The TORCH blog is written completely by TORCH peer leaders and is a space for them to reflect on their experiences as peer leaders and as youth who live and work in communities across New York City. Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the TORCH peer leaders and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institute for Reproductive Health.
Sex Ed should be shared with every single teenager alive! Whether it’s taught in their school or not. Teens should be at least a little educated on reproductive health. Sex isn’t something that should be […]
Just like so many people of color are mistreated, and have their natural rights ignored and abused, so many women of color have been mistreated for centuries and are cast away into the dark having […]
Comb your hair, clean my house, bathe those kids
We are objects, We are inferior
Our heads bow down as our backs bend over
Palms face thigh, skin shedding
Thoughts crawling, Lips sealed
Hair long to the elbows, to the […]
We met through mutual friends and
With no knowledge of the concept of time, we consumed each other.
Fed and misused each other,
we sat back and grooved with each other.
We had the whole universe in line with […]
What am I good for?
I sit here begging for your attention,
Which by the way is never given.
But yet I make sure you never ask for more.
So tell me what am I good for?
You don’t open […]
Confused as to what has affected you more, your gender or your background. The black women, who’s passion and dedication runs even deeper than her melanin. Known to be so defensive and so angry, but […]
Why are our voices not heard? We sit, stand, and say we are equal, but where is the equality? We experience beatings, assault, sexual assault , pro filings, and racism all to be stuck in […]
Selma was one of the most powerful and moving films I have seen in my entire life.
At the beginning of ninth grade, I started working with the Teen Outreach Reproductive CHallenge (TORCH) program in New York City, and I continue to work with the organization to this day. TORCH is […]
Can you imagine a panel full of brilliant, beautiful, strong women sharing knowledge about political issues that no one else wants to talk about? Well that’s what went down at the Politics of Birth […]
There are so many things wrong with this yet people post it all over social media, giving it appraisal as if the message it’s displaying is okay. Some do this without understanding that there […]
“Self-love is often a seed planted by others, but has to be manifested by you.”
Most people believe that self-love, confidence and appreciate comes solely from yourself. But in the instance that you cannot take […]
There is a secret war going on. Now I could be exaggerating, but truthfully this issue is highly controversial. This war is not a particularly violent war, but violence has been woven deep within the issue. Words are being used as weapons, along with picket signs and hours of protests. I watched the documentary called “After Tiller” last week. Basically, a late-term abortion provider named George Tiller was shot dead in his church. Tiller has faced many death threats and has been targeted multiple times at his office. With Tiller gone there are only four late term abortion providers left in the country and they all face violence and the possibility of being murdered. The movie made me think about why people feel the need to take action in preventing abortion, whether it is violent or not. What makes people think that it’s okay to prevent someone from making a choice? […]
As Eric Hoffer said, “Someone who always thinks the world is cheating him is right. He’s missing that wonderful feeling of having trust in someone or something.” Everybody has their own types of skepticism, […]
This was my first time going to Lobby Day in Albany, New York State’s Capitol. I was very nervous at first, but once I got onto the bus, I knew it was going to be alright because that feeling of optimism was everywhere. Once we got to Albany, the Capitol was crowded with other activists that came for different movements. We came to fight for the Women’s Equality Agenda. The sight of seeing other people coming for a righteous cause amazed me because the causes we are fighting for affect us all in every way. It’s 2013, yet we are still struggling to fight for women rights — isn’t that absurd? […]
I am a feminist. Women are powerful, women are immovable, and women are strong. Why doesn’t the government recognize this? Inequality continues to persist in the United States and is considered a normal part of American living. It needs to be put to a stop.
