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Say it with me, hymen!

The hymen is a covering that surrounds the vaginal opening. Female babies are born with. Most hymens are donut-shaped and have a small opening in the middle. They’re thick when we’re babies and with time wear away, thin out or no longer exist because of exercise, masturbation, washing etc. That’s right. Hymens are NOT a covering on top of the whole vagina. If it were, we wouldn’t be able to get our periods while virgins.

Why am I even talking about this?

Because I’m sooo tired of the discourse around virginity and our bodies; why is it so violent?! (What else is new). No, our virginity is not a cherry one has to “pop”, “pierce”, “rip”, “puncture”, “tear” etc. This idea that we need to bleed to know for sure we’re no longer virgins or that our partner needs to make us bleed, needs to stop. If we’re bleeding, that means tissue was torn, we’re in pain and that’s not okay!

First off, virginity is more than just going into a vagina. It’s also a state of mind. And it isn’t something that someone takes away or steals. It’s like we’re connecting our body, mind and/or soul. No one is a virginity collector. Stop it.

I found some really awesome tips on how to decrease the pain during your first sexual encounters:

1. TAKE YOUR TIMEEEEEEEEE

Many times partners who have consented to sex may be scared someone will change their mind so proceed with sex right away that can cause pain. Hymens can be stretched out before using an object and/or penis and it’ll be less painful. Days, maybe even weeks, before objects and/or penises enter the vagina, the hymen should be stimulated with fingers or smaller objects to stretch it out. If it hurts, stop, and try again later. Also keep in mind your partner may have some trauma they’re dealing with and need time to be there mentally, spiritually etc.

2. FOREPLAY AND EXPLORATION. DO IT.

It’ll lubricate stuff down there. And if you have trouble lubricating, they sell stuff in the store. Buy it! And of course, get to know your body.

3. IT’S NOT PORN Y’ALL

Don’t attack the holy vagina. Praise it.

4. REPEAT REPEAT

If you haven’t had sex in a while and start again, you might want to start off slow again. Our hymen will reduce back to its original size and there may be discomfort again.

5. COMMUNICATE

The most important of all. Communicate. Everyone is allowed to change their minds prior, during and post sex. Respect and practice that.

hymen

Any other tips or things folks can try to do to have less painful sexual encounters?

When I first starting working with young mothers I found myself trying to validate my ally-ness. If anyone asked me why I was involved, or if I had children of my own, instead of simply saying “no”, I would feel the need to defend my involvement.

I would often respond with:
“No I don’t have any children, but my mother was a young mother”
or
“No but I have many friends who are young parents”

I asked myself, “as an undocumented immigrant, what do I want from allies?” Then it hit me, I can be an ally without an explanation or defending my involvement. “I’m not a racist, my friend is black” isn’t cool so why would “I don’t have children but my friend is a young mom” be considered okay? I started reminding myself that I can be an ally, just because. I can be an ally because I believe in the importance of young mother’s voices being heard without tokenizing those around me. I can be an ally because our liberations are tied together. I can be an ally because no one is free, while others are oppressed.

Even though being an ally can be tricky. We should all be willing to learn and be called out. We are allies to each other. Here are some things I’ve learned throughout my involvement with young mothers:

1. It’s so much easier to sit back and judge young families. Young mothers already face a bunch of judgement everywhere. Don’t judge. Educate yourself.

don't judge

2. Always step back and look at the bigger picture. This isn’t about you, remember?

stepback

3. Families are different. Don’t assume every family is compiled of a mother, father and one child.

families

4. Always engage the children and think of their needs/wants.

hand paint

5. Be an ally just because. Don’t try to prove something to others or to yourself. Believing in the people you’re working with and the cause you’re working towards is sufficient.

Cow

Why I Want to Learn Spanish

Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

I don’t speak Spanish fluently. I have felt a lot of embarrassment in my life because of it, but that is the truth plain and simple. Because I am a white Latina who does not speak Spanish, I have been disregarded as a Latina countless times in my life. I am sick and tired of people acting like there are some sort of requirements you have to meet to be Latina. Being Latina is not about meeting some mythical standard, it’s not about having certain skills or traits. I am Latina because I was born that way, because of my childhood, because of the way I feel. Being Latina is something no one can take away from me. Yes, I do want to learn Spanish, but learning Spanish will not make me anymore of a Latina than I am already.

