Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sex Positivity: Reading List - "Oh Joy Sex Toy" by Erika Moen - Loving Your Body, Consent, and Sexual Health

Art from the book! I love the art style!

Okay, so if you know me, I mean really know me, I am a very sex positive person. This is something I have fought for my entire adolescent and early teenage years, battling sexual shame, not really understanding what was going on with my body, not really being able to speak openly about it with family members (it is usually difficult for most people though.) But then the worst insult of all, one perception that I myself had to claw my way out of, is that someone like me is inherently non-sexual, and should be "skipped over" in sexual chit-chats.

"How can a 'little girl' as innocent and sweet as you even be a remotely sexual being? So unbecoming!"

When I was already well past puberty and had a pretty solid understanding of the "birds and the bees" so to speak.

When I reached adulthood, I found this to be not only irritating, but somehow demoralizing, and almost shameful. It made things very uncomfortable for me when friends, sometimes close friends, would single me out of conversations regarding sex because I was apparently too "young and innocent" to understand, even though I was just as "adult" as they were.

Now, at age twenty-five as I am writing this, I can say I learned so much about myself and my body since back then, when I was probably sixteen or seventeen and realized that I had remote sexual feelings (not that I had any type of handle on them because I did not.) But even so, I continued to abstain from sex, not because of any oppressive religious beliefs, saving myself until marriage, or because of abstinence only sexual education. No one ever told me to wait to have sex, I just made it my own personal choice not to until I met a person that I felt comfortable enough to be with.

I waited until age twenty, because I guess the mentality at the time was that I didn't want to be a teenager having sex, but it was honestly also because of relationship timing. I just so happened to meet the first person I was interested in, a few months before I would turn twenty.

I guess it was just convenient then, perhaps.

Deciding to go for it wasn't a fleeting thought. It needed to be safe, I needed to trust the person very deeply, and have formed a friendship and a very deep emotional connection. All the above needs to be established if I am sharing my body and soul with another person, but I only speak for myself.

This is not everyones choice, and I completely understand that.

I'm all about choices! And I'm all about safety, consent, and positivity surrounding sexual experiences if you are the person who indulges (because you know, some people don't and that's fine too!)

So that brings me to the most amazing literary discovery I made a couple of weeks ago.

But this book isn't simply about sex toys (though it sure does cover, in detail, a wide variety!) This book covers every aspect of the sexual realm in the most non-threatening, normalizing, body positive, sexuality positive, and inclusive way that I ever have seen in my life. 

I made this discovery, (well actually CelinĂ© did, rather we did together) at a comic book store in Midtown. It was showcased on a high shelf and we immediately gravitated towards it. We took volume one from the shelf and we poured over it for at least an hour. 

We found ourselves screaming things like⎯

"Oh my god where was this book when I was younger?"

"Look at all the diverse representation of sexual people, do you see what I'm seeing? Is this real life?"

"This book needs to be handed out in every sex-ed class in the nation!"

So we weren't able to purchase the books at the time, but we each plan to buy a volume and add it to our book collective. These books are a must have, and volume three is coming soon! 

These books cover everything there is to know about sex. They will leave you feeling informed, empowered, and included! The illustrations, though quite explicit in nature but in a very fun way, are so diverse. There are people of all shapes, sizes, skin colors, hair types, sexualities, identities, 'variantly abled' (they include people in wheelchairs and with prosthetics, people with disabilities are often regarded as non-sexual and I find that to be equally unfair), the list goes on and on. 

I was smiling ear to ear and almost in tears because I couldn't believe such a wonderful book existed. 

I am all about positivity and inclusivity when it comes to sex. I'm so over the notion that only super slim or athletic, conventionally attractive, abled, usually White, heterosexual couples are the only relevant and prevalent sexual examples in mainstream media. This leaves out a massive chunk of people and it's really gotten old. No more shaming of people who don't fit society's "sexual normalcy", and quit the body shaming in general while you are at it. 

I get it, not everyone is going to find everyone sexually attractive and that's perfectly fine, but I'm not down with exclusion of people from the narrative because of your personal perception of the way they look, the identity they uphold, or the amount of partners they have. 


To be able to see yourself represented in a book for all that you are, I take serious comfort in that! Whatever rainbow-multi-colored-confetti-throwing sexuality I feel like calling myself on a given day (it must change every other day and that's fine too), the book had it covered.

But I highly recommend these books. I will hopefully do a more detailed review of them once I actually own them. From what I saw, everything and more is covered, even things I personally didn't know about. You realize that there are key things and experiences that you simply never even fathomed or been exposed to. 

In a world, at least here in the states, where things are warping wildly backward, it is important that we do everything in our power to educate and inform as many consenting adults and curious teens about their sexual health. About their choices and what is safe and unsafe. How to enjoy themselves without feeling shame. Without abuse and mistreatment. 

These things matter now more than ever before. 

It's just as much your choice to abstain as it is to engage, and no one has the right to dictate that. So get out there and learn, because with that knowledge you can decide what paths you want to follow and which you don't. 

I really can't wait to own these books and read them cover to cover multiple times and pass them around to those who need them. You can purchase the book at your local book or comic store (preferred) or online at 

 More Sex Positive topics to come, it's so important right now.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"What You're Saying is Not Okay..."

Many of you probably have this issue in your day to day lives. From family members, co-workers, your partners, your friends, and even the passer-by, someone somewhere spouts some hurtful and ignorant comments that you know yourself isn't right but you feel perplexed at how to confront them about it or if you even should.

You may think the following in your head (perhaps if you're like me):

"Wow, what they are saying is really mean/misinformed/ridiculous/hurtful..."

"I really don't agree, should I say something?"

"But if I do, what would they think of me? Will they be upset?"

"Will this effect my day-to-day with these people? Will they treat me differently?"

For me particularly, it can be a daily struggle. Some days are better than others, but there are times when it just really gets to you. I try to tune it out, give them the benefit of the doubt, but then I wonder on the other hand if I'm being an enabler?

Some really tricky subjects do come up from time to time, such as body shaming (specifically fat-shaming most often in my case), transphobia and alienation of transgender people (disrespecting of pronouns and how they self-identify), as well as general homophobia and intolerance or ignorance in regards to LGBTQ+ lifestyles, slut-shaming, putting people down for their appearance, and more.

