My New Job: Dean of Students, IASHS

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I am so pleased to announce my new position as Dean of Students for the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, as of August 5th. I’m very excited to have this opportunity to work at this very unique graduate school for sexologists, and with people who have given me so much in the way of opportunity and support over the last eight years.

I’m also looking forward to working with present and future students of IASHS.

My schedule is flexible enough that I will be able to maintain my private practice as a clinical sexologist, so I really have the best of all possible worlds. I’m feeling so lucky!

New Name for STD Alert App – Healthvana

 

Healthvana

It is with intense relief and gratitude that I pass along the announcement that the app formerly named after a treasured, sacred dance form is now officially christened Healthvana.

Though I was very hard on CEO Ramin Bastani and his advisors during the controversy, which was especially heated during most of this year’s spring, I am impressed with the fact that he not only listened – but also responded! It was not easy for him and his company to take on a third new name and all the branding and tech tasks that go along with this – but CEO Bastani did it.

By golly, he kept his word and he did it! I’m giving him every credit for this. Not many corporate and start-up folks would have taken the outrage of Hawaiians this seriously, but he did. And we can all breathe a real sigh of relief as a result.

I also look forward to the day when the remnants of “hula-as-an-STD-alert-app” are completely gone from the internet, replaced by Healthvana and the good work it can do.

Kumu Hina Documentary – It’s Stunning!!!

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Ever since viewing the documentary, Ke Kulana He Mahu – Remembering a Sense of Placea few years ago, I’ve been an appreciative “fan” of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a kumu hula (hula teacher) and cultural/community activist from O’ahu. And so I’ve eagerly awaited the San Francisco Frameline Film Festival screening of the new documentary, Kumu Hina. Here’s the trailer:

The film screened yesterday in SF, and will be shown in Berkeley tonight. I was lucky to go yesterday with one of my hanai sisters, Therese Wonnacott aka Aunty Anita, who is herself a mahuwahine community and cultural activist. Among other things, she runs and promotes the California Panache pageant (a topic which deserves its own separate blog!). (And have to give a shout-out to Danielle Castro, my adopted niece!)

It was thrilling and emotionally moving to sit in the Castro Theater and hear the voice of San Francisco hula luminary, Kumu Patrick Makuakane, as he welcomed Kumu Hina with a chant, and to hear her voice ring out as she answered in kind. (After the film, some members of the audience stood up and offered I Ku Mau Mau, a chant often used to express solidarity.)

The film itself was glorious. Personally, I was in heaven as it combined two of my top passions – Hawaiian culture (and activism) and support for gender variant people. And, as the mother of two, including a recent college graduate who just happens to be a trans guy, the portrayal of Ho’onani, one of Kumu Hina’s young students, was very meaningful. The fact that this kid was able to take her “place in the middle” with the full support of her teacher (and perhaps the somewhat more cautious permission of her family) was outstanding. Honestly, this is so rare in the world! Ho’onani is not the only “in the middle” kid Kumu Hina has taught, but her story and presence was especially compelling.

Of course, opportunities for examination of all kinds of intersectionality abound in this film. And though this blog is not meant to be a film review as much as it is a tale of my experiencing of the film, I can’t avoid mentioning some of them. For one thing, though my heart was wide open, I was watching with non-Hawaiian eyes. And I had many lenses over these eyes: sexologist lens, parent of a trans person lens, former hula student lens, Hawaiian independence ally lens, partner of an elder Hawaiian independence activist and cultural practitioner lens, hapless citizen of the country occupying Hawai’i lens, younger partner of somewhat older person lens, feminist lens, settler-colonist of Turtle Island lens, and so on. Different parts of the film resonated with me on different levels and in different ways, while at other times I was aware of how profoundly different my life is from the experiences of the people in the film.

When Ho’onani opened up her voice and spirit and chanted, I was remembering how my oldest kid, as an eleven-year-old hula student, also used to chant with an intense spirit and voice. Watching the footage of rural Kaua’i, I hearken back to a certain off-grid plot of land in Waimea on Hawai’i island, where wild pigs, sheep, and dogs sometimes have roamed together. I also commiserated with the difficulties of long-distance relationships.

And when I came home late last night from the reception which followed the screening, I found a large pile of dishes in the sink – left for me to clean. So I recalled scenes from the film where Kumu Hina, an accomplished professional woman, copes at the end of the day with dinner and cleaning while her husband watches television. Her remarks about Polynesian men hit home too – and I responded to them as someone who has sometimes clashed with my (long-distance) Polynesian partner over issues which seem crystal clear to me as a white, feminist, urban Californian, but are far deeper and much more complex when taking so many other issues – and a whole other human being with a different genealogy and culture – into account.