The term adolescence is used to describe the transition stage between childhood and adulthood. I believe that our adolescent stage in life is one of the most important stages because that is when we are able to find our true selves. Throughout our adolescent years, we are spending most of our time in high school. From the start of high school all the way until you graduate, you gain and lose friends, learn how to deal with relationships, in addition to gaining a good deal of knowledge, and learning where you fit in socially. I personally feel like these are our crucial years because they mold us into who we would like to be in our later future. […]
After watching the short movie based on cultural humility, I realized that one should never put a halt to learning and the opportunity to be educated. As shown in the documentary, although you believe […]
Imagine you were pregnant and about to give birth in an isolated area located in Africa. There are no hospitals or trained professional individuals nearby to deliver your baby. The nearest clinic or medical building is three-four hours away. While traveling, there are no paved roads so your swollen body is rocking from side to side while harboring pain. It hurts A LOT. What if that was you? […]
Today was the day I, Theresa Twum, got to vote. Being the only person in my family qualified to vote makes me feel so special. Being my first time voting, I had no idea […]
“Scroll through the titles and subtitles of recent books, and you will read that women have become ‘The Richer Sex,’ that ‘The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,’ and that we may […]
As some of you may know, Mitt Romney is a firm anti-choice candidate. Romney has consistently opposed the Roe vs. Wade court case that legalized abortion. He has said that if he were elected, […]
If you have seen on the internet lately Lady Gaga has posted a picture of herself in a BRA and PANTIES with the title “bulimia and anorexia since I was 15”. At no moment […]
by TORCH Program
This summer, our TORCH Peer Leaders and Interns put together a sex ed themed parody of the Carly Rae Jespen hit song, “Call Me Maybe”. We provide peer health education and training, and […]
Ever since the Aurora theater shooting in Colorado, there have been gun debates all over the country. People have been going back and forth about what could’ve should’ve would’ve happened that terrible day. Lots of “what ifs” have been thrown around. It’s a very controversial and sensitive topic. Some people believe that the shooter, James Holmes, could have been stopped if someone else in the theater had possessed a gun. Others say that no one should own guns because they’re too dangerous and people won’t or don’t know how to use them. They believe that gun laws should be restricted, that it’s time to crack down. They have been talking a lot about the cons of guns, which got me thinking. Why is it that firearms have a negative connotation? Why do so many people oppose them? […]
As I was reading through the blog, Feministing.com, I ran across a headline that really shocked me. “Louisiana charter school totally illegally kicks out students for becoming pregnant.” My first thought was, “How is this possible?” I’ve seen a handful of pregnant females at my Bronx high school; I’ve seen them all 9 months throughout their pregnancy, and still, I see them after they give birth finishing high school. […]
When a person dies, it is most commonly shown that people throw a funeral and the deceased person gets buried underground in a casket. But I believe that isn’t just it. I think through […]
Youth such as myself have come to practically live on the internet. We put forth our entire lives for everyone else to see. Facebook especially has become a lifeline to many teens. The problem […]
“I was forced to ask my boss for some time off so I could take care of my sibling. When I asked for a few days of leave, my boss told me flat-out: if you go, don’t bother coming back.
This was said by Ai Elo, a restaurant worker from Brooklyn, on Feministing.com. The question is, is this fair? Should we get paid for taking sick days off? I believe so. […]
Things happen in life, but you just have to learn from it. I think that people go through many hardships so that people can grow & make something out of it. People cry & […]
Below are two Peer Leaders’ posts about TORCH Teen Night with special a focus on the IUD! The event took place on April 19th:
After planning for various days at Torch, the IUD teen night event was a success. Even though we expected more people than the people who attended, we got the purpose across which was to inform teens about the IUD and the myths that come from the media which limits TEENS to access this type of birth control. […]
AIDS is a serious epidemic that is greatly affecting our world today. It has killed millions of people, destroyed economies, and decreased life expectancies for many of the world’s population. I felt really good […]
Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never love at all
Hoping that the moments will stay,
Never fade away
But though nothing is forever
Hoping it gets better
To the people you meet from the battles you won […]
I’m pretty sure you have heard all of the talk about the IUD and if not, maybe the commercials that seems to be popping up more frequently. Have you considered the IUD? To ease your mind a bit I just wanted to share my personal experience with the IUD. […]
Someone help me, I can’t see,
I’m blind to what is clear and what is not supposed to be.
