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CatalystCon holds first-ever Midwest conference
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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The sexuality-focused event known as CatalystCon took place at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, Illinois, April 1-3. This was the first time the conference has visited the Midwest since it began in 2012.

CatalystCon is, according to its website, "a conference created to inspire exceptional conversations about sexuality. It's about reaching out and stimulating those who attend to create those important conversations in their own communities, changing how we as a society talk and treat sexuality. It's about stimulating the activist that is within all of us and sparking transformation in the way our friends, neighbors, children and even politicians discuss one of the most important aspects of humanity."

Sexuality activist Dee Dennis founded the conference hoping that more people would embrace a healthy, fun, safe and shame-free sex life. Dennis explained that she was excited to bring the conference to the Chicagoland area this year.

Sex educators, sexologists, sex workers, writers and activists were among the many conference presenters. Forty plus workshops were offered, including one focused on HIV/AIDS—Getting PrEPared and two focused on the LGBT community—Yes All Genders: How to Normalize and Include Trans Bodies and Pleasure in Adult Sex Ed and Queer and Trans Sexual Health.

Andy Duran ( Good Vibrations educational outreach and affiliate manager ), Bryanna Jenkins ( Baltimore Transgender Alliance executive director ) and Jackie Rednour-Bruckman ( Good Vibrations executive vice-president ) were the featured speakers at the Queer and Trans Sexual Health workshop.

Jenkins, who identifies as a heterosexual Black trans woman, noted that she founded the Baltimore Transgender Alliance because she saw a need for this type of organization in her city. She explained she will be stepping down as executive director because she'll be moving to Chicago this summer to attend law school.

As for what she hoped people will get out of the workshop, Jenkins said "especially for transgender and gender non-conforming people, that they feel comfortable with their bodies and with their gender and sexuality."

Duran, who identifies as genderqueer, has worked at Good Vibrations for 11 years. He said, "it's important to talk about the sexuality aspect of transgender identities because it's an area that's often neglected when talking about transgender people."

Rednour-Bruckman, who identifies as genderqueer and as a trans butch dyke, has done this work for many years. She's produced sex education how to guides, porn and performs under the name Jackie Strano. Rednour-Bruckman noted that her kids call her momma and her wife calls her daddy. She explained that her intention with this workshop was to "advocate for compassionate healthcare access" on all fronts.

The panelists all agreed that the top four unsafe areas for transgender and gender non-conforming people are bathrooms, the medical environment, prisons and relationships.

Duran explained that he's not on hormones, hasn't had any surgeries and hasn't done anything to transition from being born a woman. He noted that he has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome ( PCOS ), which means his body doesn't produce the requisite amount of female hormones so as a result he got facial hair, his voice deepened and he developed other male traits. Duran said that at first his current partner didn't know he was transgender so he had to disclose this for the first time within a relationship.

Rednour-Bruckman explained that it was important to have her breasts removed because that's where she experienced her gender dysphoria. She noted that before the surgery she would always have her top covered and now that's not an issue.

"We call them my $10,000 nipples. … I do have sensation there and this is a new thing for me. … Pleasure is your birthright," said Rednour-Bruckman.

Rednour-Bruckman noted that before she found her current doctor, her doctor visits weren't positive experiences. Due to the negative experience she had with medical people in the past, it made her think about how transgender and gender non-conforming people without access or privilege get the treatment they need.

"Real women get prostate exams," said Jenkins. "With trans rights at the forefront things are going to change and get better. As these rights and privileges begin to emerge we're all going to age and what is that going to look like … The hardest part is getting the community on board. To remove the internalized transphobia that makes us not want to associate with our transness or queerness because we have so much invested in assimilating and that can kill us as we age … We have to remove the stigma we create for ourselves because I believe medical professionals have no choice but to follow our lead … We have to unlearn the binary that's a part of our culture."

Duran said medical professionals need to hear transgender and queer people's stories and what makes their bodies unique. He noted he's encountered doctors who go overboard in showing they are allies when all he wants from them is a prescription.

Jenkins said doctors need to create an inclusive environment and be open and guided by their LGBTQ patients.

Rednour-Bruckman explained that Good Vibrations is partnering with local colleges and medical professionals in the Bay Area to provide training around these issues. She said the key things medical professionals can do when they see any patient are: listen to the patient and ask a first disarming question in a nice, compassionate way to put the patient at ease.

"It's time to join together and use our intersections to create and shape the type of world we want to live in," said Jenkins.

"If I have to report a doctor, it's too late," said Duran.

A Q&A session followed the presentation.

See and for more information .

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