Dealing With Triggers: A Webinar for Survivors

photo of waves in a body of water with white outlined text "dealing with triggers" and then black text in a teal text box "a webinar for survivors with the Icaris Project"

I’m so excited for this webinar coming up this Sunday, the 14th.

In this trauma-informed space, we will gather to explore ways to deal with triggers – events that bring up old trauma, take us out of current time, knock us off center, activate our stress responses, and make life really heard.

Using a combination of somatic exercises, journalling, and discussion, we will examine ways to return home to our bodies and re-connect with our centered selves. We will look at triggers both in the context of long-term healing and short-term management strategies. Participants will leave with a sense of possible paths forward, and concrete tools they can use.

This webinar will have live captions and Spanish interpretation. If you cannot join this webinar live, you may still RSVP to get access to the recording afterwards.

The webinar goes live at 7 PM ET / 6 PM CT / 5 PM MT / 4 PM PT. There are currently tickets ranging from $5-50 for this webinar, so it’s cost friendly.

Click here to register.

Photo is courtesy of The Icarus Project, a support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness.

Yes/No/Maybe: Setting Sexual Boundaries

photo of two people who appear to be POC - one femme and one masc - wearing dark shirts and holding a lit sparkler together in front of a lake; under photo with some overlap at bottom of photo is a reddish ragged text box with white cursive-like script "Yes/No/Maybe" - under this is a yellow text box with reddish text "SETTING SEXUAL BOUNDARIES" and "Chronic Sex"

One of the best facilitators for communication around sexual acts is a yes/no/maybe list. Essentially, this lays out a number of sexual acts as well as language around anatomy. You rank them and can discuss more with your partner.

There are so many versions of this list out there, and they all vary around different things. Some are kink-based while others are centered around polyamory, risk-aware sex practices, or other things. There are lists that give you ideas to rate and others that are blank. There is certainly value in both, depending on what you’re into.

Here are some of my favorite yes/no/maybe lists.

Bex over at Bex Talks Sex has one of my favorite lists. Like me, Bex organizes things with differences in color and text. They’ve got lists for sexual acts, kinky acts, language, and a really comprehensive list of things you can build your list from. There are more nuances in Bex’s categories, too – it’s not just a yes/no/maybe list. It’s a yes-into/yes-willing/maybe/soft-no/hard-no list. I think that fits real life a lot better. A person after my own heart, Bex has a downloadable PDF as well as an excel sheet.

That said, just because I nerd out over Bex’s list doesn’t mean it’s the right list for everyone.

Autostraddle has a great worksheet that also touches upon what lube ingredients you can/can’t/won’t use and a Venn diagram of sexy activities partners have in common.

Scarleteen’s list includes words and activities that can be triggering, relationship models, risk-aware sex practices, and even birth control. It’s a really great list, and I love just about everything on their site.

Poly Notes on Tumblr has a list that focuses on what activities are okay for people to do in non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships. They even suggest having a list that is for a couple to do together and a separate one for how comfortable they are with those actions involving other people.

Sunny Megatron also has a great list that showcases different activities. It is just a list of activities though, and you would need to create your own worksheet (or use another one listed here).

Each of these lists has great information and there are things on most of them that are unique.

Something to keep in mind is that these things change. Lists don’t have to be set in stone. It’s fine to alter them and even revisit them from time to time. I went through and used Bex’s template for mine and I feel like I have a better understanding of what my maybes and nos are specifically. I added a tab for activities with people other than my partner, triggers, and body/emotional boundaries.

That’s one thing I love about these lists – it’s incredibly easy to add or subtract things based on your lifestyle.

How Do You Deal With Desensitization?

white paper background with a black figure of a person in bed with a question mark over their head (upper left) and black text: "Answer time!" then teal squiggle then "How Do You Deal With Desensitization?" then teal squiggle then "Chronic Sex"

I received the following anonymous question recently:

How do you deal with desensitization? Ever since my injury in my sacrum area, my nether regions still get aroused. However, it’s much harder to get off. I have tried deep breathing, toys, fantasy, and I haven’t been able to just be in my body without relying on it and really miss just enjoying myself without a fix. Sometimes it feels like the nerves are just not as sensitive anymore.

