Blog for Lesbian Health Day

nlhs_smallLet’s talk about our health.

Personally I am extremely grateful to have grown up in a culture where the women’s health movement had already had significant effects and waves. I went to teen-positive health centers for my first annual exams and birth control prescriptions, I went to queer-positive centers after I came out who didn’t blink twice when I checked “lesbian” on the forms.

And, honestly, Lesbian Health and Women’s Health are big – huge! – topics on which I am not so well-versed. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV prevention, the myths around lesbians being less susceptible to STIs, safer sex practices, gender discrimination, transphobia … these are huge topics, each of which are worthy of their own examination.

And lucky for us, there are many wonderful people working within these fields to make it more lesbian-inclusive, queer-inclusive, gender-inclusive.

Today is Blog for Lesbian Health Day in honor of the upcoming National Lesbian Health Summit taking place March 6 through 8, 2009, in San Francisco. It’s only $30 registration for both days.

(Anyone have any plane-fare hookups? I’d love to go, but can’t afford to actually get there. Note to self, get an airline sponsor.)

I’ve been in touch with Cat, one of the organizers of the conference, and she writes:

Instead of it being just a boring conference, we want to use it as a place to build grassroots, community-based conversations on our health and what health issues affect us. AND most importantly, how we can be leaders in championing our health and getting TPTB to pay attention to our health. This is a critical moment in our nation’s history and we want to make the most of it.

The thing that is probably #1 on my list about health, as a, ahem, sexually active queer person, is STIs and safer sex. It’s something that I always intend to write about more here, to address issues how to keep your toys clean, reminders to wear gloves and use dams and condoms, but it’s a topic that – again – is HUGE, and I tend to feel like I need to do a whole bunch of research on something before I write it up, and I can’t seem to make the time to do the research. (I do practice safer sex, and I try to include it in my write-ups … but that’s not quite the same as opening up a specific dialogue about it.)

So let me take this little opportunity to say: EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT SAFER SEX. There are many ways to do this. I recommend Scarleteen – though it is geared toward teenagers, the information is clear and straightforward, basic, and in-depth, and I often use it as a resource when I come across health questions that I can’t answer.

So, instead of writing about my own experiences with the healthcare systems (which have been mostly positive, actually) or speculating too much about the community questions, I want to ask you:

What health issues are you concerned about? For yourself and for your community?

What information do you need to make better decisions about your health?

And what experiences have you already had with your health and the healthcare world (the good, the bad, the ugly)?

What do health issues do we need to take on and how?

How can we better grapple with how we form who we are (allowing for all of the ways we see ourselves) and let that lead our conversations on health?

What do you want to see this summit address?

Do you want to take them to task for calling it the Lesbian Health Summit? Is it welcoming to your particular identity?

If you’d like, leave your stories in the comments, or write it up on your own blog – and please do leave a link to what you write here.

Register online for the Summit now, or visit their website for more information.

high heels lead to a stronger pelvic floor

I love heels. Stilettos, kitten heels, boots, even wedge heels. I love how they enhance the S-shape of a woman’s body.

Growing up in a feminist household, it was ingrained in me early on that high heels are bad for women’s feet and hips, that they cause shinsplints and hip problems and weak knees and all sorts of things. It took me a long time to come to my own acceptance of liking high heels on femmes … even having a bit of a strappy sandal fetish, I might say.

Diana Cage and I were talking last night on her radio show about my turn-ons, and I mentioned heels, though not without the caveat of the feminist knowledge of how damaging they can be to a woman’s body.

But, Diana told me about a recent study where wearing high heels actually improves the muscles on a woman’s pelvic floor, thus making her, you know, tighter.

I looked it up. From the BBC – High heels “may improve sex life”: An Italian urologist and “lover of the sexy shoe” did a recent study which showed that women who wore a 2″ heel or higher had as good posture as those who wore flat shoes, and also showed “less electrical activity” in their pelvic muscles, which are not just useful in the organs of the body (like the bladder) but also in increased sexual satisfaction and performance. “This suggested the muscles were at an optimum position, which could well improve their strength and ability to contract. The pelvic floor muscles are an essential component of the female body.”

Probably most of us have heard of PC muscle exercises, “Kegels,” as they’re called, to strengthen the pelvic floor – same idea. It makes sense that heels would improve these muscles, when I think about it … and I think it’s another subconscious way that heels sexualize a woman’s body.

This also reminds me of an exercise we did in the Body Electric Celebrating the Body Erotic workshop last fall, the mulabhanda pelvic lock, or root lock, in which you keep your pelvic muscles tightened and breathe in a particular pattern. It was surprisingly difficult and incredibly hot.

I’m sure it’s still possible to damage your body by wearing heels constantly, this can’t undo all the other potential damage. But I’m also glad to know that there is some physical good that comes from wearing heels.