First off, yes we all have to understand that people are going to disagree with you. People are going to judge you, and it's not always going to be positive. Everyone has the right to their personal opinions, but in that same vein you personally have the right to call people out when they say things that are directly hurtful or unnecessarily mean. Or also, when they are terribly misinformed and are furthering the passing on of false information, usually on issues that they have no business passing judgement upon.

I'm also not right all the time. I can be judgmental myself too, but I learn every day that I have to check myself (before I wreck myself, quite seriously), but then that being said, should I be checking others?

It's a tough personal dilemma for me, but for a lot of people, we are most concerned about how we are perceived by those around us. There are some that could care less, but I'm sure we all have some sort of concern about it. Sometimes the way we are perceived can even cause personal harm.

But when you have people going on about how for example, that they find fat people unattractive and could not see themselves ever being with someone who was fat, sure you might say "well that's their personal preference", but when is the line crossed into full on shaming of bodies and a callous disregard of feelings? Something should be said, no?

(Also note that I'm using the term 'fat', because trying to dance around it by using words like plus-sized, chubby, and the like can also be seen as negative in some respects and by some people, but I am not one to make the statement about what words are more acceptable because I am someone of what society considers to be "average" weight, therefore I have no real authority on that. Feel free to disagree with the use of 'fat', but it is not used here in a way of negativity or "othering". I speak only for myself here.)

Let's get a tiny bit personal. I have no problem dating people of all body types. Not that it matters whether or not, but I'm with a person who isn't particularly "skinny", who based on societal "norms", would be considered to be outside of what people would call an ideal weight. Not to be pandering by saying that, but I feel that it should be mentioned. Not as a means of justification of my statements, but simply as a fact of the matter. I do take offense when their weight is directly insulted because I know it's hurtful to them, simple. I will defend them and denounce those who speak ill of them directly or indirectly if and when they are okay with that (sometimes they aren't and I have to respect that too.)

Okay yes, people have the right to their preferences, but I would never completely write someone off for their weight outright without even getting to know them. 

Same for friendship, I don't deny someones friendship because they are of a certain weight. And I do take offense when someone directly insults them in the same way if I know it hurts them. Not being hurt for them, but empathizing with their feelings even though it's not my own. 

And being respectful at least. At the very least. 

Even if you may not agree with their lifestyle choices, everyone deserves a certain level of respect when they aren't hurting anyone with their actions. 

I have people surrounding me who have made some of the most cringe worthy comments about fat people. They outright blame that person for the way they look, as though that person is doing them a personal disservice by existing on the earth in that body. Comments are made, the usual⎯ 

"Well that fat person would be attractive maybe if they lost some weight..."

"They are so fat and unhealthy, they should go on a diet and stop eating so much!"

"Not to be mean but, I can't be seen with people like that, what would I look like?"

Hey guess what? That isn't always easy for some people. Some people have health complications that cause them to gain weight. Some people have eating disorders. Some people do not have access to healthy food options due to their socioeconomic status. Some people are going through things in their life that impact their ability to maintain what society believes to be a "normal weight", ever think of that? Are they really so disturbed by that person that they can be so judgmental about them to the point where they would deny that person a relationship or even friendship because of it? 

Also, what if that person is in the process of losing weight? Are you are going to discredit all their personal achievements because they aren't adhering to your personal preferences about the way they should look in the present moment? 

And some people are just bigger than others and that's their life, live and let live. Plain and simple. Why are you wasting energy dictating how others should look if it does not personally effect you? Why does it bother you so much that it has to be brought up constantly? 

Oh and also the glorification of being skinny, because the only way to exist is if you are "thin and beautiful" by their standards, and while we are at it, the shaming of thin people on the other hand. All of it, is plain old wrong. More examples of comments I've heard⎯

"I should just be anorexic, you know? Then I'll finally look the way I want, I bet! Let's all just become anorexic."

"Yea you can eat whatever you want because you're skinny, I wish I could be as thin as you! I'm so jealous..."

"She's too skinny, she should eat a cheeseburger! Real women have curves!"

Yep, that first one was actually said. Can you believe it? And they believe that saying things like that is completely okay. Mind you, the person saying this isn't even remotely overweight, but I know a lot of it comes from a personal place and I also don't know what they are struggling with on a deeper level. 

The second one is said to me sometimes, that weird way of complimenting your figure while somehow leaving a bad taste in your mouth when you say in response, "Thanks, I guess..."

And third, well basically it looks like you can't please everyone so who cares about anyone's opinion right? Too fat or too skinny, you can't win. Sometimes I just say, to be frank, screw them.

It is however personally exhausting to have to mediate these kinds of comments, but I sometimes feel like I have no real authority to take a stand because I'm not the one that is being directly shamed, and if I am (if you can even call it that honestly), it's packed as something I should be proud of?

How confusing.

At least in this respect. There have been times which I have been part of the group thats being shamed quite directly. 

For example, through homophobic and LGBTQ+ ignorant comments. Those come up too. 

I'm not a straight person, I personally identify as queer/pansexual, and those whom I'm in a relationship with is besides that and frankly that's my personal business. I am generally open about this fact to most people, but not to everyone directly for my own personal reasons, and for those that may not know that about me, certain comments are made in my presence that can be extremely off-putting. It happens and it's to be expected sadly.

On the outside, I'm "categorized" as a straight person. It's held as an inalienable truth due to certain personal knowledge that they may know about my life and my outward appearance. But I know it's far from true.  

It's sad because they have no idea they are hurting someone in the room with them, and I don't currently have the personal courage to tell them to their faces. If they happen to find out indirectly, I won't personally be in serious danger (I know quite well that many of us in the LGBTQ+ do not have this privilege), but I am sure that their perceptions of me will be altered, and that can either work in my favor or against me. In one respect, perhaps they will think twice before they say things like⎯

"I don't understand bisexuals, are they just confused? They have to choose what they want eventually. They are just gay and they should stop playing games!"

"I'm usually not comfortable around lesbians, what if they try to come onto me? I don't want to deal with that, it's creepy. They can be so aggressive!" 

"I don't know what I would do if my child said they were gay, I would be devastated because I did not raise them that way! I guess I would have to be accepting but it would be so hard!"

