Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
Dr. Jill McDevitt, the sexologist who takes the misogynistic and tyrannical atrocities she witnesses and uses them as fuel for her writing, her work as an educator, and to launch inspirational campaigns geared toward affecting change. Or, Dr. Kelly Shuh, who took a herpes diagnosis and transformed it into a holistic and spiritual journey, from which she now shares with and teaches others how to walk a similarly enlightened path. And, lastly, there’s the recently internet famous (I abhor that term, but whatevs, we’ll go with it for lack of a more appropriate description) Ella Dawson, who’s taken her diagnosis and said a big, ‘go fuck yourself’ to anyone who would dare use that as a reason to oppress, stigmatize, or otherwise discount her and her wildly empowered sexuality.
And the list continues – there are so many amazing voices I could mention – all working to reduce herpes stigma and/or to improve sexual health – offering relevant, inclusive, and accurate information to the masses… Soon, I’ll put together a complete list; then you can follow them too.
So, let’s take a moment and say a big, lovely cheers to them and their unique brands! You people rock my socks off.
Anyways. Then there’s me. There’s The STI Project, which is larger than me, of course, but because my face and my story are attached to The STI Project, my voice is also contextually relevant. And, depending on the day, I’ve volleyed between all of the aforementioned approaches – never quite choosing one as my specific voice or brand, lest I ostracize someone who needs help and who identifies with one approach over another. In some ways, that has probably hurt the viral quality of my content, because I’ve not been polarizing enough.
I’ve not (yet) told everyone to fuck off, I’ve not (yet) taught everyone how to balance their chakras, and I’ve not (yet) attacked every ill-conceived, poorly substantiated opinion about sexual health and STIs with researched rebuttals.
But, damn it, I’m about to go there, because it’s just getting to be too much for me – I can’t reign this in anymore, nor do I think it serves anyone to continue being Switzerland.
Today, I’m trying the fuck you approach on for size. Again, you’ve been forewarned.
Angry rant/train wreck commences now:
So, without naming names, it’s been brought to my attention that, 3+ years ago, when I launched The STI Project, a family member called my employer to ‘tattle’ on me – they wanted to make sure the Fortune 300 company I was working for knew what I was doing, because they didn’t think it was right, and they thought I should get in trouble or be fired for working on The STI Project.
Did you catch that? Let’s circle back. They CALLED MY EMPLOYER to tell them about The STI Project! Seriously. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.
They also contacted my ex-husband to let him know (I’ve known about that phone call for years), but that move seemed slightly less heinous, at the time. Now, looking back, it’s all disgusting. What is so wrong with you that you would do something like that? Did you actually think you had the power to stop me or to get me fired? ba-ha-ha-ha
Moreover, why did you try to attack me – what I have actually done to you? The ostentatious assumption that it was right for you to try to ruin my career (spoiler alert, it didn’t) and the sheer level of hate in your heart is outstanding. Who do you think you are?
I’m, nearly, without words – the operative word here being nearly – despite most of them profanities.
In all of the years I was in the closet about herpes, of all of the cruel ‘friends’ of mine who gave me reasons to hate people, never has it ever occurred to me to attack someone’s livelihood – to try to ruin their career. That’s sick.
The sad part about all of this is, I know for someone to do such a hateful thing to their own family member, you must feel like absolute trash about yourself. You must hate yourself. I can come up with no other explanation. And I feel sorry for you.
So we’re clear – both my employer and my ex husband already knew about The STI Project, they both applauded my tenacity, and they supported my work. Your evil, spiteful, hateful attempt to hurt me had no effect on my success WHATSOEVER. How do you like them apples? Full of worms. The STI Project is doing phenomenally. We have over 150,000 views per month. It’s self-sustaining, and it helps people every day. If that’s not enough for you to go crawl right back into the whole from whence you came, go look at our press page.
So, how should I have reacted to this?
The short answer is, I probably shouldn’t have reacted at all – take the high road and all of that jargon. But then, this post would be irrelevant, and that’s no fun. 🙂
I also think it would be hiding the fact that I still (albeit, rarely) deal with weird-ass shit from ignorant people. Everyone does. The difference is I have a platform I can use to share that weird-ass shit with the world. And, I think, in doing so, people are able to see how pervasive the stigma is and the harm that it can do to individuals and sexual health, as a whole.
