Sometimes AHF is about action. Others it’s about communication — meeting with marginalized communities, hearing what they have to say, and sharing sometimes difficult messages with the community. SOFA is one of the avenues through which AHF can do that, and this week we’re joined by some of its representatives and affiliated AHF leaders.
Having the Hard Conversations
About SOFA and how AHF meets our community where they stand
Tatiana Williams represents Transinclusive Group, a trans-led organization in affiliation with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Devina Boga is a member of the SOFA board and is a PhD candidate in the Prevention Science and Community Health Program, as well as a trainee in the Change T32 program.
Vie works with Planned Parenthood as a sexual health educator and works in community partnership with AHF through Decrim 305, striving to decriminalize sex work across the state of Florida.
Valoria Thomas is a former program manager at Broward House over counseling and testing, in an affiliate role with AHF.
Crystal Echevarria is a community mobilizer for AHF, collaborating with other community partners to help educate people on the resources AHF has to offer.
CORE TOPICS + DETAILS:
[3:07] - What is SOFA?
More than an advocacy group
Tatiana describes SOFA as a source of community feedback for AHF. Its goal is to initiate important conversations that relate to meeting marginalized communities where they are, allowing those community members to take an active part in that conversation.
Meanwhile, Vie talks about conversations that are already happening behind closed doors to the forefront of public discourse, providing medically accurate information and reducing stigma surrounding these topics.
[19:08] - Lessons from Megan Thee Stallion’s Story
Understanding the roots of domestic violence — and why we fail to trust women
All our guests speak on the very public situation regarding Megan Thee Stallion becoming a victim of domestic violence and evening being shot as a result. The consensus overall is that again and again, even among publicly beloved figures, we doubt their stories until we have irrefutable proof. We ask about the circumstances surrounding their victimhood, whether there was anything they did to “cause” it. And as long as we continue to do that, women will continue to be victimized and kept from being empowered to escape these situations.
[26:16] - Keeping Sex Education in School
Not talking about it doesn’t mean it won’t happen
For many young people, sex education in school is the only sex education available. There’s simply no evidence to suggest that sex education leads to increased sexual activity — in fact, sex education has been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and other negative impacts to young people’s lives. That all begs the question — why is it continuously being removed from the curriculum? We have to ask ourselves who policies like this serve. Because it certainly isn’t the students and young people who are negatively impacted.
ABOUT AFTER HOURS:
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization, operating in 45 countries globally. The mission? Providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
The After Hours podcast is an official podcast of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in which host Lauren Hogan is joined by experts in a range of fields to educate, inform, and inspire listeners on topics that go far beyond medical information to cover leadership, creativity, and success.
Learn more at: https://www.aidshealth.org
ABOUT THE HOST:
Lauren Hogan is the Associate Director of Communications for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and has been working in a series of roles with the Foundation since 2016. She’s passionate about increasing the public visibility of AIDS, the Foundation's critical work, and how everyday people can help join the fight to make cutting-edge medicine, treatment, and support available for anyone who needs it.
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Get unfiltered lessons from our leaders at AHF as we uncover real raw stories of where we came from and where we are going. Join us for an unscripted look at the connections our senior leadership have to our mission, core values, and hot initiatives. AHF is the world's largest HIV/AIDS service organization operating in 45 countries globally, 16 states domestically, including DC and Puerto Rico. Our mission is to provide cutting edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay.
Hello, and welcome to the After Hours podcast. I'm your host, Lauren Hogan, serving as your liaison to take you through this journey to learn more about AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Before we start the show, please make sure to remember to check out the show notes so you can follow along. Now, let's get started.
Hello, everyone and welcome back to another episode of the After Hours podcast. As always, I'm your host, Lauren Hogan, and today we've got a great episode on our hands here. I've got a very robust group of individuals that I'm excited to talk to today. So, really quickly, I just want to go around the room and just have everybody just say your name and your affiliation with AIDS Healthcare Foundation. So Tatiana, I'm going to start with you first.
I am Tatiana Williams, my affiliation with AIDS Healthcare Foundation. I am one of their community partners, Transinclusive Group, which is a trans-led organization. And my pronouns are she or hers.