And though I'm not transgender, in the same vein things are said such as⎯

"I couldn't see myself with someone who is trans. If a man was really born a woman and I'm attracted to them, I would feel deceived, plus that would make me a lesbian right? That's just wrong!"

"I mean I've seen some good trannies, you can't even tell what they were! He's actually pretty, prettier than some real women! I feel bad that he looks better than I do, what's up with that? Haha..."

Right now, I'm not going to go and unpack every one of the statements made above as that would be an entire post in of itself. Just know I've had these things said within earshot and they really get to me. Using incorrect pronouns and slurs, calling bisexual people "confused" and their feelings illegitimate, labeling lesbians as predatory, and this is only some of the things I hear day to day. It's some real toxic stuff. 

I know that people around me who say these things just may not know better, or are still learning, but again it hurts a little when sweeping generalizations or insensitive comments are made around you almost constantly or more than a few times without any remorse. 

For me, my unwillingness to be open about myself to them by personal choice, can make it more difficult to stomach but also easier in some ways because I don't run the risk of them treating me differently. 

But for how long? And why do I care so much what they think of me?

I'm beginning to feel repressed. But I know many others do too with more serious circumstances held against them (people have lost entire families over their sexuality, their jobs and livelihoods, their relationships both romantic and platonic, their lives, it's no light issue.)

The argument can be made again that the quoted statements above are their personal opinion, but where do you draw the line? You really begin to wonder if those people would change their tune if they really knew you, or if they were close to someone else who fit into the category of the people they are speaking ill about. 

Some people won't though, and that's that. No use wasting your energy on changing certain people, but I myself would give it the old college try. 

I hope that they get a wake up call. Perhaps I may be the one to give them one if it really got to that point, trust me it's pretty close. When you have to sit and listen to things like this constantly and grit your teeth in silence because you cannot justify further alienating yourself, it's so exhausting. What I mentioned isn't even everything that is said either, but we will be here forever if I mentioned it all.

Sometimes when I'm silent, and I wonder then if I'm doing some sort of disservice to society. Do I just let people be awful? When do you speak up? Always? Never? Sometimes? I'm still seeking the answer to that, but it will ultimately be my own decision what I decide. 

I have to be ready to speak out on stances I don't agree with and be okay with people not liking what I have to say. 

As a Black Queer Woman, thats a lot of things. 

This will be the climate of things now more than ever before. Call me the "PC police" or a "Social Justice Warrior" I'll gladly take the titles with honor and pride. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Women’s Reproductive Health: Illness, Hard Lessons, and Moving Forward - My Story

I deemed it fit and made a personal choice to finally tell my full story. Since this is a public post, certain personal details will need to be omitted, so please understand. However, I’ve decided to write certain things publicly, even if they are difficult to talk about, because I want to inform others so they know what to look out for if they go through something similar. I want to prevent other women from going through the same if I can. The story is long, but please take the time to read it, it may save you months or even years of pain and suffering. 

**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please do not take my words as accurate medical advice. I will only tell you what worked for me and my personal experience.

My story today will be about my health that suddenly deteriorated at the end of 2015 and most of 2016. I will be speaking frankly about gynecological health, sex, and vaginas so if that makes you uncomfortable, please stop here. I know people get up in arms when the topic of lady-parts come up or sexual health, so if that isn’t for you, again stop reading here. This story needs to be told though. So many women have gone through what I have been through, and there else a chance that I’m not out of the deep end yet. 

Women need to speak openly about their health struggles. We are often disregarded as being crazy hypochondriacs who are too delusional to know whats going on with our bodies. There is a long history of this that goes back centuries. Do the research, their is evidence of this spanning so many years and the same practices still go on today. Doctors and other medical professionals can be dismissive of women and their chronic symptoms. They often think we are making things up or we are too weak or sensitive to minor pain. 

Well guess what? Women are in pain more than men, plain and simple. From period pain monthly, pregnancy, endometriosis, complications from hormonal medications like birth control, yeast infections, being more prone to UTI’s and bacterial infections of the vagina, and much more, women really have it rough. 

Why is this not acknowledged by so much of the medical community?

Women are often misdiagnosed or get pills and creams thrown at them to “shut them up” if you will. They often think we don’t understand our own bodies and that they know better than we do. This is not all doctors, but frankly it seems to be a lot of them. Sadly, we often have to take matters into our own hands, which is exactly what I had to do this year to basically live

So let’s get into what happened to me. 

Why Does it Hurt?

I noticed some odd vaginal burning and irritation that I never felt before in the middle of November 2015. I thought it had to do with my period or something, so I ignored it. I was used to that type of stuff. I am sexually active as well, so irritation happens. I, however, practice safe sex, always tested, same for whom I’m sexually active with. There is honesty, trust, and though you never know what can go on without you knowing, I was sure infidelity was not at play. Those assurances were confirmed by more subsequent tests in the coming months after finding out that something was up with me, so everything was clear with those involved. 

I also much mention that I was at the time on birth control pills, a generic form of Ortho-Tricyclen called Trinessa. It is an estradiol-norethindrone hormonal pill pack, which remember that as it will play a role in what I later learned to be problems that were directly linked to these pills and more. Like a bad combination and cause and effect. I was on that brand of pills for three and a half years, and well into this unfortunate saga. 

The pain seemed to come and go with my menses. After each cycle the pain would dissipate, then come back full force the week before I started my period again. I really did not know what I was going on. I had spotting between periods, which I never had in the past, and I started waving the red flag.

I finally went to urgent care in January of 2016. I had lost my insurance at the end of the year and did not have my regular ob/gyn anymore since she did not accept my new insurance, so I had no options. 

I thought I had a UTI. And going in the clinic, that’s what I suggested.

Lesson One - Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go into any doctors office, ER, or urgent care and ‘suggest’ what you think you have. They will either dismiss you completely or go on your hunch alone and misdiagnose you. 

This is what happened to me.

So they tested for a UTI, and that’s it. The doctor looked at my urine sample and determined that the high white blood cell count equaled bacterial infection. I realized later that this result was not determined by a lab diagnostic (I will get back to that in a moment). I was then given a prescription for Bactrim (Sulfamethoxazole), a routine antibiotic, to take to rid me of the infection. I was in and out of urgent care in about 20 minutes, too quick honestly for any comprehensive care. 

