After a string of apartments, buying our first house when I was 11 years old was a big step for my immigrant Filipino parents. When we first walked into the empty house, my parents carried four things and set them on the counter. They told me these four things symbolized what we couldn’t live without: water, salt, a candle (for fire), and a large ceramic picture of Jesus Christ.
Growing up, every single important person in my life was Christian. Whether we were visiting my devout Catholic grandparents in Toronto (who sometimes attended mass every day) or my Evangelical Christian aunties and uncles in California (who ensured every family gathering included heartfelt prayers and dedications), I learned early on to relate my identity as a good daughter and granddaughter to having a strong faith.
I believe in God, and I have never found it to be at odds with the work of building O.school — helping people with their sexual wellness. To me, this is not a conflict by any means. Still, it surprises others.
Religious people have asked me: Is sex positivity just for athiests? Is sex bad? Is O.school for religious people? Am I trying to get people to break their sacred promises to themselves, their future partners, and to God? Am I trying to convince young people that they do not need to listen to their religious leaders, parents, and community about what is right for them?
One of my main motivations for building O.school is precisely because I love helping people who are religious, who have traditional values, who struggle to even say the words “vagina” or “penis”, who even after marriage struggle with guilt and shame around their sexual life, or have experienced sexual trauma by religious figures or community members. Christians, and all people from religious backgrounds, are important audiences, because they often do not have access to medically-accurate, high-quality sex education.
While my beliefs apply to helping people from all religions, I am specifically addressing people of Christian faith here, as this is my lived experience. Here’s what I believe:
1. God created sex, and it’s a good thing. It should not be characterized as bad, dangerous, or immoral.
2. I was taught that my body is a temple for me to cherish and protect. All bodies deserve to be celebrated. Public health is a human rights issue for all people, religious or not. I believe in helping people heal from shame and live in better mental, physical, and spiritual health — which includes their sexual wellness.
3. I don’t believe that those who are deemed sinners deserve shame, harm, or judgment for the sexual choices they make for themselves by anyone, especially from other religious folks. That is not what Jesus Christ taught. A Christian’s duty is to serve, forgive, spread compassion, and above all, love God and their neighbor as they would themselves.
4. Educating people about all of their options is not anti-religion. Christian people deserve access to the same sexual education as everyone else, and sex educators should always respect the beliefs and choices of the people who seek education.
5. In the Bible, Jesus made space for all people no matter their race, age, gender, sexuality, or beliefs. My goal is to follow this example and do the same. I believe it is a Christian act to hold a safe space for everyone to help them, no matter what.
6. I think there are many valid reasons to wait to be intimate until marriage. People who want to live their life according to the Bible’s teachings think that there is a right path to salvation through staying celibate until marriage. If someone chooses this path, my goal is to help that person navigate that path with all the education they need to make the decisions that are right for them. I would hope they would take Jesus’ example of practicing non-judgment when dealing with other people’s choices about their own lives.
7. There are many Biblical scholars who have interpreted the Bible to provide specific rules for the sexual choices of Christians, and in my quiet moments, I have come to my own conclusions about the same scriptures. I was taught that this is the power of Jesus Christ’s teachings: we have the power of choice, and our relationship to faith is about our personal relationships with God, not the churches or institutions that should be designed to deepen our faith, not drive us away from it. I’m not alone -- the Unitarian Universalist Association designed Our Whole Lives, a great example of a faith organization doing important work to support comprehensive sex education with less judgment and shame.
Personally, I have found a lot of peace and truth in the words of Jesus Christ, especially around faith, love, compassion, forgiveness, and the importance of living a life of service to others. Faith is still an important part of my life, and I’m grateful for the positive values and practices I gained by having a foundation in Christianity. I hope this foundation helps me support as many people as I can with their sexual wellness, the way Jesus Christ would have wanted.