What Herpes Activism Looks Like In Trump’s America

lets-do-this

I still remember the day I wrote my first blog post about having genital herpes. It was January and it was cold and I was sitting in my childhood bed with my laptop, wondering if I was seriously going to do this. The essay poured out of me in a rush, the words ready to be written after months of holding on, collecting, coming together into something worth the risk. I expected to be afraid when I hit publish, but I was overwhelmed by relief. I cried a little bit. I was out.

That was nearly two years ago. Writing about herpes ceased to feel scary, or even risky, at some point in 2015. That first initial confession about my STI led to the discussion of other topics, buried deeper, even more shameful: my history of abuse, my mental illness, my sexuality. There are a few topics left that I haven’t gotten to yet. I know that my boredom when it comes to talking about herpes—and let’s call a spade a spade, it is boredom—is a rare accomplishment underlined by success and privilege. I’m over it, y’all. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m not surprised by it, and while I still get angry about stigma, I don’t have much left to say about stigma either. Stigma is bad. People and publications and pop culture that perpetuate it is bad. Herpes itself has become pretty whatever. Continue reading

THE SELFIE TRADITION: 2016 EDITION

photo-on-11-21-16-at-9-48-pm

Thank you for the shirt, Max!

A few years ago I started doing this thing where I took a selfie on every November 21st and reflected on how I had changed in the last year. It was a fun excuse to share photos of myself looking alternatively cute or sassy, with the help of some great lighting. I forgot this year until Facebook reminded me, which made very clear the real reason I’d started this silly tradition: I met my ex-boyfriend on November 21st, and I didn’t want to let go of the one who got away for an embarrassingly long amount of time. The only thing that makes this year different from the years before is that I’m, uh, not in love with him anymore. We good, bruh. Continue reading

In Trump’s America We Wear “GRAB HER BY THE PUSSY” Wristbands

grabher_1024x1024

Someone is selling “GRAB HER BY THE PUSSY” wristbands on Shopify. Someone thought it would be a good idea, a funny idea, to put Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault on a wristband. Someone thought it might even be profitable. That person is a man named Kyle and he has two small children with his wife. That person has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram. He has 5,408,163 page likes on Facebook. I don’t know why I’m surprised by this when the man who said the quote is now the President Elect of the United States. I don’t know why I’m surprised that this quote is turning into an edgy rallying cry by actual humans who actually exist. I don’t know what to say. I haven’t known what to say all week. Continue reading

That Time Hillary Clinton Wrote Me a Letter

14705668_10154085605315748_1833437846342853741_n

I get a lot of hate for talking about herpes. Like, a lot. We’ve been over this before. In August, I wrote an essay on Medium about how much of that hate comes from fringe anti-feminist groups online, now better known as part of the Alt-Right. You can read that essay here. This election is remarkable for too many reasons to get into, but in my experience of 2016, seeing Donald Trump validate the strangers who torment me online hit home the most. Hillary Clinton’s speech in Reno about Trump’s indirect empowerment of hate groups marked the first time I’d seen a public figure recognize what had happened to me as a real issue. In my essay, I thanked her. Continue reading

Who I Am Now

fullsizerender

I got my first tattoo in September. After years of sketching the Golden Gate Bridge on every spare corner of notebook paper, I woke up one morning sure of the decision to commit to its lines for life. My TED coworkers—almost all of whom have tattoos as well—offered their advice, and our site comment moderator recommended an artist in the West Village not far from the office. That Friday I hesitated on the sidewalk out front, intimidated by the bright lights and tough, masculine staff, before stepping through the front door. I was terrified but I was sure. It marks the only moment I’ve been sure of anything this fall. Continue reading

What to Do When the Internet Is Making You Miserable

Is your phone on silent? Good.

Spend an extra ten (fifteen twenty thirty sixty) minutes in the shower and burn it all out of your body. Washing away stress is such a quaint description—scald off all the shit and the sludge and the slurs and the grime. Towel it away and put on your favorite outfit: the nostalgic t-shirt you stole from an ex-boyfriend turned yellow at the neckline, or those tacky “BYE HATER” sweatpants you bought for five dollars at Rainbow during a clearance sale. Or maybe a leather jacket, or that old team jersey. Wear what makes you feel like yourself and run your hands over the fabric, part armor part embrace. Remember that night you met your best friend? Remember that road trip to your new city? That was a good day. This is a good body to live in. Continue reading

I, Ella Dawson, Am a Slut with Herpes

ella-dawson-leather

Only sluts wear leather jackets. Photo Credit: Andrew Cambell Nelson

It started, as most things do, with a tweet. Way back in April 2016, I started a hashtag with some of my friends for STD Awareness Month. I’ve already written about how #ShoutYourStatus was co-opted by anti-feminist trolls and the group now known as the Alt-Right. But one of the tweets I published at the time was recently embedded in an article about me on InfoWars (headline: HILLARY CLINTON SENDS THANK YOU LETTER TO “SLUT” WHO IS PROUD OF HER SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE). Here is the tweet in question:

I could write a blog post about why I called myself a slut in response to the wave of genuine tweets in the #ShoutYourStatus conversation about how you don’t have to be a slut to get herpes. I could write a post about the respectability politics I see all the time within the STI community about how some of us deserve more sympathy than others. I could write about how people with more than one STI are often shunned by other community members because they should have “learned their lesson” and “been more careful” despite the fact that some STIs cannot be prevented. I could write about how I was trying to use my position as a community leader to shut that shit down and redirect the conversation in a more productive, less shaming direction.

But that blog post wouldn’t be fun. Instead I’m going to talk about why I, Ella Dawson, am a slut. Continue reading

Why I Will Never Support Herpes Dating Sites

photo-1423666639041-f56000c27a9a

Photo by William Iven

Positive Singles. Meet People With Herpes. Truster. Hift. Hope. H Date. Hmate. Herwks. That’s right, friends. It’s time to talk about herpes dating websites and how much I hate them.

Herpes dating services have been around since the Internet was invented, thanks to a powerful social stigma that makes disclosing your STI status a frightening prospect for many of us. In a world where we are judged for having a sexually transmitted condition, telling a new partner about herpes means risking a rejection that plenty of herpes+ people would rather avoid. I get it. There is a market for these services, and I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the people who use them. Please do not read this essay as judgmental. I don’t mean to knock the insecurities of people with herpes: I want to address the companies that profit off of them. Continue reading

My Summer On Lexapro

bed with lights

I did something this Friday that I haven’t done in years. I went bar-hopping.

To be clear: there were only two bars, and I took a break to hunt Pokemon in between them. But I can’t remember the last time I went to more than one bar, let alone more than one loud bar, within a twenty-four hour window. I’d like to say it’s because I’m blossoming into a social butterfly, but it’s actually because I’m medicated. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Bachelor In Paradise Producers, From an Abuse Survivor

Co5fYxCW8AEqIJCHi there. You don’t know me, but I’m a loyal fan of The Bachelor and its spinoff shows. I’ve been watching the franchise since the third season of Bachelor Pad, and despite being a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major when I was in college, I’ve defended the show through thick and thin. Remember when you made Britt and Kaitlyn compete to be The Bachelorette? I blogged angrily, but I watched. When Kaitlyn got slut-shamed all over the place for sleeping with Nick? I tuned in early, and then I blogged. I’m a proud member of Bachelor Nation, accepting roses from even the worst of seasons (let’s be real, JoJo was a bust). Continue reading