Writer and sex educator Kaleigh Trace “works with words and dildos.”
I first met Kaleigh when she presented at the Guelph Sexuality Confrence on disability, desirability, and resistance. She’s thoughtful and charmingly funny in person, as well as an ace presenter. She’s also a refreshing voice in the sex and disability field, with lots of personal and professional experience behind her.
Kaleigh graciously answered some questions about her work for Ready, Sexy, Able. Thanks Kaleigh!
Robin:You lecture and write a lot about sexuality and disability, but you’re also a sex educator at a feminist sex shop and you do some general disability awareness education, right? Can you tell us more about what you do? What does a typical Kaleigh work day look like?
Kaleigh:My days really vary all the time. Most days I endure doctors in the morning and sell sex toys in the afternoon, which I suppose is a pretty good balance of the bad and the good. I often teach workshops for Venus Envy in the evening, covering topics ranging from sex & disability to oral sex. And then it seems seasonally I find myself doing the really fun stuff of going to conferences and/or organizing around disability justice. Last winter a friend and I co-organized a protest to try and urge the city to more affectively clear the sidewalks, so that disabled folks could finally leave our homes (East Coast Canadian winters aren’t pretty). And then this past summer I presented at a different conference/festival every other week it seemed, which meant a lot of talking about disability politics with like-minded people.
I suppose that ultimately, my days aren’t typical. Which I like. And even though I am only occasionally doing big projects that advocate for disability justice & inclusion (like protests and presentations), I sort of feel like being a politicized disabled femme moving through the world means I am doing a little bit of advocating and a little bit of resisting all the time.
Robin: What would you most like disabled people to know about sex, sexuality, and intimate relationships?
Kaleigh: Oh my. I’m not sure. As a younger, less self-assured disabled person I would have loved to have had older disabled peers around to tell me that my body is valuable, desirable, sexual and good in and of itself. In my experience, having a body that deviated from the norm made it more difficult for me to figure out how to love myself and how to explore my sexuality.
For folks who are already fully imbued with that knowledge…I hope people know to communicate. Talk, sign, text, blink – however communication works for you. Essentially, use your body to take the space you need. Ask for pleasure. Demand for access. Our capacity to communicate for ourselves about ourselves is such a powerful tool in exploring sex, sexuality and intimacy.
Robin: What would you most like nondisabled people to know about disabled people’s experiences of sex, sexuality, or intimate relationships?
Kaleigh: Hm. Check yourself? Check the assumptions you have made about how bodies work and what bodies are desirable. Learn how to ask questions about comfort, positioning, needs, pleasure, access, all the things. Don’t assume that all bodies work the same, that all people require the same touch. Just check yourself.
Robin: Which writers and activists do you turn to over and over again for education or inspiration?
Kaleigh: I could reread the words of Mia Mingus, Eli Clare, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha over & over again. Reading other disabled activists writing about their experiences is the best way for me to feel kinship and to learn more about myself & my community. It’s a sweet relief and the perfect challenge all at once.
And then sometimes, I just watch youtube clips of Gillian Anderson being tough as fuck over and over again, because watching femmes get shit done is like listening to the perfect pump-up power jam.
Robin: What are you working on right now? What’s coming up for you in the next year?
Kaleigh: Good, hard question! I don’t totally know. I am reticent to speak about the future because it’s all a little murky. My book, Hot, Wet & Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex, has been alive in the world for just over a year now, and I am feeling really ready to move forward from it and write some new work to attach my name to. I would like to get back to blogging, after taking a small hiatus. I would like to travel more and connect with other disabled folks across Canada & the U.S.
I did just finish putting together a new website where I want to write new posts pertaining to sex but also all things disability related. I’m excited about that! You can now find me at KaleighTrace.com. My previous blog, The Fucking Facts, was really fun and brought a lot of success and positivity to my life. But I sometimes felt a bit required to only write about sex there, and I would like to have space on KaleighTrace.com to write about everything from orgasms to femme politics to disability survival. So, please check that out to learn about my future endeavors and new projects.