2020 Sessions




Opening Keynote:

The Power of Pleasure: Coming Together Against Oppression

Saturday 09:15 – 10:00 PST with Shadeen Francis, LMFT

We come from many different walks of life. We represent a beautiful array of identities – a kaleidoscope of races, genders, religions, abilities, ethnicities, orientations, nationalities, lived experiences, and economic classes. Our differences make up who we are; they are the context of our embodied wisdom and our unique gifts. But we live in an oppression-driven system that has told us that our differences are obstacles that  divide us. Even worse, many of us have been taught that our differences make us less deserving of love, access, and freedom. How do we resist these messages to live empowered, autonomous lives? Pleasure is a tool for our collective liberation from oppressive forces. Imagine being able to center experiences that bring us peace, joy, agency, connection, and sexual fulfilment, and to expect these as our norms. What kind of world would we inhabit? What would be possible for us as individuals, and as a community? By leaning into the wisdom of our unique identities and various lanes of expertise, we can make pleasure possible for all of us. Let’s come together and envision a sex-positive future that leaves nobody behind.

Beauty, Shame and Desire: Understanding How Conventional Standards of Beauty Limit and Control

Sunday 09:30 – 10:50 PST with Alex Wilson, Cathy Vartuli, & Jet Noir

Conventional standards of beauty can have a profound effect on our sense of value and identity. Harsh judgment and shaming from others, and from the internalized rules learned from media and society, can leave people feeling undesirable. Or they may leave people feeling desirable for only those ways they closely match whatever standards are idealized.

These standards and beliefs are ever-present and the process of differentiating between personal preferences and social conditioning can be very challenging.

Becoming aware of the lenses we use to view ourselves, coworkers, children, and current or potential partners, and the ways that subjective value is applied is the first step to breaking free and discovering the individual preferences we each have. Understanding the difference between social expectations and status, and what is actually attractive to the individual can allow freedom and authentic connection. Allowing individuals to explore what is desirable to them while discovering potential partners that might be dismissed otherwise.

We explore the challenges and strictures of beautism as it impacts self-expression across racial, ableist, sizeist and age divides and share personal experiences and insights from different perspectives.

End of Day Breakout Chats

Sunday 14:30 – 15:00 PST with Cathy Vartuli, Jet Noir, Mel Cassidy, & Reid Mihalko

Some of the most fulfilling moments of attending conferences are those spent sharing ideas, meeting new people and renewing old connections.

Those moments in the hallways, over coffee, or waiting for the next talk to start are precious. We hear things from new perspectives, discover ideas and people we can’t wait to learn more about (the talk we missed because there were too many to choose from, or because that snooze button was compelling after an evening of deep discussions). We may meet people we want to collaborate with, refer clients to, and who are just plain fun!

While we can’t recreate the conference center and coffee shops of the hotel, we are offering a space to experience some of that wonder and connection.

The Breakout Chats allow you to interact with smaller groups of people, randomly assigned, so you get that delicious sense of adventure and discovery.

Join us at the end of the day to anchor ideas, learn what golden nuggets of ideas went on in other rooms, and meet delightful people who you might otherwise never know!

Enjoy the “conference hotel” feeling, without leaving your office! Experience Breakout Chats with your fellow attendees and presenters and fill your tanks up, get the connection you crave, and help the ConvergeCon team show the world that we may be stuck at home… And we’re still making a difference in our lives and the lives of others.

Female Presenting Tops in a Male Dominated Culture

Saturday 10:10 – 11:30 PST with Redrobin

How do women embrace and wear their ‘Top Hat’ when mainstream culture strongly pushes sexual and emotional passivity to men?  How has the societal pressure for ‘women’ to be a bottom/submissive affected everyone, and what can we do about it? How does a female presenting top find their sexual empowerment?

How do we get by in this world – and better yet, how do we improve it?

From Normal to XXXtra-Ordinary: Re-Writing Our Sexual and Romantic Scripts for Diversity, Access and Inclusion

Saturday 11:45 – 13:05 PST with Cara G*

Progressive folks talk a big talk when it comes to inclusion, whether rallying for causes like employment equity, accessible education and healthcare, or environmental racism. We’ll fight for (metaphorical and actual) ramps and elevators in our buildings… but what about in our sex lives? Should we treat sex and intimacy as social justice issues?

