Transgender Day of Remembrance

On November 18, 2016, in Denver Sex Therapy, GLBT, LGBT, sex therapy, by drneilcannon1
© Osaidism |

© Osaidism |


Transgender Day of Remembrance has occurred annually on November 20, since 1999.  It is a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

Now more than ever, we need to embrace diversity.  As I write this in mid November of 2016, at least 27 known transgender people in the United States alone have been murdered due to their transgender status.  One is too many!  How many more have been bullied, harassed, discriminated against, or in any way made to feel bad or less than?  Imagine what it must be like to be part of a community that fears being harmed simply for who one is.

There are far more gender non-conforming people than most people think. It was not long ago that it was generally believed that prevalence of gender dysphoria was 1 in 10,000 or so. Recently there was a large study of high school students in Minnesota reporting that 2.5% answered yes to a question about whether they identify as “transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or unsure about your gender identity.”  When speaking about intersex condition, author and gender expert, Arlene Istar Lev recently asked the audience at a gender care training she conducted at The University of Denver in conjunction with the Gender Identity Center of Colorado; “Do you know anyone that is Jewish?”  Of course, every hand went up. The answer is about 2.2% of Americans are Jewish.  So if you know or love someone who Jewish, you just may know or love there someone who is gender non-conforming, even if they haven’t felt emotionally safe enough to share that part of themselves with you.

My vote is for us is to just everyone.  Not regardless of gender identity, but because of the beauty of diversity.  Imagine how boring the tapestry of our great nation would be if we only had one color in the pallette.


Dungeon Monitors

On October 12, 2016, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

How to Train Your Dungeon Monitor
by Amanda Arnold
OCT 11 2016
Dungeon monitors are like the lifeguards of the BDSM scene, but without a standardized certification process, some DMs don’t know when to blow the whistle, and when to just sit back and watch the kinky show.

Stefanos Tiziano was grasping onto a single-tail whip, his partner Shay awaiting his next strike, when the dungeon monitor chose to step in. The Tizianos, new to doing BDSM together in public but not new to play in general, followed standard protocol before starting their scene: They made clear to the monitor what they were there to do, explaining that the loud cracks of the whip were a sign of pleasure, just like Shay’s shrieks. But during their play, the monitor chose to interrupt—a call they did not anticipate.

“We asked why [he intervened], and he said ‘she doesn’t look like she’s enjoying herself,'” Shay recalls of the event, which occurred at a BDSM convention in 2005. “But I was enjoying myself. And I was devastated.”

Read more: The New-Age Kinksters Mixing BDSM with Energy Work

Essentially lifeguards of the pools that are BDSM dungeons, monitors are brought in to ensure guests are having fun but also being safe. A good dungeon monitor knows when to step in and also when to stay back and watch. But with a lack of standardized responsibilities and comprehensive training on how to correctly assess every possible BDSM scene, it’s not only difficult for hosts to pick monitors, but also for those chosen to know their exact role in a dungeon.

“Were somebody to walk into a BDSM scene in a dungeon, they might think, ‘oh my god, they’re hurting each other,'” says Dr. Neil Cannon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as an AASECT-certified sex therapist who’s known internationally for his expertise on BDSM. “But what they missed is that beforehand, participants had careful negotiations, describing their wants, their needs, their soft limits, their hard limits, and aftercare. In most dungeons, the DM wouldn’t be involved in anything all night.”

Often identifiable by neon armbands or other bright accessories attached to their upper body, dungeon monitors are typically active members of the BDSM community who sit out a night of play to work an unpaid shift to support their go-to dungeon or community. Arriving early to check in, monitors let kinksters tell them what they’re planning on doing so they can know what to expect; after which they’ll spend anywhere from one to four hours watching over the couples in the dungeon, often equipped with fanny packs, walkie-talkies, and first aid kits. If a woman wants to drip hot candle wax onto her partner’s nipples, the DM will make sure there’s a tarp beneath them; if a leather daddy requests water during aftercare, they’ll bring him a cup. And were something to go wrong, a DM serves as the first responder to provide help or first aid.

