So I performed my first duty today as a Health and Wellness Peer Educator. I was very excited and happy to be at the atrium of my college’s student campus center to promote sexual health by manning a booth for free HIV/STI testing. I told students about the Office that I represent as well as how important it was for us to get ourselves tested at least once a year – and perhaps more if engaging in higher risk activities such as unprotected sex.
I was happy to be there and to do my part in busting the stigma and myths surrounding sex, condoms, HIV, STIs and healthy sex. I even took an HIV/STI test myself because I wanted to show my peers that HIV/STI is no laughing matter l – that even if I wasn’t sexually active, that my wellness is important and getting tested just means that I’m ensuring my health.
While we promoted the free HIV/STI testing, we also handed out safe sex kits (which contained a pamphlet about safe sex, a couple of condoms, a mint, a business card for students who wish to contact our Office, as well as a packet of lubricant), and condoms. Some of the condoms were flavored, some were just very creatively wrapped.
As I did my part, one of my colleagues said to me, “Oh Jules! I just love how comfortable you are being you! It’s so amazing and I really want to be like you!” – I was taken aback.
Comfortable being me???
I’ve never been comfortable being me! Although, now that she mentioned it…. It made me think. I had never felt more myself than I have been for the past month now. My haircut, my new wardrobe (with my plaid shirt that I wear as outerwear, and my geeky t-shirts that I wear as innerwear, my skate shoes, my jean chain, and the occasional leather bracelet), my training as a Peer Educator, my growing boldness to speak as well as to disagree with people when necessary, my eagerness to help, and my changing perspectives have made me more confident. I guess that confidence is then deemed as my being comfortable being me.
And this is why people don’t believe me when I tell them that I struggle really badly with self harm and suicidal tendencies. How can you believe it when I’m always so happy, boisterous, excitable, and confident?
Anyway… When I came home, an old friend from church messaged me because she was horrified that I had been giving out free condoms. She told me that as a believer of Christ, that giving out condoms implied that I was condoning sex outside of marriage. I disagreed with her and told her that the Office of Health and Wellness believes in advocating for all available options and then letting the person decide the best option that suits them without judgment.
I told her that if I didn’t give out free condoms, educate people on safe sex practices, squash some ridiculous misconceptions about HIV/STIs and sex, and help destroy the stigma, then I would do more harm than good. If people want to have sex outside of marriage, they’re going to have sex outside of marriage regardless of whether or not I hand out condoms. However, I believe that if I can provide people with the safe options to do so, and help them avoid infecting others and/or contracting diseases, then I would err on that side.
I’m a little upset by our conversation, to be honest. On one hand, it made me wonder if I was suddenly less of a Christian because I was handing out free condoms and therefore would be seen as condoning sex outside of marriage, but on the other hand, I stand by my belief because I think it’s unwise to preach abstinence only when that doesn’t stop the spread of diseases and ignorance. I’m simultaneously proud of myself for being able to disagree, but also worried that I am now a bad Christian or that I’ve let God down.
Many days, I struggle with trying to live my life the way I think I should, and feeling condemned by people and by God.