1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I help people integrate genital herpes into a healthy, happy and normal life. Shame from herpes and shame in general often has people feeling isolated. When someone is able to clear shame they not only have more love and acceptance for themselves, they have more love and acceptance for others. When people heal themselves they heal the world. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than supporting that process.
2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?
Specifically? Genital herpes. When I got genital herpes, I was devastated. I believed my life was over and that no one would ever want me. For many years, I convinced myself that I was unlovable. But what I realized after years of suffering was that herpes was simply the magnifying glass to show me all the ways I hadn’t been accepting myself already (way before getting herpes). Herpes was the catalyst that had me start looking deeply inside myself for what was lovable and worthy about me. What I discovered has me inspired to help others tap into their own lovability and worthiness. That’s why I created the Herpes Opportunity. Now it is a thriving community of people supporting one another toward openness and love.
3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
Sexual shame is quite a challenge. Shame in general is the biggest source of disconnection. And more specifically, sexual shame cuts us at our very core — it disconnects us off from ourselves first, then others. Our sexuality is so vulnerable. So when STDs (or anything else tied to sex) is wrapped in shame, it creates entire communities of people who feel unworthy and unlovable at their most vulnerable place, at the core of their beings. And shame has us not talking about the things that deserve to be talked about. And ironically, the more we talk openly about everything — sometimes even the most shameful of things — the more open we all become and the more connected we tend to feel.
4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
The most important shift is the increasing openness around discussing sexuality in general. The fact that a conference like CatalystCon even exists where a whole community of sex-positive people can gather and talk openly about such a vulnerable thing as sex is powerful. The antithesis of shame is sharing ourselves in the light of openness and acceptance. I see that here with CatalystCon. And that is inspiring and enlivening to me.
5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic Living With An STI to CatalystCon East?
Because STDs (and especially herpes) are those “don’t you dare talk about THAT” kind of topics in many circles. Why so much avoidance? The fact is that STDs exist. Let’s talk about them, along with all the beauty that sex offers as well. It’s just a part of the whole, but a part that has been left out of many conversations. And the less we talk about STDs, the more shame and stigma pervades them, then the less likely they will be talked about — it’s a vicious circle. The more we DO talk about STDs and have open, shameless talks around sexuality (in all its beauty and its inherent risks), the more connected we can all be. Sex is a vehicle for connection. And having honest, vulnerable discussions with potential sexual partners only serves to connect us on a deeper, more human level. It’s so important.
6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
I absolutely LOVE anything to do with balance, whether it’s balancing on my hands or walking on a slackline. There’s something super cool about it that captivates my mind and body. Balancing is my form of meditation, of re-connecting to my body. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s so fun, too! I guess I’m either a human-like monkey or a wannabe circus performer.