“We will Inspire people to bond around creating fulfilling relationships more than survivor stories. We will encourage celebration of personal growth and compassionate communication rather than traumatic histories. We will proudly declare ourselves Thrivers rather than Survivors. We will free ourselves from the cage of oppression and create a culture of healthy sexuality in which people of all sexual identities thrive.” — Emilee Coulter-Thompson in Queering Sexual Violence Anthology
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we welcome you to the Spring Up family to join us in imagining, creating, building, and supporting each other in the quest to cultivate a culture of consent and liberty for all! We are a small team of queer and trans anti-violence organizers striving to build community and an alternative culture of being in the world through consent education and transformative justice at the forefront of social justice movements fighting for our collective freedoms and liberation.
As we launch the #CultivateConsent campaign to envision a world where we are in healthier relationships with one another, I find myself reflecting on my own journey with consent and sexual harm over the years. I’m a queer non-binary femme fluid survivor of gender based violence who continues to question what a younger me would’ve needed to feel safe, heard, and held in a world where queer kids are told we don’t belong or deserve a life worth living. So I ask myself, what would I have needed to transform the negative experiences I had with gender identity and sex growing up to be more positive and rooted in mutual respect of boundaries, open communication, and genuine love and curiosity? What would those who harmed me have needed to see and feel clearly why their actions were violent to my body to shift and change their behaviours? What form of support would I have needed to not be complicit in harm against others around me in community, to stand up for those like me and not feel helpless when I saw them being attacked? I’m sure many of you have similar questions and find yourselves here on the quest for answers. That is exactly why we’re embarking on this campaign. We’re raising awareness of the root causes of violence in our communities and increasing accessibility of tools and resources that can equip us to build a new world rooted in love together. But first, before we dive in, here’s a bit of my personal story exploring what brings me to this work:
21 years ago, I was birthed into the world a baby of fluid being and existence in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica, an island-nation in the West Indies where colonial era laws and cultural norms governing gender expression and roles, as static and binary, remain deeply ingrained decades after “independence” from the British. Just seconds after my birth, I was forced to abandon abundance and fluidity in possibilities of self expression and labeled male/boy/masculine based on my primary physical sexual characteristics. Even though I never had the language to openly communicate my discomfort with this label/identity and the expectations that were forced upon me because of it, I embraced the parts of me that were femme, the parts of me that were validated by the sways in my hips, my love for tight-fitting clothes, and my inherent desire to avoid the “rough and tough” behaviour other boys were conditioned to believe was normal to their being and nature. Community members around me, both old and young, would soon become acutely aware of my difference and view it as threatening to the maintenance of communal and societal perceptions of order and cultural tradition. For years, I would be bullied and abused physically, verbally, and emotionally as taunts at school, home, and on the streets mocked the way I moved through the world in my body. By high school, I would also realize my sexual and romantic attractions weren’t in line with pressures for me to “fall in love” with a girl, or those more broadly considered to be of the “opposite” sex/gender. At the height of puberty, it felt like I had a crush on another “boy” ever so often but I knew I could never reveal my desires; it would mean guaranteed encounters with brutal violence that could make me lose my right to breath.
Moreover, even if I could voice my gay rhythmic desires, I was never taught healthy ways to communicate with my peers openly and with curiosity. Instead, for years I’d been taught how not to behave, how to seem normal, how to fit in to not shake norms off their root and foundation. Over time, I would find boys like me who also liked other boys, but it became clear my lack of ability to assert my boundaries and voice my needs would leave me vulnerable to manipulation and coercion to fulfill their desires and demands of me. I was left lost without any form of support to navigate the many forms of violence I faced on a daily basis. Today, I’m deep in the process of learning how to heal my wounds and love with abundance. My move to the US in 2016 has allowed me access to colorful and vibrant queer communities where my chosen family is constantly teaching me new ways to reclaim love of self through open and unapologetic communication of my needs, boundaries, and anxieties.
Stas and Lea, the original founders of Spring Up, have been a crucial part of that community and support system over the past few months as I moved to Miami at the beginning of the year. I joined the Spring Up team as Coordinator for their inaugural Consent Fellowship program, to embark on a journey of collective learning, healing, and growth with local South Florida community organizers. At the end of January, we broke ground and launched the program with in person trainings and weekly online meetings to equip fellows, who were mostly of color, femme, and queer identifying young adults, with knowledge, tools, and resources to reduce, respond to, and prevent gender based violence in their local communities and social justice organizations. For a period of 6 weeks, we explored the root causes of violence in our communities and envisioned solutions that facilitated healing and community accountability without punitive measures and state intervention, that often further harm marginalized peoples in our communities. We learned about violation of consent and sexual harm as not only an interpersonal issue between survivor/perpetuator, but as a systemic and institutionalized pillar of state control and oppression seen in the widespread societal violence experienced by black, brown, and indigenous peoples. Throughout April, fellows are facilitating community conversations to take these lessons and share back with the local Miami community tangible practices and resources to transform culture to center open negotiation of consent in healthy relationships of all forms. They’ve been holding workshops and trainings, and are talking to the community at events like the Miami Zine fair and Perez Art Museum’s (PAMM) Pride Night. The Spring Up family is getting larger with their efforts and we couldn’t be more grateful for their work.