Shay and Stefanos Tiziano, “pansexual polyamorous playsluts [and] purveyors of perversion,” have taught dungeon monitor training classes since 2007 after their bad experience at the BDSM convention and a joint realization that their city lacked an effective training program. In 2005, they moved to the Bay Area from Minnesota and decided to take a DM course so they could give back to their community. When they found themselves in a full-day lecture that ended with a test about various types of play, they weren’t impressed.

Image by Chris Blakeley via Flickr

What dungeons ask of their monitors vary. In Minnesota, where Shay and Stefanos often found themselves playing in home basements, owners of the house would often choose people as monitors who seemed like they had “a reasonable headspace.” In larger, more structured dungeons in major cities, monitors are often expected to be both CPR- and first aid-trained, as well as DM-trained—the later of which has no standard certification process.

While some have made detailed guides available online, it often falls on the local BDSM community to provide training for their monitors. So, it’s inevitable that different dungeons have varied rules and regulations.

The Tizianos ended up creating their own type of case scenario training, using Shay’s experience with “mega-code” scenarios in the ER (she’s an emergency nurse) and Stefanos’ military training. For nearly 10 years, they’ve been traveling the US, putting guests in realistic play situations in dungeons for them to troubleshoot: If someone is suspended in a dangerous way, how do we get them down? If a man faints during needle play, what’s the first thing you need to do?

The training gives prospective monitors hands-on training so they know what to do in physically or emotionally dangerous situations, as well as how to identify when a scene actually is dangerous for either party. However, Shay stresses that more than being unable to recognize a dangerous scene, DMs have a problem with intervening too much.

Read more: Beyond Safe Words: When Saying ‘No’ in BDSM Isn’t Enough

“We tell DM trainees over and over that there are only three reasons we want DMs to interrupt a scene: if there’s a question of danger to life, limb, or property,” she says. “The DM’s main role is to facilitate play and provide excellent customer service, ensuring everyone has a good and safe time.”

According to Cannon, all the training boils down to one concept: consent.

“Everything in BDSM starts and stops with consent because if there’s not consent, it’s not BDSM…it’s violence,” Cannon says. “But when things go wrong, it’s because consent was maybe taken away. When consent is taken away, and the person who is the dom or top continues, then the sub feels violated, raped, abused, or victimized. With that comes emotional wounds that can be severe.”

While Cannon emphasizes that it’s rare that DMs have to step into scenes, there are always exceptions—even when they merely live as hypotheticals in a DM’s mind. And because of the lack of clear-cut guidelines, kinksters will often talks through scenarios, asking for input and advice from the community.

On FetLife, the predominant social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kink community, entire discussions center on questionable dungeon play and the role of the DM in specific scenarios. Many focus on those involved in rope scenes, a more advanced play that specialists teach entire classes over, with members debating whether partners should be made to keep precautionary EMT shears or rescue hooks nearby. Some conversations are just chains of straightforward questions pertaining to a DM’s involvement: Would you allow a dom to step away momentarily from their bound and blindfolded sub? Would you correct a couple who was engaging in a riskier-than-usual flogging scene?

And then other discussions sway toward the deeply psychological, with DMs considering how to handle things like rape scenes and especially violent play, which could be triggering to those surrounding. In a dungeon, while not physically engaged with everyone in your immediate surrounding, you’re inextricably linked to their psychological and emotional wellbeing.

Peoples’ play is really personal to them, so call a party host if you have a question
“As a DM, how are we supposed to protect and interact with a community member that professes to be in an almost constant suicidal state and places their triggers as a community responsibility?” one FetLife user asks in a thread from six months ago. Some DMs say they wouldn’t allow a high-risk person into the dungeon, others say that person shouldn’t be ostracized from an otherwise open, welcoming community.

