YWA 2013 Nominee: Latishia James

UPDATE: Congratulations to Young Women of Achievement awardees Jessica Livoti-Morales and Angelique Roche (community organizing/labor work), Elizabeth Lindsey (innovation), Tenley Peterson (leadership), Ali Rozell (political/campaign work), Merry Michelle Walker (service/nonprofit advocacy), and Julia Reticker-Flynn (women in the choice movement).

I believe my purpose in life is to assist in the development, healing and empowerment of young girls, women and  the LGBTQ community to reconcile their sexuality (sexual trauma/assault, sexual orientation, sexual expression) with their spirituality (morality, creator, divine, purpose in life). Through my own experiences and healing processes I have been led to a life of service and empowering others. I am a survivor; first of a mother with AIDS, then twice of sexual assault, which led to subsequent depression, suicide attempts, and eating disorders while coming to terms with my own sexual identity.

Reconciling my sexuality/sexual orientation and spirituality has not been an easy journey or process; in fact it is one of the hardest roads I have ever traveled. So much has gone into shaping who I am that adding such a complex topic seemed impossible to conquer. As a sexual assault survivor, topics around healthy relationships and sex so often were met with shame and ridicule that the evolution of my sexual self was often ignored. I was faced with the challenge of having to carve out my own niche and essentially educate and eventually liberate myself. Seeking out counseling at the urging of a mentor, as a freshman in college was my first step in the healing process. Therapy allowed me to explore my assaults in a way I had never allowed myself to; once this healing process began I was then able to make an honest assessment of my true identity. I was able to admit that my sexual being and my spiritual had essentially been at war and there was no peace in my soul because of this fact. After being blessed with several tools to help in my healing process (therapy, dance, poetry, performance, becoming a peer counselor) I was then able to share my story with others through various mediums which eventually led to other young women survivors of sexual assault embarking on their own healing journey. Currently I am the Youth HIV/STD Prevention Coordinator at an HIV/AIDS non-profit, where I manage several sexual/reproductive health programs for youth and volunteer as a rape crisis counselor; a job I would not be able to do had I not been able to heal from my own trauma.

I was recently accepted to Wesley Theological Seminary where I am a Master of Divinity candidate. Ultimately I will enroll in a naturopathic college to become a womyn’s health practitioner. So many lesbian and bisexual women, as well as transgender men are in need of comprehensive culturally competent care that most gynecologists and practitioners are not equipped to offer. I seek to be a health care practitioner who not only cares for the physical but the emotional and spiritual as well.

Creating a space where sexuality, reproductive health, holistic healing, artistic expression and pastoral care intersect may seem daunting and at times impossible, but it has already begun in me and I don’t believe God makes mistakes.

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