Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

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From “grumpy teenager” to educated youth a Teen2Teen story

My name is Indica Hanson;  last year I was in the Teen2Teen program .I am going to be in the program this year as well.  I grew up in this program and learned so much from it.

                In early September 2009 my mom convinced me to fill out the paper work and interview for Teen2Teen; my mom was a volunteer for Cascade AIDS Project so she knew Annika, the leader of Teen2Teen. I was not exactly ecstatic about this, as I was a grumpy teenager and didn’t want anything to do with some extracurricular activity. I went in for my interview and loved Annika, she was exciting, happy, and I got along with her very well. Finally, I started to become excited about maybe being a Teen2Teener.

 Then came the retreat. It was 11 teenagers and Annika in a big white van driving to the beach. I automatically became close friends with this girl Jessie, we talked the whole way to the beach and we made sure we got a room together in the house. The retreat was a blast. We played games with Joseph [another CAP staff]  and learned all about sex, STI’s, HIV, gender and sexuality from Annika! I already felt like I was growing. Sadly, it was time to go home. I couldn’t wait for Tuesday as that was the day of our meetings.

                 All of us fellow Teen2Teeners became very close; we were our own little family. Every Tuesday at our meetings we learned something new and exciting, as the weeks went on I became much more comfortable with myself and with others. I started to open up and share my own opinions. Throughout the months I began to grow up and mature very fast. I realized that I cared deeply about teaching and becoming one with the community. I also figured out a lot about myself, I started to realize who I was. I finally let myself become okay with the idea that I was gay. I came out to my family and to my friends, and I started to really care about the gay community. I started to learn about homophobia and stigma; I tried to fix things and teach people on my own time. I was really becoming a strong peer educator and I really started to get my own thoughts and ideas.

                Because of Teen2Teen I felt like I was actually making a difference. I started to teach in more schools, I was teaching high schoolers that were older than me. I was even teaching some middle schoolers and elementary students. The students really listened when a peer was teaching them, you could see them slowly change within the hour that we had with them. We taught them subjects and material that they would not have learned in their basic health class. Being in Teen2Teen was not just to help others learn, but to help you learn as well. It was a life changing experience and I am very glad I joined. This whole thing sounds so cheesy but it is all so very true, I loved it, and so did everyone else. Even if you are not a Teen2Teener there is so much you can do to help the community, you can come to one of our agent trainings or come to CHAT(Room)  and learn about sex ed, HIV, get tested, and see what you can do to help as well!

-Indica Hanson, Teen2Teener 2009-2010

[Teen2Teen is a group of passionate, activated youth ages 15-19 who volunteer for an entire year and are trained as peer educators in HIV/AIDS and Sexuality education. The young people in Teen2Teen dedicate their time to learning and educating about HIV/AIDS, sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and so much more!]

[If you would like to learn more about Teen2Teen or apply to be a Teen2Teener, please contact Annika Shore:  Ashore@cascadeaids.org or 503.278.3872 and you can apply by filling out the application for the 2010-2011 year here]