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THE SEX FILES: Courtney Brame Discusses Advocacy for People Living with STI’s, Podcasting and more

Courtney Brame is a DatingPositives.com spokesperson and host of the podcast Something Positive for Positive People, which features interviews that highlight what it’s like living with an STI. Diagnosed with genital herpes in 2012, Courtney aims to share real-life experiences and disseminate factual information to help end stigmatization and assist STI positive individuals in being their own best advocates. He’s a member of HANDS (Herpes Activists Networking to Dismantle Stigma) and was also selected to be an SXSW panel speaker on “making disclosure sexy.”

Beyond advocacy work, Courtney is a personal trainer for Given100 in St. Louis and freelances in podcast advertising. He gave of me his time for this one-on-one where I learned the up-to-date skinny on what it is like for people living with an STI and all of us others who aren’t, but need to know how best to respect them.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about STI’s?

I think people tend not to see or forget about the mental concerns people have living with an STI. How a person’s identity can instantly become tainted when they are suddenly diagnosed positive. How so many of us feel our life is over, that we won’t ever date again or be able to have a relationship. There is more to this than just the possible physical manifestation of symptoms or the realization that you have a disease.

How did you get into podcasting?

I graduated with a degree in advertising, and luckily right out of college, I began to work in my field. First, I was on the sales and buying side; then, in 2014/15, I worked at an ad agency that sold both to radio and podcasts. I spent a lot of time learning about what was pretty much new to me; I am relatively late coming to podcasting. But after listening to lots of them, I said to my buddy’s. ‘We should do a podcast.’

How do you grow from that initial interest to the very informative and specific podcast you now do?

Well, first of all, it never crossed my mind to do a podcast about STI’s, until I started talking with people in online platforms where people who are positive were meeting in a safe open space to talk about what was bothering them. I soon found so many people who were diagnosed positive with herpes contemplated committing suicide; that really was something to learn and was such a common concern between people of so many ages, ethnicities, and life experiences.

See, that’s something I would never have known.

Exactly. In fact one of the people I first talked to, a woman I became friends with and the first person I interviewed for my podcast, was this fifty-year-old lady, professional, put together, successful, who told me the story of acquiring herpes from her husband who had got it when he went out and had an affair. This seemingly together older woman (at least she was older than me, as I was in my twenties at the time) had this story to tell, having the same worries as me. In fact, that first podcast we did in my car, I had bought a mike for my phone, and we just drove around a bit until I found a quiet place, and we had a conversation.

Driving some lady around that you just met, sounds like the perfect Dateline episode.

Right, like a serial killer, I know (he laughs). But we connected, shared such a good time, and from there, I sent the upload to people in the community I knew whose email addresses I had. Which was kind of frustrating really since one mistyped letter on an address and the email gets kicked back. So I put it up on Youtube, it got lots of views, but I knew for myself, Youtube doesn’t usually hold my attention, I tend to look at my phone or do something else when I go on. So then I thought why not make this a podcast? And around our 12th or 15th episode, things definitely started turning serious with it.

From your advocacy work, what are some of the best positives strides you have seen…and the most negative we still have to overcome? 

Funny you should ask, I have a recent example that shows both.

Very recently, I came across an Instagram post on a professional nursing portal, something that has upwards of thirty thousand followers of basically health care professionals, mostly nurses. On it, someone had posted what I think they thought was funny. The poster said that if they ever became single again and started dating, they would certainly check any possible lover’s medicine cabinet. They went on to quip that if they found one of two medicines, one was an anti-psychotic med, the other for treating herpes, then they would run.

To my mind, this was stigmatizing, making that kind of a connection. So, I reached out and let it be known this kind of a joke just furthers STI’s patients’ distrust of the medical community. I got an answer back defending the joke, basically saying to me, well, fuck you. But when I shared this around to the people, I knew they instantly came on to post their displeasure.

For me, it’s less the fact that somebody makes a joke, which I think is offensive; I can’t stop that from happening. But it is more, that people living with STI’s feel confident enough to be vocal about their feelings. This is where a negative becomes a positive. It shows that my community is not afraid to speak out, to even let their positive status be known. This is the perfect example of taking something that hurts us and making it into an empowering moment.

Check out all the wonderful places Courtney can be found and tell him hello and where you found him.

DatingPositives.com

Something Positive for Positive People,

HANDS

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