Cultural clashes, intersections, and complexities are inevitable and not all binary, in spite of how I have written them here. In the Kumu Hina film there are many opportunities to explore elements which are either explicit or  implicit (or both!) and which rub up against each other in various ways, causing sensations of pleasure, confusion, inspiration, or pain: in front of the camera/behind the camera; love/struggle; male/female; rural/urban; American/Hawaiian; gender conforming/gender variant; colonizer/colonized; compliant/resistant; commodified/authentic; educated/less educated; younger/older; professional/working class; this island/that island; student/teacher; parent/child; conservative/progressive; and so on.

And yet the main message of this film – kept real by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu’s honesty, integrity, and groundedness – was not just the explicit message of aloha (the deeper kind, not the touristy interpretation), but also an implicit one of teachability. The film seemed to trust that most of us who watched it (as well as those who were involved in the making and living of it) could and would experience many layers of learning through the film  - learning which would lead us with more hopeful certainty to the possibility of understanding and experiencing aloha.

I am happy that Bay Area folks in LGBTQI etc, ally, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Hawaiian music communities (often overlapping) combined to give Kumu Hina a welcome and a reception that was warm, loving, appreciative, and hospitable. She has many friends and sisters here, and they came out in force for her, cooked for her, played and sang for her, fetched more teriyaki sauce, and admired her copper colored sandals…

The rest of us who only knew of her, rather than knowing her personally, joined the standing ovations she and the film deserved. And I’m hoping some of us at least will also give to the film’s Kickstarter campaign (they’re trying to raise $10,000 and are about $7,000 short) and to Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu’s OHA election campaign fund. OHA stands for “Office of Hawaiian Affairs” and she is running for election as a trustee.

I am also hoping that Halau Lokahi, the Hawaiian charter school where Kumu Hina teaches, will survive its current troubles. You can sign a petition supporting the school here and donate at the above link. These schools are super important for Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) kids, and deserve our support.

13 Reasons Why I’ve Started an Online “Sissy Maid” Course

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1. Because I support gender identity and behavior variance, from hither to yon.

2. Because, as I look back on almost sixty years of an unconventional life, I am now particularly in the mood to celebrate (once again) creative manifestations of outlaw femininity – including (but not limited to) sissies, burlesque dancers, and fem dommes.

3. Because I can. As an online sex educator, why not? And I know I can do it well.

4. Because Julia Serrano said, “In a culture in which femaleness and femininity are on the receiving end of a seemingly endless smear campaign, there is no act more brave – especially for someone assigned a male sex at birth – than embracing one’s femme self” (Whipping Girl – A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. 2007. Berkeley: Seal Press. p. 278).

And I do see the bravery of sissies.

5. Because I have a vision of facilitating “empowered feminization” – for those who want it.

6. Because I am fascinated by people who actually want to do housework.

7. Because I want to unleash my inner “Headmistress.”

8. Because I can enjoy vicarious frills.

9. Because sissies and sissy maids don’t seem to get much respect or attention, and don’t seem to be taken seriously in the broader discussions of gender and gender variance. As a sexologist and educator, I’d like to help change that.

10. Because service is a gift.

11. Because good training is a gift.

12. Because I am fascinated by British afternoon tea and kinky tea protocol and etiquette.

13. Because it’s been fun to create this class, and I am almost certain to enjoy teaching it. I can’t wait to meet my students!

So you see, there are many good reasons for creating this fun, new course!

For more information about SADA, or to enroll, go to this link: Service Academy of Domestic Arts, at Creative Sexuality Education Corp. We have a tuition special, at $100 for all fifteen classes, if you enroll by June 30th.

The online classes meet every two weeks, from May 30th until December 12th. If you start late and miss a few live webinars, you can always access the taped classes to catch up.

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Sexologists Spoke Out About “Hula” STD Alert App

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On May 6, Qpid.me CEO Ramin Bastani announced that he would be changing the name of his controversial “hula” STD alert app in the next month or so, even though a new name has not yet been selected. By making this preliminary announcement, he began to bring closure and healing to a very painful chapter in Native Hawaiian affairs. The app name was strenuously protested in an online petition which reached 4,488 signatures. Approximately 500 other people signed paper petitions during the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, thanks to the actions of two particularly hard-working women. Though Bastani undoubtedly endured a painful learning curve, we are all so grateful that we can now begin to put the matter behind us.

A sexology colleague, Dr. Heather Howard, may be the last person to sign the online petition. Hers is the last signature as of May 7th, 6:50 AM PST. Dr. Howard wrote in the comments section, “As a sexual health educator, I am interested in promoting well-being for all individuals. I have a responsibility, first and foremost, to ‘do no harm.’ Therefore, I cannot condone an application which undermines the well-being of a people.”

