In Sickness and in Health: Sex and Love With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness can wreak havoc on relationships. From sexual side effects to day to day interactions, it can all feel like too much, especially to the uninitiated. The result? Unhealthy relationship dynamics, partners on both sides of the equation who aren’t supported, and more. In this session sex educators JoEllen Notte and Rachael Rose will look at society’s impulse to desexualize people with illnesses both physical and mental, the pitfalls that can take partners from allies to adversaries, the problematic consent dynamics that can crop up when one feels indebted to a partner who cares for them, and the ableist notion that people should remove themselves from the dating pool until they “get themselves together”. We will analyze these patterns and offer alternative strategies for maintaining healthy and satisfying relationships where everyone gets the support they need.

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, researcher and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen has spoken at Clark College, University of Chicago, University of Tennessee, Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit, Guelph Sexuality Conference, and the Playground Conference. You can read her blog at and follow her on Twitter at @JoEllen Notte. JoEllen's book The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversation We Aren’t Having, will be published by Thorntree Press on March 27, 2020 AND Rachael Rose (she/her) is a chronically ill and disabled sex educator/coach and graphic designer whose work focuses on an inclusive, sex-positive, and pleasure-focused approach to sex education, sexual health, and the intersections of chronic illness, disability, and sex. Rachael has presented about sexuality both nationally and internationally and has been featured in media such as Teen Vogue, Bustle, and Sexual Health Magazine. She the creator of the award-winning sexuality blog Hedonish and the co-creator of Glittergasm Events, an event company that hosts inclusive and accessible sex-positive parties for the LGBTQ community. You can learn more about her sex education work at or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @hedonish. To learn more about Glittergasm Events, visit, and you can learn more about her graphic design work at

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