012: Courtney Brame | Shaking STI Stigma


Soft instrumental music plays as introduction 

Person speaking

Welcome to Sex Positive Families where parents, caring adults, and advocates come to grow and learn about sexual health in a supportive community. I’m your host, and the founder of SPF, Melissa Carnagey. Join me, and special guests, as we dive into the art of sex-positive parenting. Together, we will shake the shame and trash the taboos to strengthen sexual health talks with the children in our lives. Thank you so much for joining us! 

Melissa Carnagey: “Hi Families, I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast called, “Something Positive for Positive People” hosted by Courtney Brame. His podcast offers a safe space for people living with or affected by sexually transmitted infections like herpes and HIV to share their experiences as a way to shake the shame and the stigma that exists around this diagnosis. He originally invited me on his podcast to talk sex ed and SPF, but little did he know I too am a person living with HSV2 and I’m not at all ashamed! So on this episode, I chat with Courtney about his journey toward the great work he is doing shaking stigma around STI’s. Our chat touches on why accurate and open talks at home about sexual health are so important, some tips for managing herpes diagnosis, and he shares a really innovative connection he made between the horror film, ‘IT,’ and social stigma around herpes. Let’s check it out!”

M.C.: “Hey Courtney, so I am excited to have you on the SPF podcast!”

Courtney Brame: “Melissa thank you very much for having me, always nice to connect with other people who are doing positive things.” [Laughter]

M.C.: “Yes.”

C.B.: “Pun intended.”

M.C.: “I know we are going to dive deep into some very important topics here today, but before we do that I would love for you to tell us about the journey that has led you to the work that you’re doing now.”

C.B.: “So what led me to the work that I’m doing, first off contracting herpes was probably a big part of it. Having herpes for going on six years now, I think that the ups and downs throughout that have led me to my personal experiences which I felt would represent well. But I think that the biggest piece that led me to openly discussing herpes and speaking with people living with STDs, not just herpes, but HIV as well, that came from me meeting someone in my dating experience and connecting with her and figuring out how her experience was, and when I found out that she, this particular person, had at one point contemplated suicide it became something that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought to myself, someone gets herpes they want to end their lives, because I’ve always thought suicide as being, with the people around me who have done it or have thought about it, the absolute worst things are going on in your life and you’re ready to end it. But as someone who’s had herpes for several years, coming to find out what having herpes meant to me before I got it, wasn’t exactly what it meant to me after I got it, if that makes sense?”

M.C.: “Yeah, that makes sense.”

C.B.: “Like they were two different things. So, after she mentioned to me that she had contemplated suicide at one point I just thought, hmm that’s weird. And then I started to see it again and again, in different chat rooms or social media secret groups and I was just like this is silly to me. And not necessarily silly because everyone has their own experience living with herpes but when I got to hear other peoples’ experiences and understand that it can be really painful, or rejection can be a big thing, or there are so many different unexplored areas that I’ve come into connection with that hadn’t ever even crossed my mind. It just felt like I needed to put more experiences into these people’s faces the only way that I knew how, and given that I’ve worked at a podcast ad agency and I’ve had to listen to A LOT of podcasts, it immediately clicked to me like okay, there’s anonymity here, it’s just audio, you can still feel the passion or the feeling the emotion in the person’s voice, so like this is probably a good way to get a point across that having herpes isn’t all that bad. So I found a few people who were willing to talk to me and allow me to record the conversation. Some people were okay with using their real name, some people were open about it, some people were not but ultimately what’s happened is we’ve been able to get a few stories out there just to let the newly diagnosed people know there is an alternative option to suicide if you get past that point when you decide, “okay, I’m gonna live. I’m going to learn to live with this.” Then you can go on to have a normal life. You can have a family. You can have a partner. You can have the kind of sex life you want. You can have the career field you want and ultimately the people who find out we have herpes don’t really care. You know unless it’s a prospective partner, or you know a partner actually after someone’s diagnosed after being in a relationship. I think that the most important thing really is for newly diagnosed people to recognize there are resources out there for them. There’s social groups, interest groups, dating groups. There are all these different things. It took me five years to find and not a lot of people have five years. Some people get diagnosed right away and immediately go down that dark path of “this is the rest of my life and they think that what they thought about having herpes before they got herpes, is what having herpes is going to be like, and that’s not the case.”

