Varuna Srinivasan on Breaking Intergenerational Trauma in the Bedroom
Q: Tell us about yourself and the work you do.
My name is Varuna Srinivasan (she/they) and professionally I have a degree in medicine and public health and a lot of my work has been centered around advancing gender justice and gender equity. I've worked with Doctors without Borders, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and also in India, Rwanda, Nepal before moving to the US as my home base. Right now, I do a lot of creative content creation and I'm really arriving to this phase of my life right now.
I've taken on the role of sexual wellness, sexual health educator, and really trying to approach sexual health education in a creative way because that's where I feel the most fulfilled. A lot of my work is informed by my own body and own thinking and where I am in life - and I think that's how it should be.
Q: What has allowed you to move into a more body centered or creative approach to sexual health and medicine?
In India there is a martyr concept that you have to sacrifice everything, and I started med school when I was 18. Your teenage years and early adulthood is a really pivotal time for exploring who you want to be and finding your footing on this planet. I really feel like I lost out on that, and I went through a grieving process in my late 20s because the medical program was so rigid. I was always made by society, my family, and society to chose medicine over creative expression. I just didn't want that to stifle me. Sometimes we think that there is only one way to success and I'm lucky and privileged that I can enjoy medicine and health, but I had to find that on my own terms.
Q: What allowed you to shift away from a culture that was always dictating what you should do? How do you listen to yourself?
Everyone has to come in to their own, and for a long time my voice was determined by my father, I really wanted to impress him and I was the first-born and was the child who had to be the doctor, the surgeon, get married, have two kids and you know that was their dream for me. It took me a painful grieving process to step away from that. There were periods where I felt like I was letting people down, but I had to show them that I could find my own path and what I saw for myself. I had to decide to continue following my own path, multiple times, it was always a choice. I wanted to pursue public health and I didn't want to regret any choices later on in my life. Going to therapy also really helped me start prioritizing myself and what I needed.
It is a cycle and battlefield, and as cheesy as it sounds there are things that are just worth fighting for and at the end of the day the last thing I want to do is have someone else's voice running in my head.
Q: What are small baby steps for people to take to build a stronger relationship to their sexuality or cultivate sexual wellness?
It really depends where that person is in their life, first of all the circumstances need to be safe for individuals to explore these parts of themself that's the biggest priority. The internet is also an amazing place to find your community and that's going to be your guiding light, when you're able to meet and see people like you that's a validating experience. Part of the intergenerational trauma is being part of communities that only have one type of value and so you need to find other people who are creating different values to remove the guilt or shame that comes with intergenerational trauma.
Q: Where do you find hope?
Nature, being outside and seeing people.
Q: If you could be any plant what plant would you be?
I would be a neem plant, it has a lot of meaning to my ancestral legacy.
Q: What is a book that has transformed the way you see yourself or the world?
A Marriage of a Thousand Lies, it's about two queer people who are in a straight marriage because of societies expectations. She's a Tamil Sri-Lankan immigrant, and it really made me think about our culture and there was a lot of real life truth in the character's fictional stories.