Consciously or not, many of us make judgments about the kinds of people, attributes, embodiments, and activities we consider desirable. And, often enough, our ideas about sex and romance conflict with values we hold dear in other contexts.

How, where, and why do we “do” sex? Whom do we find attractive? Who gets left out of our visions of “ideal” partners/selves? What expectations determine how we want our relationships to look, in and out of the bedroom (and other rooms)? How can we resist shaming or excluding messages that target us and those we care about? What if we’ve internalised some of these thoughts and feelings ourselves? What if we are “there” in theory but need new skills to navigate situations that are outside our comfort zones in practice?

In this workshop, we’ll address some of the risks, challenges, and benefits of going “off script.” Starting by discussing some of the ways society has shaped norms around sexuality and attractiveness, and around what sex “should” look and feel like, between whom, we’ll notice and name the pervasive expectations we face to conform to narrow ableist, racist, and heterosexist ideals of sexuality and romance. Only by recognising how these operate in our lives and unpacking the beliefs and behaviours that don’t serve us, our (potential) lovers, and our dating/sexual/intimate relationships, can we truly improve our prospects of celebrating diversity in our communities in private as well as public realms – one date, fuck, or relationship at a time.

Having Difficult Conversations In Close-Quarters

Sunday 11:00 – 12:20 PST with Reid Mihalko

If you’re cooped up in the house with roommates and/or loved ones… If you’re feeling tension between you and others IRL (In Real Life) or over video chat… It might be time for a Difficult Conversation!

Join relationship educator Reid Mihalko for a fun, virtual convo where we will practice using the Difficult Conversation Formula Worksheets, and then exercise our bravery muscles by practicing with other participants initiating those conversations with them role-playing as the person we need to have our talk with. This interactive talk will happen in a low-stakes, you-don’t-have-to-get-anything-perfect environment.

Intro to Disability Justice

Sunday 09:30 – 10:50 PST with Heather McCain and special guest Harmony Bongat

Disability Justice is an ongoing practice that recognizes the intersecting legacies of systems of oppression and challenges all to more fully address ableist notions of how we think about, and label, our bodies, minds, and senses. Ableism encourages the centering of “normal” and “productive” and devalues disabled bodies, brains, and senses, seeing them as “invalid”, “unnatural”, and “unworthy”, leading to exclusion, isolation, and oppression. Disability Justice recognizes our inherent worth and sees us as whole beings with differing strengths and needs.

We cannot achieve liberation until there is a better understanding of disability, ableism, and Disability Justice and how violence and ableism is leveraged against our communities. Disability Justice works to build community and cross-movement organizing that moves away from segregation, isolation, and ableism towards accessibility, equity, connection, and interdependence. Disability Justice not only challenges our way of thinking but has the power to fundamentally shift the way we organize and fight for social change.

Persistent societal misconceptions often frame people with disabilities as non-sexual beings, which is untrue (unless asexual, a small percentage). An understanding of disability and ableism is vital to the collective movement of sex positivity.

Heather McCain, a queer, nonbinary, disabled advocate and educator will give an introduction to Disability Justice and ableism. By the end of the session, you will have learned the 10 principles of Disability Justice, how to begin to recognize ableism, how to increase the accessibility of your movement, and how to become better allies to disabled people. Special guest: Harmony Bongat.

Moving Forward And Making A Difference In The Face Of Challenges

Sunday 12:45 – 14:20 PST with Cathy Vartuli, Jet Noir, Melody Anne, & Reid Mihalko

Doing what matters can take a lot of focus and courage. Overcoming our own fears and shame, standing up for the rights of others and feeling like we are doing all we can. Then, life happens. Perhaps unexpected, perhaps a flare-up of an existing condition… Mental and physical illness, trauma, sex-negativity, legal action, workplace challenges, discrimination, discovering there were things we need to clean up, among other challenges can set us back and make it feel like moving forward is impossible. We lose too many to the feelings of defeat and overwhelm. In those moments, knowing that others have gone through similar experiences and were still able to make a difference can be critical. Hearing the skills, approaches, and insights that helped can shortcut the painful times and allow us to get back in the saddle faster, so we can make a powerful difference in our own lives, and in the community.

