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Silenced By Stigma Over Comprehensive Sex Education with Justine Ang Fonte

by Jay Shifman
August 27th 2021

Season 2, Episode 67

Silenced By Stigma Over Comprehensive Sex Education with Justine Ang Fonte

This week, Jay chats with Justine Ang Fonte. You may have heard of her. As she j... More

you are listening to to choose your struggle podcast. The member of the shameless podcast network. Welcome to choose your struggle podcast. I'm your host, jay Schiffman on this show. We interview people with lived and learned experiences and the topics of mental health, substance misuse and recovery and drug use and policy. But occasionally we talk about other subjects as well. Today's guest is consultant speaker and sex educator, Justine Enfant. But first kid mental let's go. Welcome to the choose your struggle podcast. It's so great to be back with you all. As always today's guest, I'm getting right into it because today's guest is I mean this was an incredible conversation, I tweeted this out earlier this week but when I was editing it like I felt my blood boiling just listening to everything that happened to her and and more than that listening to her experiences and how clearly it did not line up with the way that it was represented in the media.

Today's guest is Justin ang fonte some of you may know that name after she she trended on twitter over the summer early in the summer. She is a sex educator. Speaker consultant who resigned from from her school in in just after being publicly dragged the school did very little to support her. Um and and all of this was just for teaching her her subjects just for doing her job now, Justine this is her, her her bio, she says she is a proud Filipina consultant speaker on the inter sexuality intersectional sexuality topics uh including pornography, literacy, consent, gender and beauty standards. She has a masters from the University of Hawaii and also a masters from Colombia. Um She was known, she was she has been doing this work for for over a decade and you know, she nothing came, I mean there was no controversy, she did her job, she did she helped people, she she taught our kids things like consent.

And she loves to say private parts are private and that you should, you know, um be aware of your own be aware and also support of your own body. I mean, these are just such basic ideas. And because of this age we live in uh during the during the pandemic. She uh you know, there was a movement against her by a small but very vocal minority of parents. Um I think you can guess to which side of our political spectrum they lied on. And it got to the point where she was receiving death threats. Um and she she resigned. And and this story made the times before that it made the new york post multiple times. She says on this interview, by the way, and I really appreciated this. Don't read the new york post articles I did for my research. And I then kind of felt bad about it when she was talking about it on this this episode because it's not good journalism, it's trash and there's very little facts in there.

She didn't get to talk is it was just listening to these just parents that that are so far off base uh that their opinions should not matter and we should not care about what they say. So I just there's a couple of things I want to stay on the way into this. Um Number one I think we have a really interesting moment in this where we talk about and I'm using air quotes that you cannot see but cancel culture by the way. Uh There are people in my life who insist that this is real. It's not it's not real. It's not real. There's been enough highlight of this too. It's not real. Stop it. Stop it with the cancel culture as we talked about on this right? This idea of canceling. You know let's use today's example Justine had to resign. She had public death threats. She's fighting to clear not to clear her name. That makes it tell me what she did something wrong. But she didn't. But just to have her identity back and no one would call no one who likes to use the words cancel.

Culture would see this as cancelling right? They you would you would hear all these other words oh well you know this is a controversial issue with all this bullshit. And yet the people that we love to look at his examples of people who are cancelled like louis C. K. Louis C. K. Is headlining Madison Square Garden. Okay so he's fine louis C. K. Is fine. Justin Enfant has had her entire life turned upside down for teaching about sex. Now if you really want to use this idea of cancel culture, which one of them was really cancelled. It wasn't louis C. K. So stop it with the cancel culture. Uh if this is something you do, you still do not believe me on go listen to your Wrong about They did a great article episode about this. There's been plenty of articles about how if this thing that you're all afraid of as white men, it's not going to happen to you. It's like 80/80 percent of those that we actually could if you want to go buy these definitions that people are using for canceling it happens to women and people of color because they have less of an opportunity to begin with.

And so one something doesn't have to be a screw up on their part as we're seeing with Justine one thing and there that's it they're done. Whereas white men like louis C. K. Who commit atrocities. I mean this is what he did is disgusting and he's fine. So stop with the cancel culture. Also I'm gonna say this and this is my words not just teens. My words in a world where sexual violence exists and exists frequently. I mean this is not it is not infrequent that sexual violence happens. It's it is so many women who have been subject of this so many Children. If you stand against comprehensive sex education that empowers your Children. I'm putting this out there. I'm saying this not as a parent. So, so I I don't have a dog in that fight, but I'm saying this as a human. If you stand against comprehensive sex education for anyone for Children, for adults, because you personally feel that it's a subject that we shouldn't talk about, then you are letting your own uncomfortable feelings bind you to common sense and you do not care about Children or other people.

It's that simple to me. You know, we I work in this every day and the silence that stigma causes and the negative and it's like, it hurts me sometimes because it's so clear to me on the day to day work that I do, and yet other people just can't see it as I'm recording this. I had another podcast or reach out to me yesterday. She just knew she needed someone to talk to, essentially called me. We were on the phone for about 45 minutes as she cried. And it was, it was, it was a rough moment for her and I was so glad that I could just give her a little sense of feeling connected in that moment. But so much of what she was saying was just stuff we don't talk about and she felt uncomfortable talking about. She kept apologizing and had to be like, it's okay, this is normal to feel this way, fuck stigma. It's normal to feel this way. It's normal to talk about sex, it's healthy to talk about sex if you stand in the way you do not care. It's that simple. One last note before we go into this, um Justine says at one moment in this, in this interview, the word drug abuse, um I didn't stop it in the moment because that's not good interviewing skills.

