Instrumental music)

(a)sexuality and disability

 For me, what’s important is relationships. And everything that can be more sexual, related to sex, bodies generally, in my experience that’s more linked to the fact that I’m trans and everything related to my body follows from that. I think that my sexuality and my asexuality could be understood in relation to my trans experience. But again, I don’t that think that we can just link it to my disability, and I don’t think that we can just link it to… to my trans experience. What I’d like people to understand about asexuality, like umm… is that… okay, I’ll say three things.

One: It’s an experience that it’s completely as legitimate as all the other forms of sexuality or other forms of relationships, also, or desire of relationship. Because, me, I want to be in relationships. There are people who don’t want that, and that’s super legitimate too. So that, that would be the first thing.

The second thing is that… to be in a couple and make love, that doesn’t necessarily have to go together. I think one thing that we try to valorize in sex-positive discourses is that we can move beyond. Marriage is not necessarily exclusive, like it was the 1960’s. We can have something more diversified, but we can also not have the need for that in a couple.

And I think that the third thing I would say is to not forget that… even if there isn’t… you know… to my knowledge, there isn’t systemic violence against asexual people, that doesn’t mean that the group doesn’t live forms of “oppression”, or experience marginalization in certain communities, and are easily forgotten. And that we have our place in, you know the long acronym of LGBTQIA, and that the A is not for allies. That asexual people have their place in communities and movements around sexual diversity, and diversity in general. Because it’s not true that we’re that well integrated in many spaces. For example, we’re poorly integrated in lots of spaces that call themselves queer.

Often, the things we say against asexual people to de-legitimize their experiences, are the same things that people used to say against homosexual or bisexual people, against trans people, against intersex people, so it’s not necessarily the same thing, but the same type of attitude and discourse and the same schema.

I think that we have to understand sex-positivity as not necessarily more sex, but like, more diversity and more openness to different experiences. That could be more openness like less traditional ways to approach that, to not want to make love because it’s not something that I understand and it’s not something that I find important.

(Music )

These video have been produced by FQPN and realised by Rozen Potin. Responsible for the project: Charli Lessard and Aimee Louw. With the participation of Isabelle, Caroline and Hodan. Translation: Aimee Louw

***See all the ACSEXE+ video***

///ACSEXE+///Isabelle///

(Musique)
(Musique + chalk noises)

Me, Isabelle, who am I? That’s a big question! Primarily I am a PhD student in community psychology, and a huge feminist for 6 years now. I’m really involved in the cause for women who experience disability. Aside from that, I am a lover of adventure, travel, I’ve always loved to go beyond my personal limits. As a woman with a disability sexuality and meeting other people has not always been simple for me. People consider us as disabled people and not as disabled women, as though we were asexual. In fact, the fact that we have a sexuality as a woman who experiences a disability is very, very taboo. At the level of society, people hardly talk about that, it’s not recognized, it’s even unpleasant for people, it shocks people. It’s really a shock for people to understand that, yes, we really can have a very blossoming sexuality.

(Musique)

I had my first sexual relationships very late. My first love and my first kiss, were… my first kiss was at 24 years old, whereas the majority of women have their first kiss at 12, 13, 14 years old… so that means that we arrive at an adult with less experience, less knowledge, and unfortunately it’s easier to live with different situations of abuse because we know sexuality less and we know our bodies less. We’re also, unfortunately… we have less self-esteem, so it’s more difficult to say what we like and what we don’t like. So, I find that it’s really difficult, the fact that we have less sexual experience, that they arrive later, that could bring abuse, unfortunately.

Often, when a person has a disability, people pass over the subject of female sexuality really fast. It’s placed to the side and definitely all aspects of enthusiastic consent, which is a pretty complex aspect, more complex than we think. Consent doesn’t just mean “yes” or “no”, it also means to be good with yourself, to be at ease with yourself and with another, to blossom, it’s not just to say “yes I want that.” At a given moment in a sexual act, it could be going too fast or too far and we can’t stop it in it’s tracks. But we can, at every stage and at any time of a sexual act we can really stop it in it’s tracks and say “That’s enough for me”.

