why i march

Originally posted on Facebook.

I’ve seen plenty of back and forth over the last 24 hours about the rallies and marches that took place around the world yesterday. I feel privileged that I had the chance to take part in the rally here in Orlando, and I have a number of friends and loved ones who were part of other marches in different cities around the country. It gives me hope to see many of us come together in peace, love, and unity.

I’ve also seen the other side of this story. The side that throws “feminist” around as if it’s a dirty word. The side that feels yesterday was nothing more than a giant “temper tantrum” from those who did not get their way on November 8. Those that feel we (the protesters) should be thankful for how good we have it.

Let me make something very clear, in case it isn’t already: I consider myself a feminist. I didn’t for quite a long time, because for much of my life, things were very easy for me. I’ll own it: I was extremely privileged. And then, something happened: I had a mental health breakdown before college, and I had to become my own advocate for the treatment of major depression and anxiety after my suicide attempt.

Five years later, I was forced to become an advocate yet again, this time for my reproductive health after I was diagnosed with infertility at age 23 and no insurance provider would cover my medical expenses. To them, me being infertile was “elective” – as if I had chosen for my body to be broken. Soon after, my breast health took center stage, and I spent my time fighting for mammograms, despite having insurance coverage and physician approval.

All of these are lifelong medical conditions, meaning I still fight for my body on a daily basis. Recently, it took me a month to have my new depression medication approved by insurance. I have to wrangle with them every fall when I need new scans or testing, too, despite being under the care of one of the best breast cancer specialists in the state. It’s a never-ending battle.

And then came Kennedy. My sweet girl, born 5 weeks early, under some of the most difficult medical circumstances you could ever imagine. Not only did I find myself advocating for her medical rights (I still do), but I suddenly found myself having to stand for her human rights.

Have you ever been to breakfast with your child and had someone at the next table over stare at her the entire time? Give you dirty, disgusted looks? I have. Have you ever had someone comment negatively about how “ethnic” your child looks? Or her hair, specifically? I have. Have you ever been asked what your child is “mixed” with? Have you ever been asked if you are your child’s nanny? I have.

I am a feminist for myself, but also for her. I don’t protest because I “lost” on November 8. I protest because, as much as I have battled for myself and for my daughter, with that loss will come even greater struggle under an administration that has stated on multiple occasions it will enact policies that will harm 1) both of us, as women, and 2) my daughter, as a woman of color.

I protest not because I am ungrateful for how good I have it, but because I refuse to lose the progress we have made. I refuse to spend the next four years 1) moving backward, or 2) at a standstill.

I protest because the man we have put in power continuously makes statements and surrounds himself with individuals who do not respect me, my child, and numerous other minority or disenfranchised groups – whether it’s POC, the LGBTQ community, Muslim Americans, disabled, and many others.

I protest not to throw a temper tantrum, but to start a conversation – a dialogue about equality that has been absent in our society for far too long. If you’re privileged, it’s easy to dismiss this dialogue as unnecessary. I get it. When you’re sitting on that side of the fence, equality can sometimes sound like oppression. But I promise, it’s not. No one is trying to take anything from you. No one is trying to minimize your voice.

All we want is for our voices to carry the same weight and importance, not only in society but in our government. Because all of our rights are human rights.

I don’t know if there will ever be a day in my lifetime when I don’t have to worry about fighting for appropriate healthcare. I don’t know if I will ever be paid equally to my male counterparts. I don’t know if Kennedy will ever see a day when she isn’t judged by or questioned on how she looks or where she came from. But dammit, I’m proud to be a feminist fighting for the hope that these days WILL come – and I won’t stop until it happens or I’m buried six feet under.

planned parenthood

Originally posted on Facebook.

I want to begin this post by stating that I am not, nor have I ever been, a financial donor to or volunteer with Planned Parenthood. That said, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation about PP and abortion over the last few weeks. I’d urge you to take a moment and educate yourselves:

This week, legislators are set to vote to end federal aid to Planned Parenthood after the release of controversial videos suggesting that the organization sold fetal organs. The reality is that women who have abortions at Planned Parenthood are given an option to provide fetal tissue for medical and scientific research. Regardless of individual feelings and opinions on abortion, it is important to note that this is only done when requested by the patient.