M.C.: “You’re right. There’s so much shame and stigma that our society and our culture, American culture, in particular, has projected onto sexually transmitted infections. It paints a dark picture and puts people in real isolating places. Are there any other common experiences or themes that you’ve heard come through some of the guests and folks that you’ve been able to connect with through the platform?”

C.B.: “Yeah, a lot of the people who I speak with are at a place of acceptance with their diagnosis, some people are single. Some people are struggling today and it’s not even related to herpes. Some people are in relationships or have left toxic relationships. There are so many different perspectives I’ve come across in the twenty-seven, twenty-eight episodes that we’ve done so far. In the first one we had a lady who was a victim of infidelity, the partner cheated, she was in a marriage and left her with herpes and he left and went to his mistress. Her having to recover from that, was a story we just don’t ever really hear from. There was another one where people contracted herpes through kissing, or some people were born with it or at some point just don’t even know how they could have come into contact with it…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “and I think that the most interesting thing is how we immediately look at how negatively- how our sex lives are now going to be affected as opposed to how we can positively use this as an opportunity to impact other things going on in our lives. So we all think, “oh I’m gonna be single no one is going to want me..” and just completely related to sex and that’s not always the case.”

M.C.: “What I’m thinking too is, a big component of this is the lack of accurate, honest and shame-free sex education. These messages that start from early, if we were able to better prepare our young people for their sexual health, which can include risks, which can include infections, right? Transmission of different infections, then I think we can get closer to eliminating this stigma that’s been associated with it. So, I’m curious what was your personal experience in terms of sex education? And in what ways, if any, do you feel like your path in sex education may have impacted your own diagnosis or understanding of your diagnosis early on?

C.B.: “My sex education was- wear condoms, don’t get anyone pregnant. And then as far as school went they would show us the worst possible STDs..”

M.C.: [Laughter] “Right.”

C.B.: “…and what it looks like on your genitals. It was like a scare tactic.”

M.C.: “Yeah.”

C.B.: “And you can only scare someone with the same message for so long. Even after they begin to have other experiences and messaging that completely contradicts that. So, in the household, my sex education was, “don’t get anyone pregnant,” and “be sure to always use condoms,” as if there weren’t any STD’s that could be contracted…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “A condom doesn’t protect you from them all. And so, my biggest concern growing up was making sure I didn’t get anybody pregnant. So when I ended up having sex sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old that was my concern- not getting an STD because the sex education that I had at school made me believe that I could look at a vagina tell if someone had an STD or that I would smell that, “Oh this vagina doesn’t smell very good so she probably has an STD.”

M.C.: “Such a great point!” 

C.B.: “…it never really, and then after having sex and nothing happening, like I didn’t get an STD, I didn’t have burning pee, I was like, “oh this is working. This is what I need to do. I’m fine.” And so you start to develop like a muscle like you continue to do the same thing over and over again without consequences and you think I’m good. I’m confident in this thing that I’m doing, and then you get herpes. So, my education at that point was just like, why didn’t I know about this. I think that was a big problem. Herpes was a joke about kissing. I thought I’ll avoid kissing in college. I would only kiss girls that I dated. Not ones that I was intimate with, which is a completely separate and funny story because I always get asked about that too. Like how did you go without kissing people while having an active sex life…”

M.C.: “Feel free to share!” [Laughter]

C.B.: [Laughter] “I did that. I tried not to kiss anyone, mono, strep throat…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “Cold sores, like those, were the kind of things that I heard. I heard, “oh you have a cold sore and kiss somebody then they’ll get herpes,”  and the terminology was always mixed up but I remember that sticking to me. So I did everything that I could to avoid it, and even in doing everything that I could to avoid it, which meant no kissing, using condoms, I still ended up with it.” [Laughter]

M.C.: “Yeah, so there are a couple of things. One, if we don’t know all of the facts then that can greatly impact the decisions that we make and our understanding of it all. There’s that piece, but then there’s the other piece that sex, sexual contact involves risk and there’s no way that sex is going to be safe from risk…”

C.B.: “Right.”

