Throughout the month of September, we will be posting a series of essays on sexual health topics in recognition of World Sexual Health Day. This personal essay comes from Lynn Barclay, the president and CEO of the American Sexual Health

As a product of a Catholic school in the 1970s, I arrived at college having had no sex education at all. Nothing. Nada. When I met the man who is now my husband of 34 years and we began to have fun dating and getting to know one another, I knew enough to go to the college health clinic for birth control. But clearly that’s where my knowledge ended, because when I asked the doctor a question (I honestly don’t remember the question), he made a face and asked how it was possible that I knew absolutely nothing. Needless to say I was totally embarrassed and didn’t ask another thing. I remained totally uniformed to the point where I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

The summer I got engaged, I was having belly pains. No one could figure it out. I went to a few doctors until one told me something I didn’t understand and added that I might never be able to get pregnant. What was this guy talking about? What did that have to do with belly pains? I was absolutely convinced he was a total quack. Again, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Early in our marriage my husband and I had a wonderful time building our lives together. We waited five or so years to start our family, but then we were ready. When it didn’t happen, we went for help. I was told I had blocked tubes. No one ever explained to me how this might have happened. I remember my mother being confused as well. She told me that no one in the family had had that problem.

Finally we concluded that a birth child was not in our future and we adopted two amazing children, Miranda and Stephen. They are the absolute loves of our lives. I can’t imagine loving two humans more than I love them, and feel unbelievably fortunate to have won the lottery with those two.

I started working at ASHA in 2005. This time I knew, or at least worried about, what I didn’t know. How was a Catholic school girl who never learned a thing about STIs going to manage this important organization?

I learned amazing amounts of information during that first year, about sexually transmitted infections, how to talk to your doctor and partners, how to be in a healthy relationship, and so much more about the complicated and beautiful subject of sexual health. After about a year it hit me. I can remember the day. I suddenly flashed back to the belly pain I’d had that summer and realized I’d probably had a case of untreated chlamydia, which had caused pelvic inflammatory disease. And that is the reason my tubes were blocked. I finally knew what I hadn’t known. Thank you ASHA.

My goal since I’ve been at ASHA is to make sure that no one else grows up without basic information like I did. Everyone should know—long before they get into sexual relationships—how to be sexually healthy and ASHA is going to continue to be a leader in helping people get all of the information they need.

ASHA has made enormous strides in the last century helping to educate people about STIs and give them the tools to protect themselves. I believe, however, that a message of sexual health, is far more empowering. And I believe that by adopting this message, this one-hundred-year-old nonprofit can continue making an important difference in the lives of Americans of all ages.

lynn_miranda_avaThis picture is of me, my daughter Miranda, and her daughter Ava. Miranda knows far more about sexual health than I did at her age and I believe she will make sure that Ava knows as much if not more than she does. That’s the key isn’t it? Raising the next generations to be sexually healthy.

Join us for a discussion of Dr. Tang’s new book, It’s Not Hysteria Everything You Need to Know About Your Reproductive Health (but Were Never Told), and ask Dr. Tang your questions about reproductive health!