13/11

A sombre murkiness hovered in my train carriage yesterday morning; opposite me sat a young Muslim girl with downcast eyes & beside her, a woman clutching a Metro newspaper; its contextual accuracy so ambiguous I didn’t bother to grab a copy. The woman with the paper huffed and moved to the seat beside me, the front page of her paper imaging French fighter jets en route to Syria. How many innocent people will continue to be massacred at the hands of a merciless war?  I thought to myself, as the woman tutted and threw her paper to the floor. I felt an unspoken tension which whispered prejudice and fear. Myself – edgy and paranoid – wished to give some reassurance to the girl before me.

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For context, on 13th November 2015, a number of pre-planned terrorist attacks struck Paris and a French suburb, Saint-Denis. Three suicide bombers struck during a football match, followed by mass shootings and a suicide bombing. The attacks didn’t stop there. Ninety persons were shot by gunmen at the Bataclan Theatre whilst civilians were held hostage at an Eagles of Death concert.

The stuff of nightmares, right there.

I’m not trying to take away the fact that what happened in France that day was a barbaric tragedy, but I have a problem with the way the British media seems so set on turning groups of people against each other; fuelling hate and ignorance towards the Islamic community.

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Headlines such as: “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ Sympathy for Jihadis” and “Muslims Tell British: Go to Hell” are all fear-mongering tactics paving the way for a racist society. The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Gazette are just few of the publications printing absolute trash, and what’s sad is that people are buying are buying it.

While the West continues to blow the shit out of the Middle East, our press stays silent. Why is that? Where are the terrorist headlines then? Look, I’m no expert – but if you’re relying on the British-Press to keep yourself informed, you need to do more research.

Who can we rely on to educate us? I remember being taught about the Holocaust in school and it was all numbers and statistics. Nobody dared to communicate the true devastation of war, the horrors of ethnic cleansing, the helplessness of a brutal occupation. Nobody explained that innocent civilians, just like you and me, have been endlessly butchered and terrorised.

Since then, the state of the world continues to breed corruption. The only difference is that when Western land is targeted, appropriate coverage is received. Suddenly, the world feigns empathy and outrage: god bless the chosen ones. We belong to a society which says “You are more important than those born into poverty and chaos; enjoy your new iphone”.  We continue with our busy lives, searching for ways to accumulate more of what we have; blissfully unaware of those who have nothing.

Our government does a fine job of keeping us distracted; our economic system provides an abundance of things to do and consume. I am a person of privilege and have been lucky not having to think about when my next meal is coming, or where I’ll end up sleeping each night. The world around  is a merely a commercial: it’s not within my reach and therefore, I don’t feel it.

Clearly, world-governments are more happy investing in murder weapons and death machines than providing safety to those who are war-torn and famished. Citizens who have nothing are seen fighting with their fists whilst their opponents fire bullets.

The devastation of the Paris attacks created an uproar because that’s not life as we know it. Not to justify the terrible attacks which happened in France, but it’s worth noting that hate-crimes and terrorism happen globally on a daily, mass scale. Rather than feeding ignorance by pointing fingers at those who share a different faith or skin-tone, maybe it’s time we held our world leaders accountable.

Too Cool for a Condom, Too Smart for a Smear Test

I’d been procrastinating when it comes to this next subject, but I felt a sense of responsibility in spreading awareness. Warning: this next pose focuses on sexual themes and transmitted infections – yay!

A few months ago I received some bad (but not the worst) news and felt frustrated nothing was available to console me. I found all online information cold and clinical, whilst forums described uncomfortable procedures without any kind of reassurance.

My most recent relationship was complicated. Whilst I would have preferred to use condoms, my ex-boyfriend detested the idea as they gave him “no feeling”. I found this a somewhat typical male response when asked to use condoms. Male friends compared them to wearing latex gloves, saying they’d rather not have sex if compromising pleasure. To compensate, girlfriends of mine have given the whole “he takes it out before he ejaculates” thing – two of which ended up pregnant and the others with dirty sheets. Nice. But this is not a blame and shame post, condoms are renowned for being a moment-killer, providing spontaneity with a dose of sensibility. 

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In my last relationship I did what I thought would be most sensible; I went for an STI test and my boyfriend did the same. When all was fine, I went on the contraceptive pill Microgynon and we were good to go! I have to emphasise that I really, really didn’t want to go on the pill, I wanted to please my partner. Sigh.

Whilst I understand most men prefer to go bare-back, we need to be more careful with how we protect our bodies. Around 80% of my friends have said their boyfriends “won’t use condoms” or that they “say they will but then just slip it in”. Seriously guys?! If you care about your woman, or better still, women in general, stop being so goddam selfish and learn a thing or two about boundaries. At least that way, both parties need not worry about pregnancy or infection.

The amount of times I’ve caught urinary-tract infections due to sex is staggering. I have tearfully sat in warm baths, not sure what’s happening to my body, enduring agony. I’ve visited A&E multiple times and had nurses accuse me of not rinsing out the sample bottle as bacteria-ridden skin has sat floating in the liquid.  It isn’t pretty, it isn’t fun and I can only compare the experience to pissing razorblades.  As a result, I live with interstitial cystitis which no amount of scans, fluids and antibiotics will clear.

In May 2015 I went for my first official smear-test and didn’t think much of it. It was only when I spoke to my nurse a couple of weeks later that I found myself on the brink of a heart-attack. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE HIV??!!” I cried, in a canteen full of co-workers. Luckily, I’d misheard her and had actually contracted an STI called HPV (human papilloma virus).  I had NO SYMPTOMS whatsoever. I had no idea where the virus was from or that it even existed. It was never picked up in previous STI tests due to living on my cervix and guess what:

MEN CANNOT BE TESTED FOR IT.

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It’s all well and good when guys say “I’m clean – I’ve been tested”. But the truth is, unless they always use condoms, they could never really know. To top it off, there is no official cure; our immune systems fight off the infection naturally however, having been single and celibate for 6 months prior to the smear, it seemed my body was failing me. It’s also worth mentioning that Big Brother’s Jade Goody died from cervical cancer – HPV being a key trigger for this. 

The NHS couldn’t provide me with a colposcopy for six weeks which meant  six weeks of sleepless nights. In the end I went private: £1500 for a piece of my cervix to be removed. 

Turns out, HPV is extremely common. My peers kept it secret due to embarrassment and shame. If we aren’t forcefully being made aware of this virus; if we don’t attend our smear tests, or use appropriate contraceptives, we could be passing around an STI which doesn’t even provide testing. Think about it.

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We can avoid the risk of disease by using condoms and going for smears. Your sexual partner should support you on this: your health is more important than his wet penis. If you want your man to use a condom, make him use a condom. Don’t feel pressured, feel safe. 

I felt so low finding out I had HPV, not to mention let down by those I’d trusted with my body, including myself. Luckily, results showed my HPV to be the weakest type and my cells weren’t abnormal after-all.

A year later, after being told the virus could take 8 years to clear, I no longer had HPV. Why? Because I did my research. I blasted my body with immune-boosting smoothies and foods,  attended my bi-yearly smears and most importantly, used a condom!