The protestors outside of the Planned Parenthood office I worked at eventually started heckling me by name. I knew their names, too, the regular ones, at least. The ones who owned the so-called crisis pregnancy center in the plaza next to our office. The ones who shrieked at us as we went into the office to do our jobs. The ones who hurled emotionally abusive insults at patients, pleading with them to save their babies, calling them murderers and sinners as the patients ignored their pleas. It was a regular part of my day when I worked for a Planned Parenthood affiliate in my early-to-mid twenties.
I started to take pride in the ways these zealots obviously followed me and my work in our community. They started tailoring the insults to be about my queerness, specifically. They’d yell that I was a dyke and that I was going to hell for being gay as well as for being a murderer. Mostly, it didn’t matter too much to me. We had a large parking lot. They couldn’t get physically close.
There were times when I got scared, though, like when I stayed late into the evening and was the last one out and had to walk to my car alone. Or this one time after dark when I saw a small, bright red light shining towards the building from inside a black SUV that was pulled up right outside the door. It turned out to be a light from a handheld device and the guy parked against the curb was picking up our medical sharps. Still, I had a momentary thought that it could be a sniper rifle just waiting for a worker to come into view.
I was just an entry-level community organizer. I can’t imagine how our abortion doctor and medical staff felt. Or our CEO. If you’ve never worked in an abortion provider’s office, you might not know that they usually have bulletproof glass around the reception desks or that the mail is all pre-opened by an administrator wearing latex gloves (in case there are harmful powders or sinister items in the envelopes). If you have worked in an abortion provider’s office, you know these things are routine and eventually become quite normalized.
Ironically, the first time I had anti-abortion hate mail delivered specifically to me was during my first week at my new job, in a small office of the ACLU of NY. We were a tiny staff of two. We didn’t have bulletproof glass or a secure entry or a process for opening suspicious mail. It was fine. It was just a hateful note and some literature. I was suddenly aware, though, of how much I took all those security measures for granted.
It’s still a dangerous time, even more dangerous, I might argue, for patients, medical providers, staff, and activists working in the repro health, rights, and repro justice fields. That hasn’t changed. It may even be worse.
I realized on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this year that it’s the first year since 2005 that I haven’t been working for an org that is actively engaged in repro rights work. I will always align myself with the repro justice movement, even when I was working within more repro rights-based organizations. (There’s a difference between repro rights and repro justice.) I definitely see my current job at Bitch Media as aligned with repro justice. However, my role there isn’t directly engaged in advocacy and for the first time I am not a part of the organized movement in my professional or personal life. That’s a big shift for me.
The second reflection that came to me on the Roe anniversary was that I am even more committed to abortion access as a mom and as an adoptee. As an adoptee, I always felt a little tension between the narrative that adoption was the “ethical choice” pushed by evangelicals and extremists. I was afraid to speak ill of being adopted. Obviously, it worked out for me! But the reality is that pregnancy and giving birth is not an easy peasy thing. Separating a newborn baby from the person who carried them and shared blood with them for ten months is not as easy as filling out adoption paperwork. I didn’t know how to articulate it until I had my own, very planned, costly, mostly easy pregnancy and childbirth.
Now I know. There’s an emotional impact that’s innate to pregnancy at every stage. There are reactions you don’t know you’re going to have and, whether you want it or not, a very real physical tethering between you and the little fetus alien t-rex zapping your nutrients and energy. Even if you can ignore or don’t have any maternal or parental attachment to your pregnancy, pregnancy does stuff to your body that’s just goddamn hard. It affects your ability to work and keep employment, in some cases. It affects your relationships with other adult humans. It affects how people see you and react to you. It makes you feel out of control of your own body and I can only imagine that it’s much worse if you didn’t feel that you were able to make the deeply personal decision to be pregnant on your own terms.
I was proudly pro-abortion before I was a mom. I’ve doubled down on that belief after becoming one. What once seemed common sense to me — people should be able to make their own decisions about health care, pregnancy, and parenting — has become even more radical. It is inhumane to deny a person the agency to make their own informed, stigma-free decisions about abortion, adoption, birth control, and parenting. I believe that with my whole soul.
The sidewalk protestor in my head is saying, “What if your mom had aborted you?” That’s a real thing they’ve yelled at me, ya’ll. As an adoptee, it always stung in a particularly abandonment-triggering way. Now, honestly, my answer would be:
“If I could go back and give my parent or parents the freedom to have an abortion if they wanted one, I would wholeheartedly want that for them. I was abandoned, left completely alone when I was just one-year-old, and I’m extremely lucky that my life is as rich and safe and full of love as it is. Adoptees experience real harm from being given up for adoption, even at a young age. Gestational parents experience real harm from being made to give their children up, particularly if they were led to believe that was their only choice. Being happy for my life and deeply loving my family is not the same as believing that my gestational parent should have been made to carry me to term. If my ‘mom had aborted [me],’ that would have been her decision and I wouldn’t be here to have an opinion about it and that truly is a-OK with me.”
When I look at Remi, I feel such joy and I know what it means to make a parenting decision completely on your own terms. I also think, “Wow, I never want to be pregnant or raise a newborn again.” I can make that decision. To have that option is a huge privilege, one I will always fight for every person to have.
3 Queer Parenting Things I’m Currently Overprocessing
1. Things I Definitely Said Outloud This Month
- I said no food in the bathroom.
- No way. You can not hide those in my crotch.
- Head-to-back: You can only pet the cat in one direction.
- Do you need to go in time out… or are you going to put your shirt on?
2. Waffle’s Newest Snow Baby
Big surprise. Remi loves the snow! We’re officially past the age where we get excited about snow. We live in a four-season region of the Northeastern United States. Snow is pretty for a second and then you have to leave your house and it’s a lot less enjoyable.
As with anything, kids make snow more bearable because they love it so much. Every morning before school, Remi tries to get every last second of snow time before I make her get in our car.
She also “helps” us shovel the driveway and sidewalk and her new favorite thing is being buried under the snow (only when she has snow pants on). She even, somehow, got us to lie down in the snow, which is quite a thing because it is not 100% definite that either of us will be able to get back up.
3. Baby T.’s First Chopsticks!
For Christmas, Remi got a pair of training chopsticks (with a rice spoon!) and she’s so happy using them! Whenever I’d use chopsticks, she wanted in on the action, but she could only wield one at a time and her technique was primarily stabbing.
I’m happy to be starting her early. I learned how to use chopsticks from the back of a paper wrapper in a Chinese restaurant. I just finally got my own Korean chopsticks (with rice spoons!) this Christmas. I’m trying to level up my Korean culture. Baby steps!
View this post on Instagram
Rang in the new year right with family dinner featuring Remi’s new kids chopsticks (thanks Nana & Papa). She was so proud of herself! Then we did Jello jigglers featuring ocean animals and edible stickers! Starting off 2020 right! 👍🏻👍🏻 #babytrex #daddydino #toddlersofinstagram #chopsticks #jello #jellojigglers #oceananimals #dinnertime
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