I urge women not to go to urgent care or and ER if they can help it when dealing with vaginal pain or infections for this reason. You will not get the care you need. 

I took all the antibiotics without any immediate adverse effects. However, the pain came back worse than ever. 

Then I got a call from the urgent care facility that infuriated me and led me down an awful path of mystery. 

They called me to tell me that they analyzed my urine sample further and did not find any bacteria that would signal that I had a UTI. I got this call a week after completing the antibiotic regimen.

I took the meds for no reason. 

The pain was back and nothing changed. 

Seeking a Second Opinion

After another month of the symptoms coming and going, I found a new ob/gyn. He seemed nice upfront. I won’t share his name for privacy reasons, even though I am very angry about how the saga unfolded thereafter the initial visit. As of now he is currently retired (November of 2016) so hopefully he will not hurt any more women with his gross incompetence. 

I mentioned to him everything that was going on with me. I was open and honest about my sexual history, activity, leaving no stone unturned. I have to say, being a young person (I was 24 at the time of this situation), I find that it is an extra hurdle to convince your doctors that you have a handle on your sexual health. I understand that doctors do need to take extra care with young people to make sure we are being safe, but I also expect that I won’t be judged by appearances or pre-dispositions. 

Sadly, I feel I was judged. 

Pre-diagnosis - Bacterial Vaginosis

Without getting back the results of my PAP, the doctor determined on his own by my apparent symptoms that I had BV. Actually he didn’t even say anything about BV, he just told me to use this prescription cream called Metrogel that he would send to my pharmacy and in seven days I would be fine. 

I repeat, he did not tell me exactly what he was treating. 

The man literally told me basically, “try this and we will see what happens, come back for a follow up in two weeks.” He did not check any samples under the microscope in the office (which I found out later could be done on the spot to check for simple things like bacteria and fungi without needing to wait a week for lab tests - hmm sounds like incompetence and a little bit of insurance scamming)

So I’m using this suppository cream for 7 days, by day 6 the burning came back full force. Also note that I had to pay full price for this medication ($129) because my insurance did not cover it. 

A few days after that I get a call from the doctor about the results of my PAP.


Oh and I also got blood work done for HIV, yes I went that far too. All clear. 

So for the second time I took a medication without comprehensive test results for no reason and I spent over a hundred dollars on it.

I was livid. 

I was back in the office a few weeks later. More tests were done. I was like a little lab rat at this point. He tested for everything (he claimed at least, that will come back to bite me later) and in four months I had about 3 PAP smears done, all with clear results. The doctor clearly did not know what to do or what he was doing. He threw another cream at me, an anti fungal one, which worked briefly but then stopped working when the regimen had ended.

I must mention that this doctor was primarily an obstetrician, so I do not think he really had a handle on vaginal infections. 

I made several attempts to see specialists, but none of them would accept my insurance, Metro Plus Bronze. If I wanted to see them, I would need to spend thousands out of pocket. So a big screw you to the health coverage in America because it’s really one huge rip-off, but I won’t get into that now as it’s a much larger issue. 

Being My Own Doctor?

Eventually I realized that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I did tons of research regarding my condition, combed online forums for information, and reading about the countless other women who were going through the same thing. I made the grim discovery of Vulvodynia, the unexplained pain of the vulva not caused by an active infection. Mystery pain, basically. 

Would I have to come to terms with such a diagnosis?

I came to the doctors office again and mentioned this. He prescribed me a numbing cream. I was never actually diagnosed with it, and I refused to just give up and accept lifelong unexplained pain. 

My life was basically in shambles at this point. My self esteem was in the toilet. I felt terrible about myself. My relationship was directly effected and deteriorating. I refused to see people. I felt sick all the time. Going to work everyday was a struggle. Some days it hurt to sit down, or hurt to walk. I had to constantly pretend I was okay. I would often go home and cry and be completely debilitated. I could not go on like that. 

For those of you out there that have dealt with or are dealing with chronic pain, just know that you matter and you are not alone. Your pain is valid and real. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Your inability to function is warranted, and no one is allowed to shame you for that. 

I had to come to grips with the fact that my life was changed, and in order to overcome, I had to look at everything from a different angle. I decided not to give up. 

I marched back to the doctors office and demanded copies of all the tests they ran on me so I can read them through myself. 

I found a sparkle of hope in the dark cloud that was my life currently - results from a urine test that uncovered a key clue into what was going on with me that was overlooked by the quack doctor. 

Yeast - Abnormal

The results of a urine test I had done was flagged for yeast. Yeast is a fungus that lives in all of us. It’s a natural part of what keeps our gut and vaginal flora regulated, however when the balance is lost or disrupted, candidasis (candida is another word for yeast) can occur. 

Long story short, I basically had vulvovaginal candidasis the whole time. And the doctor never tested for it directly because he assumed my issue was bacterial or sexually transmitted which it wasn’t. 

Before I fully realized this, I went back for another two visits. I accosted the man, telling him how he missed this key item in my test results. At this rate my symptoms were full force, discharge, abnormal bowel movements, frequent urination, burning sensations, basically all the symptoms you could possibly have due to candida. 

But despite this, things got worst and he still managed to ruin my body more.

On the first visit I was given a vaginal ultra sound. Found nothing with that. I spoke to him about the possibility of my birth control pills causing my flare ups. He didn’t seem to have any understanding of that even though I had read so many articles online detailing that birth control may have adverse effects on vaginal flora. I even printed the articles for him to read! He seemed to disregard my findings though he was proud that I did my own research? That’s supposed to be his job not mines! He wanted to put me on the birth control Lo-Loestrin FE, but I declined. I did not trust him. It’s the estradiol (synthetic estrogen) that’s the problem, so lowering the dose isn’t going to help anything, in fact it could make it worse. 

On the second visit, the doctor did another pelvic exam, I must have been on my fifth one in only four months. The only thing he had to go by was my symptoms. 

Again, despite what I told him about the candida, somehow the man jumped to Trichomonas, which is another sexually transmitted disease. He insisted that because of the discharge it just had to be an STD. Mind you, I explained that I was confident about my sexual safety to him several times but clearly he did not believe me. 

