“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi stood for what he believed in. As did the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King Jr., & Ellen Degeneres. These people shared their experiences and inspired their communities to come forward and speak out alongside them. Did they all have easy, fairytale journeys? Not at all. But do we know their names for a reason? Yep. These movements had to start somewhere.
Heeps (herpes positives) are hurt, angry, frustrated, and tired. Tired of being the punch-line to everyone’s jokes. Tired of being thought of as one-dimensional - dirty, promiscuous, damaged goods. Tired of being treated as if we’ve done something any differently than any STI negative person has done (news flash - they have sex too). We may be tired when we claim, “it’s not the right time to speak up,” but if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will? We have to stop hiding.
We don’t feel empowered by mainstream schools of thought to share openly so we find solace in hidden Facebook groups. We want the views of society - the stigma - to change before we speak up because that would be safer. Easier. It would be more comfortable. Where would women be if they had waited for the world to change for them? How about black people? And the LGBTQ community? By no means are those fights over, but they’re worlds from where they once were.
Our plight is not going to be as important to someone who isn’t living it, AND THAT’S OKAY. I am not under the impression that all of my Facebook friends care as much about the herpes stigma as I do. And why would they? I had no frame of reference for herpes before I got it. But now I do - and now they do because of me. I continue to tell my story because it’s important to me. It’s important that those of us who feel less than are liberated from our shame. And only we have the power to do that.
By no means do I think all heeps should proclaim their status to the world via social media and blogs (that’s not everyone’s calling) but I do think that there are ways we can show up boldly in our own lives so we don’t have to hide anymore.
We’ve been waiting for the world to tell us it’s okay to be and I think we’ll be waiting for a long time if we keep at it this way. What makes our plight any more unbearable than the fight for Women’s Rights, the Civil Rights Movement, or the journey to Same Sex Marriage? Are we less bold, resilient, or deserving of respect than any of those groups are? (If you can’t tell by my tone, the answer is no :). So what are you going to do about it?
What are you going to do the next time someone makes a herpes joke? (Cause you know it will happen). You can either stew silently in embarrassed anger like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Say something.
What are you going to do the next time you’re feeling alone and think no one can relate to you? You can either sit alone like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Reach out to someone you love.
What are you going to do the next time you really like someone and want to take the leap? You can either talk yourself out of it like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Tell them how you feel.
You can sit and wait for the world to change, or you can help change it. What are you waiting for?