As part of campus-wide events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the LGBTQ Resource Center got frank about the subject with its “Let’s Talk about Sex” event on Friday.
The event showcased sexual violence prevention and overall sex education as tables lined Cornell Mall, offering information from on and off-campus resources such as QSA, Planned Parenthood, N’MPower and others.
LGBTQ Resource Center Education Coordinator Frankie Flores has been a part of the center and has planned the event for six years. “Let’s Talk about Sex” usually focuses on STIs, as April is also STI Awareness Month, but this year the emphasis was tailored toward sexual assault prevention/awareness instead.
The event was an opportunity for anyone affected by sexual violence to access community resources, as well as a forum of open discussion for anyone who wanted to know more about sex in general, Flores said.
“One of the things we found was that people don’t know where these places are,” Flores said. “It’s a chance for us to really have a conversation in a less abrasive way.”
Attendees of the LGBTQ Resource Center’s sex talk event look at pamphlets on Friday, April 7, 2017 outside of the UNM SUB.
On hand was pizza and popsicles, music and balloons, as Flores called the event one of the “less triggering” events on campus this month.
“We want people to know that we don’t have to talk about being sexually assaulted, we don’t have to talk about sexual violence or STIs in this hush-hush, dark place,” he said. “These are conversations we should be having out in the open.”
The LGBTQ Resource Center wants to be seen, and usually hosts many events in locations where that can be made possible.
“For so long, we’ve had to hide in the closets and in the shadows. This is just another opportunity to say that we can have these conversations out loud,” he said.
N’MPower coordinator Josh Garcia said his group discusses safe sex and promotes programs for gay, bisexual and transgender men with an emphasis on HIV and STI prevention.
Garcia said the tabling event was designed to facilitate an open dialogue to promote and discuss safe sex and let the UNM community know about local resources and show victims of rape or those exposed to HIV where they can go.
As a part of the LGBTQ community, Garcia said he experienced the feeling of being alone while in college, but said there are resources available. He added that it is important that UNM continues to have conversations about risks and options when it comes to sex education.
Ashley Mayle, finance chair for the Queer Student Alliance, a club that promotes equal opportunities for LGBTQ people on campus, said sexual assault and resources need to be discussed, especially for transgender people, who are more likely to be assaulted.
“I just want people to learn the resources that are available to them if they are in a vulnerable state,” Mayle said.
Flores hopes people who attend the event walk away without the fear of reporting or having questions about sexual violence.
He also wants the community to approach these conversations without preconceptions on race, gender and class. Flores wants to spread awareness that survivors are believed and their stories are valid.
When it comes to the , Flores said, though “horrifying,” the number of reported sexual assaults is hugely underreported, especially by the LGBTQ community.
It is also important to think about human intersectionality, he said.
“If you have a trans, undocumented woman, who can she feel safe reporting to?” Fores said. “If you can’t tell your parents that you’re gay, how are you going to tell them you’ve been sexually assaulted?”
For Flores, decreasing sexual violence in the UNM community begins with starting to discuss what sexual violence is, defining consent and de-stigmatizing communities.
One of the ways this is being accomplished is through the new, mandatory , which shows a “dedication” to educating one another about sexual violence, Flores said, stating he wishes the trainings were offered for even younger individuals too.
Some stigmatize LGBTQ people as focused only on sex, he said.
“We are a culture. We have language. We have history. We have stories. We have traditions. We have all of these things, but we’re relegated to this one part of our identity,” Flores said. “As we have these conversations more out in the open, we can start talking about sexual violence in a really holistic manner.”
People need to be more educated about sexual assault and rape culture, he said, adding that if these things are not taught early on, and if people are not educated about those things, “it just snowballs.”
Events like these help those who have already opened up about their experiences, but they are also for survivors who are afraid to speak up, Flores said.
“The more voices we have, the louder we will be heard,” he said.
Elizabeth Sanchez is a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.