He then threw more antibiotics at me, Doxycycline and Metronidazole. He claimed I had to have both candidasis and Trich simultaneously (what the…?) so he gave me Tetraconozole anti-fungal suppository cream on top of the antibiotics. I was told to take all three at once. 

I was desperate, and in severe pain at the point of this visit, so I left the office without further questions. 

Lesson Two - Do not ever take any medications without getting comprehensive test results from the labs. Do not ever. I learned the hard way that taking medications on the doctor’s word alone leads to further complications when you are treating for a condition that is non-existent. You may worsen your condition and it may be irreversible. 

I became more violently ill than I ever was before. My stomach pain and nausea worsened. I could barely get the pills down daily. I was nauseous and vomited them up a lot. I took a probiotic (GNC 100 Billon Ultra) to help combat the loss of good bacteria while on the antibiotics. It didn’t help enough. 

Antibiotics cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria, so it eradicates it all. But guess what it doesn’t eradicate?

Fungi, and what is candida? A Fungus. So guess who ended up being full body taken over by candida? This woman, me right here. 

I developed oral thrush on top of vulvovaginal candidasis as well as intestinal and stomach problems. I could barely keep food down. I lost like five pounds. I felt miserable. I couldn’t get through a single day without feeling both nauseous and like my vagina was on fire. I questioned all my life choices and what I did to deserve this. I thought sometimes that I would die from it, and I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it just kept getting worse and not better. 

A Terrible Realization 

I did not finish the antibiotic regimen. I knew it was not helping. It was actually killing me. If I kept going down that route I could have ended up in even more trouble. 

I lost count, but I went in for my sixth and what would be my final visit to this terrible doctor. A doctor that mistreated my condition over and over and seemed to not bat an eye. He told me ridiculous things like how I should just take a warm bath to relieve the pain. 


Okay, so on this final visit. I showed him my yellow tongue, my horribly visible vulvar “takeover”, and oh on top of that, I had such violent pelvic pain that I really thought I would just keel over in agony. I don’t even know how I made it. And I also had to wait a long time to be seen that day, which added insult to injury. I was literally being internally destroyed by yeast. They seemed to have taken hold on every bit of my body. 

He finally casually admitted, “oh yep, you have candidasis”, and he administered a swab test for it.

Wait. Hold on. Roll that back. 

So the doctor basically never tested me for a yeast infection. Not since day one. This was not part of his initial PAP test. I know this because upon reviewing the paperwork of the test results from the previous months, there is not candida test listed. 

He. Never. Tested. For. It. 

I was under the assumption all that time that the test for candida was part of the initial test! So when he told me in the past that all my tests were clear, candida was not a part of that. It was a separate swab he never even administered because he assumed all this time that it HAD to be bacterial. He was playing guessing games with my body!

My life was in pieces for at this point, 6 months because he is a complete imbecile or in cahoots with BigPharma. 

So here I am on what was either my sixth or seventh clinic visit, finally having a swab for candida taken. Mind you I never got the results back for this, but I knew that it was candida regardless. It was obvious: 

  • Antibiotics did not work and only made my symptoms worse. 
  • All my bacterial infection tests came back clear. 
  • My urine tested positive for yeast two months prior.
  • I had every single symptom of a yeast infection known to man left untreated for six months and allowed to proliferate until I was nearly dying. 

Relief in Sight?

I was finally put on the oral anti-fungal medication Diflucan (brand name for fluconazole). I was to take two doses, a single pill once a week for two weeks. I was given Tetraconazole suppository cream again. 

I finally began to see results. My candida began to clear. It was a miracle. I reduced dietary sugar, drank more water. The pain became minimal. The nausea began to stop. My appetite began to return. I guess he finally did something right, but honestly? I did all the research to begin with. I suggested Diflucan to him to prescribe to me. I told him that the antibiotics were making me worse. 

I did all the work!

I was told to have a follow up appointment, but I was done. I never went back to that doctor. He ruined my life for over half a year. I was very upset. I began to get bills in the mail from him from all his failed treatments ($600 worth). This is on top of the over $300 I already spent out of pocket on his failed medications. I refuse to pay them, and I will dispute them. No one deserves to go through this! This is medical malpractice at it’s finest. 

After the treatment that finally worked, I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic to try and get further answers as well as my primary care doctor, which honestly I really wished I went to sooner. The whole ordeal was so intense that I was bewildered with what to do. 

Lesson Three - When your current treatments aren’t working and your doctor seems to not understand what is going on with your body, seek out a new one immediately. Do not settle. If you can afford it, perhaps shell out the extra dollars for a specialist, though I know not many people have that luxury. Do what you can, and even go to your PCP regardless if they don’t do gynecology, at least they may know your history. 

Lesson Four - Trust your own body. Don’t fall for what a doctor tells you about your body. Do your own research and find out the truth. It may be exhausting, but it’s your body and your life. Do what you can and don’t stop fighting. 

So here I am at the end of 2016, which was the worse year of my life so far in terms of health. Not only did this fight with candidasis hurt me physically, but mental and emotionally too. But I still feel like one of the lucky ones. Some women suffer for YEARS. Some women never find cures. Some women never uncover the truth. Some women may even die from complications. Don’t let the medical practitioners victimize you. Seek out ones that will actually help and care about your health and well being. They do exist. 

Also do consider naturopathy or a naturopathic health practitioner. I know many people are skeptical about it, but before modern medicine, there was naturopathy, and without it, so many modern medical breakthroughs may have never occurred. All things are derived from nature and there is some truth to natural remedies. 

Currently, to combat my candida flare ups, I take coconut oil pills and oregano oil pills daily. I’ve researched countless natural anti-fungals and tried so many, but I think coconut oil is one of the best and has worked the best for me. I also take probiotics and eat probiotic yogurt daily. I also like to drink ginger tea and pau d’ arco tea. I have reduced (but not completely eliminated) dietary sugar and I eat more greens and leafy veggies. I did not go on the candida diet, which also works for some people though its a bit of an extreme change, but I did make some changes to my diet and only indulge sparingly. I hope to improve my diet even more in the coming year. 

I’m not out the deep end. Theres always a chance that I could have another flare. I did have one about a month ago, and I had to take another dose of Diflucan. I have one in my drawer in case of an emergency as well. But in the end of the year I went long spans of being infection free for the first time, so it was progress. 