Um but what was really, I have to commend her for this when we got done, we were chatting, we we've actually chatted a couple times since she's a really incredible person. She's she's working on a podcast and I've been giving her just a little advice um and I'm very excited to hear her show, but after this the in the interview, we chatted about why I don't say drug abuse and why those of us who do this work are trying to get rid of that. And not only was she like, okay, first off, thank you, I will I will also stop using that, but she like went above and beyond to be to to to recognize that in that moment, that failing, not failing that too strong a word here, but the point I guess I'm trying to make is that sometimes we shy away from, you know, saying some of the things that matter. I don't obviously he all know that, but this was such a great example of how those conversations can be positive for both sides. I helped her understand as a person in recovery, the person who uses uh substances and she is a person with a kind of I said earlier with no dog in that fight was very welcoming of that and and heard me out and thanked me for sharing that and it was just a really nice moment.

So I want to commend her for that. I want to kind of empower all of you to do similar have those conversations and know that yes, we we get scared of how they can go wrong and sometimes they do. I'm not gonna say they don't. I mean as someone who does this almost every day. I've been there many, many, many, many times, but they also can go right and they can be a really beautiful moment. So that was a very good teachable moment. I learned so much from Justin on this, on this interview. I've learned so much from her since she is an incredible person and I'm so thankful that she exists that she's doing all this work. So without further ado please enjoy this incredible, incredible interview with Justin and font. A quick shout out to my Patreon supporters. I am so grateful for your support and your love. You all have been with me since almost the beginning and so much of this podcast could not be done without you almost to a person. They've all told me that they didn't join for the perks, although there are some pretty fantastic works, but they've all joined just to support the show and and it really means so much to me now, if you join, you are going to get some stuff in return, you'll get sneak peeks, extra content and the chance to interact with me on a second level.

It's really a great way to show support if you love this show, so go ahead and check it out today, go to Patreon dot com slash choose your struggle. The lowest tier is only $3.40 a month and there's multiple tiers after that. There's something for everybody. So truly, I truly mean this. Thank you to all of my Patreon supporters and if you've been waiting to sign up well now is a great time. So head on over to Patreon and show a little bit of love, choose your struggle. Thanks for sharing the podcast with your friends. If you're listening on apple, please rate and review or check out the review link in the show notes and don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcast finished. Hi, everyone, I'm Justine an infant a I am based out in new york city and I am currently every trolls favorite sex educator. Oh God, I love it. That was beautifully done. So I think the thing that I want to say right off the bat before we talk about is you said the smear campaign, which I love that we're going to call it that this you weren't new to this space?

This it wasn't like somebody new coming in, making people change what they were doing, and all of a sudden people got scared you've been doing this if I'm right about this for almost a decade, is that right? Yeah, 11 years specifically, um and at the school that I was at, that I recently resigned at nine years, wow, So, okay, so then, as we talk about this smear campaign before we really get into the details of it, in your opinion, because obviously you live this firsthand, why now, why was this all of a sudden a problem? I think there's a combination of things that happen, J I think the being in a pandemic um really has made people grapple with a lot of their inner child in the survival mode that we have all been in in in are facing, and uh I think that with parents literally being able to be in the classroom, because the classroom is now zoom and eavesdropping in out of context, they let their imagination run wild and hitting that in a pandemic, reflecting on their own childhood experience and maybe lack of knowledge on sexuality, um made them respond in measures that included the new york post as opposed to going to the administration or talking to the teacher about their criticisms of a lesson?

So, to further, I definitely appreciate that, To further hammer this point home, was there anything different other than that you were doing it on zoom that you did this year as a as opposed to in years prior. The content is very similar. I've been doing this content the whole time. I think it really was just the fact that it was my remote um I haven't done money things differently. I'm sure I've taken professional development. So if anything, what the students were seeing this year is the most refined um level of of what I had been teaching in year 87654321. So it's not that it's a brand new content, it's in fact better content and better taught and and I know that you know, this will obviously come up later, but it would be one thing if you like. I kind of alluded to earlier, you were sort of breaking new ground what you were doing as the new york times was very quick to point out was the sort of approved education though, the direction we're heading in is that is that right?

Yeah, absolutely. I am fortunate to be fairly well connected to a network of sex ed experts to um have kept me abreast of what our standards are and what we need to be meeting in both public schools and private schools and I was simply just hitting those benchmarks. So for those who have not read the times or let's hope that nobody has read the new york post article, I did do my research for this. You can skip it. Um help help the listeners understand. You know, you gave just, it sounded like one of your sort of typical lessons and then all of a sudden this firestorm starts. Yeah, I think firestorm is the right word for it. Um it was on May five that I went to a school to teach about pornography literacy, given that that was exactly what the high school psychologist asked me to speak about. In fact one of them had seen me present that same topic at a conference and that was really promoting to um their peers that this be the presentation I give specifically to the junior class.

And so I delivered that content. It was extremely well received in the one hour talk, 30 minute Q. And a high engagement in the chat, both publicly and direct message. And the following week I gave a talk to the seniors on consent. And then two weeks later I got a call from the new york post um asking if I wanted to provide a statement to quote, defend myself About a talk I did on May five. the following week, um after that first article dropped in criticism of my lesson, there was a piece that the new york post wrote about a lesson I taught at the school I've been teaching at for nine years in a first grade classroom on private parts being private, which a couple of parents had misunderstood to be a lesson on masturbation, which it was not. And there was a lot of criticism in the piece around how inappropriate it was and very much a big misunderstanding as to what the learning objectives even were.