My Herpes and The STI Project is Greater than Your Self-Loathing
The good and the suck about this is that it happened some 3+ years ago, and I just found out about it now. Had I known when I launched The STI Project, it might have discouraged me – probably not, because I just don’t give that many fucks, but I don’t know – I was much more sensitive and unsure about my work back then.
Regardless, I knew and still know, in my heart of hearts, what I am doing is necessary and helps people, despite what one conservative, close-minded, head-up-your-ass, West-Michigander thinks. I’m not going anywhere, and neither is The STI Project.
So, suck it up, buttercup – my STD project is here to stay. My herpes is greater than your self-loathing all day, errr day, because I’m turning it into something good. You’re still sitting on the same tack you landed on and spinning.
Going forward, though, instead of continuing to attack you, I’m going to namaste your bullshit away – literally and figuratively. I do yoga and exercise outside for a reason: it clears my head and inspires me to persevere. I’m going to continue helping people. I’m going to rock out The STI Project so hard, you’ll want to puke in your own mouth, because you’ll hear about me and the work I’m doing ALL OF THE DAMNED TIME.
I’m going to write about, talk about, and work to eliminate herpes and STI stigma FOREVER – well, until I die. And then, after I’m dead, guess what? Wait for it… I’m gifting (pun not intended) The STI Project to a non-profit – it will continue long after I’m gone (remember, I said it’s self-sustaining). You’ll never, ever get rid of this website.
And, maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll understand why this is important.
– – – –
Did this post upset you? Have you experienced similar hate toward your infection or your life choices? Do you think these actions are caused by stigma? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Damn, you GO GIRL! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and soul….thank you for being such an inspiration! <3
Jenelle Marie Davis
It’s absolutely my pleasure, doll! Thank YOU for the unwavering support and encouragement!
It’s actually hilarious that they made their phone call… It actually strengthened your integrity with your employer and of course, helped market the project for anyone involved.
As a former human resources manager, I would have LOVED the opportunity to #1 try to maintain a professional demeanour, then” investigate” (?) and then #2 acknowledge your community involvement and my personal admiration at your CHOICE to embrace and fully engage st facilitating awareness and change the community with the projects obvious impact!
I don’t even want to know which family member “tried” to fu*# up your career and employment security, what were they thinking, one has to wonder.
Jenelle Marie Davis
I wondered about that myself – to be a fly on the wall in corporate HR that day! It’s all sooo ridiculous – the thought process one must undergo to take such drastic steps – I can’t help but laugh a little. I mean, it obviously made me livid to learn of this, at first, but writing is so cathartic, so now I can earnestly agree – I am beginning to see the entertainment value in such a misguided attempt.
I tell you what, though – if I had a dollar for every time I wished I were a fly on the wall – pretty sure, in my next life, I’m going to be a fly!
I Hereby formally and publicly claim you as my forever sister!! The act of that cowardly person, and it is cowardice as s/he didn’t have the balls to tell you this to your voice makes them NO family of ours. Family loves, honors and respects even if we don’t always agree.
And you are still one class act sweetie as you didn’t name the perpetrator of the heinous acts!!
Proud to call you sister each and every day!!!
Jenelle Marie Davis
And I won’t – name the person, that is – for two reasons, but mostly, because I don’t want to harbor hate anymore. It’s toxic, and it doesn’t serve the work I’m doing.
I know I’m not a perfect person, and if I expect those who love me to do just that – love, honor, and respect my work – I have to learn to forgive and move forward. I can totally accept that not everyone will be on-board with what I do or how I do it – actually, that’s what keeps things interesting – a variety of opinions and perspectives, as long as they are thoughtful and kind, of course (you taught me that).
But, obvs, I’m not too proud to put it out there that it hurt me – I’m still working on the zen there. Baby steps. 😉
Thank you, Colleen – I am truly honored to be your sister for life! All of my love!
You are a goddess and I am so grateful and awed to be included in this post. To adopt my classic Ella Dawson voice, FUCK that scumbag. You do incredibly important work, and you are stronger than they will ever be.
Jenelle Marie Davis
YOU are a goddess! All of the adoration and support right back atcha, doll – the love is mutual all day. I concur wholeheartedly – fuck the haters, potatoes gonna keep on fucking potating. 😉
Meeting you at Patricks wedding and reading this article I find myself applauding your strength and courage. Good for you being the bigger person not mentioning names. It’s truly stunning how some think it ok to involve themselves in something that is none of their business. You go!!
Jenelle Marie Davis
What a positively lovely message – Debra, thank you, kindly, for your support – and what a wonderful wedding it was!