The conclusion that most threads come to is that, ultimately, DMs don’t get to make the rules—the owner of the dungeon does. While it varies from state to state, if a death, assault, or violent crime happens in the dungeon, the legal responsibility can fall on the owner of the property or the host, if there’s a contract between the host and the venue. Dungeons often have release forms for attendees to sign to minimize problems, but ultimately, legal cases around play are often complex. Even when clearly consensual, many types of BDSM activity can be “prosecuted under state criminal laws dealing with assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault or sexual abuse,” according to The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

And because dungeon owners aren’t often in the room during play, and rules and guidelines vary from dungeon to dungeon (and in some cases, from event to event within one dungeon), DMs feel the weight of that responsibility, and are also the ones who ultimately make the calls in the moment. It’s something that Shay wishes weren’t always the case.

“Peoples’ play is really personal to them, so call a party host if you have a question,” she says. “I wish more wouldn’t hot-dog it by themselves because sometimes it’s hard to make decisions. You don’t have to make them by yourself.”

Master Gabriel, a sadist and dominant who’s been a leader in LA’s BDSM scene for over ten years, says he feels fortunate that most DMs he hires for his play parties come from within House RavynBlood, a selected group of people in the area’s BDSM scene that, under Master Gabriel, organizes, produces, and hosts various events for the local community. Before you’re admitted into the house, members go through everything from first aid to play training, so once you’re in, Master Gabriel feels a certain level of trust.

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Because he hosts Gentlemen in Charge, a play party for dominant men and sub/switch/bottom women, he says he meditates more deeply on who’s DM’ing the party to ensure the women in the dungeon feel like they have someone they can trust, lest they find themselves in a scene that pushes their boundaries. For every party, Gabriel makes sure he has as least one female DM on the floor. But in some scenarios, and for other parties, he can’t always have DMs that he knows well, and calling on new volunteers can be difficult.

“I’ve had [volunteer] DMs get in the way of a lot of scenes,” he says. “They’re well-meaning, but that’s not helpful when you’re dealing with head spaces.”

However, not all DMs are so well-meaning. DMs are human; they can use their authority irresponsibly and abuse their power. “It’s really easy for a person who’s learned a few things in the BDSM world to come in as a DM, and they can be a little heady,” Gabriel says. “You can get the feeling that DMs are there to be assholes.”

As with any sexual minority population, because the community’s fetishes and kinks are often considered taboo by society’s heteronormative, vanilla-flavored standards, many assume that people who get off on whipping a partner until they bleed or engaging in “needle play” would have more incidents of sexual assault. But BDSM communities have been found to be “less rapey” than the general population and that practitioners have more secure relationships and lower anxiety.

Jade, a female submissive who “loves public play,” speaks of the good-cop, bad-cop duality of DMs to Broadly over email.

“I think of DMs like lifeguards,” she writes. “You don’t particularly care about them until you need them.” However, like many public players, she’s had one of those experiences where she didn’t need them—yet there they were.

We like to joke about how we should rename them dungeon bunnies.
“I did have a scene planned, which was okayed by the club owner, where I was going to be bound and beaten while I sang the Marine Corps Hymn to my then-Master/Daddy, a deployed Marine, but it had to be recorded so that he could watch it,” she writes. “[And then] one DM sees me being filmed and shuts down the scene.”

Overall, Jade says she loves that dungeons have monitors to ensure that people follow community rules, citing an instance where she once informed a DM about a couple that had been heavily drinking before play, which she believed jeopardized their safety. Upon hearing this information, the DM promptly spoke to the couple and removed them. No one wants to be interrupted during sex; it’s just that sometimes—when fingers turn blue or a partner faints—it has to happen.

“You’re not policing them—you’re serving them,” Shay says. “We like to joke about how we should rename them dungeon bunnies.”

Reprinted with permission.
© 2016 VICE Media LLC


The University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program (UMSHCP) is now accepting applications. Start date: April 2017. Website:

The University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program (UMSHCP) provides comprehensive education and training to professionals interested in the field of sexual health in three tracks. Participants will gain assessment, intervention, and consultation skills; will learn strategies to apply these skills in the workplace; and will link with a peer learning community to practice new skills and discuss applied learning.


