Detailed written descriptions of their supervision process(es) used with supervisees,
I believe that supervision and mentorship is one of the most vital parts of professional development and retention in the sexuality field in the United States. Supervision is about an exchange of knowledge and power, and there is a clear hierarchy between supervisor and supervisee. I choose to apply a kyriarchal and intersectional framework to my supervision. I recognize that there is a power dynamic, and I seek to have a “power-with” versus “power-over” relationship with supervisees and mentees.
Supervision is about having the space to process, experience, learn, and unlearn the ways in which we have been trained. I believe it also allows us the opportunity to openly discuss failure with a trusted colleague, and build a path of facilitation, writing, and education that will become what each supervisee eventually builds their career upon. These are vital conversations that are ripe for deconstruction and reconstruction.
Together with my supervisee’s, I employ various levels of conversation and dialogue to facilitate learning. I don’t present myself as someone who is an expert in everything; I seek to have an exchange where both supervisor and supervisee are both learning and unlearning together. I envision a supervisorship/mentorship to be one where we spend a lot of time talking about our field. What does it mean that there is no solid theory of sexuality education? How do we create these theories by learning about radical and liberatory educational theorists such as Paulo Freire, bell hooks, José Esteban Muñoz, Deborah Vargas, sj miller, and Danny Solorzano? These conversations are fulfilling for both of us as we explore and discover new ways to utilize educational theories and praxis in our work. Part of my supervision approach is to create a reading and writing conversation. As many of the potential sexuality educators who need supervision may not be able to join me in an in-person situation and will be utilizing mostly virtual video conferencing and email exchanges, I believe our time must be useful and focused on the greatest needs to be met. Many supervisees may begin in a variety of different places in their learning needs, so a virtual reading group of liberation educators is ideal to begin discussing how liberatory and inclusive sexuality education theory and praxis can look.
As an active educator and curriculum writer, I also work to ensure that supervisees are supported in evolving their public speaking and workshop creation skills. Supporting their growth through editing and reviewing their conference proposals, as well as attend their presentations are some of the many ways I hope to meet supervisees in person and witness their facilitation skills. This provides an opportunity for me to follow them each step of the way, from selecting a conference that fits their ideas and continuing education needs, to writing and submitting to calls for proposals, to preparing for the workshop presentation once accepted, and finally to implementing the workshop and then evaluating. Attending conferences together also allows me to utilize my personal networks and connections to introduce supervisees to potential collaborators and other people who could also potentially provide them with supervision. I support a diverse and multi-person supervision approach. I believe sexuality educators must experience a variety of approaches and mentorship to figure out what best suits them. These are all outcomes and objectives that I sought for myself as a student. I would have loved to have received such guidance from a mentor in the field for myself, yet had to find my own way. The field and its professional development opportunities can be very lonely and my supervision approach hopes to be a salve to some of that isolation and loneliness.
My belief is that the US sexuaity field has many sexuality educators of color! However, we don’t have access comparable to our white counterparts because of rules and regulations that leave us behind, isolated, and without resources and support. I look at my own self-motivated two decade career and how I tried, nine years ago, to become certified with AASECT – but had no direction or support. I also struggled with finding people of color in the field. Today, AASECT looks a little bit different, and I’d like to think it may be related to the work of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN), of which I am a co-foundress. Of our five hundred plus members of WOCSHN, fewer than ten are certified with AASECT. When asked whether members would be interested in becoming certified if there was a supervisor of color they knew, over twenty members responded affirmatively.
I strongly believe that the representation of people of color – and white people who have a firm understanding of power, oppression, and liberation – can be strengthened in 3-5 years, as more of us become certified as educators and supervisors and continue actively working for equity. Investment and commitments to justice look many different ways, and as long as AASECT is committed to communities of color and women of color, I can invest in the organization as well.
including their understanding of how they supervise supervisees
Kyriarchy and intersectionality are both theories and frameworks for doing work that is rooted in justice and shifting power, which is why I allow my supervision and mentoring to be guided by this praxis. Using frameworks rooted in understanding power, oppression, liberation, and strategic uses of privilege are at the center of my supervision approach. These approaches require a commitment to being fully human and open to the range of emotions, failures, and successes we all experience. As a result, my approach is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. I lean on the archives we have from academics and scholars as well as the brilliance of local community healers and public intellectuals.
their educational methods and/or supervision theories used
As I’ve shared above, my methodology is guided by intersectionality and kyriarchal theories and praxis. Through training, reading, and implementation, my own understanding of how structural, institutional, and individual power relate, and my use of a power framework, guides my personal ethics and values. I often ask, “Who has power here?” and “Who may be harmed?” These two questions have helped me to shift and ground my focus and response to a variety of encounters. I have an interdisciplinary teaching/training methodology that allows me to help complicate or make accessible various topics; this is what an intersectional and kyriarchal approach allows. This methodology also provides me with an extensive background on the various ways of learning and knowing to include indigenous and communal sources of safety and affirmation.
When utilizing a “power-with” approach to supervision and leadership, I am evoking the work of Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres. Guinier and Torres presented a new way of centering racial justice and liberation within a capitalist first-world society in their book The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (2002). From their discussion, I choose to employ an educational method of demonstration where I am intentional in how I relate to and with people in professional, communal, and personal situations. I ask myself: How is my life’s work a demonstration of what is possible and ways to fulfill needs that seemed unreachable? This question allow me to use myself as an example. This also allows for possible role play training opportunities with supervisees. Practice is one of my main areas of guidance and training in this field. There are some things we will become stronger at with practice.