It’s not good to take anti-fungal medications often, as the fungi may develop resistance to them. This is another reason why I’ve opted to take the natural route. Candida cannot develop a resistance to coconut oil for instance, but in order for coconut oil to be effective, you must take it all the time (preferably after meals.) 

It also takes longer for natural remedies to take effect and some are more effective than others, so do your research. I opted for Diflucan only because my symptoms got too severe. To prevent that, I use natural anti-fungals as maintenance.  

There was another change that I did not mention earlier that helped me. I switched birth control to a progestin only pill called Jollivete, or the “mini-pill”. Progestin only methods (which also include IUDs and Implants such as Implanon and Nexplanon) do not contain any estrogen. Estrogen is a known trigger for increased amounts of vaginal yeast during a woman’s natural menstrual cycle. Since switching to a progestin only method, my symptoms when they occurred have been minor and less frequent, and through managing my symptoms and preventing them with natural anti-fungals, I’ve been on the road to complete recovery. I’ve been on the new pill since August 2016. 

But this is only what worked for me, please seek advice from a medical professional on what birth control methods work best for you. Some people cannot use hormonal methods, and for some it is against their beliefs, so again please do what is best for you. 

So yes, my body will never be the same. Having an infection for so long has led my body’s nervous system to be out of whack. I sometimes experience pain, like what feels like a dull burning or pinching feeling in the vulva, without the presence of any infection. This is a common side effect. With time it has gotten better. My body has to basically reprogram itself to not be used to or expect debilitating pain. 


More than it ever has been, we all have to be aware of our bodies. With the War on Women’s Health and Reproductive rights, the fight to get complete and comprehensive health care will be more difficult than it ever was as the climate shifts out of favor of our rights. We need to get the truth out there and help our fellow women as much as we can. And also, do not forget about the trans community who is often overlooked by some of those advocating for health awareness. They matter too, and may even suffer in the same ways and because of pre-judgements and pre-dispositions of medical practitioners, end up having their symptoms overlooked and warning signs ignored all the same. 

We have to look out for each other and we also have to look out for ourselves. 

I hope to be healthier in 2017. I will be fighting for that. 

I hope what I wrote helps someone out there. Please feel free to share this story with someone you may know who is suffering and also to all women so they are aware of what could happen. I never thought this would happen to me, no one does. When it happens, lets be prepared. My cure may not work for you, but perhaps it can lead you on the correct path. I know all the stories I read online that other women detailed on their struggles did lead me to uncover the truths I so actively sought. Without those women’s stories, I may still have been suffering today. Telling your story is important, however you can or feel comfortable with. 

This stuff isn’t easy to talk about I know, it took all my strength to recount and share this, but I believe it’s worth it. 

Thank you for reading. I wish you a safe and healthy New Year. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My America is Broken, but it was Cracking Long Ago - My Thoughts on Election 2016

My America is broken, but it was cracking long ago.

No one saw this coming. Not the best political analysts, not the parties themselves, not even the presidential elects.

Neither did I. I did not think I would be making this post tonight. I know I haven't posted here in years, but there is now, more than ever, so much that needs to be said, and to continue being said. Not just said once and left alone.

But I do not come here today to grieve and mourn. I did that already. I might do some more of that later, but right now there needs to be more said about what happened Tuesday evening.

You see, I feel that for a long time many people in America lived on with this belief that we were living in post racial society, anti-sexist, a place of true democracy and freedom. That racism was a thing of the past, held onto by a small minority, immigrants were welcome, and that women and men were equal.

But the actual events of the past few years paint a different picture of America. The high number of murders by the police, extreme conservatism weeding its way into every aspect of our society from the War on Women's reproductive rights to even climate change denying, has shown us a side of this country that we wanted to believe didn't exist.

The election only made these things much more apparent. This is America 2016, where what you thought were relics of a bygone era, have flooded into our present day like a swarm of angry wasps.

The voters were divided in every sense of the word. Divided by race and ethnicity, class and wealth, party lines, state lines, rural versus metropolitan, gender, age, the list goes on and on.

Trump supporters were older White folks and far-right shifting young White men. Clinton supporters were young, women, POC - in varying degrees. There was the working poor supporting or at least sympathizing on either side, but in that respect, those of the working class poor were clearly divided by both race and ethnicity on the two sides.

Also saddening was that no one really had full trust in either candidate. This includes myself. I voted Hilary, in a state that has not been anything but Blue for decades, it didn't really mean too much, but for the sake of what was at stake, I was with her. I was never against her, but she was not my top choice. I was overconfident she would win and save us from Trump's dangerous rhetoric of hate and bigotry, and when she didn't, for a moment my world crumbled around me.

And then I realized it didn't just begin to crumble...there were already cracks in my world to begin with. The Trump win was the hammer plummeting down to smash it to pieces.

But hear this, though he is hammering at the walls of my very existence at this very moment, I'm standing strong, plastering the cracks and crumbles and reinforcing the foundation. The hammer will hit harder, the bulldozers will arrive, the wrecking ball will be threatened, the dynamite will ignite, but I'm not going anywhere. I'll rebuild everything he and his supporters destroy of mines. I will help others fix theirs too.

As a marginalized person in America by that of race, sexuality, gender, and hell, perhaps my love for alternative clothing too, I've got a target on my head. They want us gone. We apparently threaten everything that's good and right in their eyes. But why?

This is what happens when you basically ignore the needs of a huge population of America. In times of past and present, they are referred to as the "forgotten ones", the people who had the most to lose when the country takes a rapid step towards progress (even in the quest for equality.) Many, liberals included, abandoned middle America as a lost cause, as backwards folk, and other more insidious terms, instead of helping to bring them up too. They were left with their racist, sexist, and bigoted ways and no one even attempted to change that view. The division remained for decades and was simply ignored. Thus, this large group retaliated in fear, fear of the unknown, what would happen to them in progressive change? Would they have a place in society anymore? Did their needs and beliefs matter? Their fear was taken advantage of by a narcissist who manipulated it into a sharp dagger into the heart of this country. All common sense and compassion lost, only to remain in what is referred to as the "good old days", when the "Wholesome White Christian Nuclear Family" was the one and only norm and there was nothing questioning that.