Hi. Nice to talk to you and be here with the SOFA board. My name is Devina Boga. I'm a PhD candidate in the Prevention Science and Community Health Program and also a trainee in the T32 Change program, which is actually how I got connected to Ebony and AHF, and I'm really happy to be here.
Hi, my name is V. My pronouns are she/they. I work with Planned Parenthood as a sexual health educator. I also have a community partnership with AHF through Decrim 305, and we work to decriminalize sex work across the state of Florida. Happy to be here.
Thank you. And Val?
Hi everyone. My name is Valoria Thomas, Val for short. I used to be the program manager at Broward House over the counseling and testing portion, which is an affiliate of AHF. So, that's how I'm familiar with the program as well as part of the SOFA Board as well.
Hello, my name is Crystal Echevarria. I am a community mobilizer for AHF. So, I collaborate with other community partners and I educate the community on the resources that AHF has to offer.
Well, thank you guys so much for being here today. Like I said, we're very excited to have you. First things first, and one of you guys already mentioned it, please tell us what is SOFA, why is it important, and what you guys do around that. So, I'm going to once again just go around the room. So, Tatiana, let's start with you, from your vantage point.
You would start with me. So SOFA is an, I don't want to say an advocacy group, I want to say more like a community feedback for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Our goal is to have those important conversations and those hard conversations that community need to have in regards to meeting our community and those marginalized communities where they are. So hopefully, I'm thinking, from the leaders of this podcast, that we are able to provide that feedback, give that expertise the best of our ability, and the people that we are bringing a part of this podcast to spread awareness, educate, and also provide those resources to the community if someone need those resources. So, having those conversations. And also, for our community members to take something from these conversations, more of a educational piece is to how I see SOFA.
Love that. Vee?
Yeah, so echoing off of what Tatiana said, which it's a great summation of the work that we're doing, essentially Ebony identified there's some pillars out here in the community, we're representing voices that traditionally aren't heard when we're having these conversations. Especially through medical institutions, healthcare institutions, we're not hearing the voices of sex workers. Trans lives are not being at the forefront of these conversations. Immigrants are being left out.
And so, we're bringing the conversations that we have within our own homes on our sofas, between the sheets, and as pillow talk, and we're bringing that to the forefront so that we can have medically accurate information, so that as we're guided through these conversations, how do we have conversations about STI stigma in a way that honors everybody in our community that is a part of this conversation. How do we have conversations with our kids about sex ed as it's being really stigmatized by the current... We won't say names, but we know what's happening out there. So, those are some of the conversations that we've brought up and that we hope to expand and bring on some really great guests to talk about here.
For me, I think, again, all of that encompassing, but it's also touching on nuances. What is the conversation missing? Engaging with the community. A lot of times we see, when we do talk about HIV or racism, sexual health, mental health, substance use, misuse, abuse and all that encompasses, we tend to forget the people that it affects. We have a lot of people sitting in a room. How can we target these neighborhoods and these people, and how can we help them? But they're not actually out there having these conversations with the people.
And so, we're hoping to be that voice through podcasts, through our meetings, because we are doing the work. We're the frontline workers. You have people, like Tatiana, and Vee, and Crystal, and myself and Devina, and Ebony, who this is our line of work. We are out there, we've talked to these people, we've been these people. And so, being there, being part of this board not only puts us at the forefront, but we're also the people who are doing that work. And we can come and have these conversations.
We all share different perspectives, we all have different ideas. And being able to have all these women come together and have these conversations, how can we make changes? There's a lot of boards out there that want to make changes, but what makes us different is I think we actually have the hard conversations. What's being done, and what's not working, and how can we make that different? That's what I see us doing and why it's a little different than what's already being done.
I was drawn to the SOFA Board, this advisory board, because of my involvement in the community. And I feel like sometimes, with these bigger organizations, the empathy to be able to understand what's happening in the community gets lost. So, I feel like groups like this give... We're the people on the ground, we're the ones that are having the real life conversations. So, it creates a space for us to be able to bring our experiences and our stories to these organizations to be able to make an impact. So, having this space gives us all the room to be able to share ideas and experiences to expand our reach in the community.
And last but not least, Devina.
