Reimagining the State of Adolescent Sexual Health Report
In 2021, Trailhead partnered with Tomei Kuehl, owner of Consulting Within Your Context who brings over 15 years of experience working to prevent violence, and Talia Cardin, an artist, activist, change maker and young person, to embark on reimagining Colorado’s State of Adolescent Sexual Health Report (SASH). In partnership with Trailhead, Tomei and Talia intentionally recruited a Youth Sexual Health Program Board comprised of young people and adults who represent a variety of identities made vulnerable by oppressive systems that have been historically excluded in conversations about youth sexual health. The purpose of this board is to identify the problems created by racist, sexist, ableist systems and develop recommendations and accompanying action steps to improve sexual health in Colorado for organizations and sectors that play a role within youth sexual health. These recommendations and accompanying actions steps developed by the Board are informing the latest iteration of the SASH report that is slated for release this fall.
Art as a Tool for Change
Under Talia’s leadership as the youth facilitator to the Board, the development of the anti-oppressive recommendations culminated in two youth art workshops co-created and facilitated by Talia and Isa Hussain, a youth member of the Board, after Board members collectively expressed a desire for a greater inclusion of youth voice alongside the recommendations and forthcoming SASH report. Collaborating with students at AUL Denver and Inside Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs, participants in the Pleasure Artshops used art to embody relationships to pleasure, sex, and their bodies putting forth new perspectives on the state of sexual health in Colorado.
At the heart of the Board’s anti-oppressive recommendations is a call to center youth voice in sexual health education. Grounding in this recommendation, it brings us immense joy to begin sharing how we at Trailhead and leaders in the sexual health field are reimaging what is possible of sexual health education in Colorado by first showcasing the powerful artworks and reflections that emerged from the Pleasure Artshops with AUL Denver and Inside Out Youth Services. Artworks from the workshop series and several artists statements providing context for the students’ creations are featured on our website through the button below.
In Their Own Words:
Youth Art Workshop Reflections & Lessons Learned from Talia Cardin, Co-Facilitator of the Pleasure Artshops
I am Talia Cardin (they/them). I am an artist, an activist, a young person, a change maker, and the youth facilitator for Trailhead and co-leader of this project. I create, envision, and love. I believe sex education is a vehicle for societal change, and an integral human right. Initially upon being hired by Trailhead I knew this report was an opportunity to privilege youth voices into decision making spaces, and had the power to alter how young people are able to engage with sex education. My participation and that of my peers in the creation of this report in itself models the reformation and ideal sexual health experience, where young people are regarded with dignity and respect, and have autonomy over our lives and education. Throughout this process, and all of my work, I promote an intentional centering of young people through equitable youth adult power dynamics. Throughout this process I have brought my lived experience as a young person to the table, but my voice alone is not representative of the nuanced experience my peers face in our daily lives, so I was constantly looking for more outlets to engage and center my peers.
Young people, are effected daily by the intertwining systems of oppression that inform and constrict sexual education, so it is only right that we should be able to influence and control what information we learn and the lenses through which we access that information. Currently adults in positions of power are able to decide on our behalf what potentially life altering education and information we will engage with, without consulting us. This rendition of the SASH flips this power dynamic on its head through intentionally centering young people’s lived experience through art and storytelling.
With Gratitude to the Youth Sexual Health Program Board
It has brought us incredible joy working with the Youth Sexual Health Program Board and we are grateful for the knowledge and lived experience that the Board has brought to this work. This incredibly smart group of people may be available for consultation and we encourage folx to reach out and connect with members of the Board directly. Please keep in mind that their time and expertise would need to be paid.
Featured on Colorado Public Radio
Read about the Pleasure Artshops and how AUL Denver is empowering peer sex educators to teach fellow students about healthy relationships and sexual health topics in Jenny Brundin’s article for Colorado Public Radio, “What’s the best way to teach high schoolers about sexual health? Teach their peers to become educators and turn their understanding into art.”
On the Horizon
In the coming months, we will be convening partners engaged in the field of youth sexual health education to share and discuss the anti-oppressive recommendations, Trailhead’s accountability to these recommendations, and opportunities for partners across sectors to join us in this work prior to the release of the 2022 SASH report. We will also share lessons learned while working with the Youth Sexual Health Program Board, explorations of how systems of oppression impact experiences with sexual health for people who hold identities made marginalized by systems of oppression, and the release of the 2022 SASH report here in our newsletter, as well as on LinkedIn and Twitter. We invite you to follow us here to stay engaged with this work.