However, we felt inspired to launch an online campaign based version of the teach backs because we know that many of you can’t join us here in South Florida, while growing anti-sexual violence movements demanding an end to rape culture present a growing need for accessible and tangible resources and tools to address harm and violence in our communities. The #MeToo movement, in particular, has increased mainstream consciousness of the prevalence of sexual violence in our society by highlighting our collective complicity and tolerance of behaviours that perpetuate harm against certain bodies. More than ever before, survivors and perpetuators alike, of which many of us are both, are coming forward with their lived experiences and stories to demand a societal transformation and shift in our understanding of gender, sexuality, and healthy relationships. However, we are not taught how to embrace community accountability and trauma-informed healing and response on a societal-wide scale, leaving many in our movements and communities without support beyond the initial acknowledgement or reporting of harm stage of healing. It is evident we lack the tools to address harm in a way that honors and uplifts survivor agency and autonomy and perpetuator accountability. With those areas of community need identified, we felt inspired to conceptualize and bring to light the #CultivateConsent campaign because we believe we all deserve the resources necessary to foster collective healing and transformation. Moreover, with the rise of social media in the millennial age, we acknowledge that engaging and interactive digital content has become a powerful tool for social change as it provides space and platform for marginalized folks to challenge control of the state and its institutionalized systems of repression through open dialogue that calls out and brings light to how our society is complicit in our dehumanization. As such, we know that to make our content and resources truly accessible to those most impacted by violence, it must be available for use online.
So we thank you for joining us on the journey! Now it’s #timetospringup with us and bring these tools and resources we’ve created over time with intentionality and love into your own life as we explore our vision for a culture of consent. Through blogs, daily posts, livestreams, and Q&A sessions with our team and consent fellows, we’ll unpack consent culture with #consentand to discuss how consent connects to other social, racial, and economic justice issues. We’ll cover the following topics:
- Part 1: #ConsentandPower
- Part 2: #ConsentandPride
- Part 3: #ConsentandAccess
- Part 4: #ConsentandLiberty
- Part 5: #ConsentandHealing
This week we’re excited to announce that we’re starting big with the online launch of our Cultivate Consent zine! The zine is complete with key learnings/tools we determined over a period of time as most transformational for our participants in our trainings, workshops, and fellowship, including our consent tool book with information to analyze power dynamics and coercion, practice open and ongoing communication, and utilize trauma-informed survivor response strategies in our relationships. Included in different sections of the zine are tools to:
- Identify your internal boundaries and needs with boundary mapping and vent diagrams.
- Lay out your support systems to enhance self and community resiliency.
- Honor your self-care and healing practices.
- Identify and practice non verbal forms of communication, as well as understand important signs of dissociation.
- Practice different ways of asking and answering questions, especially as it relates to our varied communication styles.
- Address harm and violence through a harm reduction framework.
- Explore how you relate to gender based violence with historical context and background.
We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the Zine and our campaign! We are striving to provide the resources our younger, current, and future selves would need to truly navigate the world in a way that feels safe and empowering. For me, I know the violence I experienced in the past would’ve felt drastically different if I had these resources to fight for, protect, and care for myself. To connect with us and share how its impacted you, use #CultivateConsent on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms! We’ll be posting on those platforms daily with our main focus this week being a general introduction to consent and its relationship to power, coercion, and healthy communication. If you’re interested in physical copies, we are also able to provide those upon request once contacted. We look forward to your pictures, writings, comments, and questions!
Join Us On Patreon!
If you want a more intimate experience and relationship with our team over the next few weeks and months, we invite you to join the Spring Up family on Patreon! You’ll get exclusive access to a growing community equipped with information, tools, and resources to explore gender, sexuality, consent, power, trauma-informed responses to harm, healing practices, and community accountability. For a small monthly donation to support our work and sustain our organization, you get access to:
- Monthly conversations on topics the community requests with opportunities for Q & A with our team.
- Interviews with community members & our consent fellows
- Exclusive offers and discounts on our zines, books, and soon to be released merch!
- Centralized database of tools exploring consent, gender, sexuality, etc.
We hope to hold space for us to connect and build community across identity, borders, time, and space, as we have intentional conversations and dialogues about a world embodiment of healthy, liberating relationships.
Spring up is a South Florida based organization cultivating a culture of consent and liberty for all at the forefront of social justice movements fighting for our collective freedoms and liberty. If you’re interested in contacting us for physical zine copies or other inquiries, email Phillip at email@example.com. Follow us on social media @timetospringup to follow along with our campaign and keep up to date with our work!