The recent decade has been a progressive era for black girl magicians. Not only are we casting spells as we dazzle the world in the essence that is our magic from a physical standpoint, but we are also demystifying road blocks and glass ceilings at every turn.
On a daily basis, we witness female professionals of color slay their patriarchal nemesis with ease. But it seems our only kryptonite is our biological clocks. No matter how much we accomplish, we must succumb to the time limits and chronological deadlines set by our bodies. Especially for those of us who hope to be mothers.
But to that, more and more millennial women of color of today have begun to say, "Naw." Women are taking back control of their lives professionally, financially, and of course, that authority is lending itself to their reproductive lives as well. Recently, 38-year-old political analyst Angela Rye opened up about her decision to undergo the process of oocyte cryopreservation, most commonly called: egg freezing.
Our bodies seem to impose just as much pressure as society does when it comes to when and how we conceive. Rye told Refinery29 that she made the decision to freeze her eggs in January in attempt to protect her energy and her womb from the stress of an intense professional life:
"I froze my eggs in January, and because I have such a stressful life, I wanted to try to create a nurturing environment for eggs to grow."
We feel pressured by our loved ones and our bodies to have children within a timeline, despite the commitment we've made to our dreams and careers. By age 30, our egg count is reduced to less than half of the number that we have as teenagers making infertility more likely the older we get; women diagnosed with fibroids or endometriosis are burdened with an even shorter timeline.
Angela Rye is among the league of women sparking debate among black women about having options. She said that she decided to freeze her eggs after she learned that her egg count was low.
"I've never been governed by a biological clock. I still feel like whatever I decide to do with my body is between me and my maker. But I first looked into it when I was turning 35 because they say your egg count goes down around that age, so I looked into it as a just in case. And after they ran some tests, I learned my egg reserve number was low. That scared me! But it also wasn't an instant decision, because to be honest, the process is expensive. So I came back a few years later and this time, I went through the process and did some acupuncture and they were able to retrieve seven fully developed eggs — which isn't the 20-something they typically hope for. But I'm good with seven, because that's my favorite number, so it felt like it meant something. Now, I don't feel any pressure as far as work timelines or relationships...I can just focus on my purpose and know that I have that option there if I want it."
As women, we have options in our careers, lipstick colors, what we eat, and what clothes we choose to wear: but not when we choose to have a baby.
curlBOX founder and all-around boss woman Myleik Teele has always had a silver lining about becoming mother, despite the emphasis she placed on building a fruitful career. Now, the entrepreneur is a proud mother to a son named Noah. But when she was 35, she got her wakeup call that if she wanted to become a mother one day, she'd have to start looking into options to secure the future pregnancy she one day hoped to carry. Enter egg freezing:
"When I turned 35, I went to the doctor and she basically told me, 'Your eggs are dying, you'll never have a baby!' and I start freaking out. I went to the fertility doctor and I'm like I should freeze my eggs and they're like your AMH level is too low. I spent $12,000 dollars buying all of these shots and stuff, giving myself 5 shots a day, and the doctor's like, 'Basically, your fertility is low so you have a year to get pregnant.' I went through a really dark period because I just went and did all of this stuff, and only to find out that I may not have the opportunity."
Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Tai Beauchamp told xoNecole that her decision to freeze her eggs came during the height of her professional career after realizing she wanted insurance so that when she was ready to be pregnant, she could be, no matter her age:
"If I met a partner and I wanted to have a child next week and we decided to get pregnant, I don't think we'd have a problem getting pregnant. But I just did it because I want the insurance. It was just about options for me."
After a tumultuous hormone injection process, Beauchamp had successfully completed the egg freezing procedure. Beauchamp conquered her kryptonite and it is a decision that she doesn't regret. Nowadays, she does her best to spread the wealth she's gained by sharing her experience in a community where fertility isn't often a topic of discussion:
"There have been comments made about how fertile black women are, but simultaneously we're not having open conversations about fibroids, we're not having open conversations about endometriosis, we're just beginning to speak more now with more than 50% of the people being in college or graduating college being African-American women, that our partner and dating pool is changing. But if we start to think about investing in relationships in a different way earlier and sooner, the dynamics would shift too."
Beauchamp and Rye's stories are rarities, often unattainable by many women of color. In the past, egg freezing wasn't an option for black women due to the price point: a single phase can cost $5,000 or more. The increased success and shift of black female professionals on the economic landscape has made the procedure more accessible, but not accessible enough.
Rye and Beauchamp agree that it's important to normalize the egg freezing process and hope that opening up about their experiences will spark conversation and incite more health insurance companies to cover the procedure. Rye said that she hopes that openly discussing her own procedure will inspire other black women to explore their options:
"Well, the thing is, it's so expensive, so from an economic standpoint, it can be cost-prohibitive. So it's a conversation we're afraid to even have. But I feel like we have to if we ever want this process to feel more normal and more attainable. My manager actually encouraged me to document my whole process in case one day I want to share it with the world and show other Black women what it's really like."
Innovations in medicine and technology like egg freezing have allowed professional black women to unapologetically gain control of their personal, professional, reproductive goals. Rye is proof that being a millenial woman is lit, we really can have it all.
Read her full feature with Refinery29 by clicking here.
Featured image by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
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Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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