Emerging as a college student struggling to make it on her own in New York City, Destiny Maria’s world was turned upside down when she learned that her partner withheld his STD status from her until she tested positive herself. Her book, It Started with a Green Dress, shares her experience of being diagnosed with the disease, her quest for justice to find a silver lining with her diagnosis, and depicts a ruthless stigma thousands face. On today’s show, she joins Alicia Dunams to share her book-writing process and how it paved the way for her transformation, gaining self-forgiveness and self-acceptance in the end.
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Overcoming STD And The Sexual Stigma With Destiny Maria
I’m excited to announce our next guest, Destiny. She is the author of It Started with a Green Dress. This is episode 33 featuring Destiny Barreto. Before we begin, I’d love to introduce our author and their book. Again, it is Destiny Barreto, It Started with a Green Dress: Overcoming Sexual Stigma, and the truth will set you free. Destiny wrote this book emerging as a college student. She was struggling to make it on her own in New York City and Destiny’s world was turned upside down when she learned that her partner withheld his STD status from her until she tested positive herself.
In her book, It Started with a Green Dress, is an emotionally uplifting ride depicting a ruthless stigma thousands face as Destiny herself seeks justice in order to find a silver lining with her diagnosis. Now, Destiny wrote this book. She loves writing. She is a teacher. She loves education. Her writing began with poetry. As she lives in New York City, she wrote this book to share her memoir and share her experience of being diagnosed with an STD. The subtitle of the book is Overcoming Sexual Stigma. It’s number one on Amazon in the STDs category. Destiny, I want to ask you this question. It’s a question I always ask. Why did you write a book?
I wrote this book to inspire others like myself or others who might feel that they have fallen into the stigma and that they’re alone because they are not. I wanted to inspire everyone and I wanted them to know that there are legal options if anyone is in the same position as I was where you find out that your partner is dishonest and aware of their positive status and withheld it from you. You can do so by looking into your Public State Health Laws, depending on where you live. There are different regulations. I also wanted to dismantle the stigma. We have this ruthless stigma, as you mentioned, that overcomes our confidence when we’re first diagnosed for some of us and we don’t know what to do. It’s very shocking. It’s a little scary but come to find out it gets better in time. It’s not what the stigma says it is.
Destiny, thank you for that and I want you to share a little bit more about the book writing process. We’re going to jump into the content of your book and the themes and how people can understand more about STDs and around STD awareness. First, I want to speak into your book writing process. Please share with us the book writing process.
I began writing as I’m going through the experience. It was suggested as a coping mechanism by one of my closest friends. He knew I liked to write and he thought this would be great for you to get down on pen and paper, express yourself, so I started notebook writing first, then I went onto Google Docs. It became a manuscript and that’s when I reached out to you to help me with the publishing process. I personally took a long time to get it completely finished because there were a lot of emotions tied to the experience, but it was super rewarding. I was able to see the difference in overcoming the stigma from reading it in the beginning and then where I’m at the end of the book. That was awesome.
Was the book writing process cathartic for you?
It’s hard to put it in words.
You just wrote a book, so you know how to put it all in words.
I would say the education that I was able to obtain through the writing process and putting my emotions out there to see how I was feeling at the time and then my growth at the end. I could see my mental health improving as the book went on and as the writing process was complete. At the end, I was feeling super empowered. I was self-accepting. I thought that was fantastic because I want others to feel the same way if they’re struggling with this type of thing.
I love how you said that and I know we did an IG Live for the launch of your book. When you started writing the book, did you have more feelings of maybe anger? As you’re writing the process like it’s almost this evolution from starting off angry and scared, resentful, and then it leading to an opening of self-acceptance, as you said, self-awareness, opportunity to use the book writing process as a way to evolve on a transformational and spiritual level personally. Would you say that was something that happened in this process?
Yes. I opened the story with devastation. That’s the first chapter. That was my initial response. I was devastated. I couldn’t separate betrayal from the stigma and the STD, so it was a lot of whirlwind of emotions, like I say, in the book as well. As time went on, it became something that I was okay with and I grew a lot of empathy for others in addition to myself. There was a lot of self-forgiveness. There was also the forgiveness for the betrayal that I worked on individually and I became confident through that process.
That’s wonderful that you saw and experienced that growth for yourself. Do you encourage other people who maybe have some tragedy in their life to write a book?
Yes. Get your emotions out there. Self-express. It’s a healthy coping mechanism. If you’re a writer like myself, creativity usually is at its highest with heartbreak or trauma. I think that’s a beautiful thing to turn it into. It’s like making lemonade out of lemons.
