To celebrate, we’re going back to the same question we started with: What does SHAME mean to you?

“There are people who see sex educators or people who speak so openly about their sexuality as shame-free but that’s not the case,” Tara Michaela Jones said during our call. Jones is a black, queer sex educator based in New York with a bachelor's degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

With her unapologetically sex-positive online presence and "normalize being ran through" catch phrase, she's making waves in the online sex education space. “I try to be very transparent that we’re all in this together; I feel shame about certain things all the time,” she said. “If I can create an example for other folks who are like me, then that matters to me more than anything.”

We reached out to Jones to chat shame, the importance of community, and moving from a place of courage.

Our conversation was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

SHAME: What does shame mean to you?

Tara Michaela Jones: People think of shame as a very personal journey, but I like to think of systems and structures, and I don’t think shame is personal at all. I think shame is societal and intentional and profit driven. I think the point [of shame] is to keep you isolated.

When I was 18 years old and was just getting into self-pleasure, every single time I masturbated I would feel bad afterwards. I didn't think about it until I saw somebody post on my Twitter: “Why do I feel bad every time I masturbate?”

That’s part of what I’m trying to do, (...) have these conversations, because [18-year-old me] just sat there in her shame and didn’t think anything of it until somebody was brave enough to point it out.

SHAME: How do you work through feelings of shame?

TMJ: I think it's really important to find ways to communicate with yourself. Try to find ways to get it out and identify what it is you’re feeling.

Being able to isolate [the feeling of shame] and thinking: is there reasoning behind this feeling? Is this something that I’ve created myself or is this something that I was told, something that was pushed on me?

SHAME: How do you create a space that makes people feel safe to share their shame?

TMJ: It takes bravery. And it takes bravery not necessarily in the form of getting on the internet and being a sex educator, but even bringing up difficult topics with your friends and the people around you. The biggest thing is being willing to take that risk. The more you take the risk, the more you get comfortable with the risk.

The solution to shame is to be honest about the things you’re not supposed to be honest about and (...) creating a community around that honesty.