SPFPP Episode 102: The Shadow Side of Advocacy
I cannot express the level of excitement in words that I experience when I see someone open up about their positive herpes status on social media. I get excited when I see their support received, when they talk about leading support groups for those who may not be in that head space yet, tap into their power by expressing their truth, and go on to be inspirations and a resource to their network of social media followers as someone people know who also has herpes.
I cannot express the level of disappointment in words that I experience when I see someone offer support to people with a positive herpes status via social media and then disappear or not follow through. It pains me to see such an abrupt shift from excitement to help everyone with herpes to just, not having a presence at all when it doesn’t look the way they thought it would.
Unfortunately we don’t have a community to really provide protection against discrimination. Someone I thought was powerful in this space and doing great work felt they had to step out of it and disconnect from their passion helping people living with herpes because they didn’t want to come up in a web search for having herpes. If you listen to episode 102 of SPFPP you’ll hear that the guest was fired from her job in the medical field for “creating drama” by disclosing her STI status to co-workers. Where’s our voice? Our silence in the face of stigma is what allows this kind of treatment to take place.
It’s important that this episode be an example of what we don’t see in the light of media. It’s thrilling to belong and feel part of a community doing good in the world. There’s adversity that comes with it. There’s sometimes overwhelm. There’s those people you just can’t help, and then there’s the “wrong” people finding out about your status and mistreating you. The shadow side of advocating for a stigmatized group may scare you or excite you. Whatever it does, make sure the decision is in alignment with your core values and beliefs so that your own light cuts through the shadows.
Please consider your honest intention in getting involved with the advocacy in this space. Does it look cool? Do you want to make this your career? Or are you genuinely inspired to provide support to people in this space? I view advocacy as a privilege given some of the private conversations I have had such as the one on this latest episode of Something Positive for Positive People. I don’t face discrimination in the workplace for my beliefs expressed on SPFPP. I’m able to provide support to people given my flexible work schedule as well. My core values are directly aligned with being able to support those who need it and uplift those who provide it. This space of advocacy around sexual/reproductive health is lacking. There is never enough representation and I only hope that through the SPFPP interviews, we’re able to encourage more people to safely get involved in this intentionally inclusive space.