Kathryn DeHoyos shares the most important thing she ever learned about sex.
The most important thing I ever learned about sex did not come from the numerous health classes in school, with their watered down pamphlets and 70’s movies with bad hair. It didn’t come from the embarrassing conversations with my Dad, where I refused to make eye contact and just prayed for it to end quickly. And it definitely did not come from the “Abstinence” lectures we got in our church Youth Group. The most important thing I ever learned about sex came from my Uncle Keith a few months before he died of AIDS. We were sitting in the living room of a friend of his watching TV, he in the recliner, me on the couch. I don’t remember what we were watching, and we certainly weren’t talking about sex … Out of nowhere he turned to me, and in the soft voice I still hear in my head, he said “Katie, I want you to understand something … I didn’t get AIDS because I’m gay, I got AIDS because I had unprotected sex with multiple partners who were also having unprotected sex with multiple partners.” No one had ever said anything like that to me before. I remember looking at his eyes, already growing tired from my short visit. Next to him was the small painting he was working on to pass the time until he left us; the time until he died of this horrible, vicious, and completely preventable disease.
I saw him alive for the last time that day. This man who taught me how to paint my emotions onto canvas. This man who had spent an entire weekend helping me and my younger sister paint an undersea mural on the walls and ceiling of her room. This man who had been shunned by his father and brothers, save my dad, for almost all of his adult life. This man who had never raised his voice, or spoken a sharp word to us girls, no matter how wild and crazy we were. He had one last lesson he needed me to learn, he needed more than anything for me to hear him and understand. Not in the surface manner so many 14 year olds choose to understand, but a true deep down in your soul understanding … and I did. In that moment I truly understood what all those ineffective classes and lectures had been trying to teach me. It wasn’t just about avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, or one of the obvious STD’s they showed us slides of to scare us into compliance or abstinence. It didn’t matter if you were gay or straight. It didn’t matter if you were losing your virginity, or having sex for the 100th time. It was about being smart and staying safe, staying healthy, staying alive.
I understood him then, and I understand him today.
Picture — kakarottan/flikr