Um, so that was the second piece. The third piece, the following weekend was about a parent protest involving um hiring billboard trucks to roam around four independent school campuses in new york city area, protesting woke curriculum that includes comprehensive sex education. I decided not to go to school in person that day. We had already returned in person at that point, um, because I had already been randomly street harassed outside of my school building. So a planned opposition on that monday was not something I was about to engage in when I had already been, uh, you know, smeared so hard the first two weeks and then the final and last article knock on wood um from the post was the next weekend, which was about my resignation, which was definitely my choice, but it was not under my own terms. I had planned to leave the school after next school year um, two years ago because I wanted to really go full time on my freelance work.

And when all of this had happened, it felt like it was time for me to just leave earlier than expected. I had exhausted the energy. I was putting in to a school who listened uh to a handful of powerful, but few voices that had a lot of power and decision making. And so I decided that it was time to just launch that freelance career and here I am, wow. Um you know, I, I will say I first became aware of this story when you achieve something that most people hope to go through the rest of their life without achieving, which is going viral on twitter. And that was right around the time of that third article and the billboard campaign. That's that the billboards went went viral. You unfortunately were dragged along with that. Um, and and then that's, you know, the times had therapies. Uh and I guess the question that I'm most curious in before, we obviously talked about a lot of stuff is that how are you feeling during this?

But what was it like for you to go about your job and all of a sudden wake up to be uh for a lot of people wrongly so one of the most infamous people in, in like online and all of a sudden, Yeah, you know, I've, I've gotten pushback before from, you know, parents every school year, but like maybe 1-4 every school year since I had been, you know, in schools. Um, but nothing like this, nothing like this that um didn't really give me a chance to really explain myself to learn about the curriculum in its context. Um and you know, have it just compounded with, you know, news source after news source, having misinformation um coupled with not being able to actually speak up because my school didn't allow me to so long as I was contracted still and that's why the new york times clap back piece could not occur until I had left the school, which was july one, which was the start of my new life, my new chapter.

So it was really challenging because I was offered a 10 minute live interview with cuomo prime time on CNN two days after the new york post article first drops and I couldn't say yes to it when it would have been, I think an ideal opportunity for me to really share my um side of the story and to provide some context. Um so having to be silent for a month was a really hard thing for me to do, especially as someone who is very loud and intentionally um eloquent about the work I'm passionate about. So that was, I think the hardest part, that's 2nd hardest part was seeing how um I couldn't speak up in order to protect my family and my friends who are associated with me. I had put protections up on my social media after I got that call from the new york post that something was going to be dropping that weekend, but I was getting screenshots from family members who had already been getting hate mail just by purely being associated to me and finding some connection to me in some picture that was maybe up in the past of mine.

Um, and that was really, that was really hurtful because it's one thing for me to choose a life in sexual reproductive justice and know what that entails, but it's another thing for people in my life who are not a part of that movement necessarily to be dragged into my business. Um, and so that was a really tough pill to swallow for sure. And the third part was trying to keep it all together in front of my students that I was still teaching for the remaining two weeks and you know, I was told that if I went to the media, I would actually have to um meet with the board because that would be grounds for dismissal. And so knowing that I was in a place where I couldn't speak up and was still teaching 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders who are running up to me and hugging my leg in a pandemic saying Justine Miss Justine, did you get fired? My mom saw you in the news and I would just say I'm here today.

So let's start class and try to have a brave, strong face for them. Um, and then in between classes, just crying my eyes out, trying to, you know, release heel before the next period and not even being able to tell my students that this is my last year because that would entail a whole other thing of the new york post picking up, that I got fired when it was fully a resignation. Uh you know that I was choosing to do and so there was a lot of muzzling that just made the whole experience really hard and despite how high functioning I was on the outside, it was important that I continue to listen to my body, which is what I teach, my 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders in health class. That even though the outside the external might seem fine, you have to listen to what your body internally is saying to you and because your podcast is allowing for some explicit stuff here and I am not shying away from letting people know how they can listen to their body when adrenaline is the only thing you're fueled by, I had diarrhea for five weeks straight, I had four periods in six weeks and I was nauseous every time I was looking at a screen.

So there, those are not normal things and it was my body saying, okay, you're not digesting the food, you are eating, your body is telling you that you know, your fertility is being compromised by the level of anxiety you are currently experiencing that your period is so irregular and way too frequent and you know, even just like looking at a screen which is honestly what I was doing for so much because my phone was blowing up with either messages of people wanting me dead or messages of immense gratitude from strangers or friends who were texting me in ways that made it sound like I was dying and it was just extreme emotions, not just for me, but for the people around me of hatred of, of empathy of sorrow and then my body is like shutting down and so no matter how well I was still teaching my class on how to make a glitter jar because it's calming for my first graders to make, I was not come at all on the inside, my body was fucked up and if I didn't get reminded of that on a regular basis when I had to go to the bathroom, I don't think I would have been as intentional at the self care that was clearly necessary in order to get me to a place of healing on august in august of the same year, I was smeared to be able to talk about it so um comfortably and productively and hopefully constructively for people who might be in similar positions.

So we're gonna, we always finish with uh one a couple of questions, one of which is about self care, so we'll save that part for later, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this. I think it is incredibly frustrating that, you know, you were being dragged online for number one doing your job, but number two doing the right thing, like you didn't do anything wrong here, it sounds like you did have a lot of support, but some of that support, it sounds like it was also kind of making things worse, so in that moment, uh and I guess I should say still two now, because we're still in this, right? I mean this was very recent. How can people support you as someone who just went through this? And it's still again, kind of going through it still what does good support look like for you in these moments? So, I've been working on an op ed piece uh and right now my working title is thoughts and prayers, how not to help a friend in crisis.