To see me ever leaving by holding what’s inside
The pain goes through my head and it’s […]
There was a very recent article on Yahoo about child brides and the first legal annulment that took place in India for an 18-year old female, Laxmi Sargara. She was wedded to her potential […]
Last week on Tuesday April, 17, I went up to Albany with other TORCH Peer Leaders to lobby for reproductive rights. It was my first time lobbying in Albany and meeting with pro-choice elected […]
Every year since my sixteenth birthday, I have donated blood at my school’s annual blood drive. Each time I donate blood, I have to fill out an extensive questionnaire which requires donors to divulge personal information about their sex lives- their gay male sex lives, in particular. It is made very clear by clinicians and by the New York Blood Center itself that males who have had sex with another male, even once, are not allowed to donate blood, nor are females who have had sex with a male who has had sex with a male. The justification for such a rule is that it is a preventative measure intended to ensure that no recipients of blood donations contract HIV/ AIDS. […]
All of a sudden I’m a TV fanatic; I went from not watching at all to watching it all. I was watching The Game on BET on Tuesday night; I watched encores all night. […]
Lies always ended with byes.
I always asked myself why lie if the truth will always come out.
Why hurt people & tore their heart out.
Why tell them that you love them if you don’t […]
On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a young African-American teen was fatally shot by a biracial 28-year-old man by the name of George Zimmerman. He was walking to a relative’s house in Sanford, Florida […]
In the news I heard about Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed because he was black and wearing a hoodie. A Hispanic/Latino man saw him and shot and killed him and has not […]
It’s very rare, but I actually got the chance to watch some TV this weekend. I started off watching Real Housewives of Atlanta when the premiere of a new show came on afterwards. In […]
Recently I got tested at my local health care provider (HCP) office. I took an HIV test. The feeling of getting tested and finding out that you’re HIV negative is a great experience, knowing […]
Abortion. People hear it all the time. People see pictures all the time of what happens. Yet, so little of what they hear and see represent the truth. Pictures of dead babies, stories of what happens during an abortion, facts that abortions affect women’s fertility and increases the chance of breast cancer are all lies that are reaching the ears of many people through the help of social media and advertisements created by anti-choice groups. I always knew that lies were being told about the dangers of abortion and how a fetus would look if it was taken out, but I did not think misconceptions would go as far as the claim that the fetuses are crushed to death in the womb during abortions. […]
On a beautiful Tuesday evening, I boarded the Uptown 4 train towards 14th St.- Union Square. While at the Brooklyn Bridge station on the 4 line, three girls and two boys boarded the train […]
Do you all remember when Rihanna and Chris brown had a fight in 2009 that landed Chris in jail? Well, Rihanna had a restraining order against him and he was to have no contact […]
Culture is not an excuse for human rights violations. Practices like female genital mutilation (FGM), where young females’ clitorises are removed or vagina sealed, are practiced in many African and Middle Eastern countries. Advocates for these practices claim that FGM is a cultural and religious practice that has been performed for so many years and has become a tradition. These cultures and religions value premarital virginity and consider FGM part of proper female upbringing. The question now is, do people who are not part of the cultures have a right to interfere with traditional practices? […]
[Note: Trigger warning for sexual violence]
Taken advantage at age 11.
She was like a porcelain doll, safe in a shelter for 10 years.
Until one day a boy decided to play with her and break her.
A beautiful innocent girl, who already felt lonely inside.
She thought he was gonna save her.
Didn’t know he was just gonna use her. […]
Earlier this week, in a class on adolescent life, my entire grade was given a homework assignment where we had to purchase condoms. Along with the assignment, we were also given a sheet to […]
Things happen in life that we have to learn to overcome.
Sometimes people will use the words ‘I love you’ to take advantage of you.
Sometimes people will lie to you to protect you, but at […]
Everyone must have heard of Gonorrhea as some kind of disease, but does everyone know what exactly the disease is, and how it has become an epidemic problem in the United States and potentially the entire world?
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium, Neisseria Gonorrhoeae, and can be passed from person to person through any type of sex. The infection can be spread by contact with the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus. Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear within 2 – 5 days after the infection, however, in men, symptoms can take up to a month to appear and for majority of males they do not show any symptoms at all. Symptoms in women are very mild and nonspecific. When symptoms do become prominent for women they will mistake gonorrhea for another type of infection. [Check out the article in the New York Times for specific symptoms.]. If the infection is left untreated it will lead to: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) for women, Epididymitis for men, Arthritis, Meningitis, Infertility, and death. […]
Men in porn are often regarded as sleazy, chauvinistic, and vain, but there is no denying that they enjoy their professions because, well, why the hell wouldn’t they? Most of their male fans are, on varying levels, jealous of their extremely raunchy, active, and public sex lives, as well as their incredibly gracious endowment (seriously, female pornstars don’t know whether they’re supposed to have sex with them or feed them peanuts). No remotely libidinous boy or man would ever feel sorry for a pornstar with a Y chromosome because, after all, they are living the male dream: having sex, and a lot of it.
