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5 Ways to Advocate for Human Rights

September 9, 2015

As sexual freedom activists, there is never a question of the amount of work to be done. Two weeks ago we learned of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s raid on (which some are calling the “Stonewall of Sex Work”). Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, has reignited the marriage debate even after the Supreme Court decision earlier this summer. The number of people of color and members of the trans community murdered this year continues to rise at alarming rates. We fight large-scale, violent atrocities every single day.

The gravity of these issues can be overwhelming. We begin to question our own capacity for change as individuals. One of the most popular questions asked throughout our annual Sexual Freedom Summit is always to the tune of: “I’ve learned a lot. What do I do next? How can I help?”

One of the most important things to remember is that sexual rights are human rights. Connecting with other people is one of the best ways to remind others that human rights issues affect all of us, and we all must be responsible for creating real change.

Here are 5 ways to take action in your everyday life that will make a difference:

  1. Share the news.

One of Woodhull’s philosophies is to assume good intent. When someone says something offensive or hurtful, do not assume that this person meant to make you feel unsafe. When we assume good intent, an uncomfortable moment can turn into a learning opportunity.

With this in mind, it is so important to share news, statistics, and information relating to human rights. Instead of assuming that these atrocities to humanity are happening because the world is an evil place, think about all of the people who might not be informed. This especially applies to people in places of privilege; it’s easy to ignore what you think doesn’t affect you.

But the reality is that human rights violations do affect all of us, even people who are blissfully unaware. The beginning of a call to action is explaining to people why action is necessary. Do you have a large social media presence? Share articles about issues that are important to you. Show your followers that these concerns cannot be ignored. Did you just hear someone use language that is offensive to trans* folks? Correct them, if you feel safe and able, and explain why their words are perpetuating larger issues.

  1. Be informed yourself!

It’s impossible to educate others when you are not informed on the issues yourself. Read about human rights issues – do a simple google search – and follow human rights organizations (including @WoodhullFreedom, of course) on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with issues being working on.

It’s also important to be conscious of your sources. Is the reproductive justice article you just clicked written by an anti-choice group? When you’re reading about sex workers’ rights, have you heard the perspective of someone who works in the sex industry? Know the potential bias—both ones you agree and disagree with—of the speaker you’re listening to.

Also, be able to admit when you are not informed. If someone corrects your point, don’t get defensive. Ask questions if you’re still confused, and apologize if you’ve said something harmful, and continue educating yourself. If someone approaches you with a question you’re unsure about, try to lead them to resources that can help both of you find the answer. (This is especially important in issues regarding sexual health!)

  1. Speak up, and make your representatives listen.

Make your voice heard! It is possible to make the political sphere attuned to urgent sexual rights issues. Write a letter to your local politician telling them how you feel about legislation on reproductive justice, how the LGBTQ community members are being treated, and how you feel your district or state could improve upon upholding the right to family.

Representatives don’t just refer to those people in office. Let leaders of human rights organizations know how you feel about certain issues, and what work still needs to be done. For example, let your local LGBTQ organization know that the legalization of the same-sex marriage is step one of the battle for all families achieving their human rights.

We’re also listening right here at Woodhull! Connect with us on social media or write us an email to let us know what you’re working on and how we can be involved in the process.

  1. Make it personal – the personal is always political.

Bring the “human” to “human rights.” Sharing stories is a powerful way to show others how human rights violations affect real people’s lives. When we’re able to connect on a personal level, it’s then easier to have bigger-picture conversations about how we can change the world.

Woodhull has lots of friends who are using personal storytelling as a form of activism. Julie Gillis hosts BedPost Confessions in Austin, Texas, where participants have the chance to share personal stories about sex and sexuality. SCOHP is also starting a sexuality oral history project, and you can get involved. And, of course, sex bloggers who share their stories have can have a major impact on worldviews. Check this list of links to blog posts about #SFS15 from our amazing BlogSquad!

Harmony Eichsteadt (far left) and Julie Gillis (second from left) led a workshop on storytelling activism at SFS15. Photo by Louis Shackleton Photography.
Harmony Eichsteadt (far left) and Julie Gillis (second from left) led a workshop on storytelling activism at SFS15. Photo by Louis Shackleton Photography.


  1. Stick together

Last but not least, remember that we have to stick together. Woodhull is an alliance, a support network, a collaborative effort, and a family. We need to support each other to achieve full recognition of human rights. As allies and friends, we can always be listening and learning from one another. When we are united, we are powerful!


To help Woodhull continue to fight for human rights and sexual freedom, donate here.

See storytelling activism at its best right here! We have a list of bloggers’ post from #SFS15! 

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