Kwantlen expo delves into sexuality

A sexy exhibition took place Oct. 27 at the Surrey Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) campus. The 2015 Sexuality Education Explores Positivity and Openness (SEXPO) Conference was a student-led event that provided a safe place for discussions about sexual identity, gender, healthy relationships and consent.

The educational discussions were made possible by the sharing of experiences by panel speakers and members of the audience.

The SEXPO featured some of KPU’s LGBTQ student as speakers.

Tim*, a current KPU psychology student, spoke about his experience with conversion camps, his struggle with his sexuality and with being ostracized by his strict religious family after coming out as gay.

There were also two transgender student speakers. One referred to himself as R and the other as Mason. R spoke of what it is like being a transgender person of colour and his struggles living with a homophobic parent. Mason spoke of his journey to figuring out his gender identity, which started at a young age. He also spoke about etiquette when talking to a transgender or transsexual person.

These student hope that their stories reach individuals to let them know that there is a community of people who not only share their struggles but who are also a source of support and resources.

“I want to change hearts. I want to educate people because I don’t want anyone to go through [my] experience — it isn’t fair but it’s something that some of the LGBTQ community goes through,” Tim said.

Amy, an SFU graduate student, did a presentation on sex-positive feminism.

“I think it’s really valuable to start having conversations where we’re having opportunities to change the way sex and sexuality is being taught, is being presented in the mainstream society,” Amy said.

SEXPO also featured guest speakers from local communities as part of the panel. These speakers included KPU’s Cory Pederson, a psychology and human sexuality professor; Ranbir Johal, an instructor of language and culture; and Velvet Steele, a sexual health educator and activist. Speakers answered questions about the education and experience that they each specialize in. The speakers addressed sexual consent and healthy and unhealthy relationships, which are topics that are often overlooked in sex education in the school system.

Many parents pull the students from sex education classes because they fear that it will teach their children to be sexual.

“I believe when you go through the sex education process, you’re not learning about sex acts, that’s not what it’s there for. You’re there to learn about human physiology and anatomy and as to what’s going on [with your body],” said Steele.

Another factor behind poor sexual education is having religiously biased educators, Steele said. “I fully and 100 per cent believe that people who are going to be teaching sex education need to get it out of their heads that there is no room for religion and cultural ethics. You are there teaching each and every person in that classroom about their bodies.”

Some local organizations, such as the All Nations Youth Safe House and Kwantlen Pride Collective, also joined in on the exhibition to raise awareness of resources. The 2015 SEXPO event was organized by KPU’s Peer Support Program, with Jennifer Lingbaoan and Alisha Chauhan as the coordinators and Karla Buchholz as the peer support volunteer and lead organizer.

* Last names are being withheld at the students’ requests.

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