Written by Rose Jackson
I keep hearing lesbians say they feel safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because they are dating another lesbian. I thought I was safe until I found out that I was not. I got herpes (HSV2) from another lesbian. I was her first female lover.
I’m in my 50s now and have been out for a long time. When I came out as a lesbian, I went through hell with my family, friends and the outside world. It’s still a fight today to be free. Having herpes is another battle. I just refuse to live in shame anymore.
I Knew Something Was Wrong
We had been together for a while when I noticed some bumps on her butt. When I asked her about them, she lied and said it was because she was on her period. I believe I heard the voice of God tell me that something was wrong, but I decided not to worry about it.
We had been together for two years before I finally found out the truth. I found the box of Valtrex (a herpes medication) in the trash. I asked her about it over the phone because I was afraid of what I was going to do to her if we spoke face to face.
Eventually, I started getting breakouts. When I got my herpes diagnosis, she went with me to the doctor. I was so upset that I felt like I was going to kill her. Luckily, her son was with us when we got the results and that kept me from doing something I would regret.
We ended up staying together for eight years. Even so, she repeatedly cheated on me with other women. She didn’t use protection or tell the other women of her diagnosis. I tried to stop her by telling them, but it didn’t change her behavior.
I Feel Dirty and Ashamed
Why did I stay? I think I was suicidal in some ways. I felt like my life didn’t matter now since I had this disease. Plus, I figured we both already had herpes it wasn’t like there was a risk of me re-contracting the disease. I heard different things from different doctors. The one thing they agreed on is that there is no cure for herpes.
Even though herpes is not AIDS or HIV, I still sometimes feel dirty and ashamed. When I get breakouts, it’s pretty much everywhere, including my genitals. It’s physically painful. It also emotionally hurts to be rejected by other women when I tell them, but I understand why they don’t want to date me.
Today the woman who gave me the disease is married. She didn’t tell her wife until after they got married and I threatened her. I do believe she understands the harm she has caused.
It took a while but I do forgive her. I’m just having a hard time forgiving myself for not believing what God and my body said to me. I chose to listen to her excuses.
I Don’t Believe in Waiting
I have only been with one other person since her. We met in 2013. I told that woman straight out the gate.
When I tell most people, I know I’ll never hear from them again. I don’t believe in waiting 90 days to tell somebody. Why waste my time or theirs?
I thought it was strange this woman was okay with me having herpes. When we met up the next day, I asked her why she was okay. That’s when she confessed that she had herpes too.
Even after I told her first, she was still scared to tell me. That is how much shame exists around this disease. I was with her for two years and we are friends today. Dating someone else with herpes doesn’t solve the problem–at least not for me. I’m extremely sensitive and if I am with someone with herpes, it triggers a breakout.
Stop the Lies
There is a lot of misinformation about sexually transmitted infections going around in the black lesbian community. We feel safe because we wrongly believe that only men who sleep with men and women who sleep with down low men can get sexually transmitted diseases.
There are too many people who are afraid, cowards really, who don’t want to know. They don’t go get check ups and so they don’t know their own status. We are so afraid to be honest about this, but not me. I’m going to tell the truth.
Having herpes has affected me on a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. I’m so deeply hurt that this happened to me.
Your Life Matters!
I worry about the next generation! We need to talk about this. We need to be honest. I think there are too many people who just want to have the gay experience without the responsibility of being safe. So ladies, ask for recent medical paperwork. Ask when was the last time they got tested. Ask to the go to the doctor and get tested together. Don’t be afraid. Your life matters.
To learn more about genital herpes, visit the Centers for Disease Control here.
We interviewed Rose in the Black Lesbian Love Lab private Facebook group. Get access to other live interviews, e-books and other exclusives by joining our subscription. Check out the subscription at community.blacklesbianlovelab.com and we’ll give you a free relationship communication e-book!