Female pornstars, on the other hand; well, guys certainly get off to them, but does anybody regard them as lucky? Whenever they come up in conversation, they are predicted to have been abused or molested as children, perhaps forced into the profession by a loving-boyfriend-turned-pimp, and are almost always beheld with sorrow. […]
Back Up Your Birth Control Teen Night was great! A night for teens to learn about the many different types of contraception out there and how effective they are.
On February 8, 2012, me, Sheniece, […]
I think that Plan B should be available over the counter for people of all ages. It’s important that people have access to emergency contraception so that they would not get into any […]
Yesterday I was on the train when I overheard a teenage boy talking to his friend about gay parenting. He said “I think it’s fucked up when two men or two women try to raise a kid. Their child is bound to end up fucked up.”
His friend replied “Word. If I didn’t have a mom and a dad who raised me I don’t think I would have ended up normal.” […]
Recently I saw an advertisement with Angela Simmons and was confused by the message they were trying to portray. The only thing that was running through my mind was how nice her body looked. […]
Sex, and the implications thereof, differ from culture to culture, from era to era, and from individual to individual. For most Americans, the notion that one should wait until marriage to have sex is uber conservative and outdated- even my parents and grandparents admit to having engaged in premarital sex.
While it does seem like the rules governing proper sexual conduct are loosening up and allowing today’s American youth (and the youth of citizens of virtually any relatively secular nation) to feel free to experiment sexually to a certain degree, it seems to me that, as a general rule, I find that from year to year, sex means less and less to teens of comparable ages. […]
I lost one
The one thing that kept me up at night.
The lucky charm I always wanted.
I lost the questions marks at the end of each sentence.
The thing that shined so beautifully.
But sadly this thing […]
To be pro-choice is not to be pro-abortion. There is no such thing as pro-abortion.
When a husband takes his comatose wife off of life support, that does not mean he wants her to die. When a mother takes care of her sick child, that does not mean she derives pleasure from the vomit of her kin. Every day, people do things that are hard for them, things that they don’t want to have to do, things that make them question their moral codes and their priorities. Every day, people have to make decisions that impinge on their lives not just for that day, but the entirety of their lives. These decisions, within the parameters of the law, are our own prerogatives, as we are the only ones who are equipped to understand our very own unique circumstances.
Abortion is not something that anybody enjoys or takes pleasure in, but are a necessary reality nonetheless. Abortions are personal, emotional, and pragmatic. Abortions have to do with quality of life, both for the pregnant women and for the zygotes that are provided with the controversial fate of never being given life, versus being given a life that won’t be able to treat them well, and that might not allow them to thrive.
Call The White House Today:
Support Access to Birth Control for All Women
Health care reform will let many women access birth control without copay.
But women whose bosses oppose birth control are at risk […]
The following is a letter that Omar submitted to the Daily News in response to an editorial they published about the high rates of teen pregnancy in the Bronx.
A new study reports that teens […]
I was on the way to school this morning, minding my own business, coffee in hand, when out of a parked car came two craned necks, two guys nearly breaking their backs to get a good look of my butt. Great. I love feeling like a sexual object.
This isn’t unusual at all, since I deal with it almost everyday, and so do most women and girls. It has become an awful fact of my daily life – no matter what I am wearing, I will always garner unsolicited male attention. It is more than just a quiet humiliation – often, it is very obvious, and other people on the street may notice it. A look or a whistle is incredibly damaging for me – all I want to do is scream in the guy’s face, but that wouldn’t do much. This kind of behavior stems from societal values, bred-in-the-bone ideas that have been around since biblical times, which say that women are sexual objects, and should be treated as such. How do we even begin to reverse this kind of behavior?