I don't even know how to follow up after all of that amazingness. And that's how it goes in our meetings and who we are as a group. I feel so honored and privileged to be with all of the ladies on this board, because we're constantly learning and teaching each other this beautiful bidirectional, multidirectional relationship that we want to put into the community as well. And so, I think for me, coming from this research background, being at UM in this PhD program, this SOFA board has been that opportunity and hands-on learning experience on what is everything that we're learning in classrooms and we're teaching public health practitioners in schools actually look like in the real world.
And so, SOFA, the idea behind it is really touching on so many different levels and bringing in so many different people. And the beauty of bringing us together in a safe space to be able to have conversations, and feel respected, and just spread the good when there's so much bad out there. And in terms of information, in terms of emotions, just bringing back the human. So yeah, I'm really honored. I keep saying that, I apologize. But I just want you to get understand how amazing this experience has been.
No need to apologize for doing great work. So, my follow-up to that though, is SOFA an acronym or is it derived from a word that you guys came up with? What does it actually mean? Devina, I'm going to kick it right back to you, since you were the last person to speak.
Yep. So we are the Sex Outreach Florida Advisory Board. So, we loved the play on the word as well, because we are like, "Come sit on our sofa and have these conversations, be in a place of comfort." And so yeah, that actually Ebony had come up with, and we all completely loved it and made it our own.
Well, I love that. So this episode is actually going to be a little different than what we've done traditionally, and that's part of the reason why I'm so excited. Because, we're going to actually be talking about hot topics of today and how they relate to you guys' different areas of expertise. At the end of the day, we know what's happening in entertainment and on social media in the world. It, unfortunately, grossly affects the youth and just people in general. We all know the negative side effects of social media. So, I'm just going to kick into, or slide into rather, some of our hot topics of the day and what you guys were agreed to feel comfortable talking about. First and foremost is Megan Thee Stallion. We actually saw her a lot in the news media, not just for her music and all of the amazing things that she was doing. She started a nonprofit for housing. But unfortunately she was a victim of domestic violence and just overall toxic relationships, which ultimately led to her being shot, and she had to go to trial to defend herself. But in the news, in the media, her integrity was questioned, whether she was telling the truth was being questioned, and overall just having to relive such a traumatic experience was just horrible for her. So I just want to open up the floor to hear you guys' thoughts about that and how this topic in particular you kind of see trickle down into your different areas. So whoever would like to go first, go ahead.
I think I would like to go first, just to start us off. I think one of the... So my background is sexual health, HIV, specific STI, but I do want to take it a little more into testing. In my experience when I would test individuals or women especially, and you can kind of tell when a woman would come into the room or just someone in a relationship that's not the safest or that's not the best and they just need a safe space. And sometimes they'd get tested just to have that safe space to just talk to someone, even though it's a complete stranger asking them a million questions about what they did in the past 12 months.
And what I think Megan and a lot of other women, especially women who are in the limelight or have millions of people following their every move, what she didn't have is a safe space. And I think what people know or don't know or might not know is that she lost her mom and her grandmother and her safe space, her circle, her people that she could go to for guidance and for support. And I think one of the things she didn't have was that.
And so to have the world know that you're going through this and then to have to deal with the scrutiny of people not knowing if you're lying or if you're telling the truth or telling you you're lying and telling you, "Well, what you're saying is not right," who wasn't there, who was there, and then to have to also be a persona, to have to go on stage and still perform, which I think is a public health issue of itself because there's probably so many women who go through that and then still have to get up and go to work or put on a persona. They might not be performing for millions of fans, but they still have to go to work. They still have to take care of their kids. They still have to go out into the world and put on a persona.
And I think that in itself was unfortunate, that so many people came out of the woodworks to tell her that she was lying about her own trauma. And I think so many of us on this panel, probably, was not afforded the opportunity to be able to talk about traumatic things that probably happened to us because we didn't get a chance to or we didn't feel safe enough. And I think one of the biggest things we can do as professionals and as people who work in this field is provide others with the safety to share and to tell them, "It's okay, I'm here for you, I believe you, and I'm listening."
And I think that was the unfortunate part, at least to me personally. And I don't know if anybody else felt the same way. I think that was one of... Of course, her getting shot and... That was the biggest tragedy in itself. Losing family members and not having that emotional as well as physical support was also just as bad to me as well.
