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Sense Project 2016-2017: A Visioning Year!

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Dear Sense Project community,

As you may have noticed, Sense has remained quiet this September, a time that is usually effervescent for us. Don’t be worried, the project is still well and alive. That being said, this year is particular, and will usher in some changes to our program. As such, we’re focusing this year on evaluating the project and visioning for the future of the Sense Project.

In the decade since the elimination of sexual education as a formal part of the mandatory curriculum by the Quebec government in 2005, the Sense Project has been on the ground, running a successful sex education program.  The program solidified its expertise and influence, and youth interest in volunteering to animate workshops increased along with demand from schools, which grew each year. Coordinating and updating the project has become an increasingly complicated task. This year, we want to take stock of where we have come since the project’s creation, and be deliberate about the impact we want to create in the years to come.

On top of that, Quebec government announced the reintegration of mandatory sexual education in the province’s schools in 2017, with a pilot project starting this year.

The Sense Project needs a visioning year so we can reflect on how we can make the important work we do sustainable and intentional, in addition to reframe it in Quebec’s schools upcoming context. During this year of evaluation, minimal services will still be provided to some schools. However, our focus is on rethinking the format and the goals of the project. This is why we chose not to train new volunteers this year.

We appreciate any support and feedback from our community in order to make the visioning process as rich and reflective  as possible. If you have any comments or concerns you would like to share, please get in touch with me via email, phone or in person a the Head & Hands office.

More than anything, we are incredibly grateful for all the interest, work, and love that have been put in the Sense Project by schools, students, Sensies, community partners, and Head & Hands staff.

We are eager to start renewed and stronger than ever in fall 2017!

Charlie, Health Educator and Coordinator of the Sense Visioning and the Head & Hands team

Our new health educator

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As sad as we are to say goodbye to Gabrielle after six years at Head & Hands, we are also so pleased to welcome Charlie as our new Health Educator! Charlie is joining our team to lead our visioning process of the Sense Project.

Karaoke star queer weirdo raised by virgo lesbian moms in Montreal’s East side, Charlie completed an internship at the Center for Gender Advocacy last year. With a background in social work, he’s very excited to share his knowledge of sexual health, help us create social change, and lead the next chapter of strong, fierce sex-positivity at Head & Hands.

Ask him anything, especially about Céline Dion or gonorrhea; despite being only 24, he’s a huge Celine dork, and he thinks that everyone should get the chance to learn all there is to know about gonorrhea!

Want to be a Sense Project Volunteer for the 2015-16 school year?

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We are currently seeking new volunteers for the 2015-16 school year!

Interested in facilitating sex ed workshops with youth in high schools? Getting involved with the Sense Project at Head & Hands is a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and support the well-being of youths in Montreal. Be a part of the magic of the Sense Project as we embark on new changes and visioning in this 10th year of sex ed!

About Head & Hands

Head & Hands is a community organization in NDG that services youth aged 12-25 across the city of Montreal. Since 1970, Head & Hands has been committed to the overall health and well-being of youth, providing holistic services and programs. Our approach is harm/risk reductive, holistic and non-judgemental which is especially important for one of our most important programs: The Sense Project.

About The Sense Project

The Sense Project is Head & Hands’ by youth for youth sexual education program. In 2005, sex ed was phased out of the public high school curriculum resulting in a huge gap in youth’s health education. Over the past decade, the Sense Project has been filling that gap with comprehensive, holistic and inclusive sex ed that centers youth and their needs. Our workshops create space for youth to learn about and discuss topics such as anatomies, genders, STIs, consent culture and more. Head & Hands firmly believes that youth have the right to accurate and accessible information in order to make empowered decisions about their health and lives.

