Here, one of our volunteers, Siobhan Ramos, talks about her admiration for the speakers who spoke so eloquently about there experiences with thier sexuality:
”It was a privilege and pleasure to be able to hear the myriad of voices and their own experiences, concerns and issues which were present at Cork Feminista’s Sexual Wellness Conference. I attended with about as open a mind as one can have; I was the axiomatic tabula rasa. My naïve hope was that I amalgamate all the information accrued into a neat bundle and critically assess it from a distance, an impartial but highly curious observer. However, like the concept of sexuality itself, the information I received was complex, dynamic and sometimes difficult to understand or process. I could not simply be impartial and observant – the stories I heard demanded of me to be involved and impassioned and inspired.
I was inspired especially by the voices of courage I heard breaking any and all silence surrounding their sexualities. Those telling very personal, intimate anecdotes and stories in order to help others learn, understand and accept both themselves and all around them. Stories such as that of John Kidney, who talked about redefining himself as a multidimensional sexual being in trying to reconcile both the pressures of a traditional masculinity and the stigmas surrounding his mental illness. He allowed us all to examine these topics as an intersectionality most of us hadn’t even thought of, as if refracted through a prism. Stories such as that of Austin Kelly, living as a gay man with HIV and refusing to let it define him or consume his identity. He told us of the ups and downs, the good days and bad, and allowed us to see an epitome of the key link between positivity and sexual wellbeing. Stories such as that of Darrin Matthews, who spoke of the difficulty in “coming out” twice; once as a lesbian and next as a trans* man. He spoke of the levels of hardship many trans* youth in Ireland have to face, living in a country which will only help them if they can be “diagnosed” with a mental disorder. Stories such as those of Trish Connolly, who allowed us a glimpse into the realities of sexuality, disability and control. It is frightening to think that those already experiencing the liminalities and fringes of society experience even more harrowing situations including isolation, admonishment and repression when it comes to their sexual expression.
As a women in Ireland, I feel my body is barely within my control, and will not be fully until all my sexual and reproductive rights are met. However, these courageous speakers allowing to vicariously experience with them has enabled me to shift my perspective on sexual identity and control. We are all sexual beings; to deny anyone any part of themselves is beyond reproach.It is in humane. While I live through my own sexual identity quite freely, there are so many others who are stigmatised, repressed, marginalised, vilified and worse – and all due to one of the most basic commonalities of humanity. While I was sickened and saddened to hear of such hardships, the perpetual optimism of those telling their stories created in me a true sense of pride. A pride of self expression and fearlessness and dynamism. The change society needs begins in discussion like these, in grounding the commonality and fluidity and sweet complexity of human sexuality in all of its forms. My tabula rasa has been etched upon by many during this conference; their influence is now set in stone.”