It’s National HIV Testing Day

Did you know that one in seven people with HIV doesn’t even know they have it?

Part of why is the stigma that still surrounds HIV and AIDS. Many people seem to think the stigma has died out, but they’re neither involved in our communities nor paying attention. Better medications and prevention methods exist, but the stigma of HIV and AIDS remains. This is especially true in the deep south.

Today is National HIV Testing Day here in the states – and a day to talk about erasing some of that stigma.

I’ve been there. I’ve been tested a few times in my life. Each time, I shook in the waiting room before the appointment. Each time, I cried in the car on the way home. It’s as if getting tested meant I was admitting to some moral indiscretion that doesn’t exist.

Hell, one of those times was just before my wedding. I had not had any experiences that led me to exposure and still was told I needed to be tested pre-wedding. Neither hubs nor myself are generally exposed and the experience honestly left a bad taste in my mouth.

Each time, I received negative results.

What matters most in getting tested is having a good experience (unlike the last one I had!). Sometimes, all it takes is a cultural barrier to turn people off from getting tested regularly.

Want to learn more?

Check out the new HIV Risk Reduction Tool (RRT)

Learn more about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

Check out the amazing HIV and AIDS activists below:

Most importantly, find a test center near you and get tested!

What a High Pain Day Taught Me About Hiding My Illnesses

Photo of my hand, featuring my silver band with a sapphire, interlocked via pinky with T’s

TW: mentions of covert incest. This first appeared on our Medium publication page in November 2016.

I have always been someone who takes care of others.

It’s something that I have had to do.

Growing up in an abusive home, I had to take care of everyone — more emotionally than physically, but both for sure. I was the emotional partner for my mother, something called Covert Incest.

Because of that, I’ve always been incredibly independent. I have never wanted anyone else to feel like they had to take care of me. That goes double for my marriage, frankly.

Part of it is that I internalized the ableism that goes along with someone marrying a chronically ill/disabled person. I mean, after all, the expectation is that the ‘well’ one has to take care of the ‘sick’ one. Between that and my independence, I have never wanted my partner to feel like he had to take care of me.

He recently had LASIK and then got a cold a few weeks later, so I’ve been used to taking care of him. It wasn’t even a thing that I was worried about. He needed care and I was here. I mean, DUH.

Lately, maybe because of being more of a caregiver, I have been better about sharing and showing how I am doing and, in turn, my partner has been incredibly understanding and helpful.

Sunday morning, I woke up with intense stomach pain at 3 AM. It was clear that I needed to use the bathroom, so I did so. I spent a while in there, crying because the stomach pain was so bad. Frankly, I was wiping as quickly as I could because I was in so much pain that I thought I would puke, too.

It was not a proud moment.

By the time I was done, 20 minutes had elapsed. My stomach was still in an incredible amount of pain, so I went to the couch instead of my bed. I didn’t want to wake T up and, besides, I wasn’t sure sleep would visit me again.

It did, eventually.

When I woke up again, I was sure that I would be in a ton of pain. I wasn’t, which was perplexing, but I wasn’t going to question it, either.

And then, it happened.

A brick wall with an overlay that says ‘fuck this pain’ and a fancy curly doodle underneath

Over the course of a short time — something under five minutes — my pain went from not-an-issue to holy-fucking-shit-why.

Everything got heavy. I was barely able to hold up my phone. My muscles felt like what I assume they would feel like if I was able to run a marathon or do the Ironman.

I couldn’t hide it.

T asked if I was tired and I explained what was going on.

“What can I do? Ice packs? Biofreeze?”

Without hesitation, he jumped in and helped with whatever I thought might be helpful. A few minutes later, he had grabbed the Biofreeze and we slathered my arms. He snagged me an NSAID, too.

I don’t care if I can’t do much with my legs, but being unable to do much with my arms is a problem.

Within probably 30–45 minutes of the onset of the pain, I was asleep.

When I woke up, the initial pain was eased. My muscles were still in an incredible amount of pain, though.

T took me to our bedroom and asked what he could rub to help. He rubbed my hands, my feet, and my knees.

I apologized to him for all of this. I’m so good at stepping in and taking care of him, he said. He figures that I know how to best take care of myself, so it’s not a thing.

“But I’m always here to help when I can.”

In that moment, I realized a lot.

As vulnerable as so many applaud me for being, I still have a long way to go. I’m not nearly as vulnerable as I pretend I am.

I try to not let others see my illness fun firsthand. When I’m feeling bad and T’s at work, I talk on social media but rest. I write about what I’m going through, but in a safe space — at home, usually alone, and usually feeling slightly better than the time period I’m writing about.

This goes double for when I am sick at home. I cancel calls or FaceTime meetings with friends. I hide the extent of my illnesses from everyone — even T.

I have to stop pretending that I’m fighting against my illnesses on my own. The reality is so far from that — I am surrounded my love and support, and nowhere else is that true than at home.

