By Xuanzi Jia
(ACRJ EMERJ Intern, a position supported by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College
Being a young Asian American woman and working in the Reproductive Justice Movement has taught me many crucial facts about myself; one of which that is most alarming on a personal level is just how little I know about sex, sexual health, my body, and my reproductive system. I’ve always believed myself to be a fairly well-informed young woman, and well-educated decision maker, and yet I am still having to sift through incorrect health information that was once taught to me.
But here I am, at the very beginning of my journey to learn about myself as a woman and hoping that I can in some small way, reach out to my friends who may also be in need of health information that is unavailable to them. As I look at my own past, I not am guided by my mother’s careful and deliberate teachings (she was told not to confide in me any information about sex, under the belief that I will become over-sexualized) about my body, sex, and relationships. Rather, I am forced to set out on my own, trying to unshackle myself from my past restraints and freeing myself while grow-up and making good life decisions—all at the same time.
I grew up in a rather sheltered and conservative family, so discussions around sex were essentially nonexistent; during the few times when sex was brought up, it became a rather uncomfortable, embarrassing, and taboo-ish topic. I was taught to believe that embracing my womanhood would result in “inappropriate conduct” with the opposite sex. So, I learned much of what I know from friends and my own curious nature as I began to read and research into what sex was, and what was normal for my body.
As I began to unravel who I am and as I became more comfortable with the young woman that I was becoming, I am also realizing that sexual health is not simply a discovery of what contraceptives to use, or what a Pap smear is. I came to the conclusion that I was not only teaching myself applicable good-choice making techniques, but I was also learning about who I am through the sex related health choices I am making during the entire process.
As I intern for ACRJ, I am still on that journey of self-discovery. Like most young adults my age: I AM curious to know more about me, and the woman that I am. But I need help and I cannot go at it alone. It is no longer feasible and sustainable to leave so many young people in the dark. I was fortunate (and lucky) enough to not have made mistakes that could hurt me, but what about those millions of other young people? As I keep on trekking through, I keep thinking to myself it would have been much easier if I had more guidance and support with respect to my learning about my sexual health and my womanhood. And that is why I seek to become an advocate of communicating information that promotes the overall health and future happiness of all of us.