Exactly. This has been my point all along. From my first knowledge of this controversy I’ve been concerned as an ally to Native Hawaiian causes and as a former hula student, but also – quite importantly – as a sexologist who understands the importance of multicultural competence in clinical practice.

One of my first actions was to contact Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji, president of the American Counseling Association (ACA), to ask for their help. Dr. West-Olatunji put me in touch with Dr. Yegan Pillay, chair of  the organization’s Human Rights Committee (HRC). At that point, Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, a Native Hawaiian elder and former trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and I co-authored a hasty “white paper” to submit to the HRC. The committee began to consider the issue. On Monday, May 5th, I heard from Dr. Pillay that the HRC members had reached consensus, they were “fully supportive” of our concerns, and had drafted a letter to send to Mr. Bastani and his advisory board “strongly condemning and recommending the discontinuation of using the term ‘hula’ in the STD app” (Dr. Pillay, emails May 5 and 7).

Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard, a resident of Hawai’i, was another sexology colleague who spoke out. He too sent a letter to the ACA HRC, expressing similar concerns about the effect of this app name on Native Hawaiians. And buried within the roster of 4,488 petition signatures, another sixteen sexologists expressed their support.

It’s been a difficult spring. During this last five and a half weeks I have signed and donated to the petition, blogged, made a video, worked the social media and online groups, commented on news articles, written endless emails, bought a protest t-shirt, and have been privileged to interact with a wonderful ad hoc group of Native Hawaiian activists. I am also proud of the sexologists I know who cared enough to consider the issue and make their professional opinions known. I thank them all.

I won’t be completely at ease until the name is actually changed. And though I have taken down most of my blogs on this topic, there is definitely need for a “post-mortem” (such as this one), reflection, and acknowledgment, as well as some retention of this history of the grassroots activism so that no other entrepreneur can be tempted to make the same branding and marketing mistake.

Mahalo nui! The STD alert app name WILL be changed!

I am very thankful today to learn that Qpid.me CEO Ramin Bastani has made public his decision to change the name of the “hula” STD alert app. In the last couple of weeks he has made it a point to contact various people who have been actively opposing his branding choice, and sincerely listened to all that we had to say. Much of it was not pleasant or easy for him to hear, and he showed character in considering very many different points of views. I laud his decision, and that of his company.

I have been very harsh toward Ramin Bastani, his company, and his advisors, in many of the blogs I’ve posted in the last five weeks. This was deliberate, and whether or not it was necessary, is probably up for debate. I felt this was a matter that required pressure to achieve change, and I was definitely NOT in an “aloha” frame of mind. I probably have given offense to some, and for that I apologize. But not for my efforts to bring up important considerations of ethics, multicultural competency, indigenous rights, cultural genocide, and other “macro” aspects of this issue.

Again, I want to express appreciation for this decision to announce the company’s intention to change the app name and I am thankful that a useful product will soon function as it should, without the taint of offensiveness and cultural appropriation. I also hope that future entrepeneurs learn from this marketing “case study” and avoid making similar mistakes with regard to indigenous practices, traditions, language, and art forms.

Here is a copy of the first AP news article that I’ve seen:

Hawaiians spur STD app to change ‘Hula’ name

Web Staff and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press

Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 1:33 pm

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 12:54 pm

HONOLULU (AP) – The founder of an app called “Hula” that provides information about sexually transmitted diseases says he plans to change its name after complaints that it’s culturally insensitive to Hawaiians.

Ramin Bastani told The Associated Press on Tuesday that after weeks of learning to understand the concerns of the Native Hawaiian community, he’s moving forward with changing the app’s name.

An online petition asking him to change the name argues that the name exploits a sacred cultural art form. Bastani previously resisted changing the name even after the petition gained attention in March. But he said he immediately removed any references to “getting lei’d” in marketing the app.

He says he’ll continue to educate others not to associate “getting lei’d” with his health tool.

Bastani says a new name hasn’t been determined.

The following is a statement from Hula app founder Ramin Bastani:

We recently learned that Native Hawaiians had concerns with our name, Hula. We immediately engaged the community and listened with an open mind. By doing so, we gained a great respect for hula, the Hawaiian culture and its history. For those that were offended by the name, we sincerely apologize – that was never our intent.

We promise to change the name in the very near future.

We give thanks to everyone who contacted us and are especially grateful for the thoughtful leadership of Dr. Diane Paloma, the Director of the Native Hawaiian Health Program at The Queen’s Health Systems and Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, the CEO at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

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And here is the news that was released yesterday, May 5th.

