In the hours following rapper T.I.’s description of forcing his daughter to undergo “virginity testing,” much has already been said denouncing virginity testing as a harmful practice that violates human rights and reinforces patriarchal tropes and has no basis in sound medical practice.
Today, I’d like to write an open letter to Deyjah Harris about what her father, T.I. — whose real name is Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. — has subjected her to since her 16th birthday.
First, some background:
On a recent episode of the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, on which the rapper was a guest, he detailed how he polices his daughter’s virginity, explaining that he accompanies his daughter to the gynecologist each year to ensure her hymen is “still intact.“
“Right after her birthday, we celebrate, then usually like the day after the party, she’s enjoying the gifts, I put a sticky note on the door: ‘Tomorrow. 9:30,’” he said to the podcast hosts.
T.I. said his daughter’s doctor requires her to sign a waiver allowing him to see the results of her examination.
“I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem.’”
I want anyone who has been a victim of this to know that you do not deserve this treatment regardless of who it comes from — a parent, a partner, or a friend,
It is unethical — and in many circumstances illegal — for your doctor to disclose your private health information to anyone without your consent. A parent or partner handing you a form in front of the doctor and demanding that you sign it is not to be mistaken for your consent. A doctor should be able to recognize this as coercion, regardless of how famous the person in front of them is. Reading about how this transpired made my blood boil and my heart break.
This is not accepted medical practice, and you have the right to find a physician who respects your wishes.
The hymen remaining “intact” is a false indicator of virginity and has been debunked by medical experts.
Furthermore, the concept of virginity does not apply to you and does not define you. Your worth is about so much more than the appearance of your vagina or whether you are having sex. These are private matters, and it’s up to you how often and with whom you share the circumstances.
If and when you do choose to be intimate with someone, it can help to have an adult in your life to confide in. This person should love you unconditionally and be open to hearing what you have to say without judgment, shame, stigma or punishment. They can help you navigate the complex waters of consent, sex, love and heartbreak in a way that honors your agency while providing a trusted voice of reason when needed. There are also trusted resources online that exist to empower you, and I urge you to check them out.
It is possible to both love and honor your parents while rejecting aspects of your upbringing that devalue you.
I wish you all the best.