Author Lydia Collins embracing sexual health and diversity

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: LYDIA COLLINS
Lydia Collins is a writer and sexual health educator, with a focus on HIV prevention in African, Caribbean, and Black communities, and decolonial consent education.

‘I Can’t Put a Condom on Racism,’ reads the title of Lydia Collins most recent blog post.

A writer and sexual health educator, with a focus on HIV prevention in African, Caribbean, and Black communities, Collins works to promote decolonial consent education.

“I’ve always had this strong liking towards community health and sexual health,” said Collins. “But I’ve also always loved writing and embracing my creative side.”

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Combining her two passions, Collins received an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from Brock University, minoring in Women and Gender Studies. She went on to become a co-founder of Decolonize and Deconstruct, providing more consent education for postsecondary students.

“We noticed that a lot of the campaigns around sexual violence prevention and consent education on our campus was very surface level,” said Collins. “There were campaigns like ‘Consent to Sex-Ed,’ or ‘Consent for Pizza,’ which are great, quick ways to get students to start conversations about consent. So it wasn’t that these were necessarily bad campaigns, it’s that we’re not seeing anywhere on campus, or elsewhere, where people are diving into larger conversations around the fact that race and racism needs to be a key component of sexual consent education.”

Collins shared her own experiences around those “key components” in areas such as her personal blog. The most recent post, ‘I Can’t Put a Condom on Racism,’ focuses on anti-Blackness, safer sex, and a long-lasting crush on Adam Sandler.

“Coincidently, my first intimate experience was with a boy who looked a lot like Adam Sandler,” said Collins. “But, as excited as I was, thinking I was following everything that I knew about safe sex, he said that it was all just for him to get his ‘Black Belt.’ So when I said, “I can’t put a condom on racism,” it was born out of this frustration, tapping into that younger version of myself that was seen as something to concur.

“Anti-Blackness is such a big topic that kind of permeates the sex lives and romantic lives of Black people. So why aren’t we talking about it in the context of sex and romantic relationships?” asked Collins.

Now a freelance writer as well as a learning and development specialist for the African Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario, Collins is the author of three published poetry chapbooks. The first titled Angry Black Women, Collins said, explores the “interesting identities of rage, Blackness and womanhood.”

“It was created through conversations with other women of colour in my life,” she explained. “I tried to encapsulate others’ experiences without generalizing Black people and Black women because all of our experiences vary. I never want to be that spokesperson for Black people, saying ‘this is what it means to be a Black woman.’ It was more so sharing the similar experiences of friends, family and peers.”

On top of her print and online presence, Collins facilitates various workshops to students, faculty, and community members on topics ranging from anti-Black racism to sexual health and radical self-care.

“As much as I come in with professional and academic experience in these topics, the focus of my work, even within the workshops, is incorporating my own lived experiences,” said Collins. “Following me, as a young Black girl, trying to navigate my sexual life and connecting with the mistakes that I made along the way and the sexual trauma that has impacted me.”

Collins added that she “really wants people, especially Black youth, to take the time to build their confidence, to learn about consent and be unwavering in their boundaries.”

“I hope that from the work that I do and stories that I share, people go away feeling like they have more tangible tools to better facilitate relationships in all aspects of life.” Collins is working in collaboration with Leah Marshall, Fanshawe’s Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor, to bring one of her workshops to Fanshawe College. Titled ‘Reclaiming Pleasures: Sex, Race and Liberation,’ this workshop, which will take place March 8, will explore the stereotypes of Black women that stem from colonialism, to navigating sexual racism and fetishization in the digital age. Email support@nulluwo.ca to register.

If you have experienced gender- based or sexual violence, confidential support is available. To review your options, contact Leah Marshall at lkmarshall@nullfanshawec.ca.

For more community-based opportunities, contact The Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program at 519-646-6100 ext. 64224 or ext. 0 for a crisis.