It’s almost every child’s dream to move out of their parent’s house. I have this sudden ferocious motivation to reach that exact goal. Many people I know want to move away but it’s just […]
I have to do current events assignments for my government class each week so I always choose the news-paper as my main source. I picked up the October 5th New York Post and was flipping through it to find an interesting article relating to society or government. Despite the fact that I wanted to get the assignment over with for the week, I looked through the paper to find a few more stories out of boredom. The cover story was about a helicopter tour gone wrong; the next story was about a man who had gotten robbed, it seemed like nothing out of the ordinary, so I overlooked it as I was flipping through the paper once again. At some point, I had been reduced to read the robbery story. The story was about how clothing mogul, George Bardwil was robbed at gunpoint in his own home while hosting a party. The robbers made off with a $300,000 value of money and jewelry.
Bardwil reacted to the incident by saying, “If it had been $5 million or $6 million of jewelry, I’d be upset.” Although he also mentioned that the stolen items are just trinkets and that his life is more valuable, which is an understandable reaction, it makes me angry, as a person of the middle class, to think that $300,000 could be so worthless to him. In my neighborhood, many people struggle for financial support because of obstacles such as living situations, immigration status, and income, and to think that Bardwil thought nothing of what was taken. People are in need but people like Bardwil are not putting these things to good use. […]
As teenagers, we get bored. This is the time when we make changes to ourselves and experiment with hair, make-up, styles, etc. I find it ironic that I do not like change: like when I come home and find that my mom has cleaned my room and I have a mini anxiety attack and flip out. Yet I crave changes like changing my haircut and color or rearranging my room, just trying anything different from my ordinary habits.
My latest project is veganism. I’ve noticed my friend falling into the vegetarian fad of the celebrities. I myself have been so tempted to follow just for the fun of it but reluctant because there was really no reason for me to go down that road. Now, I’m at this point in my life where there should be more for me to explore besides contrabands. It’s hard to find something constructive yet legal living in a city like New York for as long as I have. If I lived in a state where it would be legal to fire guns in open ranges, I’d be shooting cans off of fences all day long and build bon fires by night right out in my backyard surrounded by friends (that sounds so awesome right about now). I mean, I will be going off to college soon and the thought and work that the process involves is time consuming but I’m not at the point where it is exciting yet. I do not like the sight of raw meat and refuse to touch it (unless it’s cooked). I cannot help but think about what it once was, a living thing who could feel pain and emotion. […]
We are so influenced by the gender roles society gives us that many of the things we say are based on this strict role without being conscious of it. Often, when words come out […]
So as I turn on the TV and turn to the local news channel, I see that the House of Representatives passed the H.R 358 bill that would allow doctors to deny a woman […]
Hate this bullet that those two guns created
All it does is kill everything it cares about
It runs with its head down not seeing what he hits until
He kills the one he’s inlove with
“That’s so gay.”
“We have a pop quiz? Gaaaay.”
“This song is so gay!”
The funny thing is, I truly do believe most people when they tell me that they don’t mean the term in a derogatory manner. I am frequently assured that “well, when I say ‘gay’, I don’t actually mean ‘gay’…I mean stupid.”
Yeah, that’s reassuring. You don’t mean “gay” as in homosexual when you use the term, you simply, innocently mean “gay” as a way of referring to things that you don’t like. Nothing personal.
I will believe you when you tell me that you don’t mean it, but that doesn’t mean that I respect you. (Okay, I don’t respect the way in which you chose to express disdain and disapproval. You are probably a pretty cool bro, we should hang out sometime.)
I don’t believe that any further analysis is required. The overwhelming tendency of today’s (presumably accepting and socially liberal, as homophobic teens are a whole different story) youth to use the word “gay” in reference to that which is unpleasant, unfavorable, or simply completely shitty is not due to lack of knowledge or lack of education.The term’s use is perpetuated, even by those who have gay friends and family and teachers and employers and who consider themselves (and, in their hearts, surely are) caring, non homophobic people, simply because they are too lazy to change their (uncomplicated, unintelligent, unacceptable) ways of expressing themselves. […]
A few weeks ago, ABC premiered the first episode of the new Grey’s Anatomy season. In this particular episode one of the main characters, Christina, decided to have an abortion. At first, she had […]
Recently, throughout Queens and Brooklyn, there has been an increasing number of groping incidents. Police announced over the weekend that the number of attacks committed by men groping females has increased. As many as […]
Imagine the perfect civil union (provided such a thing could exist) in which gay couples truly do have the same rights as those which heterosexual married couples have enjoyed since the institution was first established. The implications of this civil union are such that a gay couple can share all of their assets, can maintain completely joint custody of their children both in their partnership and provided that they split up, can be covered under each other’s healthcare, can visit their dying partners in the hospital (may the atheist god forbid), etc. Every technicality of the legal contracts (which straight husbands sign with pens and which gay husbands sign with lipstick) are the same. In layman’s terms, everything is “fair”.
