Advocate Spotlight: Meet Elisabeth Dee
Originally Published: December 21, 2016
Revised: April 3, 2017
Elisabeth Dee, a 22-year-old student, activist, writer and feminist, has a long history of being a sexual health advocate. Raised in Utah with what she calls an “abysmal public-school sex education,” Elisabeth had no idea how her body worked, and when she got her first period, she thought she was dying. In Elisabeth’s community, sex was considered taboo and not to be discussed unless you were advocating for abstinence before marriage or fidelity within marriage. As a young, queer girl, Elisabeth often felt lonely and confused.
When Elisabeth reached high school and entered into her first relationship, she heard so many myths about sex, such as, “If you have sex before marriage, it’ll ruin you and no one will want you” and “Bisexuals are sluts.” Elisabeth didn’t know what to believe. To make matters worse, many important elements of sex education, including birth control, were banned in the public schools!
I think starting [sex ed] early lays the foundations for healthy sexual relationships in adulthood.
Elisabeth decided to take matters into her own hands. She went to Planned Parenthood, read lots of pamphlets and educated herself about sex and sexuality. This opened a whole new world to her. She gained a new vocabulary for her desires and her body, and she describes the entire experience as “incredibly validating.”
When her friend was expelled from school for getting pregnant, Elisabeth acted instantly by petitioning for sex education in her high school, collecting signatures from the student body and talking to supportive teachers. When the head of school found out, she threatened Elisabeth with expulsion and sent her to the school psychiatrist. Afterwards, Elisabeth started holding “Sex Question Tuesdays,” sessions where her peers could ask any questions about sex or sexuality.
Elisabeth is now a student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, pursuing a double major in anthropology and feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She also works at her dream job as the Co-Director and Projects Manager for the Stanford Sexual Health Peer Resource Center and is a member of the Youth Tech Health (YTH) Youth Advisory Board. Through her work, Elisabeth has been involved in advocating for accessible and safe abortion access, an end to and justice for women forcefully sterilized in prisons and medical institutions, as well as safe and accessible reproductive healthcare for transgender, gender non-conforming and queer people. She also pushes for more comprehensive support for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Eager to learn more about Elisabeth and all she does, we decided to interview her for this issue’s Faces of Change.
“I’m most passionate about queering sexual education. Queer people are not represented in sexual education, from neither a gender nor sexuality standpoint. Sex ed needs to be more inclusive to include people across all sexual expressions, gender expressions and gender identities.”
“My grandma—she’s one of the strongest women I know and has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love.”
Burns Her Up & Makes Her Happy
“One thing that makes me really angry is abstinence-only programs. One thing that makes me really happy is peanut butter.”
“One myth I heard about sex growing up was that I could get pregnant from oral sex.”
“I like how empowering sexual education can be. I believe that having radically accessible sexual education gives people the tools to understand themselves in an incredibly crucial way.”
Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr?
Stranded on a Desert Island
“If I were stranded on a desert island, I would bring my younger brother, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion and thin mint cookies.”
Show Her the Money
“If I had $1 million to change sex ed, I would start sex ed early. In The Netherlands, they start talking about sexual education in kindergarten. They have conversations about consent, basic anatomy and interpersonal relationships. I think starting early lays the foundations for healthy sexual relationships in adulthood.”
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