Discussing Disability, Aging, Dating, Romance, Relationships, and Sexuality

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UPDATE: please note the new event location at Ford Hall (224 Church Street Southeast), which is located on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Campus.

It seems that the disability and aging communities are often so focused on issues surrounding health care, transportation, and employment that some of the basic human topics — such as forming friendships, dating, developing long-term romantic relationships, and exploring sexuality — remain relatively untouched. I’m guessing the very personal, private, and sensitive nature of these topics contribute to the underdeveloped dialogue. However, a few discussion-oriented workshops in June hope to spark new conversation surrounding these topics. Participation in these discussions is free and open to anyone — individuals experiencing various effects of disability/aging, family, friends, past/present partners, colleagues, professionals, as well as the general public.

A first forum, titled “A Look at the Experiences and Perceptions of Relationships: What Happens When Disability Is Thrown into the Mix?” will be held Friday, June 13 from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.. The discussion will focus on the unique aspects of dating, romance, and sex where one partner experiences the effects of disability/aging and the other partner does not. This discussion might involve reactions of family, friends, colleagues, and others; stereotypes that may be transferred to the individual not experiencing the effects of disability; potential role and boundary issues; resources; strategies; techniques; assistive technology; and much more. Participants are welcome to simply listen, are equally welcome to participate if comfortable, and may submit questions and information in advance. This workshop is open to anyone — couples and single individuals. Couples and individuals who have first-hand experience with these topics are highly encouraged to attend to assist provide resources, knowledge, and mentorship.

The second guided-discussion is titled “Mingling Disability and/or Aging with Dating, Romance, Relationships, and Sexuality” will be held Saturday, June 14 from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.. The forum will be a very informal and open conversation where everyone will have an opportunity to pose questions, portray experiences, share knowledge, describe opinions/beliefs, and otherwise comment on dating, romance, relationships, and sexuality in light of disability and/or aging. Equally important, this workshop will offer an excellent opportunity for members of the general public — individuals who do not experience, or have little familiarity with, the effects of disability/aging as well as potential future dates, lovers, and partners — to share their curiosities, questions, or concerns. Potential topics may include, but are not limited to, common effects, challenges, myths, stereotypes, prejudices, solutions, resources, strategies, techniques, and assistive technology. Here again, participants are welcome to simply listen and are equally welcome to participate depending on comfort. Participants who don’t feel comfortable posing questions or sharing information with the entire group are welcome to provide those questions and pieces of information prior to the discussion via e-mail [ lhhegland@precisainc.com ] or in writing to the facilitator immediately before the discussion begins. Couples and individuals who have first-hand experience with these topics are highly encouraged to attend to assist provide resources, knowledge, and mentorship.

We would like to thank SexWorld for their very generous donations for our discussion workshops!

These discussions will be a part of the 5th annual Sexy Spring Skill-Share. Sexy Spring is a FREE, radical, sex- and body-positive gathering geared toward addressing the many ways in which sex, gender, relationships, our bodies and our choices impact our lives. The variety of events include guided discussions, workshops, and demonstrations. Sexy Spring is organized by the Sexy Spring Collective, a local consensus-based collective of volunteers dedicated to improving access to sexuality education and helping all people, regardless of income, gender, body type or race create connections and intimacy in their daily lives.

Sexy Spring will take place June 13-15, 2008 at Ford Hall (224 Church Street Southeast), which is located on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Campus.

For more information, including full workshop schedules, see the web site http://www.sexyspring.org/ or contact the Sexy Spring Collective by email [ info@sexyspring.org ] or by telephone [ 612-435-5490 ].