And uh it's it's you know, I'm still working on it, but I will say that um I learned a lot about the people in my life through how they showed up for me. And um it's interesting because it definitely does not work when you just say, like, thinking of you sending you strength. I mean, some of these things were coming, that was like, the most common common, you know, message I was getting and these are people that, you know, I mean, it's this is a hard thing to relate to for the majority of the population, so I get it right. Many people have encountered death in their life where maybe, you know, they kind of know a little bit more how to address that, but something like a smear campaign, um and you know, going viral for the wrong reasons is a hard one to um to even sympathize with, so I'm trying to be compassionate about that, but in the midst of like my physiological mess that my body was going through and a professional, you know, um mess, it was really interesting for me to receive messages that were shallow like that, um or even the question of like let me know how I can support you, which is something I've always promoted, like the platinum role, I think it was mentioned in the Times piece that Milton Bennett um uh you know, had head coined, which is treat others the way they want to be treated and the only way you can do that is by asking them what can I do to help you, and that's exactly what people are doing and being in the midst of a crisis, and then somebody basically saying, what can I do to help you, I learned does not work for me when I don't have the capacity to come up with an answer or an idea because I just don't have any bandwidth given what I'm going through in a crisis.

And so what I found, and so I couldn't answer that question well, and I just said, you know, I just sent a heart emoji, I couldn't even think of words when I was getting inundated with text messages. And so I just sent heart emojis on the regs. And then when I started to know of something that was truly supportive it was pleasantly surprising. It was a friend texting me, Are you gonna be home from 4-8 today? There's a bagel delivery coming for you And that was like oh my God I don't have to come up with an idea for you. Like you're just telling me how you're going to gift me with your support. I don't have to ask you what that gift should be, right. And then I started getting us a bunch of that um hey are you home tomorrow? I'm sending Filipino food, hey are you gonna be there this weekend? I'm coming over to drop off big goods. That was the stuff that I was like I felt so held in that way.

And um I mean I think they're similar like you know uh strategies like when you know someone who's experienced like loss and is grieving and I've read things on like a buzzfeed list or something that's similar to it but I've never been on the other end of it to say that that shit really works. So that was amazing. And then the other aspect was um I was surprised unpleasantly by friends that I thought had such emotional intelligence and do not uh I was getting texts from people sending me the U. R. L. Of the post article saying oh my god did you read this about you call me a sap. Okay so a bunch of layers of of wrong here number one you're putting more clicks on a piece that isn't real journalism. Thanks for that number to um call you a sep.

I'm in a motherfucking crisis right now. I don't have time to call you. The last time I talked to you was eight months ago bro. We don't even really have a friendship like you already. I mean think about how I must be feeling like if this happened you know to to you are you going to feel like you have the capacity to fill in a kind of friend? No so why are you throwing that at me? So that was like super surprised because I'm like I thought you were better than this. Um And then the the nice thing that I learned about people that you know I wasn't that close to is how emotionally intelligent some of them are. I had received some really eloquent messages from people I don't usually hear from. And you know it was there was one that had said one day the whole world will catch up to what you know to be true, you know something like that and I was like damn girl I haven't heard from you in three years and now I want to be best friends like that makes me feel seen like for real like, you know, and other friends just saying like please don't respond, I can't imagine what you're going through.

I just want, you don't know that there's sushi on the way like and I'm like, oh my God, I mean people really understand that, you know, um food is the way to my heart, my soul and my comforting. And it was interesting because actually all the food deliveries came from people of color in my life and I was thinking about that and it could be because people in my inner circle are people of color and they know me therefore the best and that I'm a foodie. I'm an et. Um but I think it also just says something about so much of you know, our culture to be showing love through food. Our love language of gift giving often includes food. This is how we show love. Like my mom's hello to me is did you eat already? And I go mom, I just called you like this is her salutation and it was just really comforting to, you know, get a variety types of love. Um and especially the ones that I didn't expect to be so loving.

Um so how did not support a friend in crisis? Don't send them strength. Love thoughts and prayers, send them fucking cookies and Filipino food and bagel deliveries. Um so that was, that was an interesting, you know, thing I learned about myself and my needs, but now I can be very specific when I get people in the future who asked, how can I support you? And I send them a link to Grubhub doordash, Uber eats dot com and I said, take your pick, but don't let me pick, I don't have the capacity to do that, that's your job. I love it. Uh and as a jew, I can co sign that we don't do emotions well. But if you've ever gone to a Gonda Shiva for someone who's just lost somebody, it's just piles high of food, that's what we do. Um So I I love I love that. That thought now before we get into some of the specifics about your work, I do want to pause real quick and let you shout out where people can find you online where they can follow you where they can reach out and support you.

Sure, my website is Justine font dot com. That's J U S T I N E F O N T E dot com. You can follow me on instagram and twitter at I'm Justine A F and if we get to it, I'm also a ghostwriter for people who struggle writing text messages around boundary setting slash they're trying to break up with someone and they're struggling to do. So I write templates for that and that's an underscore good period buys underscore on instagram. Mhm to choose your struggle podcast has been so lucky to have numerous truly change making authors on this show from Adi Jaffe to Emily Duff done. We have been blessed by hearing them speak and now it's time to grab their works. Now you could go to amazon if you wanted to shop online. But let's be honest, that's not the right choice. So I'm going to invite you to head over to my partner bookshop. If you get a bookshop dot org slash shop slash C.