Ideally a blend of lecture, demonstration, reflection, self-review, and media justice, rooted in social-emotional learning competencies in a learning space, is where I thrive as an educator. I’ve expanded to learn strategies and techniques to implement these practices in environments where I do not have one-on-one access to students in person. As a result, I have mastered the ways technology allows us to stay connected and record our interactions to maintain a useful and full archive.
their guiding principles of how they provide supervision to supervisees
My goal is to support sexuality educators in finding the best ways to be their full selves in the educational setting they choose to be a part of establishing. My guiding principles come from the work and legacy of many queer people of color who are sick or disabled. Audre Lorde, specifically in her Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic As Power and her Cancer Journals (1981) work. Kay Ulanday Barrett’s poetry about Filipino immigration, gender, and rituals around death, grief, and mourning. Also, the work of afro-futurists such as NK Jemisin and Octavia Butler help me imagine a US sexuality field where there is a table at which there is room enough for all of us to have a seat and live the lives that we choose in a comfortable future. The archival and oral storytelling methods of Jessica Marie Johnson, and her focus on “historical narratives of pleasure,” and Rigoberta Menchu’s use of Testimonio, or “telling the story of my people,” guide me as I write curricula and train others to be open enough to do the same. The work and legacy of civil rights activist Ella Baker and her valuing of youth and focus on racial and economic justice guide my work with young people and my ability to imagine and work towards a new future. Finally, my principles of accountability are informed by an inheritance of revolutionary love (in the Chela Sandoval use) from queer and trans brilliance like that found in the work of Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna- Samarasinha in The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (2011), Moya Bailey’s work on Black Feminist Health Studies with a focus on disabled bodies, and Dorothy Roberts’ archive.
At all times I hope to remind supervisees of the erotic power they embody in doing this work, and in surviving this planet. Audre Lorde told us that joy is central to erotic power and how are we finding the joy in our supervision experience, in our work, and in our goals for certification? I imagine asking myself often: “What brings me joy about supervising this person?” as I am contacted by possible supervisees. I know I will welcome my supervisees to do the same with me.
My own responses to this query are rooted also in my erotic power. I know the joy and institutional shift that is possible as a certified sexuality educator supervisor. The hope I still hold onto – that women of color in the US sexuality field will find and retain their own joy in this field – is still very present. While it remains a vibrant pull, I seek to strategically use the privileges I’ve embodied to facilitate this ushering in of new experiences.
The Cancer Journals (Lorde, 1981) reminds us of our humanity and the fear and anger that comes with the experiences of the bodies of women and femmes, people of color, immigrants, and disabled people (to name a few!) experience daily. Lorde’s reality of death and dying were paramount for her as a Black Caribbean lesbian mother, partner, lover, poet, and it is important to me to be able to center and discuss our death and what we may be able to create and maintain before that happens. Supporting supervisees to imagine what their lives could be like in 20 or 50 years, and what they wish to leave the field and those that come after them, is part of my supervision practice.
NK Jemisen and Octavia Butler’s literary prose have provided the groundwork to support my understanding of what the time and place we occupy in the US in 2018 represent. Their work provides a foundation to imagine and dream bigger than we think is possible. Their work helped me dream bigger, and begin to discuss my own succession planning at WOCSHN and avoid the violent “Founder’s Syndrome” that can manifest. I believe for WOCSHN to be what it needs to be, I must imagine a future where I am no longer in decision-making power but those who have newer and fresher ideas and stronger commitments to the work can shift the organization to what members need it to become. I’ve also been able to imagine what it means to “make money” in our field by crafting my own reality of what a “barter system” of care and healing can resemble in the US. I’ve applied this approach to my own personal life when asking for help, healing, support, and to make my services accessible to my communities and it has opened me up to an entirely new way of communicating and interacting with people about their sexual needs.
Jessica Marie Johnson’s work with Harriet Tubman, and sexualizing her legacy, brings me back to a human rights and reproductive justice framework where body autonomy is at the center for each of us. Also, queering and sexualizing the archives of our ancestors’ narratives to be read not only in a trauma-filled way, but also in a way that allows us to find the codes of pleasure that we have inherited as well, is crucial to my politic and principles of pleasure. Rigoberta Menchu’s testimonio reminds me that the story of “our people” is one that connects us on multiple levels. It also is a reminder that non-linear storytelling is one of many ways people may learn. I employ this as I write and craft curricula, draft writing prompts and activities for youth and adults, and push back against white supremacist attempts to silence us all.
Ella Baker’s vision of freedom and commitment to justice, especially her centering of youth, is always already present for me. Her leadership was one driving force for WOCSHN supporting, co-crafting, and delivering the Solidarity Statement on Racial Justice in Sexuality Education in 2014. Her work and approach to leadership welcomes the activist-led accountability processes that many queer people of color have established. Chen, Dulani, and Piepzna-Samarasinha’s book The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (2011) offered concrete ways to have a community response to violence and a community response to healing. Their publishing choices of making the book accessible to those most in need of the text and offering it in PDF versions guide my transparency and accessibility strategies. Dr. Bailey’s entire life’s work impacted mine when we met over 15 years ago at the Northeast Women’s Studies Association chapter as two young queer aspiring PhD students. From her creation of terminology to have a wider language to define and support the experiences of Black women, such as misogynoir, and her current Black Feminist Health Studies fits neatly into my accountability approach. Dr. Bailey demonstrates how to hold an entire field accountable for the exclusion of Black women and femme bodies in the US while having the audacity and power to dream bigger and ask for more.
All of these principles are indications of my own self-guided training, my search for community, and my imperative need for more than what was available in the color-free US sexuality education field I found a decade ago at AASECT. This is the archive I’ve built and the ways that my supervisory and mentorship responsibilities are rooted in humanity, justice, and liberation. My supervising philosophy is interdisciplinary because sexuality is present at each part of our lives at all times. I look forward to working with future sexuality educators and supporting them as they find their own way through the field and establish their own facilitation and knowledge production styles.