When somebody finds out I’m Sue Johanson’s daughter, their entire face lights up. Their entire physique transforms they usually’re like, Whaaat?! There may be an incredible shift in vitality. It’s fairly extraordinary.
Everyone has a narrative about Sue, Canada’s best-known sexual educator. “Oh, my goodness, Sue got here to my faculty after I was 12,” or “We listened to Sue on the radio within the automotive,” or “I used to have the radio by my mattress in order that my dad and mom couldn’t hear.”
Regardless of her outspoken public persona, I had a really regular upbringing. My dad was capable of make money working from home managing a land improvement firm, and Mum didn’t actually get into her line of labor till I used to be a teen. Once I was a child, she made our garments; she taught us the way to knit and stitch; and he or she baked in order that we got here residence from faculty to the odor of cookies within the oven.
Once I was about 13, Mum opened a sexual well being clinic for youngsters. Earlier than she had us youngsters, she was a registered nurse, and he or she felt there was an absence of entry to contraception at the moment in our space; the situation, in a neighborhood highschool, was appropriate for teenagers to go to anonymously. The thought took place as a result of an acquaintance of mine from highschool had develop into pregnant at a younger age and had nobody to show to. She got here to Sue for recommendation and that received the ball rolling. Sue felt that had there been a spot for this woman to go, this unplanned being pregnant might have been averted.
After the contraception clinic opened, it took off. Mum began instructing about intercourse and protected contraception in faculties. She even taught in my class. I bear in mind being in Grade 11 or 12 and listening to that Sue Johanson was coming to speak to us and I might really feel myself sitting in my seat like, Oh, no, right here we go. I used to be blushing, however deep down I used to be so happy with what she was doing.
My sister and I each labored on the clinic once we had been youngsters. There have been two submitting cupboards, a counselling room, and a bit of examination desk for the physician to do a sexual wellness examine. Nobody received paid at first. There have been medical doctors and nurses, social staff and public well being staff volunteering their time. There have been all the time individuals lined up within the hallway ready. Then as the general public well being division realized that it was one thing viable, Mum was capable of get salaries for staff.
I used to be the receptionist, coping with individuals who weren’t that a lot older than I used to be. I had buddies and youngsters from faculty who would come into the contraception clinic and there I used to be, sitting behind the desk asking for his or her names and making a file for them and attempting to stay calm. I needed to be respectful of anybody who was courageous sufficient at that age to need to go on the contraception tablet or get different contraception. I realized at a really younger age that intercourse was additionally a non-public factor. Mum made it very public along with her work, however in the event you wanted privateness, you can discover it. These teenagers had been nervous, too: They’d see me and their eyes would go extensive. However after they realized that my lips had been sealed and I wasn’t going to return to highschool and unfold this round, a belief developed.
By the point I used to be 16, my buddies had been sexually energetic. I used to be not. I used to be curious and experimenting, however I don’t assume I felt that strain to have intercourse as a result of I knew I wasn’t prepared. I felt too younger.
Individuals assume that as a result of I used to be raised with Sue that I went to her for all my sexual questions. I completely didn’t! It’s not that Mum wasn’t amenable to that—she was. She would have beloved for us to return to her to inquire about intercourse and sexual well being, however I simply couldn’t. I didn’t need to hear it from my Mum. Mum had three youngsters and I bear in mind saying to her, “You probably did that 3 times?” I don’t assume any child desires to listen to about intercourse and sexuality from their dad and mom. You don’t need your mother telling you that the person does this, and to pleasure a person you do that after which this. No.
In a manner, not operating to my Mum with questions or letting her into my sexual world was my teenage revolt. I needed my intercourse and sexuality to be non-public. Alternatively, if I introduced buddies residence they usually began speaking to her, they had been in heaven and so was Mum. I would go away the room and they’d keep within the kitchen and drink tea, and he or she would speak to them about intercourse. How handy that I might go to my buddies and discover out about intercourse from them afterward.
We didn’t have Google again then; in the event you had a query about the way to give a hand job or the way to put a condom on again then, you had been by yourself, discovering issues out—and typically too late. That’s what was essential to Sue: She needed to catch youngsters earlier than it was too late, earlier than they needed to make choices they didn’t need to make.
I used to be just lately attending a 10-day silent retreat in Barrie, Ont., when the concept for a documentary about my Mum’s legacy burbled up within me. Upon returning residence, I purchased a video digital camera and began getting Mum, now 92, on tape, asking her questions on her life and filming household events. I needed Sue to be remembered for the way in which she blazed a singular path for herself. I spent numerous time gathering pictures, previous VCR movies of interviews and appearances, and going by books she had written. Then I began my seek for a documentary filmmaker who might make this imaginative and prescient come to life. Sue was a pioneer who individuals knew and beloved, and I didn’t need her to be forgotten.
Once I was a child, I wouldn’t watch Mum getting interviewed by David Letterman or Jay Leno. It was too embarrassing. She would come out in her brilliant yellow skirt and strappy little sneakers and her glasses and smile, and he or she’d be waving her fingers round. And I’d be pondering, Oh, god, there she is. And but now I see that clip and assume, God bless; have a look at you! She was up in opposition to numerous odds. She broke down obstacles.
I’m simply glad she was capable of stay protected by all of it. Now it’s getting ugly once more. In case you have a look at intercourse and sexuality curriculum in faculties right this moment, we’re strolling backward. I feel Sue can be saddened and ashamed that that is taking place in spite of everything that tough work. Hopefully issues will flip round.
Once I watched the trailer of the ultimate product, our documentary Sex With Sue, I used to be bursting with delight. I’m so lucky to have this superb girl as my mom. Lately, if I had a query about intercourse, I’d don’t have any drawback going to her and he or she’d be capable to reply even now. Isn’t that a lovely factor in spite of everything this time?
Intercourse with Sue premieres Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. on W.