Y. S. Again, that's bookshop dot org slash shop slash C. Y S. You're going to find all of your favorite books and you're going to support the podcast in the process. But that's not even the best part. Bookshop has an incredible program that allows you to select your favorite mom and pop or neighborhood bookstore and they will give them some of the proceeds from your order. Now, living here in Philly, that's been a really hard choice because we have fantastic bookstores all over. But I selected Harriet, which is a truly wonderful black owned bookstore in Northern Philly. I love it. My wife loves it. We go there as much as we can. Honestly, why would you go anywhere else? So again go check out bookshop at bookshop dot org slash shop slash C. Y. S. You're going to find the book. You're looking for. You're gonna support your neighborhood bookstore and you're going to support the podcast in the process. So check it out today and go ahead and buy that book you've been waiting for. Mhm Find me on social media, check the link in the show notes are searched for me, J Schiffman on youtube and linkedin and choose your struggle on facebook instagram and twitter.

So as I mentioned on the way in, I do have some listener questions and and generally a lot of the questions were simply around. You know, we are all, I'm 35. A lot of my listeners are millennials or gen uh XZ know what's older than us, older than us is x, I don't know how Old you are, but I'm 30 five so we're the same. Yeah, gen x. So we did not get good sex education. Right. I mean I talked about this when I, when I speak, I gave a ted talk a couple months ago where I talked about how one of the things I mentioned was growing up, I was lucky to simply get sex said it wasn't good sexy, but it was simply, it was there Uh and and the call I was making is why don't we have mental health class? But where are we in your education? Just from reading the times article from your work? It sounds like we've got come a long way in the 20 plus years since I was in, you know, a school kid. I'm glad you think that we have come a long way.

J but my classroom is definitely an outlier for sure. Um there is definitely a growing amount of health literacy that is entering some classroom spaces around the country, but the majority of classrooms still look like exactly hours when we were in school and that's really sad and that's honestly why um people reacted as strongly as they did to mine, otherwise they would have just been like, oh yeah, this is normal, this is very abnormal to them. And for the students that are actually receiving this, I have a lot of positive feedback saying that this is stuff that they absolutely needed was more relevant to them than other subjects they learn in school and alums, especially that I teach that come to me in the middle of their college career after the college career saying that is the shit that actually helped me and um they are, you know, they are still in minority of, of students that are saying that are able to say that.

Um, so we have come a long way only because the bar is so damn low, that is it. Um, but yeah, I mean, my classroom is mental health literacy, it's substance abuse prevention, it's health at every size, nutrition and it's, you know, understanding that community is where healing takes place. And so when I teach sex ed, which is my specialization, I can't not bring in an intersectional and social justice lens because we live in a world that is maintaining its barriers in us accessing and experiencing health equally. I appreciate that you point out accurately that the reason, uh, it does feel like we've come a long way is just how low that bar is. I mean that's, that's something I talked about the time with substance misuse and mental health. Um, but the articles for the new york Times piece at least specifically focused on what I what sounded like and I would love for you to go more into detail a really healthy education going towards grade school kids, which is a thing that I, and, and maybe you are lucky and different than me, but I did not have growing up.

I did not have that growing up as well. The Times piece talked about what I learned in my catholic school education k through eight. We had one day of what I guess I would call sex ed class that they called family life education. It was separated by gender and we had our um, our female teacher uh, meet with the girls and we had the Dare police Officer come in for the boys because we didn't have many men teaching at our school and they remembered he's come in before to talk about drugs. Um, and so that was the context. And the one anecdote that I shared with the Times reporter was that one of my classmates had asked if boys get boners, what do girls get and The answer that our 5th grade teacher gave us as 5th graders was periods. And I clearly remember that to this day as a 35 year old. So it means that it was that impactful.

Um, and I mean there are, there's their schools that aren't even getting family life education. So the bar is still very low, but I think what it looks like in an elementary setting, which is I think what was so controversial is that first off people think sex that is a condom on a banana and that belongs in a high school setting maybe. Um, that's not what sex is, that's not what sexuality is. That's not what gender education is. If we really understand comprehensive sexuality education that is clearly, you know, outlined in the benchmarks and standards that have been created um for this field, it is about power agency, intimacy, reproductive health, sexual health, identity values. And so when we think about it in that robust holistic sense, it makes perfect sense why it lives in at least a first grade classroom if not a daycare for preschoolers because we're trying to teach them basic things like private parts are private.

Like that is literally the message of that lesson that got all this controversy and you know, I'm trying to prevent louis ck's from, you know, entering the world. And I'm trying to just tell kids that because private parts are private. If somebody comes into your body bubble that you have not said is okay too, you have a right to say something and let me teach you how that is something that would have been very beneficial to the Boy Scouts of America. That would have been very helpful to the altar servers of the catholic church in pennsylvania. It is sad that I have to argue for education like this in the context of sexual violence against Children when it should be about empowering them to just know that they have a right to exercise bodily autonomy because we want them to be assertive and compassionate human beings to be able to maintain friendships while also maintaining boundaries and saying like, I don't feel like, you know, going to the park today, but can we do Lagos instead that's asserting boundaries as opposed to saying I'll feel bad or I'll feel guilty or I feel obligated to go to the park even though I don't want to.

So I guess I'll just do it anyway. So when we don't empower them with the skill sets to actually assert themselves, we are making them more vulnerable, especially to sexual abuse because there's fucking pedophiles out there, which is ironic because that is what I have been accused of. Yeah, I think and and there's a lot in there obviously, but I think a really important point you bring up louis C k who you know, accused of doing something pretty heinous. Um, and, and you know, with all of these people railing against and my listeners can't see it. But obviously using quotation marks, cancel culture. Here we are. You had your whole life upended for teaching health. He's headlining at Madison Square Garden. Tell me which one of you was canceled. Um but it's it's something, this is something that I that I've I've had come up in conversation. I think it's a really excellent point. If if there were parents who were, who were furious and raising that the shit that they did over your lesson over math, I don't want my kid to learn math.