When that is threatened by the POC melting pot that isn't always hetronormative, isn't always devout, mixing together and sharing in liberal thinking and elevated prospects that they simply have no concept of...what happens?

Sure you might say, "but they are all racist bigots anyway, who needs them?" But that's not really the case. Many of them voted for Trump because they felt that they didn't have a choice and followed party alignment. Many ignored the nasty things he said, turning a deaf ear. Not that it's right or any better, absolutely not, as that still makes them sympathizers. When you ask them why they were voting for Trump, many seemed like they didn't really know why. Some did because they hated Hilary (also some, for reasons they didn't really know.) And a little less that that, they voted for him because they were just as, or even more, hateful than he is. That says a lot.

Then when I think of why I voted for Hilary, it was more so because I didn't want hate to win. Her platform only upheld a small portion of my beliefs and represented only a part of what I needed her to be.

So with this unprecedented and unexpected result, I ask myself, what now?

First off, take a minute everyone to count your privilege.

  • I live in a majority POC neighborhood in New York City where my beliefs relatively line up with those around me, not all, but enough to keep me remotely ok. We must all remain aware however.
  • Though as a queer women, outwardly that isn't always apparent by my looks when I'm alone. I'm femme identifying and visibly so as well. 
  • I have a huge support network of like minded friends and family behind me that we can all rely on one another. 
  • I have a creative career where there is enough people surrounding me that at least generally or overtly align with my beliefs. I cannot speak openly about everything, but enough to keep me sane. 
Some people don't have any of this. Some people have so many more strikes against them. Some people, have all the strikes against them. 

The hate is spreading, from people pulling off hijab, calling people n****r openly in the streets, and men implicitly declaring that they have the right to grope women now because of the example Trump has set. 


Little kids are afraid they and their families are getting deported. Little kids. 

As I'm writing this, it's hitting the 24-hour mark since the sad news came to light, and the protests have began. People are angry. I'm angry. I hope that my people are staying safe, but I worry for them, and for us. 

I believe, it's time to fight. No matter what the outcome would have been, though yes this is one of the worst possible, there's a lot of work to do America. This is not just their country, this is our country too. 

I emphasize the word too

No, it's not ours to take back, remember that's the rhetoric that got us here in the first place. 

We need to exert our freedom just as they will to try and oppress us and bring us down. But we also have to listen and know what got us to this deep dark place. 

All of us with our crumbling walls? Well guess what, when our walls crumble, they will topple like dominoes and set off a chain reaction that will bring the whole country down.

So more than anything, we can't let our walls fall, instead we fortify and fight on. The work isn't done yet, it never was. We can't take the easy road this time. 

It's not going to be pretty. It's ok to be afraid. It's ok to want to run away, some of us have to. But if you stay, fight the good fight with us in any way you can. We are here to support each other. 

Signing off, in hopes of a brighter tomorrow. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Because of the Color of My Skin PART I - Light vs. Dark: Insecurity, Mistreatment, Bias, and Cultural Stereotype

I'm back from my long hiatus with my long anticipated Blog Series: Because of the Color of My Skin.
It has been a long time coming, but now I've returned to get my thoughts out there on some very serious and deep rooted issues people of color face in society―in America, as well as all over the world.

I'll be bringing these stories to you in increments  As of right now I have five total topics for discussion, but this series has the potential to be quite ongoing.

I will begin by saying that I am in fact a young Black woman, descended from West Indian parents, though I was born an American. Though I relate best to the issues that plague my own people, I recognize and understand the turmoil other people of color face that are often as serious as my own personal struggles. I will do my best to address them as best as I can without bias or misinformation.

Let's jump right in.

Light Skin VS. Dark Skin - A Brief History

It's the most dangerously debated issue in the Black Community. It has caused hardship for countless people of color all over the world. Lighter skin is seen as purer, cleaner, and more desirable to have than darker skin.

People with darker skin have a long history of struggle. One of the most infamous instances of this was during the Era of Slavery in America. Darker-skinned slaves were limited to field work while lighter-skinned slaves worked in the home. At the time, slave owners often raped their female slaves and produced offspring that was mixed, and in most cases, of lighter skin. However, at the end of it all, those offspring were still slaves and property to said slave masters to be bought and sold at will. Slaves of mixed origin were often "bred" to produce more desirable lighter skinned "house slaves", who would be maidservants in the home, caretakers of children, and conductors of other homely duties. It was a highly rampant practice―one that we often rather forget but cannot ignore. It has left behind a rampant stigma that places lighter-skinned Black people above darker-skinned ones. There was pride and privilege in a world of despair if you were born with lighter skin. There was hope that you wouldn't bear the lash in the field, roast daily in the bleating sun, that instead you will wear nicer clothes and tend to the wife and children inside the bright and shining plantation house, away from it all.

Sadly, regardless of skin color, a slave was indeed a slave and was mistreated and used no matter their place in the social hierarchy.

A similar plight effects the people of India, where people with darker skin are deemed as undesired. This stigma is a remnant of the Caste System, which placed people of a certain social status in hierarchy over the others. In many cases, those with darker skin were in the lower castes. Once you were born into your place within it there was no real way to move up. People could only marry within their own castes. People of the lowest castes, the Untouchables, did the most menial of work, such as garbage disposal and sewer cleaning. Even with the abolishing of the discriminatory system, the Indian people still favor lighter and fairer skin even today as it's a sign of beauty, refinery, and in some instances even being closer to godliness. People of higher castes were often of lighter skin. The stigma in Indian culture still holds true as well even despite the fact that the population of lighter skinned Indians is much less than that of more brown complexion.

This "trend" is visible in so many cultures all over the world. It's seen in Latin America, where being more "European"―meaning more White, is highly favorable. Those who are of the descent of indigenous South Americans or of African descent are seen as lower in society. "Marrying up", as in being with someone who is more European, is favored. A child produced who is less indigenous or African is seen as hope to improve the family's societal rank.

In many Asian countries too, there's a history of those not of fair skin being seen as dirty, of lower class, and undesirable. Darker skinned Asians were poor farmers who did work in the fields, or laborers who lived only humble lives. Fairer Asians were seen as regal and refined, their paler skin a result of spending no time in the fields and in the sun. They were royalty or highly privileged individuals. Some aspects of that have remained.

These stereotypes and biases still resonate with the people of the present day.