I am biracial, I am white and Latina and I have very light skin. This, plus the fact that I am not a fluent spanish speaker has made it very difficult for a lot of people to accept that I am a Latina. I often get a “Really?” when I tell someone I’m Mexican, and people have even thought that I was joking when I told them about my identity. I’m used to people being surprised when I tell them I’m Mexican and even though that makes me feel weird it it does not hurt as badly as it does when people act like my only claim to my heritage is my last name. I am not exaggerating, people have actually said “She thinks being Latina is just about a last name” about me multiple times. People don’t like to see me as a full person, they treat me like my whiteness washes away all the Latina in me. the fact that I don’t speak fluent Spanish provides more ammunition for those who like to deny my identity. I could go into detail and explain why I am not fluent after 19 years of varying amounts of Spanish but I don’t owe anyone the explanation. I am happy to talk about it with anyone who asks me personally, but those who are just waiting to jump to the conclusion that I’m not a real Mexican don’t deserve my story.Image

I am still self conscious about my language skills and that is something I am working to get over but I am grounded in my identity. I still feel embarrassed when I’m practicing Spanish and someone gives me a dirty look and says to their friends, “She’s not really Mexican” as if I can’t understand them. FYI, I understand way more than I can speak so if you talk smack about me in Spanish, there’s a good chance I’ll know what you’re saying. It is an exception rather than a rule for someone to insult me when I am practicing Spanish. Generally, people encourage me to practice by speaking to me and helping me through it. The times where people are cruel, the times people do say I’m not Latina never fail to bring me back to a place where I feel ashamed of myself. Recently I was practicing Spanish with a friend and when I overheard someone talking about how bad my Spanish was I felt paralyzed and though I knew how to say what I was trying to communicate, I just gave up and ended the conversation because I was so embarrassed.

Today I am as Mexican as I will be tomorrow, as Mexican as I will be when I speak better Spanish, I am as Mexican as I will ever be right now.  Yes, I want to learn Spanish, but I will not let shame be my motivator. I want to learn Spanish for myself, I want to learn Spanish so I can speak to my grandpa in his first language, I want to learn Spanish so that when the whole family gets together for christmas nobody has to slow down for me. I want to learn Spanish because it is a beautiful language and I would be proud to speak it, and write it. I am not learning Spanish because I have something to prove, I do not need to know the language fluently to validate my identity as a Latina. I am Latina because I was born that way and because I care strongly about my identity and have a deep connection to my community. I am white and latina, being white doesn’t make me any less Latina nor does being Latina mean I am not white. My identity is complete and complicated and while words can sting they could never take away any part of me. I always have and always will be Mexican, that is the truth that I do not owe anyone, but I am willing to talk about it. Say and think what you will about me, but your words will never diminish my sense of self. No one can erase the childhood experience that shaped my identity, nothing will ever keep my heart from warming when I hear voices singing“cielito lindo.” I will continue to work and fight for my community and I don’t care if you deny me. So go ahead, tell me I’m not Latina, say I’m just a last name, laugh at my Spanish. I know who I am, I know what I’ve done and I don’t need anyone’s validation. I am going to learn Spanish and I am doing it for myself.

I am sad to say this is my last day working for NLIRH and my last post for Nuestra Vida Nuestra Voz. It has been a pleasure to work with these poderosas, and I have learned so much about myself and my community. Entonces yo digo adios y muchas gracias con un beso y abrazo.

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31 Days of Unity

By Desiree Caro

While our 4th annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice might be over, the fight to protect women’s health, dignity, and decision-making is still going strong.  This month, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) has partnered with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and many other organizations for the #31DaysOfUnity campaign.  Together, we have joined forces to put a stop to the attacks on women’s access to safe, legal, and affordable reproductive health care.  #31DaysOfUnity works to address many of the injustices that women in the US face on a daily basis—from the lack of abortion coverage for members of the Peace Corps  to the numerous legislative attacks on women’s decision making that have emerged over the past two years. 

Earlier this month, NLIRH hosted its 4th annual Week of Action to galvanize support for immigrant women.  The immigration reform legislation that recently passed in the Senate forces many immigrant women and families to wait at least 15 years before being able to visit a doctor, regardless of the fact that they will be working and paying into health care programs throughout that time.  This proposed immigration reform legislation poses a serious threat to women’s health.  For many women, especially those who are at high risk for cervical cancer, access to a physician means the difference between life and death. Safe, legal, and affordable reproductive health care should be available to all women– regardless of immigration status.

