One volunteer's journey to personal empowerment:
I was born into a Catholic family with four older brothers in a religious small town, constantly reminded that my sexuality was something to be ashamed of. I was treated differently, pushed to wear modest clothing, and not allowed to date until I was an adult because I was a young girl with a strong interest in boys, and "certain things could happen" to me. My family and I never spoke about these "things," or anything sexual for that matter. The abstract justification of letting someone else set the rules for my body didn't reassure me. It enraged me.
My public high school required every ninth grader to take a Human Interactions course. It was supposed to provide us with the information we needed to lead healthy lives—sexual lives included. Unfortunately, we focused only on drug and alcohol abuse.
Once I became sexually active, I realized I was solely responsible for my body. On a few occasions, I took the initiative to visit my family doctor with concerns. The familiar feeling of shame was present during every one of these visits. I felt shame for having sexual questions and shame for not being educated. None of these visits included open conversation or provided me with educational material. I was curious and confused for years and turned to Google for answers, like many of us do. While searching the Internet, I came across a Planned Parenthood health center and decided to make an appointment. I'd been researching contraceptive options and decided to have an IUD put in. It was my first invasive procedure, ever, and the staff was so helpful. There was an aura of warmth and comfort, as well as comprehensive insurance information. The Planned Parenthood health center was unlike anything I'd ever experienced, but it was everything I'd been searching for. The staff was eager to answer any questions, and gifted me with informational pamphlets and condoms.
This past year I went to live overseas in a place where sexual education and access to health care is grand compared to the United States. But as I found out, the stigma associated with sexuality—especially a young woman's sexuality—was present overseas as well. After a few awkward appointments with a General Practitioner, it was clear I needed other assistance.
I turned back to the Internet and found local sexual health centers. The doctors at the health centers saw me, but not happily—expressing that the clinics were not aimed toward the public. Because I was not a gay man or sex worker, I didn't have the same right to be there.
Within my first week of returning home, I desperately wanted to get involved with sexual health and education. To me, there was no better way than to join the organization that gave me support to be a proud, confident, and educated young woman. My personal mission in working with Planned Parenthood is to pass on this gift.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or an endorsement by Planned Parenthood health centers or Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. Check with your health care provider to discuss what is best for you.
Find opportunities near you to volunteer with Planned Parenthood health centers here.