In middle school, conversations with my friends about sex and our changing bodies were common, funny, and sometimes awkward. We made jokes about each other and stumbled through getting our first periods and having our first crushes. We learned a lot from one anothers’ trials and errors.
Yet, as common and as fluid as these conversations were in my friend groups, I only remember a few actual discussions about sex or sexual health with my teachers and parents. There were one or two classes where our gym teacher told us all about different kinds of STDs and how harmful sex could be if we weren’t careful. I also remember watching a video about the importance of abstinence. So, needless to say, we didn’t learn enough about our fast-approaching reality. We also didn’t learn enough about all of the positive aspects of healthy relationships, sex, and our bodies developing. I know that this is not an uncommon story.
At that time — the early 2000s — I was shy but very curious. For Christmas in 7th grade, I asked my mom to buy me a book called Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL It was a beautifully illustrated book, written by the creators of a website called gurl.com. I couldn’t get enough. I loved their illustrations of breasts, information about sexual feelings, and what it meant to have a "sixty-nine," which I'd heard about. This book and website held answers to so many of my questions and piqued my interest more than I expected it would. I took the book to school and learned about sexual health with my friends. We wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more.
I heard about Planned Parenthood in high school, when friends would go there for low-cost STD testing, pregnancy testing, and free condoms. I also heard Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers mentioned in movies like Mean Girls and Juno. In these scenes, a call from the health center left a mother panicked and a pregnant teenager faced a lone protester and a sarcastic staff worker. I was intrigued.
As I got older, I continued to be curious about sexual health, women’s rights, reproductive health, and everything in between. I took classes in college on sexual health and volunteered at organizations that championed access to sexual and reproductive health care for girls and women. After college, I wanted to work for an organization that shared my values for creating space and opportunity for people to learn about their health through relatable content. When I landed a job at Planned Parenthood, it felt like the universe had aligned just perfectly. I was eager and excited to be included in a movement and institution that not only educates people about sexual and reproductive health, but truly saves lives.
I’ve been at Planned Parenthood for close to five years now. I was hired as an administrative assistant in 2015 and have since had the opportunity to write health content for our social media channels and website. I write the words and share the information that I so desperately needed and craved when I was a preteen. I get to make decisions about illustrations that represent people of all ages, genders, body types, and ethnicities. I answer questions with honest and shame-free answers. I work here to do this work and because Planned Parenthood provides life saving health care every day to people across the country in so many ways. The pride I feel as a part of this more than 100-year-old institution is real. I know that my younger self would be proud of the decision I made to help carry out the work that gives people the opportunity to live life to the fullest.
Attia Taylor is a psych-pop musician, creative producer, and the founder of Womanly Magazine. Womanly is a print and digital publication providing health resources and community support for women and nonbinary individuals to fiercely and confidently advocate for and make informed decisions about their health.
With a deep passion for connecting people and creating community through art, sound design, editorial, and visual production — Attia is passionate about building and cultivating communities through her projects and in support of the work of others.
Photo credit: Emma Pratte