On Wednesday, August 21st, NLIRH and the #31DaysOf Unity campaign will work together to ensure that equal access to reproductive health care is a priority for our members of congress and within our national discourse. 

How can you show your support today?Image

These attacks on reproductive rights, health, and justice keep women from being healthy and safe.  Call on Congress to make changes that support women’s decisions, bodies, and health, nationwideImage


The Fake Pro-Lifer

We were on the phone talking about the immigrant rights movement and how he could get involved. He was telling me how he values immigrants so much and believes everyone deserves a happy and safe life. He then asks about my beliefs and what I stand for.

I tell him about my involvement with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
“Reproductive health? Like abortions?” He asks.
“That’s not the only aspect of reproductive health but yeah, abortions too.”

He becomes angry and states that I’m a horrible person for advocating for abortion access. How could I fight for immigrant rights and at the same time, aim to provide others with abortions? It’s a disappointing and a very sad aspect of my life, according to him. He didn’t stop at that but kept pushing and pushing, “So, you’re telling me, if you were to get pregnant tomorrow, you’d have an abortion?”

One side of me believes I should stay quiet since it really isn’t his business what I do or don’t do with my body. The other side of me however, didn’t want to be ashamed of the decisions I make. So I proudly state, “if I need one, yes I would.”

Abortion Mississippi

Silence.

He said something about me being a bad person, that he believes whole-heartily in the bible and that he had to go so it was best to hang up.

Click.

I sit there shocked at his eagerness to hang up on me but also amused and how the conversation had made a 180 degree turn because of what I believe in. It’s okay to advocate for the lives of immigrants, but not for the lives of women and men who need an abortion. But there’s a discussion that’s missing, the one about life going on beyond the 9 month gestation period.

It’s frustrating after a while, hearing folks discuss the value of lives and the importance of community, but only for a fetus. What happens to that life once it’s outside the body? What happens when the family cannot afford food or health services? They’re called a leech on the system. What happens when that life is LGBTQ? They’re excluded and dehumanized. When it becomes undocumented? That life is no longer considered valuable. We would rather detain and deport it. When that same life is walking home from the store we shoot and kill it for wearing a hoodie and “looking suspicious”. When it’s Muslim? We bomb them. Black and brown lives? Incarcerate them.

Don’t you dare sit there and talk to me about the value of life when our children cannot even access a decent education, housing, comprehensive sex education or contraceptives. This isn’t a black or white issue where some are against abortion and some are for it. Abortions should be made available to whomever needs it and it’s not up to us to judge those who have one. At the same time, we should be working together to create better living conditions for all so that maybe, in the future, that one abortion won’t be necessary.

I’m also fighting for lives.

DSC_0145Mi experiencia como organizadora de base en diferentes comunidades a lo largo de los Estados Unidos, me ha enseñado que mi comunidad está llena de carencias educacionales, de servicios de salud, de dignidad y de justicia; que no han permitido todo el florecimiento que como pueblos hermanos de diferentes lugares del mundo nos merecemos. Por eso después de verlos sufrir por la falta de documentos legales para trabajar y de estar huyendo de un lugar para otro sin poder dejar raíces, sin tener una cobertura de salud para las mujeres y para sus familias, creo que ha llegado el momento de que cada uno de nosotros se involucre en los destinos políticos de nuestras comunidades y que por miedo no permitamos que unos pocos nos priven del derecho a vivir con dignidad. En los procesos políticos que estamos viviendo, tomar acción puede ser la diferencia entre que tengamos una Reforma Migratoria que cubra todas nuestras necesidades ó una Reforma limitada llena de restricciones. No olviden que para las familias inmigrantes y cada uno de sus integrantes no va a haber una cobertura de salud durante los 15 años de espera para obtener un status legal completo, pero yo me pregunto ¿qué pasará con los millones de mujeres y sus familias si se enferman durante el proceso y no pueden prevenir daños mayores a su salud?, ¿donde está esa parte de la Constitución que dice “We the People”? si somos iguales ante la Constitución entonces es hora de exigir que no nos traten como si fueramos de segunda clase.
Pierde el miedo a involucrarte en tu comunidad con o sin documentos todos tenemos la obligación de exigir cambios, si piensas bien en cada una de nuestras casas existe un ciudadano ó residente que puede ser la voz de ustedes y que unidos lograremos cambiar las políticas que tanto daño nos hacen.

No permitas que nos encasillen esperando 15 años en la cobertura de salud, el voto es ahora involúcrate!!

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