(Musique)

Self-Confidence

When you have a physical disability like mine, your body is different and could have… in any case… for me what I have, I learned fast in my entrance into adult life, and in my life as a woman, that in knowing my body and its reactions that are unique to it, and that are its own, that I could have a real sexuality. In the knowledge of and in respecting my own body, that’s where I could have a sexuality. It’s by knowing myself, respecting myself and respecting my own body  that I can live a sexuality. And I even think that it’s important to, in the first place, have a sexuality, with oneself before a sexuality with a partner. And so, that’s what I would like to say to all the women that have different types of disabilities, “have confidence in yourselves.” You have to have a strong enough self-esteem and find yourself beautiful enough to put your foot down and advocate for a beautiful sexuality. Because it’s not enough to have a sexuality, it has to be a beautiful, blossoming sexuality! And that’s what I want to say the most “Find yourselves magnificent!”, we’re all magnificent! We all have an incommensurable value, and we all have a body that is worth the trip. So carry your body with you, it’s beautiful, it’s pleasant, it’s different, and it’s in that difference that it’s magnificent, we’re all different and it’s because of that that people will love you.

These video have been produced by FQPN and realised by Rozen Potin. Responsible for the project: Charli Lessard and Aimee Louw. With the participation of Isabelle, Caroline and Hodan. Translation: Aimee Louw

***See all the ACSEXE+ video***

What is ACSEXE+?

(Musique)

Caroline: “For me ACSEXE+ represents… recognizing diversity and difference in relationships and needs, and in the desire for relationships, and to take that diversity of different people who have a lot of different backgrounds and to accept and integrate them with love… and strawberries!”

Hodan: “When I look at myself in the mirror as a woman, I’m happy with the image that I see. It’s really really positive. I have confidence in myself, I feel good, I feel beautiful. And my partner accepts me as I am. That, that influences me, the image that he has of me, I find that that gives me a certain sense of power also. And like I said before, I have a lot of self-confidence. So really (our sexuality) is good.”

Isabelle: “For me sexuality is a fundamental right! Our bodies have demands, our bodies have needs. Sexuality is part of everybody’s lives, and too often, the rights to sexuality of women who experience disability are violated. So for me, I’m part of this project, to advocate for my right to sex!”

These video have been produced by FQPN and realised by Rozen Potin. Responsible for the project: Charli Lessard and Aimee Louw. With the participation of Isabelle, Caroline and Hodan. Traduction: Aimee Louw

***See all the ACSEXE+ video***

Talking disability and sexuality in Montreal

Audio interview with Charli Lessard and Aimee Louw (28mn) by Scott Neight, Talking Radical Radio, july 15th 2015.

***LISTEN HERE ***

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard. They are involved with the ACSEXE+ project, an initiative based in Montreal that works to create opportunities for disabled people to talk, share, and learn about sexuality and the wide spectrum of issues with which it intersects.

It’s a still-tempting oversimplification that has long been dispelled to regard the landscape for communicating about sexuality as a blanket of uniform silence that can only be resisted by speaking. Sexuality of a certain narrow sort is, after all, everywhere in our media, and it’s quite common for people to have to navigate many different kinds of social situations that are not themselves sexual encounters but in which, in what we say about ourselves and in how we act, there is a social compulsion to talk sexuality or signal sexuality. So there is no uniform blanket of silence and repression. Yet in its mix of what is compelled, what is permitted, and what is erased or forbidden or silenced, this landscape is highly uneven and complex.

There is a dizzying array of different ways that it works for differently situated people, but one important group for whom mandatory silence and sexual erasure is, in fact, very strong in mainstream contexts is disabled people. The potential of many disabled people to have and to want sexual lives as vibrant and varied as everyone else is, by and large, erased and denied in mainstream contexts — many disabled people are read as inherently not-sexual, and are given no space, in conversation or in practice, to be otherwise. And though it varies considerably and is in the process of changing, many spaces organized around disabled identities and/or politics, particularly the more mainstream among such spaces, are largely silent about sexuality too.

Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard want to change this. Louw is a writer and media-maker, and an experienced activist on multiple issues, including around questions of disability and accessibility. Lessard is a doula, a long-time sexuality educator, and an activist around reproductive and sexual rights. Both are currently working for the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances, a small but well-established organization in Montreal, on the ACSEXE+ project. It is an initiative committed to a feminist, queer-positive, and sex-positive approach, and it has involved public events, a regularly updated blog and social media presence, the production of a number of videos, and more.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.