UPDATE: Workshops make taboo the new normal at City College

Taboo Topics meets every other Wednesday through May 5 at 4:30 p.m.

Taboo Topics

Taboo Topics workshops allow students to ask questions not usually discussed in a classroom setting. Canva photo

Marlena Harvey, Managing Editor

Update, March 2, 12:25 p.m.: After publication, it was announced that the schedule of meetings for “Taboo Topics” is changing. The new schedule is every other Wednesday starting March 3 at 4:30 p.m. The update has been made in the story below as well.

When it comes to sexuality or mental health, we often find ourselves afraid of asking questions or sharing personal experiences. Two interns at San Diego City College have decided to create a safe space to break these taboos. 

Laurel Marks, a social work intern, and Tristan Hartley, a mental health counseling intern, are facilitating a twice-monthly event called “Taboo Topics” for City College students. 

Taboo Topics is an online Zoom meeting where students are encouraged to discuss and share about topics not normally addressed in the classroom in a safe and confidential environment. 

“Sexuality has a huge impact on mental health,” Marks said, “and it’s not always talked about.”

Some topics include sexuality, trauma, mental health and identity, as well as tips for addressing your doctor about sexual health. The workshops also provide time for students to ask questions and share their own personal experiences. 

“What we are really trying to bring to this group is an exploration of sexuality and how fun it can be,” Hartley said. “It doesn’t have to be taboo. All of us have sex drives.” 

Hartley explained the group is designed to accept people wherever they personally are with their sexuality and to help facilitate healthy discussion and growth.

“We encourage students to ask as many questions as they can,” Hartley said.

Taboo Topics provides students a place to talk about hard topics without the fear of others finding out. Both counselors, Harley and Marks are only mandated to report when a life is in immediate danger. 

“Unless we know someone is in immediate danger, we do not report,” Marks said. “We do not do anything a student is not ready for. We are happy to provide resources and help, and we are never going to push for more information or take action if they don’t want us to.”

Guest speakers are also scheduled for upcoming meetings, including a nurse practitioner who will be discussing how to talk to your doctor about sexual health, and health resources for students.  

Taboo Topics has community guidelines that include mutual respect, confidentiality about discussions and no interruption rules. They also have up to two clinicians in every group for moderation and extra support. 

“Consent is also a major topic for us,” Hartley said.  “It’s not always just about sex. It can be about hugs. Or can I shake your hand? We just need to learn that not everyone likes to hug and that’s okay.”

Added Marks: “We are also hoping to record our sessions. Not the times when students are sharing or asking questions, but of our guest speakers or useful information.”

The group will be hosted every other Wednesday through May 5 at 4:30 p.m. This series is open to all students and will take place on Zoom. The meeting ID is 910-1476-1870 and the passcode is 336287.


Harley will also be hosting an event called T-Time. T-Time is an LGBTQ+ morning coffee and tea time, providing a safe and open space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss mental and sexual health.

T-Time will begin on Tuesday, March 2 from 8:30-9:30 a.m.

The meeting ID is 971-4542-9704 and the password is Pride!

Staff Writer Laura Montano contributed to this report.