So I'll go ahead. So for me, it kind of hit home, being a survivor of four domestic violence, intimate partner violence relationships. I understood what that looked like just because I've been in those relationships and tried to seek help. And they treated me like I was the victim, even trying to... I mean, treated me like I was the one doing something wrong. I was trying to reach out to law enforcement and explain to them, and they was like, oh, if I want someone out of my house, I can just tell them to get out, like, you know, you can do this, and I'm like, clearly you don't understand what domestic violence look like. And a lot of times in those situations, we find ourselves in situations that it's not easy to walk away because that's a matter of life or death, right? So it's like, how do you make those plans to exit in a safe way?
And so when you were dealing with someone and then speaking in reference to some of these men that I've dealt with, I realized that we were connected through a lot of trauma and it wasn't necessarily love, but we were connected through trauma. And through that, a lot of these individuals don't get the appropriate mental health counseling that they may need. And a lot of times, things turn into violence very quickly. Arguments happen very quickly. And speaking from the African American community, mental health is not really a major thing in our community. When you say mental health, people automatically think like, oh, this individual is crazy. And I think we have to really break that stigma of people thinking that it's something wrong if you are having a therapist or you're seeing someone just to talk through some things. And I think those are some of the things that we have to address.
And being in those relationships, what I realized that, although we get into relationships with those individuals, it's something in those individuals, with those individuals, that attracts us to them. And I had to do a lot of my own work in that. I realized that not necessarily just about him and what's going on with him, but what is it in me that I keep attracting and going to these same type of individuals. So for me, there was a lot of things that had opened up. And being a supervisor of an HIV testing department for an organization before getting to TIG, to Val's point, there were women would come in and they were afraid to, when it came to protecting themselves and their sexual health, they were afraid to even tell their boyfriends or their husbands that, you know, "I want to use a condom. I don't trust you. You've been cheating." So they have to go along with their sexual act and can't tell him no because he's the man. So it's almost like he's in charge. He's paying the bills. So she's thinking about her livelihood at that point as well.
So understanding it from all of those points, so I see it differently. And I just think when it comes to women, we have to be empowered. We have to understand what that self-love look like, right? And just having spaces like this and hearing a group of powerful women understanding what is out there, understanding when they're in a situation, and someone like myself that has been there before, understanding what that looks like and what is planning to get away from that. Empowering yourself and getting yourself to a position to where you don't have to stand for that and just improve your overall quality of health, because in not only just your sexual health but your mental health as well.
Vee, Davina, Christy, you guys want to add anything else?
Yeah, I wanted to just say thank you to Tatiana for being vulnerable and for sharing your story of survival because we're on a platform, but we're human and we're speaking our stories, so I just wanted to honor that.
And I think in terms of bringing me back to, as I was in real time listening to the news come out that Megan had gotten shot, I remember I was... The first time I had a public discussion about it, I was at my hair appointment. I was getting my hair cut and my hair dyed, and I was excited about it. And I remember somebody in one of the chairs brought it up, and I of course commented. And I was like, it's terrible, because you should speak out against violence against femmes or anybody when it happens, when it's completely uncalled for and when it's fueled by toxic masculinity or any kind of system of oppression or system of violence.
And the stylist who... I'm not saying names, but they're a very big stylist... basically said a narrative that I hear quite often when it comes to survivors, and it's, "Well, we don't know all of the details. We don't know the full story." And that's oftentimes used in the same line of questioning of, well, what could she have done to prevent this? Why was she in the car? When the argument started, why didn't she call the cops? And it's these kinds of situations... like in that moment, I felt like I came back into those moments where I had heard those words echoed back to me, or I had had friends who had those words echoed back to them. Because the thing about our narratives is that they have threads that bring them together, and it's oftentimes echoing the power dynamics that exist in a much larger space.
So as I was trying to understand what had just happened... and I basically stopped seeing my stylist and didn't have a good stylist. For two years, my hair was wild and out because I was like, I can't go back to this person. Clearly they do not support the community, and I'm not for anybody that doesn't support the community.
