“Spread knowledge and facts, not shame and stigma. Live fully. Love fully.”
Last fall I had watched a powerful TEDx Talks presentation by speaker Ash Beckam where she shared her experence with coming out of the closet as a lesbian. Her message of acceptance and self love went viral across social media and the world wide web.
“At some point in our lives, we all live in closets. A closet is no place for a person to live,” Beckam had expressed with conviction. She not only talked about the traditional coming out of the closet, in terms of homosexualality but the various closets many of us find ourselves hiding in.
Whether your closet involves a bankuptcy, being gay, a medical condition, an addiction, etc. we are reminded by Ash Beckam that living in a closet is dark, hard and scary.
I have been living in a closet for almost four years now. Carrying a secret only a few of my loved ones knew about.
Living with fear and shame while wondering if the world would accept me if they knew what I had been hiding. I know I am not the only one out there.
Tonight I am stepping out of my closet to spread knowledge and facts and speak out against stigma and shame. After much healing, experience, self acceptance and understanding, I am ready to live and love fully.
I am stepping out of the herpes closet as an act of solidarity to those men and women throughout the world living in the shadows of needless shame.
Here is my story. Here are my hopes to be a part of a movement of acceptance, love and understanding.
Tonight I am sharing my coming out story with my family, friends, followers, readers and anyone else out there who is living in a closet.
My name is Cicily and I have herpes. I have a virus. Sadly, we still live in a society that attaches a terrible stigma to this skin condition.
After much contemplation, consideration and working with my support system I have made the choice to be step out of the herpes closet.
Making the choice to go open with the most private part of my life wasn’t the easiest decision. As a public person I am vulnerable to negative comments, criticism and hurtful ignorance.
Several of my fears include rejection, my loved ones treating me differently or wrongful assumptions being made about my character.
Sadly, many people assume that only sluts or whores can get herpes. I am neither yet I am now a carrier of the virus.
When I contracted the virus I was in a monogomous, loving, long-term relationship with a man I was very much in love with.
We had both been in long marriages with partners who were not faithful so when he discovered he had tested positive for HSV2 we were dumbfounded. How could this be happening to us?
Immediately after his discovery I was tested specifically for HSV and was found to be carrying the virus also.
Initially I was devastated because I had spent my whole life in monogomous relationships, diligent about being tested for STIs after an unfaithful spouse and now I was going to be living with a STI for the rest of my life.
However, we still loved each other unconditionally and our relationship lasted another year until a military move took him to the East Coast.
It wasn’t until our relationship ended that the reality of having HSV hit me.
Now I would be living in fear of STI disclosures, rejection and shame. Here was the reality of sex after divorce. Placing physical intimacy before emotional intimacy can come with a price.
Let me be completely honest sex after a divorce was filled with excitement and was really great! However, take my advice and have an honest dialogue about your sexual health first, prior to being intimate.
One fleeting act of intimacy may come at a price long term.
During the years following my initial diagnosis with herpes I lived in silence scouring the internet for as much information as I could. Cringing when friends would make herpes jokes, ending relationships because I was too scared to tell them I have herpes and wondering if anyone would ever love me again.
Fortunately, I discovered the wonderful website THE (h) Opportunity, which offers a support forum, informational blog and weekend workshop for individuals living with herpes. After speaking to Adrial the creator of THE (h)Opportunity my life began to transform.
No longer did I view myself as unloveable and untouchable but, I was a beautiful human being perfect just as I am.
Adrial of H Opportunity
Adrial is one of the most accepting, understanding, insightful and inspirational individuals I have ever come across in my life. I am so honored to call him my friend. I am so blessed to be moved by his spirt to change the world, so that no one feels the need to hide in a closet.
Our FaceTime conversations, emails and IMs have allowed me to embrace myself fully. His transparency about his own experience with herpes is humbling and you will fall in love with his humanity.
Had it not been for Adrial I would have not reached this point in my life. A point where I am ready to share with the whole entire world every part of my being.
When I told Adrial, I wanted to come out openly on the forums, on my blog and become an advocate for herpes awareness he was fully supportive. At the end of tonight’s post you will see the YouTube conversation of me sharing with the world that I have herpes.
I am in a great place in my life now. I am strong, grounded, loving of myself and confident in who I am as a human being.
If someone makes a choice to judge me or does not want me in their lives over the simple fact that I have herpes then that is their preference. It is also their loss.
Besides having herpes I also have a great heart, beautiful mind and gentle soul.
No this was not an overnight decision but, in the making over the course of a year. Lots of hemming and hawwing. Finally, I decided to free myself of the shame and stigma.
Telling someone you have herpes is one of the hardest and scariest conversations you will ever have.
Have I made mistakes along the way? Admittedly yes, I am not proud of some of my choices. Ultimately, this is my greatest fear when withholding a secret…the past finding me in the present.
However, I am human. I’m learning to forgive myself to move forward and do what is right, right now.
I have learned so much during this experience.
Turns out my condition is incredibly common and can go on undetected by millions of individuals carry the virus. They remain asymptomatic, never actually knowing they have herpes.
Just because someone says they are “clean” doesn’t mean they are not carrying the virus. Unless you have a blood test indicating otherwise, do not take their word.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
According to H Opportunity, over 25 million Americans (16.2%) have genital herpes and 80% of the 16.2% that have genital herpes don’t even know they have it.
Have you ever had a cold sore on your mouth? Well, this is the HSV1. Did you know that 80% of Americans have HSV1? I didn’t know any of this information until after I had discovered I had herpes.
Even wilder, when you get tested for STIs, even when you ask the doctor to be tested for EVERYTHING, unless you ask the HSV blood test specifically they will not test you for herpes.
Even one of my close friends who is in the medical field discovered after getting married, during her physical, that she tested positive for HSV2.
Without any symptoms she wouldn’t have known she has herpes. Which is exactly like me!
For me having herpes wasn’t like I had seen in scare tactic STI photos to discourage teenagers from having sex. In fact, I remember when my boyfriend disclosed to me that he had herpes, he asked I please not google all the awful pictures of the internet.
Don’t wait until you discover ou have an STI to inform yourself on your current sexual health status, preventative measures and insisting your partners do the same.
If you are grown enough to be having sex you should be grown enough to talk about sex.
Hitting publish on this particular piece is part exciting and part frightening. I know many people will be utterly shocked but I am praying that my confession and act of bravery will inspire others to step out of their own closets.
Our lives are not meant to be lived in dark closets, our purpose in life is to live and love fully. We cannot do that in the confines of a cramped closed space.
Here is the real me. I choose to be authentic with my feelings and direct with my thoughts and unapogetically me.
I do believe the benefits of my openess will outweigh any negativity that may follow after my public disclosure.
I really do hope you enjoy the coming out conversation I shared with Adrial. His act of bravery changed my life and I pray that mine might change yours or someone you may love.