Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Daniela Cisneros, I am 20 years old, and I am a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a Young Ambassador at The Texas Campaign. I am studying political science and I plan to go to law school after graduating. I was introduced to politics at a young age and I have been really interested in reproductive health, reproductive issues, and policymaking in that area. When I was first introduced to these issues, it was shocking that people were restricting and putting limitations on other people’s reproductive health.
What is your experience with sex education in Texas?
I was born and raised in Texas, and went through the public school system. I noticed that at no point we had any real sex education. In high school I had a health class where the teacher (who was an ex-football coach) talked about sexual education for an hour and the main focus was on abstinence. The main focus on this “sex ed” course was that we should not engage in sex or that we would end up pregnant and with several different STD’s that would mark us for life. He also shared with the class that sex was a very painful experience, where women would bleed everywhere and be in tremendous pain.
As I grew older, I thought to myself “what the heck was that?” None of what we were taught in that health class was true. That information did not keep anyone from having sex or preventing pregnancy and STD’s. I believe that a proper sexual education is what would prevent teen pregnancies and prevent young people from contracting STD’s, not inaccurate scare tactics.
In El Paso, 83% of the population is Hispanic and the large majority of the Hispanic community are Mexican. Following that, many Mexicans are Catholic and in the Catholic faith, sex is a very taboo subject to talk about, even for those who are not religious. My parents, however, are liberal in a sense that they did not restrain me from knowing about sex or educating myself about sex, but they did not give me that information themselves. Out of that natural curiosity coming out of that health class, I just googled “how do you actually prevent teen pregnancy” or “how do you prevent these diseases.” This led me to find important and valuable information that I have kept to educate myself and whoever else I am able to.
Through the years, I have educated myself in different ways. I distinctly remember pulling out an anatomy book in elementary school that labeled different body parts and being shocked at learning what body parts were inside my own body.
I have also relied on my doctors for educating me and giving me information about my body. I asked “how does my period work?” and “how does X type of birth control work?” I have been very fortunate that my doctors have been very open with that and gave me pamphlets of information about certain types of birth control. They are always willing to help me with these questions.
What do you want teens right now to know?
I want teens to know the reality of what sex actually is, and how they can protect themselves. I want them to know ways to prevent teen pregnancy, but also learn how to enjoy sex. Sex is a normal part of life, and it shouldn’t be taboo. Teens should be educated on how to achieve all of these things and thankfully, we live in a time where there is so much information available that you can find anything now.
What could have been offered to you as a teen to make you feel more supported in making decisions about sex and relationships?
I think having the support of parents would be the most helpful and important resource for teens to have. There’s only so much that a teacher can convey to their students, and the relationship is not the same as that of a parent. I would like it if parents would break away from the taboo and actually teach and explain things about sex. Parents are our biggest source of knowledge, especially in our younger years. I hope parents break away from the stigma and talk about these important subjects.
Can you share a memory about a person or service who was most helpful to you when you were working through these decisions about sex and relationships?
My doctor is someone who has been the most helpful. I once asked her about different birth control options and I ended up walking out of her office with so many pamphlets that had information about different IUD’s and different types of pills. She has been a great source of knowledge.
Other than my doctor, my friends have also been a major source of information and support. We are all going through the same things and talking to friends that are going through a similar situation as mine, has allowed me to learn a lot.
How do you wish to help others in your community?
I genuinely love El Paso, and am eager to see more good happen in my community. I am part of the Texas Campaign’s Young Ambassador Program and I also have a voter registration organization at my university. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to intern with a congresswoman and have learned more about community engagement. These experiences have all helped me in understanding community engagement but also, made me love doing these types of events within my community.
One of my ultimate goals both personally and professionally is to help young women who find themselves in this hopeless situation of being pregnant as a teen. I want young women who are starting sexual relationships to know that there is nothing wrong with having sex and that there are many resources available to help young women navigate any situation they might come across.
I have a profound passion for helping people in El Paso. I hope that I can be a resource to those in need.
Views expressed in this storytelling are those of the storyteller, and are not reflective of any organization.
If you are interested in sharing your story, email Alondra at Alondra@txcampaign.org or fill out this form.