Sense Volunteers a.k.a. “Sensies” are the face of the Sense Project. As a Sensie, your role is to contribute to the program by facilitating sex ed workshops and/or supporting the development of the Sense Project. It is especially important to embody the principles of Head & Hands and our approach which means meeting youth where they’re at. Sensies will have the opportunity to participate in an extensive training in which you’ll learn more about sex, Head & Hands’ approach, allyship and how to facilitate workshops for youth. The goal is to help equip you with the tools and resources to be able to do your own reflective learning and then share with your peers.

Interested? Here are the requirements:

  • New applicants must be aged 25 and under.
  • Volunteers should be committed to Head & Hands’ principles of anti-oppression, risk reduction, and non-judgment.
  • Volunteers should have some availability on weekdays during the day. Throughout the school year, your amount of volunteering is highly dependent on your availabilities and the workshop requests made by schools and organizations.
  • Bilingualism is not mandatory, but it’s an asset! The training will be bilingual (ENG-FR).
  • It’s also an asset if you have previous animation experience or experience working with youth.
  • It is mandatory to attend the full volunteer training (dates listed below).
  • Animators must commit for an entire school year and in taking part in any additional trainings for the Sense Project.

Training dates

If you meet these criteria, please complete a volunteer form and send it to Gabrielle at healthed@headandhands.ca. The deadline to apply is Monday, August 24th at 10 AMWe’ll then book a short screening interview with prospective volunteers.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Shanice at (514) 481-0277!

Volunteer Form Sense Project 2015-16

Volunteer Opportunity: Sense Project Animator!

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Want to be a Sense Project Animator?

We are currently seeking new volunteer animators for the 2014-15 school year!
Interested in facilitating sex ed workshops with youth in high schools? Getting involved with the Sense Project at Head & Hands is a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and support the well-being of youths in Montreal.

Some need-to-know info about applying to be a Sense Project animator:
• New applicants must be aged 25 and under.
• Animators should be committed to Head & Hands’ principles of anti-oppression, risk reduction, and non-judgment.
• Animators should have some availability on weekdays during the day. Throughout the school year, your amount of volunteering is highly dependent on your availabilities, and the workshop requests made by schools and organizations.
• Bilingualism is not mandatory, but it’s an asset! The training will be bilingual (ENG-FR).
• It is also an asset if you have previous animation experience or experience working with youth, but it’s not a requirement.
• It is mandatory to attend the full animator training (dates listed below).
• Animators must commit for an entire school year, and in taking part in the monthly trainings for the Sense Project (2 hours per month).

2014 Animator Training Dates

Tuesday Sept. 9th 6-9pmThursday Sept. 11th 6-9pmSaturday Sept. 13th 11-4pm
Tuesday Sept. 16th 6-9pmThursday Sept. 18th 6-9pmSaturday Sept. 20th 11-4pm
Tuesday Sept. 23rd 6-9pmThursday Sept. 25th 6-9pmSaturday Oct. 4th 11-4pm

If you meet these criteria and are interested, please fill out the Volunteer Form Sense Project 2014 and send it to Gabrielle at healthed@headandhands.ca.

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 12th at noon. We’ll then book a short screening interview with prospective volunteers only. If you have any questions, feel free to call Gabrielle at (514) 481-0277 or email at healthed@headandhands.ca!

Ask Anything: Family Discussions

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Merci à Estelle, une de nos stagiaires en sexologie, pour cette réponse!

(Notez que nous répondons aux questions anonymes dans la langue où elles sont posées; en français ou en anglais.)

Q: Est-ce qu’on doit parler de sexualité avec nos parents? 

Ouh… dure question! Je ne crois pas qu’il y est une réponse absolue étant donné que nous avons tou-te-s des vécus différents et que nos vies familiales sont uniques. Ceci étant dit, voici quelques idées qui peuvent t’être utiles dans la discussion ou ta prise de décision. C’est peut-être important pour toi de parler de sexe avec tes parents, et c’est bien de vouloir le faire. Peu importe où tu te situes au plan sexuel, si tu es déjà actif-ve sexuellement ou non, ça peut toujours être intéressant de parler de sexualité avec tes parents… lorsqu’on est à l’aise de le faire, et qu’on sent que notre/nos parent-s y est ou y sont aussi ouvert-e-s.