We would be like, this is fucking idiotic, what is wrong with you? But yet we let them have a voice when it comes to sex. I I have my own opinion on this. But before I say, what did, why do you think that still is in 2021? I think because there are a few subjects outside of sex that are as personal and deeply rooted in trauma and that was very evident with the types of messages. I was getting into my inbox. I would have a an email from someone who had said, I think I memorized this one verbatim because it was actually in the middle of my new york Times interview when the reporter went to go use the restroom in our seven hour interview. So I took my phone out and this is what it said, your mother should have aborted you And if you ever step foot in brazil, I will shoot you myself. Um So I get that email followed by I was molested when I was a child by my uncle and now I have four Children.

I wish I got the lessons that you are giving Children today. And I hope one day my Children will be able to get a curriculum like what you are teaching so that they can also be protected. I mean j that is the most polarizing like in box I've ever received and I'm trying to think of like what other topics garner such polarization and this is a testament to how deeply angry someone is and deeply hurt someone is, even though one is explaining it through, you know, vitriol and one is explaining explaining it through gratitude and math doesn't do that no shade to, you know, math educators, but you know, a lot of subjects don't get as personal as what I teach and so people reflect on their inner child and they see the amount of pain or hurt that they've experienced that they haven't healed from yet and they feel offense to it or they feel healing from it because someone is finally talking about it.

So a lot of like this this like pain that a lot of my trolls are feeling, that's them unlearning and that's what's really hard is that people don't want to be vulnerable because it means that they have to hurt a little bit to unlearn things that they thought were true and you know, um accurate for so long and for centuries in a capitalist patriarchal world, so Mhm. I I appreciate the capitalist and patriarchal mentioned because my answer was going to be that so much of this is tied up in, you know, the history of of how we think as a country about things like sex is tied up with obviously our our religious beliefs and and and all that, which is very closely tied in with capitalism and patriarchy. But besides setting some boundaries on the classroom saying parents, you don't get a say in what is being, you know, talk to your kids, how do we fix this?

How do we how do we make it so that your situation, what happened to you doesn't happen again, and kids are getting the health lessons they need and deserve. I'm going to answer the second question first, because I think that takes priority over how do I not get hurt again? I'm prepared to be getting hurt again. This is this is I know I'm building a house that I'll never be able to live in. So, you know, it is what it is. So how do we protect the kids? That's what's important? Um we need to first heal from our own traumas around sexuality and I don't use that word trauma lightly. I truly mean it we have been violently oppressed by the patriarchy in how we regard our sexuality and as a result we didn't get education or information that allows us to feel empowered by our body instead we feel insecure by our body.

And I mean that for all genders, but there's definitely a gender that is focused on a lot more in the name of capitalism. But when we are talking about taking care of kids, we got to take care of ourselves first, right? I mean, just like the analogy in the airplane, you got to put the breathing mask onto the kid before you are on yourself before you put it onto the kid in order for everyone to be better. And so even if we start getting this stuff to the kids, if it's the wrong teacher or if it's the wrong information from a parent, then you're just perpetuating that cycle of misinformation. So I want adults to get the education. They need to really understand how their own body works and then reflect on what would have made the difference when they are, they were at that age, that same age as the child. Um, so that when they now start speaking to that child, they can meet them at their level and talk to them in a way that centers three things, safety fulfillment and pleasure.

And that is something that I think applies to all religions, cultures where you can't argue against safety fulfillment and pleasure, it does not matter that your culture or religion wants you to wait until marriage. You still need safety fulfillment and pleasure. So how are we equipping our Children with already scrutinizing their relationships and friendships through that lens of does this friendship provide me with safety physically and emotionally? Does this friendship make me feel good about who I am and it's fulfilling me and do I have fun and enjoy myself around this person? That's pleasure. And so we want them to start understanding that they have agency in being able to surround themselves with people that do that and then be able to ask for help or get to safety if somebody is not. And so we want to equip them with these things early on.

And I think once we start that with the younger generation and the adults do all their own sex education, we're gonna be in a lot better place where they're, you know, they're there and I'm not going to be getting maybe smeared as much or something, but we're far from that reality because that's taboo is still so strong when it comes to anything around sexuality. Well, this show is all about as my hat says right now fuck stigma. So I I appreciate that final question. Before we go into the closing ones. The last listener question was one really interesting piece from the new york Times article was that you were really pushing hard and I guess this is now the norm to uh teach younger kids the proper names than anatomical names for their body parts? That was, I mean obviously makes sense. But can you talk a little bit about why that's so important when you put a nickname two a body part, it implies that there's something wrong with it or something that you need to be a feeling shame about it.

And we need to deviates from the idea that genitalia is deviants. And we are doing that so early on with all the nicknames um, for for body parts. And um, and I think it shows the anxiety around it when adults are, you know, exuding that on two kids that they are, you know, caretaking and the kids therefore think, oh, there is something to be ashamed of about this part and that doesn't equip them with the bodily autonomy that they deserve to have and it's like more so we need to be normalizing that language and vocabulary because of how private those private parts are and because we know that they are vulnerable to sexual violence. So it's important that we're teaching them the anatomical terms for these body parts in the same way we're doing with any other body parts. Well, thank you so much adjusting.