M.C.: “…There’s always going to be a risk and I think that is definitely a misnomer that’s out there. It’s not about “safe sex.” Safe sex is impossible. There’s SAFER sex. So if we can teach our young people this and have, even just as adults, have these messages normalized and clarified then I think we can have a better chance of reducing the incidence of transmission, but even at the same time, it’s not going to eliminate it.” 

C.B.: “Right, right, I think at this point, teaching abstinence or using condoms it helps but it delays the inevitable. We’re going to have sex. We are creatures that…”

M.C.: “Yes!” 

C.B.: “…we have to reproduce! You know, some people choose not to and that’s fine but that’s not going to eliminate the act of sex. And so, one of the things that I wish that I was taught was to have the conversation about STDs/STI’s.”

M.C.: “Yes.”

C.B.: “So these conversations not only reduce the risk of transmission but also put us in the space where we’re able to talk about it. Where we’re able to be educated and allow people to make informed and educated decisions because I can’t one-hundred percent say that if I did find myself in a situation where I was about to be intimate with someone, for example, and she comes out and she’s like, “well we can do this but I have herpes,” I’m sitting there all the blood and brain juices that are in my brain are now at a completely different part of my body, and I’ll be like, “Oh okay, that’s fine!”…” 

M.C.: “Mhm.”

C.B.: “and make that decision then and there but then after the fact be like, “Ahh Man!” and all I would have to go off of are, it’s the stigma.”

M.C.: “Yes.”

C.B.: “The exact things that I would have thought about someone living with herpes, of course, that’s what I would’ve begun to associate myself with and that’s just due to the lack of education that I had. I can’t speak for everyone; we as a society like to say as a whole overall I want to say, we want to put a lot of the responsibilities to the education system, whereas I, this starts at home, it really does.”

M.C.: “Exactly!”

C.B.: “…there’s no way around it. The children that we raise and send out into the world, what they learn at home is what they take to school. We want to avoid the talk, we want to put the burden of responsibility of education to the schools…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “…and that cookie-cutter template does not necessarily work for everyone.”

M.C.: “It’s not working! It’s not working. We have a lot of evidence that supports it’s not working. Because there are so many variances in the types of curriculum that are out there, we definitely have a lot of evidence now abstinence-only education does not work. So then there’s this spectrum all the way to comprehensive sex ed, and because of our culture being so sex-negative and the political climate, it’s really inhibiting all of our young people getting consistent messaging. And so, yes, you bring up the great point that then it puts that responsibility in the home. And the parents must create an atmosphere of openness around sexual health…”

C.B.: “Yeah.”

M.C.: “…and that it’s not just about sex, like you said, there are skills that in terms of communication that we need to be teaching our young people and practicing and modeling ourselves because there’s a lot more to it than just intercourse.”

C.B.: “Right, right I always viewed sex as penis, vagina, penetration and there are so many other explorations of sex. And not to say that this was a conversation I was ready to have with my parents at this point but having to explore those things and develop an understanding on my own of what all of that was, such as masturbation, foreplay and getting into kinky stuff like that, I learned that and had to form my interpretation and opinion of exactly what that was. So it’s like, that was my sex education. Porn was my sex education!”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “What I took from school, and what I took from the conversations that were not being had at home, that was what I had to take into my sex life. As a kid, in hindsight, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old even in my early twenties, I mean even now I’m still learning stuff. So this is an ongoing process…”

M.C.: “Mhm.”

C.B.: “…learning about not just sex but sexual health and I’m just now with everything going on in the media with women coming out about being sexually assaulted…” 

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “…it’s like what is consent? Like these are conversations that should be had, or I should have had, that I in hindsight can’t even recall ever having asked someone, “hey is it okay if we have sex?” or going through a negotiation process…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “…with what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable. So it’s an ongoing learning process that requires a necessary foundation to be in place or built from home to be taken out into the real world. Into school, into work, into dating, and into any aspect of intimacy just that hasn’t been built like almost have to build it on our own in a lot of cases.”