This video documentary, called "Shadeism", on Vimeo puts a lot of the struggles around the world into perspective, I strongly advise viewing it, click here to watch.

The Skin Color Hierarchy - A Personal Struggle 

Let's go back to the deep rooted issues within the Black Community once more. It is what I personally know, understand, and identify with most. Let's start by identifying myself. I am what's considered to be a "light-skinned Black girl". My skin is a caramel brown with a bit of a toast in the summer months. Under different conditions I appear to be paler as well as deeper in complexion.

And I have been judged for it in various ways.

Time to break it down in plainer words. The stigma is still blaring within the Black Community that lighter-skinned males and females are more beautiful than our darker-skinned counterparts. We are "closer to white", and put on a pedestal to be admired and desired. Racist folk find us to be more "acceptable". We are to be attained and kept by those who are darker in hopes that by having children with us, they will be born with fairer skin. Sound familiar? It falls right in with the old ideologies of slavery.

Q: But I thought we moved past that?

A: No, not at all.

It's everywhere; in the media and movies where lighter-skinned Black people are more often featured than those of darker complexions. There's this shining beacon of the "caramel skinned, curly or straight haired Black girl with the light eyes" on the cover of a magazine (if even, or at least as a feature...ahem), as the main girl in a Hip-Hop video, the lead role in a Black Cinema movie (or the lead supporting role in a Hollywood movie...ahem #2), etc. Many of you probably know what I'm talking about. There's no denying that it's discrimination. It applies to men too, but it's most often with females from what I have seen.

Lot's of people can tell me, "Well, you fit that glorified stereotype, so who are you to talk?" I've been told that I'm lucky to be light-skinned. I'm prettier because I'm light-skinned. I have better hair because of my light-skin (though lighter skin does not always mean less course hair, but we'll come back to that later). People have denied that I was Black and claimed that I was of another race or that I couldn't possibly be "fully Black", as in that I had to be mixed. I'm sure there is some European blood in me due to the colonialists who were in control of the islands my parents were born on (whether that mixing was legitimate or not, I do not know.) I was envied to a certain extent by other girls because of my features. As a child, I didn't fully understand the cause of the resentment, but now as an adult, it couldn't be more obvious.

I wish we could move past it, but that's easier said than done.

Insecurity in Darker Skin
The flip side of this issue is clear. If fairer Black people continue to be favored, then those of darker-skin are much less desired. The majority of society believes that darker is "uglier". In the simplest of words, it's saddening.

Young people of dark skin, girls especially, grow up not feeling as beautiful as those lighter than they are. Some are made fun of, judged by their peers, and in more extreme cases, deemed to be uneducated and unruly individuals―all due to the fact that they were born with darker skin.

Darker skinned Black females are often in the background in the media or barely represented at all. This is opposite to what I mentioned before about lighter-skinned Black women. It's rare and surprising when it's otherwise, and I applaud when it is, but it's not enough to believe real progress has been made.

In social media, there's the rampant meme "Light Skin Girls/Guys Be Like" and "Dark Skin Girls/Guys Be Like", though meant to be comical, really make it apparent that the stigmas still exist. Often times, darker-skinned Black people are trying to appear lighter, or lighter-skinned Black people are vainly flaunting being seen as more desirable by all. It creates more friction between those of light and dark complexions, battling for attention and tearing each other down.

Light skinned girls are often written off as snobby and haughty. 

There's also "#TeamLightSkin" and "#Team DarkSkin" that furthers the separation between the shades. Men and Women often rep themselves under these labels and say why they will or will not date someone or be associated with someone of a certain skin tone. At a certain point the jokes (or what sometimes are completely serious biases) must come to an end and the real underlying issues must come to the light and be resolved.

And parties like this become a thing of the past. I really hope this was a joke...
Celebrities have also been accused of or caught skin bleaching, another depressing aspect of the desire to be lighter. In less extreme measures, their skin tones are often lightened on magazine covers and editorials using photo editing software. Also, keep in mind that under different lighting conditions, a persons skin tone can appear lighter or darker at any time, so sometimes the comparisons are quite unfair. You see them all over the internet; celebs like Rihanna and Beyonce being accused of bleaching their skin, when there is no known proof other than the fact that they appeared lighter in one setting and darker in another. However, these photos of Beyonce raise eyebrows a bit. But I don't believe that skin bleaching is to blame here. Simply Photoshop. Skin bleaching is highly practiced in many West Indian and African countries. The practice is also used in India and Asia. Not only is it unethical, its also dangerous for your health.

The practice of wanting to appear lighter, regardless of the measures taken, is dangerous to ones self esteem and that of others. It's a trend that needs to be slowly removed from our society and the world.

In India, where the men and women in the movies are all of fairer skin, the women especially, and seen as the highest attainable form of beauty.

In Asian countries where pale skin is often favored, the sun avoided to neglect appearing tan.

In Latin America where those of darker skin non-European descent are being "erased" through fervent and unjustified intermarriage tactics―along with being discriminated against in general.

It needs to all come to an end.

Moving Forward - All Shades are Beautiful

Photo: Oprah's "Dark Girls" documentary
In order to move forward, we must all first come to terms with ourselves, embracing the tone of our own skin and loving and appreciating that of others. In the Black community, you have the luxury of lining up at least ten different people and having no skin tone be the same. It's beautiful, and something we should be proud of.

The mixing of races and tones should not be for the desire for lighter children, but because you value each others cultural differences and come together to form someone new purely by chance and out of love for each other.

Dark skin is just as beautiful as any other lighter shade. Across all cultures this is true. There are so many people in the world, so many people of color at that, so why must we subject ourselves to the colonial and/or primitive desire of "whiteness is best" any longer? It's time to shed away these stigmas and love ourselves for all that we are.

I can't say it in any simpler way. Again, it's not easy to change the thoughts of an entire culture, but it all starts with how we all feel about ourselves. If we can love ourselves, then the opinions of others won't matter. When the naysayers see how much we embrace our own skin tones, they will slowly realize that their stigmas are stupid.

Just stupid.

There is so much more to add to this discussion. Lots more coming.
How have you dealt with the Light VS. Dark stereotypes? Share your personal stories in the comment section. Join the discussion, it's the only way things can change.

Thanks for reading.

- Aria