I am a pro-choice person. Being one completely changed my life. I had lost my direction and gotten lost in a bottle or two (or four). I started volunteering because I needed something in my life that made me feel good about myself, good about my life, just good. Because of taking that first step, I was able to get on the path that I wanted to be on, and I absolutely give full credit to my work as a pro-choice activist for getting back into school and getting my life back together they way I envisioned it. Small steps can make big changes.
Part of what I do is to escort patients into the clinic. Even though this is New York City, there are regular, anti-choice harassers outside of the clinic every weekend. I am used to them. We strangely have a silent agreement about what they are allowed to get away with, in the interest of keeping the area outside of the clinic as calm as possible. The people in the neighborhood are very supportive of the clinic. Several times during a shift, they will thank whoever is standing by the door or across the street. Escorting in New York City is mostly a job of Good Mornings and smiles. But there is a reason we are all trained to deal with anti-choice protesters.
A few weeks ago I was threatened. Not by one of the regular antis, but by an older, white man walking past the clinic with his older, white male friend. At first he thought that I was anti-choice, but once he realized my (correct) stance on abortion, he began to scream at me, trying to shame me into believing that trusting women is somehow wrong. My training kicked in. I used the line I keep in my pocket for just such an occasion. “Sir, I am not going to discuss this with you.” My job is to be there for patients, not to give him an audience. He kept screaming, so I said to him (using my theatre training to be loud without yelling), “Sir. You need to move on. Go enjoy the beautiful day.” At which point he says, “I could kill you, but I would have to go to jail.”
He moved on, yelling at the other escorts across the street. Sadly, it took me until he started talking to Anti Ann (a regular) to realize what just happened. As soon as I do, I whip out my Blackberry and snap a crappy picture of him, his friend and Ann. After my shift (which ended a few minutes after he was out of sight), I take care of all of the business around the incident (forms at the clinic and the police precinct), and I am shaken up but okay.
What do I do from here? I definitely make jokes about how I’m a “real” feminist now. Gallows humor, yes, yes. I also definitely talk to my family, friends and therapist trying to work out what I feel. I want to just let it go, let it not bother me. I even want to forgive him for those words. But I need to understand before I can let go.
I need to understand why someone that labels himself pro-life would threaten to kill someone. I need to understand why he would say he’s protecting babies but doesn’t understand that I am someone’s baby. I need to understand why he thought screaming at a person standing on a street was an appropriate response to anything.
I don’t understand, and I wouldn’t understand if I had the chance. I am not sure that I would want to even though I need to. Instead, I will be defiant. Because of that man, I understand how much work there is left to do. For anyone that believes that we live in a post-feminist world, I invite them to stand with me on that corner as the sun comes up and then say that to my face. Because of that man, I believe more in supporting a woman and the decisions she makes for herself and her family. Because of that man, I will be ready for the next one that tries to scream me into submission. In the face past threats and potential future ones, I will not back down, I will not be silenced, and I will not give in. The world I want to live in is a pro-choice one, and I will keep working until we get there.