Let’s dig into the story a little bit and I would love for you to share what are three life lessons from your book that you want to share with the audience.
Accepting yourself as you are. That was my biggest obstacle throughout the process but towards the end, I fully did that. Even now, it’s just a part of me. No shame. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. It’s very common. It doesn’t control me anymore. In addition to accepting yourself, it’s important to remember that you’re not the stigma. There are still a lot of miseducation out there. If you research yourself, educate, self-soothe and self-care, you don’t have to worry about that at all. You’re not the stigma. You’re still the same person you were before that. There’s a silver lining, I would say, in every experience. For this one, it was overcoming the stigma, also taking better care of myself, and inspiring others to do the same and letting them know that they’re not alone.
If you’re a writer, creativity is usually at its highest with heartbreak or trauma. Click To Tweet
I know from the work that you and I did together, there were three major themes you’ve wanted to express in this book that you wanted to come forth from this book. Some of those themes that we discussed and that are in your book is the overcoming of the sexual stigma, which is the subtitle of your book and also, the ability for legal recourse. That is an option that people can choose. That might not be everyone’s choice and it was your choice. What it does from a leadership perspective because I definitely want to acknowledge you for being a leader, for being brave, for taking ownership. Something that I always say is we get to call people forth into their leadership as well. Sometimes there’s that tenuous line of wanting to call someone out, wanting to make people hurt and feel the way we feel in that moment, and then there’s this opportunity on the other side of not wanting to hurt someone even though they may re-hurt us, but to show that there are consequences.
Holding them accountable.
There are consequences, so it could be at both ends. He’s going to be responsible for the consequences of not coming clean and having that conversation, even though he knew full well that he had an STD. Someone can reap the consequences or be held accountable for consequences and you can forgive him at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It gets to be both. That’s what I feel that you share in this book and then also giving women the power to own their sexuality and discuss it and use it as part of your communication. I know that you’re reaching out to Sex with Emily and she’s a friend of mine. She always says that, “Communication is lubrication.” That’s one of her favorite statements. This sharing of your condition is an opportunity to grow closer to people.
I wanted to add as far as holding the person accountable, I also viewed it as taking my power back because in the beginning, I felt that a piece of me was missing and that person had robbed me of my choice. When I was able to hold them accountable, I felt like I can do this, I’m in charge, I’m in control of what happens next, and they’ve been held accountable, so maybe they’ll think twice next time.
That’s the power of intervening in a very powerful way. It’s using our voice, which you did by writing this book, and I give you props because you wrote this book from cover to cover. You wrote it. There’s plenty of people who write books and use developmental editors and ghostwriters, and what have you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You wrote this book from scratch. You put your heart and soul into it through this process. Now, you’re sharing the message. As we mentioned, this is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, STD Awareness Month. This is also a Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. As you bring forth your voice and share, this is you sharing your story. There’s something super powerful about that. With that, is there anything else that you want to share with our audience you want to leave with them to perhaps empower and inspire them?
Practicing informative consent. That was another theme of my book. Please have healthy discussions about sex. Talk to your partners about testing and be honest. Like you said, “Conversation is lubrication.” Healthy communication regarding sex. If you know you have a positive status, own that status, overcome that status, and please disclose to partners.
That’s so important. What’s next for you, Destiny?
I want to write a second book. I’m getting started soon.
What’s your second book going to be on if you don’t mind disclosing at this juncture?
Surviving sexual abuse. It won’t be my story but someone close to me.
You are empowering others and maybe sharing someone else’s story through your means. Are you going to ghostwrite the book on behalf of someone else or are you going to write it from their perspective?
I’m going to write it in the third person.
How can people find out more about you, Destiny? Obviously, you can go to Amazon.com, It Started with a Green Dress, search Destiny Maria to find the book, and you can purchase it on Amazon. How else can they find out about you?
You can follow me on Instagram, @_.DestinyMaria, and on Twitter, @_DestinyMaria.
With that, I want to thank you, Destiny, for being here, for sharing your thoughts, your messages, your story with us to encourage and empower others to take charge of their sexual health, informed consent, and being able to communicate, which is what I take away from your story and your book. Thank you so much, Destiny, for being on Authoring Life.
Thank you for having me.
Thank you everyone for being here.
About Destiny Maria
Destiny Maria has always had a passion for writing and education. She began writing poetry in elementary school and was an honor student throughout her high school career. She moved to New York City after graduation and attended college. In spring of 2017, she was diagnosed. Knowing very little about the legal system, she sought justice for her case. Destiny hopes her memoir can be of inspiration. She currently resides in Manhattan, New York.
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