So when this happened, another moment that it brought me to was when Kim K was being harassed by Kanye, and people were still questioning why Kim K wasn't... "Why are you letting him into your house? Why are you..." and was saying and justifying the ways in which Kanye was acting. And I remember Trevor Noah had made a commentary about how this echoed back to how his mom almost lost her life because of domestic violence and of the ways in which people continuously told her that she didn't have all of the details, that she didn't-
... told her that she didn't have all of the details, that she didn't have the full story, that they didn't know her husband the way that the community knew him. So I think it's coming to terms with the ways in which that dialogue is internalized within our friends, within our families, even sometimes within ourselves, and questioning that and addressing it and having these conversations so that they could be brought up to the light and so that you could say, Hey, no, I don't think that that really makes sense. I think that you should question that.
Sylvia, I just want to highlight something that you just said because I just want to kind of put an exclamation point behind it is that domestic violence isn't always just physical, it's also verbal too. And I think people sometimes have a misconception that, oh, if you're not actually physically being hit or being hurt in this physical way, then you're actually not experiencing that. So thank you for highlighting that. And I just want to emphasize that there's different forms of domestic violence. It's not always just physical, but Davina, I'm going to turn it over to you or Crystal if you guys want to add anything additional.
No, I agree. And that was actually a point that I was thinking of while [inaudible 00:23:10] was talking. A lot of people have that misconception, and a lot of times people don't even know when someone's in an abusive, mentally abusive, verbally abusive relationship. They think that everything is A-OK. And when the woman finally has the courage to speak up on what's been happening, a lot of times people don't believe her because they have this illusion of what their relationship was actually like. So I think that's another reason why a lot of women don't feel like they have that as an option because they feel like they'll be cast out instead of embraced and supported by community.
Especially when a woman has children, there's so many different factors that would keep them in that situation. And a lot of people, especially now in the age of social media, it's like you can't get away from it. So yeah, I love that we're having these conversations because it reminds women that they have people who are going through what they're going through and can relate and they deserve to know that they're loved and appreciated and they're valued and there's people that want to help.
And I would add, I think all of us come together and we want to think about the implications and how we can take all of this pain and the suffering and try to understand how to prevent things or make things better for future generations and families. So definitely, I know as a group, as a self aboard, we've talked about what ages should we start having these conversations surrounding interpersonal violence or domestic abuse.
How do we address this in the community when we take into consideration cultures from home countries, and this could be Indian cultures, Latin, X culture. Especially being in South Florida, we have so many individuals from different places and different walks of life. And so just this board, we all come from different areas and expertise. And so we love to come together and really think about tangibly what can be put out there that is going to be helpful, that is going to make an impact. And we invite people that listen to us to also give us that feedback, that input, so that we can come together and create something greater out of it.
So I'm going to shift a little into the next topic, and that is sex education is being removed from school curriculum in Miami-Dade. And I know you guys are all Floridian, so no shade, but y'all state is a little special and y'all have an even more special governor. So I do want to just talk about this topic a little bit and from your different vantage points, how you guys see this affecting those that you ultimately serve and engage with in your community. So Davina, your face, I got to coat to you first, so please kick us off.
I mean, I'll just say personally speaking, sex was not talked about in my household at all. We come from the Bollywood movies where flowers start coming together and you're just like, what is going on? Or I was taught by my mom, if you kiss a boy, you're pregnant. So that's all it took. So if I didn't have some kind of sex education in school, I don't even know, like that is honestly the only safe or the only place I could get it. And so for me, this is really heartbreaking. And I do understand that it is more complex in ways now because we're learning more, we're acknowledging rightly so different orientations and learn. So I get it's more complex, but it can just be that more comprehensive and it needs to exist because I think we're going to have a lot more in terms of treatment instead of prevention with this kind of situation. But I'll let the rest of the board members speak as well.
I'll go ahead. I think, I don't know why they're removing it. I know a few people that work in Dade County public schools and at the elementary level, and there's sex happening like little kids are coming from home and they're doing X, Y, Z in the bathrooms. And I think that it's important to educate our youth. I know that in this world that they may be living in, and again, speaking about marginalized communities and certain communities, sex is happening. When we are looking at social media, when we're looking at videos, a lot of this stuff has a sexual undertone. And then you have to think about what the parents and grandparents look like today.
It's something totally different like back in the other days that they may have in they minds what it's supposed to look like. So what happens is we are not equipping and we are not educating our youth with the tools that they need to protect themselves in whatever way that may be, from pregnancy to STIs, all of those things. So I think that is important that we provide some type of education.