Copy of the letter sent by Hawai’i State Senators to Ramin Bastani, as referenced in the article below.

The following is from an article posted on the Hawai’i Senate Majority Website:

Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and OHA Take Issue with “Hula” App.

Hawai’i Leaders Urge CEO to Cease Use of the Native Hawaiian Word Hula 

In defense of the cultural practice and intellectual property of Native Hawaiians, two leading state organizations on Hawaiian affairs are asking the creator of an app that helps people get tested for STDs to stop using and branding the word “Hula.”

The app, which at one point used marketing phrases as “it helps you get lei’d,” connects users to various STD testing facilities and promotes itself as the new platform to have discussions about STD.

The letter, signed by members of the Hawaii State Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), is addressed to the chief executive office of Qpid.me, Inc., Ramin Bastani, and identifies two key issues that are of concern:

Hula is a sacred Native Hawaiian cultural expression and important cultural property;
Naming a commercial product after a Native Hawaiian sacred cultural expression without meaningful consultation is inconsistent with state, international, and the Native Hawaiian people’s policies.
Although recognizing and appreciating the efforts of the company to support STD awareness and prevention, the letter also notes that the use of word “Hula” is hewa (or wrong) because it “represents a highly insensitive, tactless and inappropriate misappropriation of a culturally sacred and cherished practice.”

“It’s unfortunate some think that it’s okay to throw culturally-meaningful expressions around without thinking about the group of people it may affect. Hula is a sacred dance that Native Hawaiians cherish,” said Senator Malama Solomon. “As Hawaiians it is our kuleana (or responsibility) to protect our cultural traditions. We don’t want to see continued disrespectful and inappropriate commodification of our culture.”

According to the letter, hula remains an important medium for the perpetuation and preservation of Native Hawaiian history and culture, and continues to be vital for the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals as well as the Native Hawaiian Community.

The Hawaii State Constitution recognizes and protects Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, including cultural expressions and practices such as hula. The state legislature has also affirmed “that the Native Hawaiian people are recognized as indigenous, traditional knowledge holders and they have collective intellectual property rights. Additionally, the United States supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”), which confers upon indigenous peoples the right to maintain and control traditional knowledge, cultural traditions and intellectual property relating to their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression and manifestations.

Senators who signed the letter include: Senators Malama Solomon, Committee on Water and Land; Brickwood Galuteria, Senate Majority Leader; Clayton Hee, Judiciary Committee; J. Kalani English, Transportation and International Affairs Chair; Maile Shimabukuro, Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair; Gilbert Kahele, Tourism Committee Chair and Michelle Kidani; Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair.

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Respect for Diversity Important In New Sex Ed Teacher Standards

The new National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education are hot off the press, and have just been issused by the Future of Sex Education, along with SEICUS, Answer – Sex Ed, Honestly, and Advocates for Youth.

If you haven’t done so already, you can download the PDF by clicking the National Teacher Preparation Standards link above.

Because cultural appropriation and intersectionality are so important, I am delighted to see that the new standards include respect for “diversity and equity” as described below. I am not surprised by this. Helping professionals and their organizations know that these are key elements in any successful and useful interaction with clients, patients, consumers, and students. The excerpt below is taken from the PDF:

<<Standard 2: Diversity and Equity

Teacher candidates show respect for individual, family and cultural characteristics and experiences that may influence student learning about sexuality.

There is tremendous diversity represented in US classrooms. Often, “diversity” refers to race, culture and ethnicity. Within sexuality education, however, there are other forms of diversity to consider as well, such as family structure (e.g., single parents, step parents, teen parents); religious affiliation; social, emotional and physical developmental level; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression; sexual history; and relationship abuse. These visible and invisible diversities are present in every classroom and affect how students learn. Effective teachers are respectful of multiple dimensions of diversity and tailor instruction appropriately.

Indicators

Successful teacher candidates will:

2.1 Demonstrate the ability to create a safe and inclusive classroom environment for all students.

2.2 Describe how students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences may affect students’ personal beliefs, values and knowledge about sexuality.

2.3 Demonstrate the ability to select or adapt sexuality education materials that both reflect the range of characteristics of the students and community and respect the visible and invisible diversities that exist in every classroom.>>

When sexual health and education products are created in either conscious or unconscious violation of respect for diversity, the learning (and therapeutic) environment is affected. It is no longer safe or inclusive for the person or group who is disrespected. Learning will be less likely to occur. In a clinical environment, there can be no therapeutic value either.  In fact, in both of the above situations, disrespect is likely to produce a negative experience rather than a neutral one.