This has been really fascinating. Before we go into the final couple of questions one more time, where can people find you, where can they follow you and where can they support you? You can find me at, I'm Justine a F on instagram and twitter and uh my website is just infants dot com. J U S T I N E F O N T E dot com and if you're interested in some support on how to set boundaries with people in your life or breaking up with them completely. I am a ghost writer for that too on instagram and it's at underscore good period buys underscore, so actually, before we go to the final questions, I do want one more and that is you are freelancing now. What does that look like for you? You know, if, if people are interested in like if someone wanted to hire you, like what does that look like going forward? Yeah, I would love people to hire me. I am fun employed as I am calling it right now. Um so I really believe that health education um needs to live in places also outside of the classroom and we know that media creates consciousness and therefore is education for a lot of people and there's a lot of media out there that is educating in the wrong direction I believe.

And so I have hopes to um consult with tv shows and films um around how they are um putting messages out there around different intersectional health topics. Um I am going to continue with my speaking engagements that I'm doing in places that brave to hire me still um around different health topics, but I also have some books that I have been wanting to write for a long time. I have a podcast that I've been wanting to produce. Um and I'm still like building curriculum for people and you know, building programs um that are, you know, just increasing people's awareness as to consent culture and how to really live authentically in your sexuality. So there's a lot of different ways that people can hire me. It might be um hey, my company is looking for, you know, a speaker on uh sexual harassment prevention. Great, Cool. Sign me up. Hey R. D. And I department really wants to bring in a speaker to talk more about um you know, Body Image Great hire me or our school or my kid's school is looking for a speaker on a various health topic.

You know, then I can definitely do that or I am, I'm a dean at the school and we need a better health program. Can you help us build one? Um or you know, I am an editor at a publishing house and I want to sign you, I would love to take that. Um so there's a lot of different ways that people can bring me on and I hope that they do because I have a lot to share and a lot of passion that I want to put out into the world. I, I love that. I just, this morning reached out to a podcast that I love who uh they talk about addiction a lot and I was just like, hey, just to let you know, some of the words you're using are really antiquated, would love to, you know, chat more about how you can talk about this in a progressive way. So definitely affirm that um and I wish you good luck on that endeavor. Now we finish with the same two questions every time. The first of which as we alluded to earlier is especially now what self care habits work for Justine. Um I have a lot, I will say though, first say that if we didn't live in a white supremacist world, we wouldn't need self care, interesting.

Um so that I think needs to be said because why am I having to put intentional care for myself? And I think that's an indication that the world is not caring for us um and creating systems that actually take care of us. All right? So to answer your question because we are in a white supremacist world, um I set very clear boundaries and I mean that in all senses whether it be how I spend my time who I decided to spend it with um what I decided to be doing on screens or knots when um but I think that's that part's obvious, it's like, you know what that looks like, but I think some people because of, you know, the world that we're in are scared to set boundaries on people on in your life and um I am very intentional with who I'm spending time with, when even if it means saying no to brunch again, if I really don't want to kick it with that person, I don't have to say it in a mean way, but it's also not going to be very fun for them if I'm there in a contrived setting because I was obligated or felt guilty or felt like I couldn't say no, and that's very aligned with how I teach consent education.

It's not going to be fun if both parties are not mutually interested. And so, you know, people are, you know, wanting to be my facebook friend or something and I just keep them in facebook purgatory because I would rather communicate with them in person or over text or they have my email, they have my number to call me and you know the way I use my social media is very intentional. Um and so others might think like, wow, that's really cold hearted, like cold blooded, like you just don't, you know, you say no to people and I said, I think if you really get to know me and you ask any of like the people in my who are in my network, they will tell you that I'm probably a really compassionate person and the only reason that I'm able to be that compassionate person is because I preserve my energy to be able to first take care of myself, so that when I am around other people, they get the fool me where I can also take care of them because I want to and that's why I have such strong relationships with my inner circle and that is what fuels me that really heals me.

Um and that's like the most important kind of self care that I that I practice. Um I also like to bake a lot. So that's my other form of therapy and my neighbors can attest to that. Well you very clearly uh you know, walked the walk and talk the talk and I appreciate that. So the last question we always finish with this, we've now spent the last 45 minutes here and why you're amazing. We should all be following you online and all that kind of stuff, but this is your chance to shout out, who are you following listening to watching, reading whatever you want, that's having an impact on you. Ooh, It's a good one, I like this. Um I'm not struggling, I'm just smiling and pausing because people need to ask that question more. And so thank you for um injecting that into this conversation. Um if you are a caregiver of Children who are trying to do sex ed better in your own home. My favorite recommendation is sex positive families and that's run by melissa Carnegie who is a friend and um mentor in a lot of ways around this work and the uh instagram account I believe is uh if you just type in sex positive families, there's an underscore in a period somewhere in there.

But uh, she has a huge following anyway, so you'll easily find it. So that's my number one recommendation for parents around sex said, um, gosh, like, let's see what else. I really recommend the holistic psychologist. If that is not someone you're already following on instagram. I think there's just so many wonderful um, things around how you can take care of yourself better there. Um, who else? The teen health doc, huge fan of, uh, that's good for both teens and parents when it comes to health. Always been a huge fan of Esther Perel and I want to be her one day. Uh, and let's see if you need a good laugh I guess like followed Tig Notaro because she's amazing. And if you haven't yet watched Romney Yussef show, Romney on hulu, um, that is someone you need to be following as well because his, his blues, comedy humor is um, something that I think resonates with a lot of Children of immigrants, so that I think, yeah, just riffed on that, I have plenty more, but you can just DM me and I will give you some good rex.