Black and white photo of a bride and groom dancing

Review: Good Clean Love CaraGold Premium Lube

I’ve been wanting to try CaraGold from Good Clean Love for a while now.

Over the course of a few weeks, I had several people message me and tell me to try it from randos to pals to other sex educators. Naturally, the next time I found myself at an awesome shop – Shag in Brooklyn! – I picked up a tube.

What is CBD?

I use a lot of CBD products. For those who aren’t as familiar with it, CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s a naturally occurring part of the marijuana and hemp plants. Unlike THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not mind-altering or psychotropic. Still, there is some debate over the legality of it.

CBD oil has a lot of benefits. It can help with anxiety, seizures, pain, nausea, inflammation, appetite, PTSD, and more. There are many ways to utilize CBD – lotions, tinctures, salves, etc. CaraGold, though, is the first lube I’ve seen.

To the lube!

The first thing I was struck by was how thick this stuff is.

Left: CaraGold                                                              Right: another amazing lube

It’s much more gel than liquid in texture but is still body safe and free from parabens and glycerin:

Ingredients: Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Organic-compliant flavor (EU: Aroma), Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Organic Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil

CaraGold has a pleasant smell, too. It’s not quite as strong as the vanilla smell from GCL’s Almost Naked but is still lovely.

TMI ALERT

Before I get into how I liked the lube, let’s talk about why this was a draw for me – other than the general CBD thing.

I have been dealing with some pretty uncomfortable vaginal/uterus stuff. Sometimes it comes on randomly and other times it shows up after penetration or orgasm… which really sucks. It’s almost like my whole uterus is spasming and just being ridiculous. Yes, I know, I need to talk to my primary care doc. There are some other fires to put out first like my neurological WTF.

Honestly, it’s been enough that it made me put off the last two toy reviews for a few months. I just couldn’t bring myself to test toys.

Using this lube has been a game changer. I was able to do more than just penetration but get a little adventurous, too. That’s been a first for a while.

CaraGold lasted very well, whether I was being active or not. I sat for a while and played on my phone in between testing and didn’t even have to reapply!

It’s kind of amazing.

Final verdict?

I highly recommend Good Clean Love products in general, but especially CaraGold. You can snag it right now for 25% off thru June 22 when you use the code CBDSLICK at checkout.

It’s the Pulse Anniversary

Before I go any further, I want to point this out: As a white person in a heterosexual marriage living without religion, I am protected from a lot of these issues. I certainly don’t face the obstacles that queer Muslims of color,  Latinx people celebrating Latin night at Pulse, or my friend Benjamin who used to frequent Pulse do on a regular basis. I recognize that privilege as I write this.

I’m having some feels today about Pulse and the LGBTQIA+ community.

This time last year, I hadn’t fully come out. Hell, I didn’t understand my gender identity yet.

Hubs and I were on a road trip from where we live to California, taking our extra car to my sister. The day before the Pulse shooting, we stopped in Laramie, Wyoming, to visit the Matthew Shepard bench.

bench with a placard: "Matthew Wayne Shepard December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998 Beloved son, brother, and friend he continues to make a difference peace be with him and all who sit here

I had to stop there. I wrote the following on Facebook:

In the last 20 years, so much has happened to push ahead equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, but this one sticks in my head the most. I was ten when it happened and I just remember crying for days. No one deserves to be treated the way Matt was. I’ve seen his mother speak and it’s clear that his death was a loss to our world.

We sat there for a while. I cried and sent good thoughts into the world. I wanted to wish so badly that we were past these kinds of acts.

To wake up literally the next day and have T tell me the little we knew about the attack in the morning… it was surreal. We know now that the Pulse shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. 49 people were murdered and nearly 70 wounded.

As I read more, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t place my feels or give them names at the time. I’m still not sure that I can. Grief and sorrow were there. Fear was definitely there.

Knowing that I could easily be at Pulse should I have been in Orlando during Pride? That was there, too.

And then, because of my background in religious studies and Islam, I feared the backlash that came – the bigotry against Muslims in addition to the bigotry against our community.

Most of all, I was feeling harmed. It was the first time that I felt I was a part of the queer community.

Clubs and Pride – these are supposed to be safe places for us.

Pride is about celebrating who we are. It’s also about remembering the struggles of those who came before us in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. We have to figure out how to carry on the legacy of the lives lost to hate.

This is why we must take action when we see something wrong. Volunteer. Donate. Raise funds. Call out others on their hate. Use your privilege to elevate marginalized voices. Vote against hateful rhetoric. Educate others. Give blood if you’re able.

Don’t allow hatred to blur how you see the world. Let it, instead, push you to love more, laugh harder, and fight for each other.

Today, let’s remember those who were murdered in a safe space, and push progress forward in their names:

Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown
Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chavez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell
Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato
Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torres
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright
Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown
Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chavez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell
Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato
Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torres
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright

Learn about the stories of those who lived through the shooting at DearWorld.org.

Consider donating to the onePULSE Foundation today.