AASECT President Susan Stiritz
I am writing to thank you for the opportunity to have served as President of AASECT over the past two years. They have been years of challenge and change, progress and promise. While as a nation we are in the midst of a devastating pandemic and of painful manifestations of white supremacy, we also seem to be at a point of positive paradigm change in our nation’s history. AASECT seems to be at similar inflection points.
When I took office two years ago, I hoped our Board would continue to achieve important steps and also to initiate new actions and commitments. I admire the work of our 2018-2020 Board and look forward to witnessing how our new 2020-2022 leaders will build on our work.
Here are some of our work highlights from 2018-2020:
Membership growth broke through our 3,000-member goal in December 2019. We await completion of our membership renewal cycle to see if we are able to sustain this growth as the nation continues in economic hardship, sheltering in place, closing down work, and experiencing unemployment growth that has taken the nation from 3.9% to 14.7% unemployment in May of 2020.
Certification figures continued to be strong. Certification Chair, Sally Valentine, PhD, FAACS, LCSW, CST, CSTS recently reported AASECT had 1256 certified members.
Perhaps the focus of this administration was addressing our organization’s governance and culture. Most importantly, we addressed need for transformation. Even before the murder of George Floyd and others and the countries mobilization affirming Black Lives Matter, AASECT was acknowledging our own white supremacist history. We aimed to combine greater social justice with sexual health objectives. We completed a strategic plan of six major goals and many action steps to lead us to the diversity, equity, and inclusion we value and insist on having in programming, access to leadership, and member benefits. We updated our bylaws and revised two-thirds of our policies and procedures, under Bylaws Chair Neil “Nelly” Cannon, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSTS. The new AASECT administration is poised to start implementing the Strategic Plan under the Presidency of Chris Fariello, PhD, MA, LMFT, CST, CSE, CSTS and the Strategic Planning Committee Chairs, Eli Green, PhD, CSE, CSES and Tameca Harris-Jackson, PhD, LCSW, CSE
We quickly amended our certification and training requirements when social distancing made it impossible to meet in person. Even online SARs are now available and new online SAR guidelines in place. These new guidelines will last until June 2021, when the new Board reviews our situation. Rosalyn Dischiavo, EdD, MA, CSE, CSES, PESC Chair responsible for this work, also created and revised presenter policies, now acceptable to all and offered a Fall Institute on touch, “The Body Whisperers,” in New Orleans.
Our Membership Committee has created new SIGs, clarified and emphasized AASECT’s welcome to Somatic Sexuality Professionals, and increased member engagement under our Vice President of Membership, Lexx Brown-James, PhD, LMFT, CSE, CSES.
We added eight new scholarships AASECT will offer once we resume in-person conferences, under the supervision of Outreach Committee chair Juan Camarena, PhD, LMFT, LPCC, CST, and the DEI Committee. We now have an Equity Scholarship Fund and a Creating Community Scholarship Fund that add to our scholarship offerings.
Six new social justice-oriented position statements were created by our PRMA Committee, under the leadership of Margie Nichols, PhD, CST, CSTS:
- Position on the Dignity and Rights of Transgender, Gender Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming Individuals
- Position on FOSTA-SESTA and its Impact on Consensual Sex Work and the Chilling of Sexual Speech
- Position on Sexuality Education
- Position on Consent and Sexual Violence
- Position Statement on Abortion
Our Ethics Committee, chaired by Dan Watter, EdD, DST, CSTS, introduction an ethics complaint form used in a revised ethics complaint process
Neil “Nelly” Cannon, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSTS led the task force that simplified supervisors’ procedures for starting supervisions.
Pivoting quickly and switching from an in-person conference in Palm Springs to a Virtual Summit, we dodged financial challenges and affirmed our community’s need to gather with a free online conference that attracted over 700 attendees. Thanks to Conference Co-Chairs Jane Fleishman, PhD, CSE and Tanya Bass, MS, MEd. CSE and our Treasurer Todd Malloy, MA, LMFT, CST, CSE.
In May, AASECT’s Board issued a commitment to Black Lives Matter with these words:
As we are called to action to interrupt, confront and dismantle systems of oppression, we know that we are also being called to look within - as individuals, as professionals, as community members, and as leaders of this organization. It is long overdue that we acknowledge AASECT is a historically white non-profit, with a predominantly white membership, and a predominantly (though not exclusively) white Board of Directors. As practitioners, our work is deeply rooted in fields of study and practice within a larger culture that have profited off and exploited Black, Indigenous & People of Color’s bodies, identities and lives. AASECT has, and continues to, participate in and perpetuate these systems of oppression. We know that we have long been offered this feedback by our members who experience it the most, and that collectively, our responses have been woefully insufficient and in many places absent altogether or worse. Simply put, we have not done the work to dismantle white supremacy within AASECT, and it is past time that we do so.
As all of us at AASECT turn inward and outward to transform perspectives and practices, to open up access to all aspects of our organization to all, to widen our social as well as our sexological world views, may we treasure the opportunities for growth and development our working and struggling together offer us. I have enjoyed meeting, getting to know, and working with you. Here’s to our future as sex positive, change agents!
All the best,