April 2023 Power Player
At Power to Decide, we’re committed to uplifting the many individuals on the ground doing the work that matters most. Each month we highlight an individual who is championing the effort to support young people’s reproductive well-being. Check out this month's Power Player profile.
Tanya M. Bass, PhD, CHES, CSE, she/her
Founder, North Carolina Sexual Health Conference
What work have you done to ensure that all people have the information and access they need to make decisions that align with their intentions and improve their reproductive well-being?
One of the most important things I believe I attempt to accomplish to ensure that people have the information and access they need to make decisions that align with their intentions and improve their reproductive well-being is providing community education and training for my peer colleagues. The most impactful example, in my opinion, was the creation of North Carolina Sexual Health Conference (NCSEXCON) in 2016. This conference was created to bring professionals across disciplines and community members together to learn about sexuality across the lifespan. Each year of NCSEXCON the goal is for attendees to learn new information and strategies, all while expanding their network and gaining resources.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
I began my career in sexuality as a public health graduate from North Carolina Central University, a historically Black college/university (HBCU). One of my first jobs after completing my undergraduate degree was as a Communication Specialist for the National STD Hotline, funded by the CDC at the American Sexual Health Association. My driving force was the desire to learn more about sexuality and share information with my family and peers. One of the most influential moments occurred while working for the State of North Carolina, advocating for change in STD/HIV prevention policy and supporting minority-serving/led community-based organizations in North Carolina. I saw the “heart” and commitment of staff and leaders of the organizations extend far beyond the funding they were provided yet making a remarkable impact in their communities. I knew I wanted to be a part of this work for a long time.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
My advice to someone looking to effect change in sexuality would be to start where you are and remain focused. The individuals providing education and services are up against several obstacles. While we have seen a shift in a portion of the population's worldview, this work has a long way to go. I also believe that there is power in numbers. Aligning, collaborating, and supporting others in the profession goes a long way. We cannot do this work in silos, and we need a range of expertise beyond those who educate and provide direct services. We need expertise in advocacy, policy development, marketing, and finances.
Why should someone care about ensuring that all people—regardless of who they are or where they live—have the information and access they need to live their best life?
Sexuality education is life education; it is life skills development. Everyone needs and will continue to need this information as they grow and develop as humans. There is no one subset of people who needs a specific set of facts. We all benefit from obtaining culturally inclusive, intersectional, and affirming information. Access to services can be lifesaving and life changing. To live the "best life," we need equitable access to the “best resources.”
Is there a highlight of your work that you’d like to share?
NCSEXCON is scheduled for May 10-11, 2023, in Cary, NC. The conference theme is “The Remix: REenvisioning. REimagining. REnewing Sexuality." NCSEXCON will examine the need to view sexuality and sexual health in a new way. The goal of this conference is to create opportunities to share information, efforts, and best practices around sexual health across the lifespan by bridging various disciplines of education, research, advocacy, and clinical care. This year we have scheduled the following speakers: Dr. Shemeka Thorpe, Elias Diaz, myself, Justine Fonte, and Stephanie Zapata as a panel. We hope to reach educators, researchers, counselors, and therapists and a host of disciplines in North Carolina and beyond.