June 2021 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.
Nadine Thornhill, Ed.D
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?
As a sexuality educator part of my job involves helping folks access factual and evidence-based information about all the "human stuff" that might inform their reproductive choices. That includes aspects of anatomy and biology; mental, emotional, and physical health; psychology; even politics and history sneak in there sometimes.
Something else I do is facilitating self-exploration. I try to create spaces and encourage conversations that help folks learn more about their own desires, boundaries, needs, values, fears, relationships, and communication styles. I think the more we understand who we are as people, and the more we understand about sexuality - both our own and generally, the better equipped we are to make choices that serve our own reproductive well-being.
Finally, because I'm just one person, I'm also passionate about collaborating with other educators and inviting other folks into our field. Human sexuality is extremely diverse. Reproductive issues are diverse. No one sex educator or sexuality professional can serve everyone's needs, which is why we need a lot of different people doing this work in different ways.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
I didn't set out to become a sexuality educator. My first career was in theatre and I sort of fell into sex ed when I got a "day job" working at a Venus Envy, a queer-positive and feminist sex shop here in Canada. It was a great job. I really loved those moments when I got to reassure a nervous customer that it was okay if they were curious, or excited, or even confused. I loved interacting with folks who were confident in their queerness, their kinkiness, or even their vanilla-ness, or asexuality.
It was there that I realized that giving people information about sex and the assurance that they are worthy, and their feelings are valid was a powerful and beautiful thing. It made me want to do it more. So much so, that I eventually turned it into my life's mission.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
Be open to learning. A lot of sex educators have some sort of formal education or training, but that's only one part of it. You can learn from books, from other folks in the field, and most especially from the folks you work with. Listen to people and believe them when they talk about their own feelings, experiences, and needs. You may be the "expert" when it comes to sexuality, but they're the experts in their own lives.
Learn about yourself as well. We all have personal biases, boundaries, and values when it comes to sexuality and/or reproductive issues. Sometimes you will work with folks whose perspective aligns well with yours. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes you'll probably feel uncomfortable or judgmental. Sometimes you'll realize you're not the right person to speak on an issue or to deliver information. The more you know yourself, the more effective you'll be in making sure that folks get the information *they* need about sexuality and reproduction - whether it's from you, or elsewhere.
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?
Because we're all people of worth. We all deserve as much pleasure, peace, prosperity, and love as we can find in this world. I think access to information about sexuality, relationships, bodies can help us move closer to those experiences.