Sunday 11:00 – 12:20 PST with Mel Cassidy

For most people, one relationship alone is fraught with complex dynamics to navigate. Multiply the number of relationships, and things can get exponentially complicated − sometimes when you least expect it!

In this mini workshop, Mel will help us look at a different way of framing non-monogamous relationships, to help us understand the ways we participate in creating friction in our network − and how we can take action to resolve it. This will be useful for folks in polyamorous relationships, as well as people with kink-based relationships or swinging communities, and for folks managing complex relationships within blended families.

This session will include:

▪ How 3 people can have 19 relationships between them

▪ How to understand whose “stuff” is coming up when there’s conflict (hint: it’s often more than one person!)

▪ An overview of The Drama Triangle and Triangulation, and how to turn this from a draining dynamic into healthy one.

Organized Hookers

Sunday 09:30 – 10:50 PST with Elsi Dawson

Elsi Dawson took a job sucking dick and made it way more difficult than it has to be. Sex workers often face isolation and stigma, and it’s in that isolation and stigma that exploitation and abuse can go unchecked. Elsi decided she didn’t want to be alone, so she started a chat room for sex workers. Within two years, that chat room evolved into a collective of over 100 indoor sex workers, the largest sex worker resource share in Western Canada, a nonprofit society, an office downtown and the most powerful force in this province in fighting commercial sexual exploitation. Elsi will tell you how they stumbled into organizing a group of workers who most people consider un-oganizable, the unique needs of sex workers, ideas for organizing sex workers in other cities, and what they have planned next.

Racial Fetishization: A How NOT To Guide

Sunday 11:00 – 12:20 PST with Jet Noir

Join Jet Noir in a lecture, question, and conversation session around engaging with different races (biology), ethnicities (culture), and nationalities (citizenship) in sexually charged environments. As an organizer of BIPOC-exclusive play parties, the material presented will be coming from first-hand experiences and feedback from people of varying backgrounds. This presentation is designed to educate non-BIPOC on what habits make BIPOC feel unsafe. This lecture will cover the difference between “preference” and fetish, why some people don’t want their hair touched (even if asked), and why some play parties have more BIPOC in attendance than others.

Reclaiming Body Trust: Naming the Disruptions & Returning Home to Ourselves

Sunday 12:45 – 14:20 PST with Dawn Serra

Body Trust is your birthright. You were born trusting your body. You believed, without question, your hunger and your desires, and asked for them unapologetically. Yet, somewhere along the way, your inherent trust was disrupted. You were taught to self-objectify, to distrust your hunger, to ignore your body’s wisdom, and to hand over your power in service to the expertise of others. The impact of patriarchy, capitalism, diet culture (now wellness culture), and fatphobia has affected us all. Join this interactive and vulnerable workshop as we begin to investigate our own body stories, as we name the systems and cultural institutions that profit off of our own body distrust, and as we explore what it means to begin to heal the disruptions so that we can more fully inhabit our bodies as sources of wisdom, pleasure, and delight. Diet talk, ableism, and healthism prohibited. Fat and disabled bodies will be centered. Curiosity most welcome. Plus, handouts!

Resistance Through Emotional Resiliency 

Saturday 13:40 – 15:00 PST with Cora Bilsker, Cherish Dorrington, & Tia Larkin

Feeling good is an empowered state of being, yet so much activism is done from a place of exhaustion, scarcity and grief. Caring for our wider communities and systems requires a strong foundation to work from… But sometimes it’s the systemic issues that are causing our exhaustion. How do we acknowledge and work within this cycle? Self-care is more complex than bubble baths; it’s highly personal and what one needs to fill their cups can be unclear. Cora, Cherish and Tia bring their experience as activists, therapists and deviants to this panel conversation. They believe that taking care of oneself is a radical act of resistance and will be discussing how not to feed the systems of oppression that seek to keep us malnourished and, instead, strengthening our reserves so that we can affect change from a place of joy.