Sexuality Counselor /Sex Therapist: 4 campus based courses at University of Michigan Campus, Ann Arbor MI and 5 weekends offered in live distance learning

Sexuality Educators: 4 campus based courses at University of Michigan Campus and 5 weekends offered in live distance learning

Blended track both Educator and Therapist/Counselor: 5 campus based weekends or 4-day weekends at University of Michigan and 5 weekends offered in live distance learning


AASECT Certified Sex Therapists, Sexuality Counselors & Sexuality Educators

The three tracks of the program (counselor, therapist and educator) include six courses (90 hours) in sexuality education for all, a specialized values training called the Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR—15 hours) for all, and additional hours of training specific to sexuality educator (30 hours), sexuality counselor and sex therapist (60 hours).

Program Format

Following a group-style ‘cohort’ learning model, participants enter together as a class and remain together throughout the training in their track (see calendar at UMSHCP website). Total program lasts one year—April 2017 to March 2018.

The new cohort commences in Spring of each year. Throughout the program, participants participate in a total of seven two-day minicourses (minicourses=15 hours each) if pursuing sexuality educator training, or nine two-day minicourses if pursuing sexuality counselor or sex therapist training.  The weekends are arranged so that a participant can take both a counselor or therapist track and the educator track should they wish to do so. 

All participants in all three tracks share 90 hours of educational minicourses together (six weekend classes). All are together for the first four-day weekend including the SAR and an educational mini course.

The participants also pursue advanced training in their ‘track’ of Sexuality Education (30 hours =a two-day Mon/Tues and two-day Sat/Sun), Sexuality Counseling (60 hours = 2 two-day weekends and one four-day Sat-Tuesday), and Sex Therapy (60 hours = 2 two-day weekends and one four-day Sat-Tuesday).

Live Distance Learning

75 hours of sexuality education can be attended through simultaneous live distance learning (see calendar at website). The remaining courses are campus-based learning because they involve training (role plays, case discussions, curriculum design and other elements) better suited to on-campus learning.


Program faculty are AASECT certified sex therapists, sexuality counselors, and sexuality educators, as well as certified supervisors. They are skilled teachers as well as sexologists who teach and train at other institutions, have conducted research, published articles and books, worked to change public policy in the field of sexual health, spoken at national and international conferences, and are frequently cited in the media. They maintain professional affiliation with AASECT as well as other major professional organizations in sex therapy and research, sexuality education, health and mental health.


An overview of course content is available at UMSHCP website.

Once admitted, participants receive detailed information about program participation, travel and hotel accommodations, website-based learning used in the program and detailed syllabi for the courses. Some reading and non-graded assignments are part of every class.

Sexuality Educator, Sexuality Counselor and Sex Therapist Tracks

The program is open to health and mental health professionals from all recognized disciplines. An applicant applies to the program by ‘track’:

–Sexuality educators are professionals with an undergraduate or master’s degree (or higher) who regularly provide information about sexual health in educational or health environments. This includes but is not limited to schools, residential treatment facilities, medical centers, and family planning centers.

–Sexuality counselors are primarily professionals providing health care, like nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, who assist in defining a client’s sexual issues and concerns, and provide both counseling.

–Sex therapists are mental health professionals who are licensed in their states or countries to provide mental health care. They have completed graduate school for clinical training in their professional area. This may be a PhD, MD, MSW, or MA.

–Multidisciplinary focus. Sexual health professionals consistently interact with other disciplines to promote the principles of sexual health for the clients and groups they serve. The cohort style learning encourages this multidisciplinary approach.


This program meets the requirements of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and is approved for 195 CE credits. These CE credits may be applied towards AASECT certification and renewal of certification. Completion of this program does not ensure or guarantee AASECT certification. For further information please contact

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the University of Michigan Medical School and the University of Michigan School of Social Work. The University of Michigan Medical School is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The University of Michigan Medical School designates this live activity for a maximum of 195 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ . Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.    