What age is that? I mean, that varies because kids are starting to have sex at a very, very young age. And if you can give them that education from within the home, I had a home where my mother was open and she spoke about things like that, but I know other homes are not the same and sex is condemned. And then you think about religion and you think about all those things that come into play when it comes to sex and the education of it in school. And I just think that it's important that we have to have people that are in these places like within government that can explain to them because they live a different world than some of our students. And especially when you're talking about certain areas and certain communities, that's a different world from what they may be used to.
And you have to look at it through a different lens. And there's so many nuances that are happening. I'm looking at some videos and I'm like, whoa. When WAP happened, I'm like, Hey. And I'm like the kids. I'm like, Hey, and you have to think about all of these things. And when some of these individuals that work at the school come to me and tell me what's happening. And then they were so shocked when the 12 year old niece, her mother found her cell phone and it had all these videos and all this stuff, and she was having this conversation with one of the boys telling him what she's going to do and what she want him to do to her. And he was going crazy and mad at her. And I'm like, you can't be mad at her. Because what's happening is the kids are starting to educate and teach each other.
So you got the kids teaching each other when there's no adults in the room kind of helping guide those conversations and educating them in the right way. So I don't think it's a good thing, but hey, this is Florida, this is what's happening. And I think it's important for parents, which is why this group parents to understand that you can't wait for your kids to be educated outside of the home via school, that you have to start that education in the household so you can protect them because it's a world out there, and the world may be in your head a certain way, but it is a world out there and you want to make sure that you give your kids all the tools that they need.
So just speaking from a policy standpoint, I know that Miami-Dade, they've been fighting for curriculum for comprehensive sexual health education to be in place, and the fight was over the textbooks that were being used to institute this curriculum. It's an ongoing conversation, it's an ongoing fight. And now the fight has been brought over to Broward County where they are trying to repeal policy 5315 that basically creates a higher standard for specifically Broward County and the Board of Education to institute comprehensive sexual health education that's medically accurate and that's truly comprehensive.
We're not just talking about abstinence only education or just basic STIs, but we're talking about what do healthy relationships look like? How do you advocate for yourself? We need to talk about consent, sex and the media, all of these things. So when we're talking about it from that standpoint, we know that there's a lot going on in terms of the political atmosphere of Florida and just in general nationwide. We know that it's not good right now, and in particular in Florida, I don't think I can say any politicians names, but you know who's in charge of Florida right now.
But who's in charge of Florida right now? There is this push to get it to have all curriculum be as conservative as possible, be stripped away as much as possible. And that push started with legislation being introduced last legislative session to make sure that when this push came along, there was the teeth behind it. The Don't Say Gay bill, the Stop W.O.K.E Act, the parental rights laws, the reproductive health bills, all of those are now being used to say, "Well now, according to the new rules, to the new laws, the current curriculum that you have and the policies that you have in place to protect them are now out of compliance with Florida statutes. So that's kind of what's happening. It's, "Let's change the rules on them and then tell them that they're breaking it." And we know why. Somebody's trying to become president. Not going to say names. But it's just power moves and we have to push against it because there's going to be ramifications for years to come.
Part of the reason that I'm a passionate sexual health advocate and an educator is because I grew up with zero sex ed. I grew up in Broward County Public School systems. My sex ed was basically the kids in my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes giving me the lowdown on the HBO that they would watch at night. They would share pictures via AIM because those were the days we didn't have the access that we have now on the internet. And considering that we do have a lot of access to free, unregulated sex work that is ... Again, it's unregulated. Even the content that's being put up, it's not necessarily content that's originated by the people who are even creating the content. It's kind of an industry that has created itself for itself and built on itself. And it's a reflection of the larger issue at hand, which is the way that we objectify femme bodies, the way that we objectify trans bodies.
I mean, you've seen the amount of anti-LGBTQI+ legislation that has come in. It has also coincided with the amount of porn that has specifically had the search keyword "trans porn" in it. And by the way, I don't know if you've seen it, but in Megan Thee Stallion's Thot Shit video, there's a node to this kind of hypocrisy. And we've seen it. We've seen the headlines that the same legislator that is advocating on behalf of a bill that specifically targets trans teens from getting their HRT, from getting appropriate medical care, is the same one on Twitter liking trans teen posts. So I'm just saying you have to do the math. Math is not mathing. I think it's just about keeping in mind that all of this comes with specific power and connotations.
