May 2022 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.
Melissa Pintor Carnagey, LBSW (she/they)
Founder and Lead Educator, Sex Positive Families
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?
Since 2017, Sex Positive Families has been providing education and supportive resources that help families have sexual health talks with kids at every stage, without shame or taboo. I believe sex education starts at home, so I’ve felt it important to focus on helping parents and caregivers feel more confident and prepared for these talks. Our education is also gender-inclusive, in particular our Growing Into You!™ virtual puberty workshops for tweens and their trusted adults teach about puberty experiences across the gender galaxy and of many different bodies. This means that cisgender boys are receiving education about menstruation and how amazing uteruses are. Trans tweens are seeing themselves reflected in the education. We’ve served thousands of young people and adults since 2020, and I believe that it is helping a new generation of families break cycles of taboo and to have the information they need to care for their bodies and respect and support others’.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
Professionally, I began in 2007 as a social worker in the field of HIV/STI and adult sexual health. Personally, I’ve been a parent since learning I was pregnant at 17 in 1998. My lived experience of not receiving sex education and then breaking the cycle by raising my own kids in a sex positive way is what has truly informed the work I do today and is the driving force to supporting other families along this path.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
Know that this field needs you, and it’s not all about having degrees or certifications. Think about who specifically you’d like to reach with your work and be creative and innovative so you bring your passions and enjoy the journey. There can be a lot of gatekeeping and sex-negative censorship within sex education work, so find colleagues that you can be in community with and that inspire you to keep going and to take care of yourself as well. Also, sign up to attend a SLAM conference. It’s the best in the field for learning how to do this work in a truly liberatory, anti-racist, and inclusive way.
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?
We’re all connected. If one of us is not liberated or supported or doesn’t have adequate access, it threatens the potential for all of us to truly thrive. That’s why society is in the state that it’s in, so it’s important that we find our why and we see where we can have impact. Even if it’s a daily sex positive conversation you can have with a child, so they have better information and support. No act is too small in this.