The program is approved for up to 195 AASECT CEs. It offers up to 195 medical CMEs and ACE CEs (counseling/MFT/Social Work) as well. 

Advisory Board

The program’s Advisory Board is composed of leaders in the fields of sexual health and reproductive justice and include: Eli Coleman, PhD; Betsy Crane, PhD; Ed Goldman, JD; Debby Herbenick, PhD; Hilda Hutcherson, MD; Tim Johnson, MD; Beverly Whipple, PhD.

Emeritus Advisory Board Members: Dennis Sugrue, PhD; Stanley Althof, PhD

For further information contact:

Prem Pahwa, LMSW, UMSHCP Assistant Director at, 773-919-2919

Valerie Wood, LMSW UMSHCP Co-director at, 734-332-9196



This promises to be one of the best events in the region this fall.  The speakers are all fabulous!  If you can make it to Utah, you can’t go wrong!  September 23-24, 2016 with leading sex experts Emily Nagoski, PhD and Gina Ogden, PhD.  Develop new interventions and methods to explore a client’s sexual story. Learn ways to help clients get unstuck in their sexuality. Hear the latest research and evidence in increasing sexual desire and how focusing on pleasure not performance is the key to healthy sexuality!  To learn more and register, just click here:

Hiking with Summer Institute Chair, Doug Braun-Harvey

Hiking with Summer Institute Chair, Doug Braun-Harvey


The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists (AASECT) has a long-held tradition of conducting a very special event each summer called The Summer Institute.  In my mind, there are three things that make the event an extraordinarily special learning event for clinicians.

1.  The interesting nature of the topic which changes each year.  2.  The fact that space is limited to only 50 participants.  3.  The faculty is generally an “all-star” team that was carefully chosen, and this year is no exception.  This is a faculty I am very honored to be associated with.

This year’s event will be hosted by the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.  For obvious reasons the event sells out each year.  Registration will re-open on July 18, 2016 for a few student clinicians so this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best.

Revisiting ‘Sexual Addiction’: Transformative Ways of Addressing Out of Control Sexual Behavior is designed to help educators and clinicians define out of control sexual behavior using current empirical evidence and evaluate treatment models and tools consistent with this evidence.



Doug Braun-Harvey, MFT, CGP, CST 
Co-director of the 2016 Summer Institute, co-author of Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction

Neil Cannon, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSTS 
Published author, professional speaker, supervisor, mentor and nationally recognized expert on sex, intimacy and relationships

Ruth Cohn, LMFT, CST 
Author of Coming Home to Passion: Restoring Loving Sexuality After Childhood Trauma

Eli Coleman, PhD, CST, CSTS
Director of The University of Minnesota Program in Human Sexuality and Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Joe Kort, PhD, MSW, MA, CST, CSTS
Psychotherapist, coach and author of Is My Husband, Gay, Straight or Bi: A Guide for Women Concerned About Their Men

David Ley, PhD
Clinical psychologist and author of The Myth of Sex Addiction

Nicole  Prause, PhD
Research Faculty, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA

Rory Reid, PhD, LCSW
Scholar and practitioner specializing in hypersexual behavior, pornography problems, gambling disorders, adult ADHD, depression, anxiety and marital distress, one of the authors revising the DSM IV

Dalychia Saah and Rafaella Smith-Fiallo
Community educators and Afro-sexology founders. Will be on a panel on relationship between sex positivity and  personal and political freedom

Susan Stiritz, MBA, MSW, PhD, CSE, CSES
Co-director of the 2016 Summer Institute, Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Sexual Health and Education Specialization at the Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis

Michael A. Vigorito, LMFT, LCPC, CGP
Co-author of Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction



The University of Michigan is a wonderful educational opportunity for licensed mental health professionals to take a first rate path towards becoming an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.

Start date: April 2017. Website:

If you are a current student or alumni of this program, we hope you will stay in touch by joining me for “Neil Talks” this summer.

