Part 1 – Sex Ed at Home
How did a broke child of immigrants struggling in Miami end up being a sexual health educator? Let alone a nurse practitioner?
First and foremost, I dedicate this to my mother and sisters, my primary motivations for doing the work that I do. You both sacrificed more than I could ever write to make sure I am where I am today. For all your sacrifices and pain, I’m eternally grateful. Words cannot express my eternal gratitude.
Second, I didn’t know I wanted to be a sexual health educator until my early 20s. Even then, I was still like whattttttttt. What is sexual health? Would anyone take me seriously in this profession?
Most importantly, growing up, I always was *that* child. You know, the one always asking questions, questioning authority, hearing family members make comments about how I’m never going to get married. Listen, I’m 28 and loving the marriage-less life!
Even though I was *that* child, I grew up with a very open-minded and accepting mother. My mother encouraged conversations about periods, sex, domestic violence, mental health, and so much more.
Unfortunately, I also grew up in a home, family, and neighborhood where violence, poverty, and crime were the norm. Similar topics my public health classmates referred to as “housing inequalities” and “social determinants of health” were things I experienced from childhood.
Seeing violence and financial distress so normalized from a young age stifled me. Quickly, I realized that I never wanted to get married since every married woman got regularly beaten and abused. I never wanted to learn much about my culture because of all the violence I saw in my community. Ultimately, I never wanted to settle for less than what I deserve. Money, relationship, career, friendship, you name it.
People call this resiliency; it’s really survival at its core. Also, I hate the ways non-poor people glamorize poverty and abuse for their own merit.
After doing pretty well in STEM classes in school, I thought I wanted to be an engineer. But, in my first year of college, I had severe mental health breakdowns and ended up failing two classes. I almost got kicked out of school, and I suffered so much anxiety around academia since then. Truth is, I really loved engineering, but I also really loved empowering women. Talking about taboo subjects. Speaking on sexual and reproductive health.
Was there a way to do both? Being a confused, almost homeless, and scared freshman in college, I didn’t know what to do. I scrambled up my credits and signed up for a psychology major. My goal was to graduate and work as a part-time sexual health educator to get by. I had no idea how to do sex ed. Finding a career as a sexual health educator seemed so out of reach.
I went to my school’s library and checked out probably 100 books on reproductive justice, sexual health education, abortion activism, and anything else I could find. Then, I Googled for hours. I started reaching out to organizations in the area for any open sexual health educator positions. After a few cold calls and a ton of emails, Planned Parenthood responded.
That’s all she wrote.
Part 2 – Sexual Health Educator Journeys
Often times, people think being a sexual health educator just putting a condom on a banana and calling it a day. I wanted to do sex ed on my terms. Incorporating South Asian heritage with reproductive justice theory and the latest evidence-based information is complex.
As a volunteer and intern for Planned Parenthood, I did hotline shifts. Simply put, people would call and ask about contraception, pregnancy options, STIs, and everything in between. Talking on the phone is interesting, especially about sexual health. The hotline was my highlight for my week, and I loved it so much. Honestly, I cried when I left it to move to Atlanta a few years later.
I learned how to read through scripts on these topics while people explained very intimate parts of their life in complete anonymity. Editing these references, I knew that sex ed is always more than just sex.
Working as a sexual health educator means understanding your audience, realizing what information needs to go into the presentation, and being open to change. My time at Planned Parenthood also opened up doors at other organizations, such as Fenway Health, a leader in LGBT Health, and Advocates for Youth, a non-profit focused on youth in sexual health education.
I juggled quite a few part-time sexual health educator roles between these organizations and my full-time schoolwork. That was interesting and required several planners. I also started to get into reproductive justice activism and tried incorporating more racial justice into my workshops. I faced resistance from other (aka white) sexual health educators who did not understand the nuances of race, gender, and class in sexuality.
Often times, white sexual health educators would tell me that I was overreacting to racism and that all women experience sexism and you know how white tears go.
I decided to make my own reproductive justice and sexual health workshops, spinning the two together and turning them into a one-woman (and sometimes with friends!) show.
There was a time in my life where I was on a plane almost monthly giving a presentation or webinar or something. And I loved it.
But, I never got offered a full time sexual health educator position. Ever. Whenever I applied to work for any company, I was only offered internships, volunteer opportunities, or part-time gigs, never full-time work. Pay often stayed, if any, at a little $15-20/hr.
I wanted more money, more stability, and more for my future.
After graduating with my Masters in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health and Social and Behavioral Sciences, I got offered *the* coveted CDC public health fellowship. In the midst of my next-steps to find my career in public health, I really wanted to speak to people directly.
Part 3 – Public Health Communicator Meets Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
I knew I wanted to be more than a sexual health educator because I wanted to have more influence on people’s lives. Educating people made me happy. I saw how people attended my workshops, but left sadden by the lack of health care in their neighborhoods, how they could not afford contraception, how they had no social support.
After a ton of research, I took the plunge into nursing school. Nursing school was the pits of hell, but gosh. I love being a WHNP. Seriously, I love all things women’s health, reproductive health, health education, inclusion, empowerment. I just hate formalized academic institutions because of the academic industrial complex, but we’ll get to that later.
Merging my past histories as a sexual health educator and public health communicator made me a WHNP. The Digital Health Communicator exists because the future is digital.
The future is now.
Are you ready to take the next step and hire me for your next training, speaking engagement, or writing opportunity?
P.S. Are you still reading? If you are able to afford to do so, consider compensating me for my time and labor with a one-time amount via PayPal (https://paypal.me/nursesadia) or Ko-fi (https://ko-fi.com/nursesadia). Thank you!