M.C.: “Yeah, one thing I wanted to bring up is that you had a really great analogy that I saw on your Instagram about the movie, “IT,” and as it relates to stigma. Would you mind sharing that with us?” 

C.B.: “Oh yeah, so I’ll be paraphrasing it because it never comes out the exact same way whenever I say it.”

M.C.: “I love it!”

C.B.: “When I watched the movie, ‘IT,’ I realized that each of these individual children in the novel was only able to be attacked by the clown, who’s “IT,” when they were alone and all of them thought that they were alone in that they thought that they were the only person, they thought they were the only ones that could see the clown. They thought they were alone, and essentially that’s what it is. And I’m still trying not to give away spoilers by [Laughter] searching my thoughts for what I’m saying.”

M.C.: “You’re very kind!”

C.B.: “The clown is herpes. That’s what it is! And the kids represent us, we are, upon diagnosis, scared children who think that we’re alone with this clown. Like clowns are scary, stigma’s scary…”

M.C.: “Yeah.”

C.B.: “and when we begin to find other people. You look at that group of kids that came together, like that is a very unlikely group of people. And they all had their different experiences, someone was getting bullied, someone was getting abused by their father at home, all of these kids had their different experiences with this clown based on what was going on with them around the time they saw the clown. And so, when they came together, they found each other and they realized, “Oh shit, you can see it too?” like you could see how excited they got first off to not only know they weren’t alone but to also recognize, “Okay, this fear that we have, this clown, this stigma, it is not real. it is only able to attack us separately when we think we are alone and when it’s only held over us but when the kids were able to come together they beat the shit out of the clown and made it go away.”

M.C.: [Laughter]

C.B.: “and so, one of the proposed solutions that I have is that we have to have better education on how to manage our sexual health and not try and prevent and avoid STDs but just to be like, “okay we want to prevent and avoid STDs but in the event that you get one this is what you need to know, you need to know that these are manageable,” like HIV for example. and with herpes, there’s suppressive therapy and it’s such a tricky virus that it just varies like it’s different from person to person.”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “There’s just so much that’s not understood and because we think that we’re alone and we have to face this thing on our own until we can collectively come together and provide enough details and information from people who get symptoms every day or don’t have symptoms at all. Like on that whole range that entire spectrum…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “we’re not really gonna get closer to destigmatizing herpes because just like in the movie they came together. Like, “Okay guys, this is what I notice about the clown, what did you notice about the clown? This is what I noticed about the clown,” and everyone’s experience was different but when they came together, they were able to stand up to it. And like I said, beat the shit out of IT; and that’s the same thing about stigma. When people who are stigmatized can stand up to IT” [Laughter] Then it literally goes away. So over time, that’s what’s gonna happen, and the only way to come into contact with people like us who are “seeing the clown” is to just put yourself out there. You have to take advantage of the opportunities to educate someone or inform someone. No one should just run around and be like, “I HAVE HERPES!” and you know, maybe someone will be like, “yeah me too!” but for the most part, everyone else is gonna be like, “What the fuck is he doing, get down from there! Or else other people are gonna realize I have herpes.” or in terms of ‘IT,’ “Other people are gonna realize I can see the clown too. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m crazy because I’m seeing this clown. Come on, honey, get the kids. Let’s go. Let’s get outta here!” [Laughter]

M.C.: [Laughter]

C.B.: “but that’s how I view it now, it’s a clown! And it was huge in that movie. It was huge. It was scary. It was ferocious but then when they weren’t scared of it anymore, when they stood up to it, it was nothing. It was just literally a figment of their imagination…” 

M.C.: “Yes!” 

C.B.: “…and it could do nothing to them.”