There we go. Well, Justine, thank you so much. This has been wonderful here chatting with you, learning from you and I hope that all my listeners decide to follow you on social media and and learn from you as well. Thank you so much for having me jay. This is great. Hey all, it's me, your host. I'm sorry to interrupt what I'm sure is a fantastic episode of the podcast, but I have to give a quick shout out to my partner Roadrunner C. B. D. They have been working with me for a while now and I just love their products. They have everything from tinctures to muscle gels and all of them are fantastic. You know, I rub the muscle gel in my legs before I run and they keep me feeling pretty good, which is saying something. So check out Roadrunner today at the website www dot roadrunner CBD dot com slash ref R E F slash C Y S. Again, that's Roadrunner CBD dot com slash ref slash C. Y. S. And use the code C. Y. S at checkout To let them know that I sent you and get 10% off.

Trust me, you're gonna love this. I've sent some of their products to a couple of different people and they've all become repeat customers. So check it out today and don't forget to let them know that choose your struggle sent you subscribe to my Patreon for behind the scenes. Look to the podcast, sneak peeks and bonus data. You'll also get a discount on, choose your struggle merch. Find it at patreon dot com slash choose your struggle some certain loves all right, we've come to the end of another episode of that. Use your struggle podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Justine. I I'm sorry if your blood is boiling. I mean, you heard it on the intro about how fired up I got. Um and I I did the interview, right? I I got that way after editing it and just was angry. I was angry for her. I was angry about society. I was angry at the people who would send her death threats for doing the just a heinous act of trying to teach our Children just fuck them.

I mean, seriously, just fuck them, fuck them. You know that that that I make the joke on this interview. But if one of these people was like, I don't want my kids learning math because fuck algebra. I mean, I'm with you because fuck algebra, That was hard, but at the same time, like, you don't get your that's ridiculous. You don't get to have that say, you don't get to be like, I don't want my kids learning fractions, that's fucking idiotic. And yet when it comes to sex, when it comes to drugs, when it comes to health of all kinds, you know, we allow people to have opinions that have no basis. My church says that she can't, you know, my daughter shouldn't be learning about sex. Oh, oh, that's a good opinion. Oh, thank you for that. We'll pull out of class. No, fuck that. Fuck that just so much. If you don't want your kids learning, send me to a different school, send your kid to your christian school. And I feel sorry for that kid. Like already I feel sorry for that kid. I had a great conversation with M. L. And a lot a couple weeks ago, uh right after I actually interviewed Justine and I told him about this interview and he was like, may, I'll tell you what, he was like, my parents pulled me out of Sex Ed when I was growing up.

You know, they thought that that was something I shouldn't be learning, and he said, I directly correlate that to not realizing that I had empowerment in some of these harmful and abusive relationships that I was in at that time and later, right, these lessons are so important. I say this all the time when I speak. If I had education around mental health and substance misuse and addiction growing up, I would have known the signs of addiction, I would have been like, oh shit, I have a problem. But I didn't because we're too fucking afraid to teach this shit and the outcomes of that are real. The real I was a result of that ml story as a result of that, we're seeing the result of this. We don't learn healthy ideas around sex. We don't learn healthy ideas around drug use or mental health and the results are real. So if you are too afraid, if you're too puritanical to allow your Children to be taught this, then fuck you.

That's my final thought on this. To lighten things up. Mhm. We're going to use the nuggets of kindness card pack today because Justine deserves all the kindness in the world. After what she had to go through for the crime of teaching our Children brought to you by blurt. Thank you. Thank you blurt. All right, here's your card. We are enough as we are. Even when we don't feel it, especially when we don't feel it. We are worthy of all that wondrous as much as any other person. I think we've used it before. That's fine. That's a great card. And you know, that is a needed reminder. Um because as I was saying earlier with that conversation with the other podcast host, she was not feeling that way because of very normal things and because of the way that our society presents very normal things and that's not her fault. That is our collective fault. It's our leaders false and I'm using leaders in air quotes because they all suck. We need to do better for each other. We need to do better for ourselves. And it starts with ourselves. It starts with making that change and being strong for ourselves giving ourselves the ability, take a deep breath sometimes, giving ourselves the ability to feel pain and then get back up and be okay and move on.

You can't help other people without helping yourself your good egg today. Speaking about helping other people is something Justine said on this. Uh, no more thoughts and prayers. Just stop it. Stop it with your thoughts and prayers. I earlier this summer when I did the fundraiser, I had so many people comment on my, on my post thoughts and prayers or sending prayers your way or praying for six trucks with your fund raiser. Fuck that, share it, share it around your prayers. Don't do shit your thoughts, don't do shit. Send it, share this around. And if you actually want to do something to help somebody, as Justine says, I'm to send food like do a very real thing. No one's ever going to be mad because you sent them food last week. Uh, Sarah laurel, the founder of Savage Sisters was in a car accident, She's fine, everything's fine. Um, but when I found out about that, immediately got on Grubhub adored and I remember one of the, one of the apps um, and sent her some sushi and the happiness that she exuded later, the appreciation and she said honestly, you know, it really made her day, um because she couldn't go out and get food.

She was kind of laid up for for a bit bit. That makes a difference. Your thoughts and prayers, don't do shit. Send food, that's your good this week. Send food. But without further without anything further as always be vulnerable, show your empathy, spread your love and choose your struggle.

Silenced By Stigma Over Comprehensive Sex Education with Justine Ang Fonte
Silenced By Stigma Over Comprehensive Sex Education with Justine Ang Fonte
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