Les sujets peuvent être amenés tout autant par toi que par tes parents. Parfois, ils/elles ne savent pas sur quel pied danser par rapport aux questions de sexualité, et attendent de voir ce que leurs enfants leur diront. Tu peux te demander aussi à quel-s parent-s tu devrais en parler. Vas-y avec le parent avec lequel tu te sens le plus à l’aise, ou en confiance. Voici quelques idées qui peuvent t’aider à commencer une conversation avec tes parents :

  • Choisi un lieu où tu te sens confortable et/ou vous avez moins de chance de vous faire dérangé : la voiture seul à seul avec un parent, ta chambre le soir, etc.
  • Le « bon » moment est dur à calculer. Il est quand même bien de prendre en considération lorsque tu te sens bien, et que tu vois que ton/tes parent-s est ou sont à l’écoute.
  • À chaque fois que tu as une question – pose là. Un exemple? Tu entends un nouveau mot comme hymen et tu aimerais savoir, c’est quoi. Tu demandes à ton/tes parent-s qu’est-ce que c’est. Comme ça, les questions qui te semblent plus dures à demander seront plus faciles à poser.
  • Tu n’as pas besoin de tout dire non plus… si tu veux garder des choses pour toi c’est bien, ton intimité t’appartient.
  • Il est possible que ton/tes parent-s n’aura ou n’auront pas toutes les réponses à tes questions, mais tu peux lui/leur demander de t’aider à trouver d’autres ressources si tu as besoin.
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Class Photo 2013-14 Sensies

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Capture d’écran 2013-10-16 à 21.19.07

Class photo, 2013-014 animators / Photo de classe, animateur-trice-s de l’année 2013-2014

This year we are so excited to have 19 new and returning Sense animators! After 33 hours of training in september, these peer educators will be spending the academic year pairing up and going into high schools across Montreal to give holistic, non-judgemental, and youth-centred workshops on sexuality and safer sex.

This was Health Educator Gabrielle’s second year leading the training and it was her co-coordinator Shanice’s first time! Embracing the spirit of continuous learning and change, they took this opportunity to revisit the training manual and workshop offerings yet again, with great results.

Animators this year also delved deep into the Head & Hands approach. Many external facilitators were brought in to contribute different perspectives to training discussions and reflections on sexuality. Some things never change, though: as always, one favorite part of training was the food! Delicious eats were contributed by a number of Montreal locals, including Notre-Dame-des-Quilles, Lola Rosa, Propulsion Cantina Burritoville, Nouveau Palais, The People’s Potato. THANKS!

As always, we invite YOUR school or community group to get in touch about booking workshops! We can do them in English or in French, and can provide harm reductive, non-judgemental drug education workshops in addition to our sex ed offerings. If we don’t already have a workshop or presentation that fits the bill, we can often create one that meets your health or sexuality needs! Just email Gabrielle at healthed@headandhands.ca.

 

** Traduction à venir bientôt

Ask Anything: Seal

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How to break seal of a girl??

This is a question that we often get in classroom workshops, and it’s great that we got this as a web question because there are a lot of myths circulating about this topic.

I’m assuming that by “seal,” you’re referring to the hymen, which is a membrane surrounding the vaginal opening. This membrane tends to wear out as one gets older, through day-to-day activities like walking, playing sports, horseback riding, or masturbation, all of which can reduce the size or consistency of the hymen. To make sure that you have a good visual, in a vast majority of cases, hymens are not like a glass window that has to be broken, but more like a donut or a large spider web.