M.C.: “I love that! Through communicating, through talking this out, through coming together we have to figure out new ways to look at this.One thing for example that is shifting and I’m excited about it is just down to terminology. For example, you know STD – sexually transmitted disease- is something that was part of our language for a long time. And the word disease can have a different connotation and impact than the word infection, and so I love that now we are switching the language to STI because truly that is the more accurate verbiage to use, and so the language does end up being important because it can then influence our understanding of something. These are infections, the fact that it could ever transition into a disease is not the same for each of these infections or for each person that contracts the infection. So, I think it’s the little things and so this analogy that you bring up is a part of that. It’s just another way that we can look at this and look at it more accurately and basically take away its power in terms of the stigma.”

C.B.: “Yeah, and you are taking away “IT’s” power “IT” being the name of the clown, “IT” being stigma here as well. So I just found it was interesting that whenever you can replace “IT” every time “IT” is said in the movie replace it with “herpes” and you have yourself a completely different movie.” 

M.C.: “Wow, that is awesome! So let me ask you this, what are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned so far through doing this podcast and through hearing the experiences of other folx?” 

C.B.: “Most people carry a perception of this stigma with them into their diagnosis. That stigma that they carry with them into their diagnosis comes from a time where they didn’t know they had contracted herpes. Nine times out of ten. So, that stigma that was brought with them is one that isn’t their own, it’s not experience-based. It’s based on most often jokes that have been made about people with herpes or statements about people being dirty or the STD that you don’t want to get…”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “…because of herpes. You have all of these negative associations with herpes and the type of person who has herpes and you carry that into your diagnosis. And in the beginning, you think that you are that person, you essentially think that you are that stigma, you are this dirty disgusting person who sleeps around and I guess doesn’t take baths. I don’t understand what dirty means exactly.” 

M.C.: “Exactly.” 

C.B.: “But you’re that person now and that’s kinda what we have to unlearn through our education of what herpes means for us. Perfect example, I thought when I was first diagnosed that my penis would look the way it looked forever. I thought that that’s what it was going to look like. I thought it would always itch. I thought it would always have that look to it. But three days later after taking the medication I was prescribed it was gone as if nothing had ever happened. So at that point I had learned there are outbreaks. What are outbreaks? Okay, these things come when you’re sick, your immune system’s down. When you’re eating like shit. When you’re not working out. When you’re not taking care of yourself. So, okay bam! Now I know to take care of myself, and then a year passes two years pass, three years pass where I just go with maybe a slight tingle…”

M.C.: “Yeah.”

C.B.: “As a reminder, “Hey Courtney, get your ass to the gym,” but even if I get that tingle like I’ll take the medication just to avoid an outbreak completely. And that’s what’s worked for me! What you don’t learn going into it is everyone’s experience is going to be different. You can prepare yourself as best you can, but always expect a plan to fail and when it does you have to throw it away and come up with a new one. So my plan going into herpes went from, “Oh God, I just need to prepare to be in pain, and be on medication and be alone for the rest of my life,” because of that stigma that was instilled in me from people who don’t have herpes. And then after having herpes, dealing with it, being in groups of people who also have it and finding out about their unique experiments like I’ve come up with different treatment remedies. Coconut oil, for example, to like soothe any irritation…”

M.C.: “Mhm.”

C.B.: “There’s more natural treatments, tea tree oils, and herbs that you can use to treat the virus, not cure the virus, but treat it.” 

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “And just learning how to reduce the risk of transmission, and different things that different people are doing. Different things work for different people! And I think that that’s the biggest take away is that this stigma that we go into it with is not our own, and once we learn what having herpes means for us individually then it truly isn’t that big of a deal. As cliche as it sounds, that’s what the case is, it’s a mild inconvenience whenever it gets to that point but in my case herpes has changed my life. I work out every day unless I am absolutely too sore, or I just run out of time. I am more conscious of the food that I put in my body. I don’t eat like gluttonous greasy, ranchy, cheesy, bacony, Chinese meals…” [Laughter]

M.C.: [Laughter]

C.B.: “as often as I used to, I still do it, but not as often. I’ve learned moderation.” 

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.: “Herpes has taught me to keep my body in a place of moderation where I don’t overdo things but I don’t underdo things. So in my own personal journey that would be the biggest take away from me and the experience of talking to all of the fantastic people who’ve been so cool to open up about their own experience living with herpes.”

