Scarleteen All Growed up: Arianna

When I was 16, I discovered that according to some folks, sexually active teenagers were crumpled flowers, backwash, or pieces of tape that can no longer bond to surfaces. Organizations supporting abstinence-only sex education were receiving federal funding, and as a result, kids across the country were being forced into abstinence pledges, scare tactics, demoralization, or in the case of LGBT youth, erased entirely. I was never subjected to this institutional flavor of fearmongering, but I still managed to internalize two messages about sex: that all men will rape you if provoked, and that teenage girls who become pregnant are worthless. That day in 2006 when I discovered ab-only may have been the first day that I was truly angry at something outside myself.

Even without formal ab-only at school, I still liked to pretend that my sexuality lived elsewhere. I wanted to hide my sexuality in the basement and try to forget about it. That way, I could always be sure that I was a good person.

So, I became passionate about comprehensive sex education advocacy, and hoped to become a sex therapist. I read and wrote and volunteered and interned and fundraised and networked and of course, I pored through every corner of Scarleteen, even eventually writing content for them—a real honor. I was going to write the first national comprehensive sex education curriculum. I was going to save the world from fear and shame.

But one day, I realized that no matter how much work I did, I could still feel the eyes and mouths of the world on me, saying that feminine bodies are public property. It seems that the entire journey of my early twenties was to validate my own sexuality by validating it for others. In fact, to make sex okay, I had to call it "career preparation." And if that’s not messed up, I don’t know what is.

So all the determination I threw into my aspirational career, I threw into myself. I reflected and dated and journaled and self-cared and learned and read. I found good relationships and bad. I learned what and who I deserve. While the shame still sneaks out from the closet or from under the bed at times, suffice it to say that I am not ashamed anymore, of who I am and how I love.

And all the while, there was Scarleteen. Had Scarleteen not existed during those early years of exploration, I’d likely never had anyone to tell me that I was okay. Scarleteen was the first resource that ever told me that I was not a meal for herds of predator boys, and not a monster whose body betrayed them. Scarleteen trusted me, told me I was normal, told me I was safe and could be safe, told me I was human. It seems then that Scarleteen is irrevocably imbued in the setting of my story.

So if you are a teen or early-twentysomething, I hope that you read this next part:

If you are afraid you are broken because of this wild urge that swims in us humans, please know that you are not alone, and that there are adults who know you don't deserve this shame. You are wild and free and this gift of sexuality powerfully and irrevocably yours, no matter who hurts you in word or deed, no matter who you love or how you experience your gender, you are valid. We’re glad you’re here.

And on this special birthday, I say this to those of us like myself to whom Scarleteen has been a lifeline: Let’s keep supporting this safe corner of the internet, shall we? Let’s keep this house in its best condition. Let’s keep the door unlocked for them.