ACSEXE+: Talking disability and sexuality in Montreal

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard. They are involved with the ACSEXE+ project, an initiative based in Montreal that works to create opportunities for disabled people to talk, share, and learn about sexuality and the wide spectrum of issues with which it intersects.

It's a still-tempting oversimplification that has long been dispelled to regard the landscape for communicating about sexuality as a blanket of uniform silence that can only be resisted by speaking. Sexuality of a certain narrow sort is, after all, everywhere in our media, and it's quite common for people to have to navigate many different kinds of social situations that are not themselves sexual encounters but in which, in what we say about ourselves and in how we act, there is a social compulsion to talk sexuality or signal sexuality. So there is no uniform blanket of silence and repression. Yet in its mix of what is compelled, what is permitted, and what is erased or forbidden or silenced, this landscape is highly uneven and complex.

There is a dizzying array of different ways that it works for differently situated people, but one important group for whom mandatory silence and sexual erasure is, in fact, very strong in mainstream contexts is disabled people. The potential of many disabled people to have and to want sexual lives as vibrant and varied as everyone else is, by and large, erased and denied in mainstream contexts -- many disabled people are read as inherently not-sexual, and are given no space, in conversation or in practice, to be otherwise. And though it varies considerably and is in the process of changing, many spaces organized around disabled identities and/or politics, particularly the more mainstream among such spaces, are largely silent about sexuality too.

Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard want to change this. Louw is a writer and media-maker, and an experienced activist on multiple issues, including around questions of disability and accessibility. Lessard is a doula, a long-time sexuality educator, and an activist around reproductive and sexual rights. Both are currently working for the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances, a small but well-established organization in Montreal, on the ACSEXE+ project. It is an initiative committed to a feminist, queer-positive, and sex-positive approach, and it has involved public events, a regularly updated blog and social media presence, the production of a number of videos, and more.

To learn more about the ACSEXE+ project, and about disability and sexuality, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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