I love being lost. Somewhat of a DC area native, I find myself drawn to the hustle and bustle of a city. In January of 2013, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in London and Paris, for just short of a month. That was the one time in my life when I felt most like myself, and I believe I will always be searching for that person. Regardless, there is something about a city that moves me. I lose my controlled sense of self, my awareness, which somehow brings me more towards a self with no hesitation, no overthinking--I just am. It’s weird. Since I moved back to the area, post BA degree, I’ve yearned for more exploration and culture. I’ve missed learning, but I forgot that there were opportunities in my own backyard.
This morning, I ventured to NBC 4’s 2016 Health and Fitness Expo. I am a self-admitted gym rat. When I was in elementary and middle school, I played basketball and soccer, but never liked the competitiveness of sports in high school. Instead of participating in team sports, I began at-home workout videos of Denise Austin (nerdy and mom-like, I know) as well as running in my neighborhood. College came along and I found myself involved in classes offered on campus. I was exposed to spin, yoga, and weightlifting—activities/hobbies that I’m still involved in today. So one would say that I was eager to see what this fitness expo had to offer.
The Type-A person that I am viewed the list of exhibiters in attendance beforehand. Although somewhat disappointed, I was still hopeful that they would have more to offer than what appeared on paper. There were no sexual/reproductive health groups on the list. There were three organizations listed under the “HIV/AIDS Prevention” category, but none of the groups focused specifically on HIV/AIDS. There was an entire category devoted to mental health, and as an anxiety sufferer, I was glad, but was still left wondering about STD+ people, like myself. Where do we go? I imagined myself as someone just becoming sexually active, or just learning about my body’s reproductive system, and feeling lost—much like the effect a city has on me, my body leaves me in a similar state. An orgasm--that is a good lost. But the feeling I felt today, the sense of not belonging to something, being surrounded by fitness gimmicks and diet pills, where would I be left to turn? I didn’t belong. I didn’t fit into any of the boxes. There was no safe space for me. There was no safe space for those of us with STDs.
I planned to participate in one of the yoga sessions offered and had some time to spare beforehand. I found a Courage Wall. It’s a project entitled “We Live Big” that leaves chalkboard walls up with the phrase, “I wish I had the courage to...” and you fill in the blank. The movement strives to raise awareness about living life on purpose. Its mission states: "It's about courage and vibrance. It's about finding your passion and creating a meaningful life. We encourage people to uncover their authentic selves, continue to grow, and make contributions to the world." Pondering this, I walked around the convention center searching for the right words to fill in the empty space.
I couldn’t. I have been courageous with my heart. I have been courageous in my ambitions. And most importantly, I was courageous in disclosing my HSV2+ status. And I’m damn proud of that. Instead of writing nothing, I decided to write something. I eliminated the blank space provided for me and created my own: “I have the courage to change STD stigma.” I do, and I will.
There were several organizations founded by Kickstarter that have my own mind churning potential ways to create a safe space for STD disclosure and education. I will be writing to NBC 4 to seek out a space for sexual education in future expos. That absence said something to me. It said that our society is still uncomfortable discussing sexual education. Our society still stigmatizes STDs. Our society still is conflicted in accepting sexual health as health. Society is still not okay with discussing the consequences and positive outcomes of our actions--straight, gay, bi, asexual—whatever you may be. We all suffered in a similar silence today. The next time I attend an expo such as this, I hope to be someone speaking, or presenting. I want to be the person who makes you feel that good type of lost. I want to be that orgasm.