So, by the time somebody with a vagina decides to have (vaginal) penetrative sex for the first time there are often already openings in their hymen. We often attribute the bleeding during first vaginal penetration to the “breakage” of the hymen, and that’s often what we mean when we say someone has “lost their virginity”. However, the hymen is not the seal of virginity. More often than not, the cause of bleeding during the first penetration(s) is less the hymen itself and more other factors like stress and/or not knowing yet what works for your body. This combination will probably make your body tense and your vagina less lubricated, which can make penetration harder or more painful, and could cause some bleeding. Some ways to counter this would be by letting yourself take your time and figure out what feels right for you, communicating openly with your partner(s) about the process, and having plenty of lube on hand to use…and even after your first few times, lube can be one of your best partners whenever you’re having sex. You can always get safer sex supplies, including lube, for free at Head & Hands!

Ask Anything: Unprotected oral sex – HIV contraction?

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I was getting oral sex from a sex worker. I am really worry about HIV contraction. Please let me know regarding this issue.

I’ll do my best to answer your question, but I’m missing some details that would let me give you a truly accurate response on the risk level for your situation.

Assuming you’re stressed because you didn’t use a barrier (condom or dental dam) when getting oral sex, I can tell you that the HIV transmission rate during unprotected oral sex is not high. There is a risk of contraction for you, but it’s low. Regarding unprotected oral sex, I would be more concerned with the Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, or Herpes contraction, because the transmission of these STIs can be from a skin-to-skin contact.

The best way to lower your anxiety would be to get tested for these STIs.  Something to have in mind before getting tested is that STIs have what’s called a window period. A window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is contagious, but is not yet detectable by a test. For example, Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months.

This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait at less 3 months after the sexual incounter that is worrying you to get an accurate test result. In most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months, but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well.

You can always get tested for HIV (and other STIs) at the Head & Hands medical clinic on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In the meantime, I would recommend that you use condoms and/or dental dams to make sure that you and your partners are protected.

Ask Anything: Squirt Versus Urine

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When I masturbate with a showerhead, I squirt. Is that urine or real squirting? It’s never yellow.

Masturbation with a showerhead is a great thing, but in the case of your question it complicates my answer! I’m assuming that you’re masturbating with the water spray, which means there’s a lot of water involved, all around your body and possibly inside your vagina. This makes it harder to distinguish the color, consistency, and quantity of liquid that comes out of your body when you masturbate.

 What I can say is that typically people don’t (involuntarily) pee when they’re having sex alone or with somebody else. Here are some things to consider in your personal investigation of the ejaculate-versus-urine question: Often, before squirting you can feel a tingling sensation similar to what you feel when you’re about to pee…but you won’t pee. If you keep going beyond that tingling sensation and ejaculate, try to find a way to look at the liquid that comes out. That’s where the shower context makes it hard investigate. In any case, the ejaculate liquid shouldn’t smell like pee; it’s more likely to be fragrance free or to smell like your vaginal fluid when you’re aroused. As for consistency, it’s closer to water and vaginal fluid than male ejaculate; it’s more liquid. Finally, the color should be on the scale of clear to white rather than yellow like urine. Good luck with your investigation!

Ask Anything: When to get tested?

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Do you have to get tested after every time you have sex? If not, how often?

I wouldn’t recommend getting tested after every time you have sex. First off, for some people or at certain times in a person’s life, this would mean getting tested many times a week…which could be time consuming! Secondly, and most importantly, there is a technical aspect related to getting accurate test results.

A lot of STIs have what’s called a “window period”. This relates to the amount of time between the transmission of the STI (when someone is infected) and when a medical test would be able to detect the STI. To state it simply, the window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is totally contagious, but is still undetectable by a test.  For example, Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months. This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait 3 to 6 months to get accurate test results (in most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well).

So in general, when you are sexually active, you should get tested for STIs every 6 months even if you use protection – that way, you cover all the window periods of the different tests. People sometimes choose to get tested every year, or even less often, if they have one partner and they’ve agreed on a monogamous relationship.

You can also download are bilingual STIgma Zine to get more information on different STIs, safer sex and communication with partners about these things!