These politicians are lining their pockets with money that lobbyists are giving them so that they could push these bills out so that they could have a certain degree of power ... when it comes to our Senate, when it comes to our Congress ... so that they could influence things. And meanwhile, the people who are actually harmed by these things are little V. I grew up and I had some really weird thoughts about what my body was to me and what consent looked like. I thought if you didn't shower for a day, that meant that your body didn't realize it was the next day, and that meant your period would be late. I thought that if somebody asked you to be their boyfriend, you had to say yes. I thought that if somebody wanted to hook up with you, you shouldn't be rude.
So we see the way in which that kind of line of thinking of, "I don't really know what my body is. I don't really know how to have control over it. I don't even know how to vocalize what are the things that I'm feeling. How do I give voice to my discomfort? How do I advocate for myself?" ... You see the way that those things translate into people not having access to resources that they need to doctors, to healthcare visits, to even a community that will believe them and that will help them and will guide them back to themselves. I went through purity culture. I was raised in the Christian Church. I was told that you couldn't have sex until you were married. So even as I was still kind of dating behind the scenes, I couldn't have those conversations with my parents or anybody in my community because I was technically doing things that I shouldn't be doing.
So those things cut you off and they isolate you. And sometimes, school is the only safe place that you have. They're the only safe adults that are around you. And to think that now, that one safe adult that you might have been able to tell, "Hey, this situation is happening," or, "I don't know how to tell this person that I'm uncomfortable by what they're doing," or, "My family member is doing this to me," or, "I have this situation and I need it taken care of. Who do I go to?" ... Now, that person can't even give you those resources. You can't even come out to that person if this is the only person that's safe for you. I wouldn't even be able to wear the rainbow pins that I used to wear because now that's in violation.
It's not that it's going to, this legislation, erase us and erase our stories and our trauma and our community. It's that it's going to further stigmatize us and further cut us off and not allow us to have that help when we need it. The irony of a lot of those anti-bullying campaigns is, "Don't stay silent. Speak up. Ask somebody for help." But in a way, now, we are silencing everybody and telling them not to speak up and not to ask for help. And it's scary to think what are the ramifications of that because I feel like when I was most cut off is when I was most suicidal and when I wanted to not be here anymore, because it felt like there wasn't really a place for me. Yeah, those are my two cents on why sex ed is pretty much the most important thing that you can advocate for and care about. We need sex ed. It covers all of it.
Crystal, any final thoughts you want to add?
I completely agree with everything that you just said. I mean, it was incredibly articulated. I think when I was going through middle school, I was probably one of the last rounds of kids to go through sex ed, and it wasn't a sex ed class. It was a presentation of images that were horrific and traumatizing. You can't have real conversations. Because I grew up in a Latin household, and you're not supposed to have a boyfriend until you're way older. You can't even ask questions. Anyway. So it did, it created a fear. I had to sneak and make sure that I wasn't caught. It just led to me learning from my curiosity and experience, and it's probably why I'm 29 with two kids. If I would've had these conversations at an earlier age, it would've educated me and empowered me to make empowered, educated decisions. It would've completely, probably, changed the trajectory of my entire life.
So unfortunately, we are at time, you guys. I could honestly talk to you guys for a whole nother hour about all of this. First and foremost, I just want to say thank you to all of you beautiful women on my screen that I'm looking at right now, for all that you're doing and for honestly using your voice at the end of the day. I think a lot of times, we run into situations where women don't feel like they are empowered or have the right to speak up and say something. And at the end of the day, we do.
So I just commend you for all of the work that you're doing within your communities, to making sure that you're making a difference and helping people that look like you at the end of the day, because we need more of you guys in the world. So thank you guys so much. I look forward to hearing more about SOFA and all of the amazing things that this advisory board is doing. And like I said, you guys are just making a huge difference in the world and you're needed, so we are giving you guys flowers today. Thank you guys a million times over. This was such an amazing episode.
Thank you so much, Lauren. I'm so grateful for this space.
Thank you guys.
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