I never thought I’d get an STI. I was fairly informed about barriers and testing, got tested 3-4 times a year (the nurses occasionally implied that perhaps I was coming to get tested too frequently despite me telling them that I was in an open relationship) and was terrified of the thought of contracting one and spreading it to my partners and their partners.
“Don’t sleep with cis gay guys in the community” I hear one of my close friends say at a party.
“there’s a chlamydia outbreak, it’s so gross, don’t go near them.”
This friend had never been tested before.
I had been tested, but never orally because I was too shy to mention it to the nurse and it’s not part of a standard drop in STI screening, even after I had mentioned having unprotected oral sex with multiple people. I continued this behaviour, the nurse hearing “queer” and seeing femme and assuming things about my lovers, my history, how high of risk my behaviour was.
I was told you can get STIs orally but told that dental dams were weird and uncomfortable and that no one used them. I was told in sex ed that sex was between a man and a woman, I was told to always use a condom during sex no matter what, despite my partner nor I having penises. I was told that cold sores were common but that herpes was disgusting and shameful and was told nothing about how it spreads or how to treat it. I didn’t know anything about this thing that I’ve had since I was maybe…14? Would you tell a 14 year old child that they are disgusting?
I would hope not.
Then why am I disgusting as an adult?
Because I’m not.
The stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections is disgusting and harmful.
If we accept our friends and lovers when they have a cold, we should accept them if they contract an STI, as it is not their fault, it is not a reflection of their worth and it takes a lot of strength to disclose information about yourself that not a lot of people understand.
Until we no longer live in a world where saying “ew I heard she has herpes” is an acceptable thing to say, we will continue to have people too afraid to get tested and too afraid to disclose their status to their partner(s). I hope by sharing my story, I will be able to encourage others to go get tested and to be compassionate to those with STIs, whether it’s our partner, someone in our community or ourselves. Please take care of yourselves the best you can and try to be understanding to others, that’s all I ask <3
Author: Renée, 20 | she/her
I am a queer, intersex, femme who struggles with physical and mental illness. I am an artist and sex worker and writer. Some days I am an optimist. Every day I try to be better than the person I was the day before.