M.C.: “What I’m taking away from what you’re saying underlying that is empathy.”

C.B.: “Empathy! Yes, Yes!”

M.C.: “And it’s just being able to develop that and I think that when we get stronger in our understanding of and application of empathy in our lives that can be one of those things that kills stigma.”

C.B.: “Yeah and like we have this whole build-up and collection of experiences that in life, some of them good and some of them bad but all of them are contingent on how we view them. How we receive them. So, I think that empathy puts us in a place to collect these experiences and like have this superpower almost to where we allow something greater to happen through us…”

M.C.: “Yes, yes.” 

C.B.: “…You know Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spiderman. A lot of people’s case’s something tragic happened to them. In my case, I at that point and time I got herpes, that is not the worst thing that’s happened to me.” 

M.C.: “Right, right.” 

C.B.: “But you know, it gave me a sense of empathy and understanding and it allowed me to look at people who are vulnerable, who are oppressed or looked down upon and be able to see the humanness in them.”  

M.C.: “Yes.”

C.B.: “And I always say, you know life isn’t about what happens to you it’s about what happens through you. So, regardless of the things that have happened to you in your past being bad or indifferent to them, as long as there’s good happening through you like, you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing in life.”

M.C.: “Absolutely! Well, I think you are demonstrating that through the work that you’re doing and the vulnerability that you’re creating the space for folx to be vulnerable and for their voices to be heard and it’s expanding out and benefiting so many. So let me ask you this…”

C.B.: “Okay.” 

M.C.: “…what does sex positivity mean to you?”

C.B.: “Sex positivity means the absence of or management of shame. Like I am ashamed of certain things, I’m not going to lie but I manage it well. And I think one of the things that help is talking about it. So, sex positivity is being able to have an understanding of who you are as a person. What that means for you in bed, the things that you like sexually, being able to identify your organs or the organs that you want and being able to understand how to use them, what they mean to you. In my case, it’s pleasure [Laughter] until it comes time to reproduce, but sex positivity to me just means having that level of comfort with yourself. It means accepting who you are and how it relates to your life, and being able to openly communicate consensually about if you’re doing things with a partner. But you should be able to masturbate without feeling bad, there should never be a moment where you have that and just being able to manage the shame behind the sex. Sex positivity is just the freedom of being able to communicate about your sexuality to yourself and consensually to others.”

M.C.: “Lovely, Awesome! So what projects do you have going on in 2018? What are you excited about?” 

C.B.: “2018…I’m really excited about the growth for my podcast, ‘Something Positive for Positive People.’ I’m excited for the number of guests that have been on, because I really thought that this was gonna be something that I was not gonna be able to get too many people to come on and talk about. About their personal experience living with various STIs, there are people of course with herpes because that’s what I have and that’s who I have access to. HPV, HIV, AIDS, people who have gotten chlamydia, gonorrhea, people who were dating people who have a sexually transmitted infection. I have everyone on the podcast who is either living with or have been affected by STI, and so I’m excited about so many stories to be put out there to the world. I’m excited about the messages I get from people who find the podcast, who find themselves being able to connect to the resources available to them. Who are meeting people in their area, who are telling me that now they disclosed for the first time and they told someone else about their condition. These are the kinds of things that excite me and keep me going and doing the podcast; it just makes me feel like I’m doing a good thing.”

M.C.: “It’s been amazing connecting with your platform and just knowing it exists and I was recently a guest. I’m honored to be a guest on there and we were able to connect about my own experience living with HSV2 and living with herpes. And so again it’s just something that affects all of us in different ways and can our young people as well and so it’s great that we have platforms like yours that are saying, “hey let’s talk about this. Let’s connect. We are human beings, and let’s work through this together.” 

C.B.: “…and I did post the podcast to a specific group and there were few comments in there, and they were like, “Oh my God! Why would you tell your kids you have this?!” 

M.C.: “Ahh! Yeah!”