Desensitization sucks. Seriously.

That’s so frustrating! I have some nerve issues and know what that can be like. One of the best toys I’ve found is the Doxy Massager. It’s a plug-in magic wand that has very high vibrations. A lot of people find it easier to orgasm or have fun with this toy. I wrote a review back in November. It can take a little while to get more sensitive if you’re starting to re-engage those nerves, so it’s not a bad idea to set almost like a workout schedule if that makes sense? Something like the Doxy or another wand massager would be really good for that.

Another option would be to see if you can go to physical therapy for your pelvic floor muscles. This helps to evaluate the muscles and nerves that help control your genitals. It can feel a little invasive, especially as they do have to do some hands-on work. You could also try doing some pelvic floor exercises on your own, but I highly recommend going in if you’re able to and insurance covers it. I’ve written about my experience as well as some tips and tricks if that’s helpful. Sex therapists can be very helpful with some of this stuff, too.

Sometimes medication can affect how we orgasm or feel things, too, so it might be worth looking at your medications to see what helps. One thing that I’ve noticed for me is that I like some things I didn’t use to before some of my nerves got shot. Receiving oral sex, for instance, is something I’ve only begun to like in the last few years. It may be worth playing with things that way to see what feels different now.

I will admit that my nerve issues aren’t too severe. My friend Rachael who runs Hedonish has dealt with it a lot more and may be able to suggest some other things, too.

Edited to add: JoEllen Notte also recommends the Doxy and things like erotic stimulation (e-stim) and fire play – not necessarily right on the genitals, but as a way to feel sensations in that area. Sensation play like this can be very effective in helping with desensitization issues.

Want to ask an anonymous question? Head over to the Ask Page! You can fill out a contact form to ask me a question, and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.

ClexaCon Fundraiser: Disability Representation Panel

Clexacon logo (rainbow infinity symbol on its side with '2018' at the most righthand side) with ClexaCon written in rainbow below against a black background

If you haven’t already heard, I’ll be heading to ClexaCon this April! I’m incredibly excited as I’ll be on two panels. One is about sex ed for queer peeps called Let’s Get Cliterate! The other panel is about disability representation in queer media.

For the latter one, we’ve set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for those of us traveling to Vegas for the conference.

This panel is so needed. The fundraiser will go to cover travel and lodging during the conference for our panel peeps. One of our panel peeps has, unfortunately, had to drop out due to health, and we’re hoping to have some surprises from them at our panel at least.

Please consider donating. I’m driving and staying at an Airbnb to save on costs. Still, with having to get a new car sans planning, having any money to cover our travel and lodging would be very much appreciated. And that’s just me! There are others attending that could use the help as well.

Please consider sharing even if you’re unable to donate.

The Revolution Must Be Accessible, Part 1: Image Descriptions

This piece started as a Twitter thread on Dec 3, 2017 — International Persons with Disability Day — and first went up on our Medium page. Heads up for a gif in the next page scroll down and a food picture later on.

When I was six, I struggled with iritis. It’s a type of uveitis affecting your iris. Like any other kind of uveitis, it can lead to vision problems and even loss. Having had several flare-ups of this over the years, I’m always nervous when it comes to my annual ophthalmology visit. I face other issues with my vision, too, making those annual checks even more concerning and anxiety-inducing.

All it takes is my juvenile arthritis or other conditions attacking my eyes to put me in danger again.

Because of that, I’ve become a bit of a stickler for adding in image descriptions.

Why is this important?

Look, screen readers can’t ‘read’ the photos of your cats you put up on Facebook or Twitter. That means that any cuteness you want to share gets missed by people with health issues affecting their vision.

When you leave out image descriptions, you become inaccessible. You say, knowingly or not, that your convenience or haste is more important than fully sharing something with another person.

There’s a lot more I could say, but the important thing is this: We have to start adding in descriptions to your photos and gifs to be fully accessible, regardless of your cause or photos.

Accessibility starts with those who care enough to participate in it.

Social Media

As much as we all seem to have a love-hate relationship with Twitter, they do a little better on accessibility around photos than other social media outlets. There is an option on Twitter to add in descriptions under settings > general > accessibility.

Turn this on! Make sure to actually utilize it. There’s no use in having that turned on if you’re not going to use it.

