Millions of people live with herpes. Many of those millions are writers who fearlessly share their experiences with the world. Each of us herpetic punks has an entirely unique story to tell, and we need as many stories as possible reaching as many readers as possible if we want to make STI stigma a thing of the past. In the interest of boosting other voices, here’s a list of authors you need to be reading, AND, if you’re a journalist or an editor, contacting about writing for your publications.
I also know several authors and journalists who aren’t public yet about their STI status. Your stories are valid, and your voices are valid, and I want to boost your work too! I will continue to do so on Twitter and Facebook, and I hope you’ll continue to reach out to me via my contact form when you have pieces you want to share. But this list is of openly herpes+ writers only, in the hopes that this will serve as a directory of sorts. It’s hard to contact Anonymous.
I’m excited to see queer people, non-monogamous people, sex workers, and different age groups on this list. But conspicuously underrepresented are men, trans men, trans women, and people of color. Most published, easily accessible stories about living with herpes come from cis-gender white women, and that’s a problem. Please, please, please help me add more voices to this list! Share your recommendations in the comments and help me boost other stories.
Ashley Manta. Ashley is a sex educator, podcaster, author and coach. She’s also a total bundle of joy. I’m a big fan of her essay Growing Through the Yuck of Having Herpes, which also appeared in Best Sex Writing of the Year. She often talks about herpes on her podcast, Carnalcopia, which she co-hosts with Katie Mack. Find her on Twitter @ashleymanta.
Britni de la Cretaz. Britni is a community organizer, activist, and feminist writer who came up on my Twitter feed one day and blew my mind with her essay for Cosmo, What It’s Like to Have Genital Herpes When You’re Pregnant. You can find more of her unapologetic writing on Twitter @britnidlc.
Sarit Luban. Sarit is a blogger and a zine maker and a personal role model of mine. I found her writing when I was newly diagnosed, and her understanding of STI stigma and its politics is so sharp and so necessary. You should check out her take on those ridiculous color-changing condoms over on xoJane, and her essay Six Ways to Talk About STIS (Without Being a Jerk). Follow her on Twitter @suhreet.
Mollena Williams. Mollena is a BDSM educator, an actor and a writer. Her essay No Shame: Coming Out Positive about being diagnosed as asymptomatic for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 is honest and raw. It also discusses the complex intersection of race and herpes. You can read more of her writing at her website, The Perverted Negress.
Adrial Dale. Adrial is the founder of The Herpes Opportunity, an online resource and community for folks struggling with herpes. I’ve gushed about Adrial on my blog before, and I highly recommend his Lifestyle Guides, available here. You can even use the coupon code ELLA to receive 25% off!
Jenelle Marie Davis. Jenelle is the founder of The STD Project and an STD expert on a million different sites across the web. She battles STD stigma, publishes interviews with folks living with STDs, and shares news and resources related to sexual health. Her recent blog post about dealing with shitty, judgmental family members, My Herpes > Your Self-Loathing, is brilliant and fierce. I’m not just saying that because I’m mentioned in it, I promise.
Madison Young. I don’t even know how to describe Madison because she’s so goddamn cool. She’s a feminist pornographer, a performance artist, an author, and a mom. She also happens to be herpes+, a topic she writes about in her gritty, sensual Daddy: A Memoir. I had the pleasure of interning with her a few summers ago, and we wandered around Berkeley talking about herpes and the San Francisco sexual health scene. What a badass. You can buy her book here, and visit her website.
Crista Anne. Crista is a sex educator, blogger, and founder of the Dildology.com and #OrgasmQuest. She also happens to be herpes+, and you should read everything she writes because she’s a rainbow revolutionary.
Rae Lewis-Thornton. Rae is an author, coach and AIDS activist. Way back in 1994, she shared her HIV story on the cover of Essence Magazine, and she’s continued to be a badass ever since. I loved her blog post “Overcoming Shame…“, where she admitted that she struggles more with shame related to having herpes than to having AIDs. You can learn more about Rae on her website.
Andrew W.K. Andrew is a rock musician (think “Party Hard” from 2001), and an advice columnist for the Village Voice. He recently shared his experience dating and disclosing with genital herpes in the 9/2/2015 issue.
Emily Depasse. Emily is a feminist sex writer whose work caught my eye a few months ago when she came out as herpes+ on her blog shortly after getting diagnosed. It’s been eye-opening for me to read somebody’s experiences while they are still fresh and ongoing, as opposed to reflecting years later—especially when the writing is this good. You can read her letter to her ex’s other partners, “To The Girls He Hasn’t Give Herpes To Yet: This Is For You”, on Thought Catalog. Find her on Twitter @eld3393.
Lachrista Greco. Lachrista is the founder and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, a global feminist resource network for activists. She recently wrote about the complicated dynamics of disability and desire for Bitch Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @lachristagreco.