C.B.: “And I was able to, as a result of the conversation that you and I had, I was able to educate and inform someone like, “Hey, you know this is really what it’s about.” I used the example of; I used the tickling analogy that we talked about in the podcast. I use that everywhere now all of the sudden…”

M.C.: “Awe, that’s awesome!”

C.B.: “…but as far as disclosing to your kids, like I think that, that has more power in it then telling your kids, “Don’t get an STD,”…”

M.C.: “Yes!”

C.B.: “…because at that point it’s real. Mom has an STD now…”

M.C.: “Right.” 

C.B.: “Mom, my mom is not the kind of person I thought would be within this stigma of what I thought a person with herpes would look like. So I was able to explain that to her, and what she does with that information, I’ll never know.”

M.C.: “Right.”

C.B.:  “…but it’s there for other people who may have thought about it and thought, “I’m never telling my kids,” or who have been on the fence about telling their kids. So, thanks to the work that you’re doing, you’re educating a lot more people than you know. And I thank you so much for being on the podcast because of not a lot of people like tune in tightly but there are people who watch it from afar just to avoid the association or being found out about having an STD. And like I said, I just thank you for being so open and so vulnerable with me and sharing that information because now it allows for something greater to happen through this podcast than I would have been able to do on my own. Because otherwise, I would have just talked about herpes but [Laughter]…”

M.C.: [Laughter]

C.B.: “…here we are now with an idea that can inspire action to eliminate stigma and you know eventually completely free an entire group of people who are self oppressed. Literally, self oppressed.”

M.C.: “Yes, that’s such an important perspective! Self oppressed because these secrets, these secrets are what will keep the shame and the stigma alive. We’ve got to come out of those secrets, and yes that means even to the closest folx in our lives. That’s really where it starts. It starts with us and then we expand out, so that may include our children. And like you said, the impact that it can have on shifting this is huge. Thank you for sharing that, that warms my heart, sincerely!” 

C.B.: “Yeah, just wanted to make sure that you know that! It’s the podcast that we did has gotten some very good feedback and I’m so thankful to have you as a guest and shift the direction that it’s going in and be able to do more good into the world. So thank you so much, Melissa, for what you’re doing.” 

M.C.: “Thank you, I’m just honored to be connected with you. So tell the listeners where they can find, ‘Something Positive for Positive People.’ What are the different platforms that it’s on?”

C.B.: “Okay, so I hope y’all are ready, everybody grabs a pencil, or a paper or opens up the Notes app on your iPhone. I can be found on social media Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, @honmychest. That’s just the letter “H-O-N-M-Y-C-H-E-S-T,” like the letter H is on my chest. The podcast can be found on your favorite podcast player. It’s iTunes available, stitcher, pod bay, podbean. There are so many podcast websites out there. It’s ridiculous. So wherever you listen to podcasts just search ‘something positive for positive people’ and if you do listen, please do like subscribe and leave a review..”

M.C.: “Yes.”

C.B.: “I make sure to ask everyone to do that, just because it helps other people being able to find the podcast. And then be connected to the resources that they need to help get through their diagnosis. Just be able to rediscover themselves, like all the secret groups and everything that was available to me really helped me with getting through my diagnosis. And discovering who I am, was not who I was before the diagnosis, so help somebody by leaving a review if you check it out.” 

M.C.: “Absolutely, and we are going to include all of those links into the show notes as well as some resources about some of the topics that we’ve talked about today. That way you can get connected, so I just want to again just with all my heart and soul I want to thank you Courtney for everything that you’re doing, and everything you will do that you have no clue is in your path right now, because I know that it will be great! We are honored to have had your perspective and your voice and your experiences on this podcast.”

C.B.: “Thank you, Melissa, it’s been a pleasure!”

Soft instrumental music plays as outro 

If you like this episode and podcast please leave a review in iTunes or GooglePlay so more people can find us. And you can always visit us on our website at sexpositivefamilies.com. There you can shop sex-positive swag in our online store. Connect with us across our social media platforms, join our Facebook community, and learn more resources to help support sexual health in your family. Until next time, I’m Melissa Carnagey, thank you for supporting content that strengthens sexual health talks in families.


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