The University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program (UMSHCP) provides comprehensive education and training to professionals interested in the field of sexual health in three tracks. Participants will gain assessment, intervention, and consultation skills; will learn strategies to apply these skills in the workplace; and will link with a peer learning community to practice new skills and discuss applied learning.

Program Format

Following a group-style ‘cohort’ learning model, participants enter together as a class and remain together throughout the training in their track (see calendar at UMSHCP website). Total program lasts one year—April 2017 to March 2018.

The new cohort commences in Spring of each year. Throughout the program, participants participate in a total of seven two-day minicourses (minicourses=15 hours each) if pursuing sexuality educator training, or nine two-day minicourses if pursuing sexuality counselor or sex therapist training.  The weekends are arranged so that a participant can take both a counselor or therapist track and the educator track should they wish to do so.


An overview of course content is available at UMSHCP website.

For further information contact:

Prem Pahwa, LMSW, UMSHCP Assistant Director at, 773-919-2919




Gender Neutral Bathrooms for Safety & Acceptance

On May 14, 2016, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

I see trans teens go all day without using the restroom because they don’t have a bathroom in their school where they feel safe from getting beat-up. This is a real problem that hurts countless trans-youth in Colorado.

Legislation related to the use of public restrooms is now a big thing in the news for transgendered folks however this is something that mental health professionals have been battling for years .  I look forward to the day we solve this problem as a society however in the meanwhile, we can make a difference one school, one kiddo at a time.

If you are one of the many trans teens in Colorado who does not have a safe restroom to use in your junior high or high school, would you like an ally?  I have helped many gender variant clients get policy changed in their school so they have a gender neutral restroom to use.  You don’t have to be my client to get help.  Just send me an e-mail explaining your situation along with the contact information for the principle of your school and I will contact them.  You don’t have to hold it!


My Favorite Valentine Day Card of 2016

On January 23, 2016, in sex therapy, by drneilcannon1

V Card


And it’s even on recycled paper from  PR Greetings.  (c) PRGCO, LLC

Tagged with:

Intensive Workshop in Golden Colorado

On December 31, 2015, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1



If you liked Brene’ Brown’s books or Ted Talks, you just might want to consider this workshop being put on right here in Colorado by my colleagues, Sarah Phillips and Mara Kormylo.  It is a 3 day intensive from January 29 to 31 so you don’t even have to miss any of the NFL playoff games since this is the weekend before the Super Bowl.  The workshop is called Rising Strong and is based on the work of Brene’ Brown.  If you are feeling stuck and ready for change in your life, this workshop may be a great way to help you start the new year.

The cost is $800 and space is limited.  To register follow this link:

Both of the facilitators are licensed mental health professionals.  To talk to the facilitators, you can call either of them direct at:

Mara – 303.324.5469

Sarah – 303.995.3763


Tagged with:

Today in History

On December 20, 2015, in GLBT, LGBT, by drneilcannon1
© Tallyhofilms |

                              © Tallyhofilms |

It is not lost on me that this event occurred the same year I was born...

Frank Kameny Fired From Government Job for Being Gay: 1957. Frank Kameny was a World War II veteran and Harvard-trained astronomer working for the Army Map Service. In Eric Marcus’s compendium of oral histories, Making History, Kameny described the event that led him to a lifetime of LGBT advocacy:

“When I was on assignment in Hawaii in November or December of 1957, I got a call from my supervisor in Washington, D.C., to come back at once…As soon as I got back, I was called in by some two-bit Civil Service Commission investigator and told, “We have information that leads us to believe that you are a homosexual. Do you have any comment?” I said, “What’s the information?” They answered, “We can’t tell you.” I said, well, then I can’t give you an answer. You don’t deserve an answer. and in any case, this is none of your business.” I was not open about being gay at that time — no one was, not in 1957.

So they called me in, and ultimately it resulted in my termination. They did it the way the government does anything: They issued a letter. They said they were dismissing me for homosexuality. I was in shock.”

(Thank you to Dr. Jack Drescher for keeping history alive!)