I use gifs a lot and wasn’t sure how to be accessible for a while. The new 280-character tweets, though, make this easier! I add a description at the end of the tweet or in the next tweet (connecting them as a reply/thread).

Here’s an example of one way to describe a gif:

(Gif: Wayne Brady in a long sleeve grey shirt dances against a colorful background, captioned “Yaaay!!”) 

With famous figures, most people tend to know who you’re talking about. You could add in that he’s black or that this gif is from Whose Line Is It Anyway? if you want. There’s really no wrong way to do these things.

On Twitter, once you’re doing more replies, you can’t add a description attached to a photo. That pisses me off. There’s still a way to be accessible, though!

In Twitter replies, just like on gifs, try adding in the description at the end of your tweet or in a subsequent tweet. In Twitter replies, on Facebook, and elsewhere, it’s helpful to insert an image description for full accessibility at the bottom of your writing in those square brackets, like so:

picture of Kirsten (white, nonbinary, short dark hair) wearing headphones in front of a mic smiling
[picture of Kirsten (white, nonbinary, short dark hair) wearing headphones in front of a mic smiling]
For Facebook, the best way to add descriptions is in square brackets at the bottom of your post like this:

screenshot of a facebook post - "/food/  I feel way too excited about my gluten free cupcakes right now... especially because these turned out absolutely perfect despite getting fancy and adding peppermint.  [Photo of chocolate cupcakes in a silver cupcake pan on a stove with a purple-backed white caption: "when ya make gorgeous GF cupcakes"]"
screenshot of a Facebook post: “/food/ I feel way too excited about my gluten free cupcakes right now… especially because these turned out absolutely perfect despite getting fancy and adding peppermint. [Photo of chocolate cupcakes in a silver cupcake pan on a stove with a purple-backed white caption: “when ya make gorgeous GF cupcakes”]”

Sites

On places like Medium, consider adding the image descriptions as captions for the photo. They don’t allow you to put in descriptions outside of captions or additional text.

On blogs or other sites, you can either handle this through captions or you can utilize alt-text for this (which is what I tend to do here). This even raises your SEO score and can make your page more likely to show up higher in search results as well.

If you have WordPress, there are accessibility plugins to explore for maximum accessibility. There are even themes more suited to accessibility. Choosing these makes ensuring access easier for you and makes your site easier for people with a variety of accessibility needs.

What to Include

I often have people ask what to include in image descriptions. I used to try to add text that covered anything and everything from the photo in great detail. Sometimes, less is more, though.

The best answer is to focus on the subject of the image.

Use gender-neutral wording for people in pics (unless you know pronouns/gender). When adding in skin color or ethnicity, use ‘X appearing’ or ‘X passing’ unless you know that person’s ethnicity.

Here’s a good example:

Selfie of Kirsten (white non-binary person with a stereotypical queer haircut in a black sports bra) wearing aviators and making a duckface inside a Total Body Enhancement machine
[Selfie of Kirsten (white non-binary person with a stereotypical queer haircut in a black sports bra) wearing aviators and making a duckface inside a Total Body Enhancement machine]

And an animal-focused one:

Jaq — a brown and white guinea pig — in a tan carrier with red lining is getting petted and has looked up quickly (so he’s blurry) at the camera
[Jaq — a brown and white guinea pig — in a tan carrier with red lining is getting petted and has looked up quickly (so he’s blurry) at the camera]

And here’s a non-living thing one:

4 square gummies, 3 capsules, and 9 pills of varying colors spell out the word ‘fuck’ against a white countertop background
[4 square gummies, 3 capsules, and 9 pills of varying colors spell out the word ‘fuck’ against a white countertop background]

We can all do better

I tend to not add descriptions to photos I post on Instagram or Pinterest. Most people think of those as picture-focused mediums and don’t think of it. I also don’t do this on videos and I should, at least for background information. I am going to work on doing better in both of these areas, and I hope you join me.

If you’re ever sure whether or not something is accessible, just ask. If ever you feel the need to run stuff by someone, I’m always happy to help provide guidance or look for answers when I can.

Once you start, it’s easy to work in other social media avenues and become far more accessible. That way, everyone can join in on the fun — and the revolution.

Further reading