Restorative Justice for Sexual Violence

Saturday 11:45 – 13:05 PST with Marlee Liss

I founded the Re-Humanize Movement after my own sexual assault case was one of the first in North America to conclude with a restorative justice process. I had the privilege of meeting my assailant face-to-face for a mediation circle focused on accountability, closure and healing. He also underwent extensive therapy and consent training. After this transformative experience, I am very much dedicated to advocating for the power of restorative and transformative justice. With a background in somatic sex education, anti-oppressive social work, and spirituality, my presentation will utilize storytelling and education to explore topics like accountability, public safety, pleasure within the justice system, and the Indigenous roots of restorative justice. Let us come together and discuss what it means to honour survivor’s diverse visions of justice while breaking chains of dehumanization.

Staying Connected In the Time of Social Distancing

Saturday 13:40 – 15:00 PST with Marcia Baczynski

Touch, physicality, sharing meals and sharing space are all sources of pleasure and inspiration for many people. Without them, it can be easy to feel isolated and disconnected from our bodies, our communities and our work in the world. And already, many of us are feeling burned out on screen time.Within big changes are also big opportunities. Some of these are new… and some have been here all along, waiting for us to notice. In this collaborative mini-workshop, we’ll explore ways of staying connected to ourselves, to others and to our activism, while we are physically apart, and you’ll leave with some practical tools you can use right away.

Temple of Pleasure: A Most Unusual Tale of Sexual Awakening

Saturday 10:10 – 11:30 PST with Wendy Scheirich

This is a fascinating story about irony and hope. It tells how an anti-prostitution activist came to seek the services of a sex worker for help with resolving sexual trauma arising from the activist work. Now the two are partners in an educational initiative and experiment in social justice to promote sex worker rights and sacred sexuality using a Facebook Group as the medium. This is a most unusual partnership demonstrating hope for resolution of conflict and polarization of sex worker rights and abolitionist groups in Canada and beyond.

Using Your Inner Compass: How to Create Meaning and Beauty Even During Times of Personal or Global Challenges

Sunday 12:45 – 14:20 PST with Little Woo

Everyday, we are bombarded by constant news and to-do lists that leave us tired, anxious and overwhelmed. Yet somehow, many of us can still feel the calling to create something beautiful and meaningful.  As we feel the struggle between our survival self and our soul, we must make small and large decisions that will either suppress or express our values and authentic self.  In this seminar, we will look at 4 types of expression that are crucial to our deeper purpose and well-being. This framework will give you some healing tools to work through your fears and activate your great spirit.  Little Woo developed this framework through the last 5 years of her private coaching practice, 10 years of group workshops and a lifetime of personal practice.

When sex hurts… and you don’t want it to!

Saturday 10:10 – 11:30 PST with Dr. Shauna Correia

This interactive dialogue will involve an overview of common reasons that people may experience pain with vaginal penetration and suggest a variety of evidence-based treatment approaches. In particular, we hope to highlight and increase the awareness of the chronic pain condition of Provoked Vestibulodynia which occurs in approximately 15% of people with vaginas and yet it remains a non-discussed, under-diagnosed, and untreated condition.

When We Give Too Much

Saturday 11:45 – 13:05 PST with Alex Wilson, Cathy Vartuli & Jet Noir

We often hear about how we should balance self-care with activism and support of others. And yet too many of us push ourselves and overextend to the point of exhaustion and inefficiency. Sometimes we find, looking back, that the focus of our efforts weren’t aligned with our core principals, or that we made decisions in the moment that didn’t support our well-being.

Doing too much can sometimes have the opposite effect than what we intended, whether we’re seeking to contribute to a cause we care about, feel included in a community, or support a friend. Exhaustion, feelings of resentment, dropped balls because of over-scheduling and conflicting calendars can leave people counting on us wondering where our focus is.

Understanding where the impulse to give too much comes from can give new power and insight into our decision-making process. We examine some of the subconscious “rules” and beliefs that create the knee-jerk response of saying “yes,” and strategies and approaches to help identify giving that is aligned and giving that can lead us astray.