This blog post is part of a series here at Scarleteen profiling young people worldwide who are activists in some way in the fields of sexuality, sex education and sexual health.
Patsy Niklas is someone I consider myself privileged to know in person. Until recently, she worked as the program manager for YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS) in Melbourne, coordinating volunteer training and taking care of the organisation's social media.
Now she works with the Foundation for Young Australians on their Young People Without Borders project, helping young Australians get involved in volunteering and activism. In addition to all that, she hosts a weekly show about sex and relationships on Melbourne's youth-run radio station, SYN. You can follow the awesomeness that is Patsy on twitter at @apatsy.
(Note: This interview was done while Patsy was still working for YEAH, so it focuses on her work there rather than her current work with FYA.)
What is it that got you started doing the work that you do? Was there a specific moment or event that prompted you get involved in sex education, or was it more gradual?
I suppose my interest in sex education comes from my experience – during university I was diagnosed with vaginismus, and spent a lot of time hanging out with my pelvic floor physiotherapist as she taught me to relax my vaginal muscles. It kind of surreal having chats with my doctor about politics, feminism and movies with her hand halfway up my clacker, but her sex-positive approach really inspired me to get into the field.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend a lot of time writing and implementing strategy for our social media channels, which is a great way to connect with other young people. Occasionally, I get to go to events at universities and music festivals, which is great fun, especially when we bring our gigantic inflatable condom castle.
In addition to working for YEAH, you co-host a weekly radio show, the Naughty Rude show, on the SYN network here in Melbourne. How did that get started?
I studied radio production at university, and it’s my first love. Doing the Naughty Rude show is really rewarding, because we get to answer questions about dating, friendship, love, gender and sexuality. It’s more broad than my regular work which is very STI and safe-sex focused.
Working in sex education and sexual health can be frustrating at times – what is it that motivates you to keep going? Are there things you find especially challenging, and how do you deal with that?
It’s often difficult to run programs and teach people about safer sex with such limited funding (this is a pretty common experience for many who work in the community sector!) Although it’s frustrating, it does encourage us to be innovative and creative.
It’s also challenging to encounter conservatism from the community around sexuality. Luckily, the young people we meet tend to be more open-minded about that sort of thing. The main barriers often come from the older generation who are a bit “shock horror” about it all, whereas young people are a bit more gung-ho and keen to get involved.
Lastly, any words of wisdom for other young people who want to get involved in sex education?
Don’t wait to find a job! If you can, volunteer as a peer educator with a local organisation, start a blog, find your local AIDS council and see if they have a youth program. Sex education is really fun, so you may as well get involved straight away.
Want to check out our last young activist profile? Find out about Jessica of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network here.
Know an awesome young activist you think should be profiled at Scarleteen (or if you are one yourself and want to share your story!)? You can let me know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org