This zine is for all the femmes carrying wounds from masculine folks who didn’t treat us right. It’s for all of us tending, surviving, healing and grieving. I know the work of tending our fierce hearts is fucking hard and exhausting. I know they will never see even a fraction of our struggle or our brilliance, let alone own up to their part in causing all this pain.
Know that I’m with you. I got you. I feel it too.
I believe you.
I’m looking for submissions from femmes that both tell our stories and also share strategies for healing, justice and resilience. I’m partial to poetry, short stories, spells, hexes, tarot, recipes, plant allies and visual art – but i’ll review submissions of any genre.
Because I want to encourage participation of BIPOC voices I’m both going to prioritize those submissions and I’m offering herbal gifts to any BIPOC folks who submit. If you’re BIPOC please include a few ideas for areas you could use herbal support with, in your submission.
And hey femmes – do you wanna learn some skills to set effective and clear boundaries? Skills that are practical, magical, nestled in community and connected with plant allies? then I’d suggest checking out my upcoming workshop Hawthorn Heart. This workshop will take place in person in East Van (unceded coast salish territory) on September 19th and online on September 28th and October 5th.
This type of community organizing and resource creation is my full time work, on top of growing food, brewing herbal potions and doing loads of emotional labour and reproductive justice work. If you believe in acknowledging femmes for our endless labour and want to support this femme to continue their work in the world you can donate monthly by clicking here.
I was diagnosed when I was 19, about 8 years ago. It has not always been easy or simple, but I can honestly say I am 100% ok with having this virus, and I think you could be too, if we all talked about it more.
Because, let’s be real here, the worst symptom of this virus is stigma.
Because I am open about being HSV positive, and because I don’t actively hate myself as a result, I get loads of people messaging me about the virus. They ask me about tips for managing break outs, as well as herbal advice because I am a practicing herbalist and I make a great Herpes Heal Herbal Kit. The other thing that people talk to me about most frequently is how they feel their life is over because of the virus. They talk about keeping it a secret from friends, being broken up with, being scared to date people, feeling like they are un-lovable. Once, while supporting someone who reach out to me and was having a hard time, I told someone that I have had the virus for a long time and that I have a healthy and happy sex life with lots of partners and many romantic connections. She said to me , “well that’s great but, are any of these people.. you know.. people of quality?”
I want to make a few things very clear:
Having herpes does not make you less lovable than if you didn’t have it.
Having herpes does not mean you are a slut, or that being a slut is a bad thing, or that you did something to deserve it.
Having herpes doesn’t mean you have lost your right to say no.
All having herpes means is that you have a virus that lives on either end of your spine and that that virus will come out when you are worn down emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.
And there are a few thing I want you to remember about this virus: it’s not ok to lie to someone about having herpes, unless you think your safety or access to security would be in danger as a result of telling the truth aka you are working or in an abusive relationship. There are some exceptions to 100% total honesty, but they are few and far between in my opinion. Be honest with people. Telling the truth about your STI status is basic consent practice. And telling the truth helps break stigma. And if you tell someone in a way that demonstrates that you love yourself and you are ok with the virus (even if this is just a practice you are working on), it will show the other person that they can feel that way to.
I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok with HERPES! YAY!
Also, take it from me: you should DEFINITELY dump someone if they shame you because of your diagnosis. Shaming someone because of their STI status is emotional abuse. Period. It’s one thing to have a real talk conversation about barriers and protection and being cautious. It’s another thing to make someone feel unsafe or unlovable because of a virus that 85% of the population carries.
Yes you heard me right. 85% of the population will test positive for herpes in a blood test.
See here’s the thing. Herpes Simplex Virus, or HSV comes in 2 strains. HSV 1 and HSV 2. HSV 1 is known primarily to bond with the upper part of the spine and exhibit symptoms or break-outs on the mouth and face. HSV 2 is known to bond with the lower part of the spine and exhibit symptoms in the genitals. The vast majority of people have one of these two viruses, HSV 1 is especially common. Recently doctors have been seeing HSV 1 on the genitals and HSV 2 on the mouth so frequently (yay for oral sex!!) that some doctors are suggesting that maybe the two viruses should just be combined into one, for diagnostic purposes. The point is that most people, including your shamey-asshole-hopefully-ex-partner, will test positive for some strain of the virus.
What all this means is that the majority of people, even and especially those who have no symptoms, are commonly carrying the virus and infecting people and then judging people for having symptoms. It’s totally immature and unfair and in my opinion the worst symptom of this virus.
I’ll tell you a short story. Once I had a date with someone who had slept with 100 people. He was in his early 30’s. I was one of the youngest people he had ever dated, being in my early 20’s, and he told me I was the first person who had ever told him I had herpes. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE MATH HERE PEOPLE. Even if we can’t expect the 85% of the population who has the virus to be totally honest (because they probably just don’t know), at least %25 of people who are sexually active do have symptoms. This means that that 25% was lying: either to themselves by not getting tested, or to the people they were dating by not being honest about their status.
My friends – it does not need to be like this!!
We pretty much all have herpes and we can get real with that and love each other anyways, because really it’s easily manageable and not that big of a deal. <3
I have many tools for managing symptoms – most of them involve keeping my stress down and my self love high, as well as staying grounded. One of the most useful tools I have found is leaning into support from plant allies. The Herpes Heal Blend that I make uses usnea for immune support, and lemonbalm for it’s anti-viral and calming properties. Both of these plants have been locally wildcrafted and I can tell you, it took me several years of experimentation to get this blend dialed, but now that I have, it’s the best herpes medicine I have ever found or used.
The blend is available in multiple sizes. Mini, which is really just enough to treat one break out, or just try it out. Medium, which for me is enough to last about 6 months, with semi-regular use. And Large, where you get the most bang for your buck and enough medicine to treat yourself daily for several months, or do acute care for break-outs for up to a couple of years.
Whether you buy my medicine or not, know this:
if you have herpes. I love you.
No seriously I do. You and me are buds. And if you are sitting behind this computer crying and feeling like no one loves you, stop that! Cause I’m sitting right here. Loving you, just as you are. And trust me, there are people out there who love you too. If you haven’t found them yet, just keep looking. They exist. I promise. <3
You and me, maybe we share a virus. And while it effects our lives it doesn’t not need to change the quality of our character. And if it does, let’s make it for the better. ok?
Hi lovely reader. Thanks for hanging out and taking in my thoughts. I really appreciate it. And if you appreciate me and want to support my work, here are some ways you can do so. You can buy herbal medicine, poetry books or a tarot card reading from my shop. You can also make a monthly donation to my site. Every one in a while I send gifts to my donors, and those gifts could do straight to you! You can also hire me to teach a workshop. And finally, you can share my work widely, on social media or otherwise. And if you choose to use this as your herpes coming out piece, great! <3
Also, I could write about herpes pretty endlessly and I probably will write more pieces after this one, on more specific topics. Which by the way, if you have topics you want me to write about send me an email and let me know at andigracewrites[@]gmail.com and I will happily answer them in another blog post. I’m pretty knowledgeable about this topic, so really send me any questions you go.