Let’s assume that marriages and civil unions, in the “utopia” which I have illustrated, are indeed as equal as I have painted them to be. All of the fine print is the same, and one might even say that, sans same sex pronouns, these two contracts are virtually indistinguishable from one another. If this is so, then what is the function of a different name for gay people and straight people’s ‘identical’ unions to their significant others in the first place? For an institution which is designed to promote equality, does it not seem counterintuitive that there should be a different word for what is said to be the same thing, based solely on sexual orientation? […]
This is a ballad of a black man
A man who lies cheats, lies, but never steals
A part of the loved and lost
The unforgotten but never remembered
He’s tired of being in a world full of […]
You, the reader of this sure-to-be rambling blog post, have something in your pants. A gameboy, half a tuna sandwich left over from last Wednesday’s lunch, a stamp collection, a penis, a vagina…you name it. Let’s focus on the last two: with the exception of a very small, very unfortunately marginalized demographic, you have a set of pronouns that others use to refer to you by, and they directly correspond to what it is that you have in your pants (and on the off chance that you are like me and your pants are a convenient and cheap storage space for unusual trinkets and paraphernalia, I would like to reiterate that I am speaking specifically about whether you have a penis or a vagina).
I am a big fan of hypothetical situations, so bear with me as I analogize this pronoun/ genitalia phenomenon: You are in an anonymous online chatroom, and somebody sends you a private message. You begin to talk, but you are extremely careful not to use your name, not to use personal pronouns directed towards yourself, not to discuss men’s or women’s bathroom etiquette, or otherwise allude to your gender in a way that is unmistakable. However, you are entirely honest when answering questions, discussing your life, talking about your family friends, and otherwise being yourself. The person with whom you are engaging in said dialogue gets a very clear picture of who you are as a person intellectually, socially, philosophically, and any other word ending in the sound ‘ee’ (except, perhaps, ‘donkey’ or ‘titty’). However, all this being said, he or she does not know if you are a ‘he’ or a ‘she’.
After a few hours of talking, your interlocutor is asked by the powers that be to guess what your gender is. This is a high stakes question. If they get the answer wrong, every puppy in the world will shed their fur and grow thorns…serious business. Now, given the conditions listed above, what do you think the odds are that they will guess correctly? If they guess incorrectly, why is that? Are you not entirely in sync with your assigned gender, which is, in most cases, the gender that you accept as your own? In a chatroom, are you, the manliest of men, a girl? Are you, homecoming queen extraordinaire, a hairy, sweaty dude? Perhaps it’s more subtle than the hypotheses I have drawn, but the question remains: devoid of your facial hair, DD breasts, 47 inch penis, or double X chromosomes (presumably not all on the same person), are you who you think you are? Devoid of your secondary sex characteristics, are you as much of a male or a female as you have always thought of yourself as? […]
Recently, women in the South Park Slope and nearby parts of Brooklyn have been sexually assaulted. These crimes, which have been committed since March, remain unsolved. Police patrols have increased in that area, but […]
Last Wednesday Troy Davis was executed in a Georgia prison for a murder that happened 20 years ago. He was accused of killing a cop but there wasn’t any weapons found at the scene. […]
Remember the sex ed mandate for schools? Well there was some negative parental input and some positive input…I feel that the new sex education mandate is good for youth because it will teach the […]
Recently in the news, President Barack Obama signed the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” repeal meaning the policy prohibits military people from discriminating against or harassing secretly homosexuals or bisexual service members. I found it was more justice for LGBT people since they […]
In observance of Denim Day, a day intended to raise public awareness about rape and sexual assault, TORCH Peer Leaders created this video to debunk common myths about sexual assault.
Check out the TORCH Peer Leaders’ video for the “It Gets Better” project!