It concerns me that Planned Parenthood may be stripped of millions of dollars in federal funding this week, under the guise of ending this practice — or worse, under the guise of decreasing the number of abortions PP performs.

ZERO federal dollars go toward funding abortion. Zero. Doing so would be in direct violation of the Hyde Amendment.

PP provides medical services for approximately 3 million individuals each year, most of whom are low-income teens and young women who would otherwise have no access to adequate health care. Approximately 3% of the services they perform are abortions. Stripping PP of federal funds would not stop abortions, nor would it stop women who are undergoing abortions from choosing to provide the fetal tissue to a third-party for research.

Eliminating federal funding would, however, decrease the number of reproductive services that the organization could provide to its patients. This includes cancer screening, HIV and STD screening, and — ironically — contraception.

If you are a woman, if you care about the women in your life, if you are a parent to a daughter, please consider contacting your U.S. legislators about the dangers of taking millions of dollars away from PP. Let them know you support millions of individuals, located in some of our country’s most impoverished neighborhoods, in their quest to receive adequate and affordable health care services.

Thanks. *steps off soap box*

third

I didn’t give you life. Life gave me you.

Life gave me your humor. Your infectious laughter when I tickle your neck, chase you down the hall, or play peekaboo. The way you blame farts on the dog and how hilarious you find the Mickey cartoon shorts, despite watching them hundreds of times.

Life gave me your stubbornness and sass. The way you love to tell me no. Your insistence of “I no do that again,” even though you will. Your quick ability to tell me when you don’t like something or you think I’m doing/saying something that’s incorrect.

Life gave me your curiosity. The way you already ask “Why?” about everything. Your fearless nature and how you tackle every new adventure the exact same way you jump into a pool: no hesitation and at full force. 

Life gave me your compassion. Your hugs and kisses when you can tell that someone is hurt or feeling blue. Your snuggles and reassurance when another person sheds tears. The way you say I love you, especially when it’s unprompted.

I didn’t give you life. Life gave me you. And I am forever grateful.

Happy third birthday, little one. 

  

my daily drive

Every day, while driving to and from work and to and from the gym, I pass a women’s clinic. This clinic provides numerous affordable health care services to women in the community — one of which is abortions. And each time I go by, I see parents sitting in front of the clinic with their young children, who are holding signs about God, and judgment, and hell.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for being able to publicly express both religious and personal beliefs. I also try hard not to focus on others’ parenting choices, but every time I witness this scene, I get a knot in my stomach. I don’t know which aspect of seeing kids unknowingly, or maybe knowingly, damning women they’ve never met to hell disturbs me the most. But the sight of it gets dozens of thoughts and questions running through my head.

I wonder why their parents have them out in the middle of the day, when they should be in school. I think, “Okay, maybe they are home-schooled.” Right? But what kind of home-school curriculum includes publicly shaming women? Or do I even want to know the answer to this question? Even as a non-practicing Christian, I would have more — or any — respect for these parents if they were reading to their kids from the Bible eight hours a day instead of sitting them in front of a clinic and having them hold up signs that many of them can’t even quite grasp the meaning behind just yet.

Then, I ask myself, “Why do they assume everyone entering the clinic is having an abortion? Maybe the patient who just pulled into the parking lot isn’t there for an abortion. Maybe she’s just getting an annual check-up. Maybe she’s in need of medication or a referral to another doctor. Maybe she found a lump in her breast or is experiencing pain. Maybe she’s truly very sick, and this is the only place she can go to get medical assistance.”

I’ve received medical services from women’s clinics multiple times in my life. I have also accompanied a number of friends on visits to these clinics. None of these visits involved abortions. Every single one of them occurred because seeing a doctor at a women’s clinic was significantly cheaper or faster than booking an appointment with a private office. Health care in this country is expensive, and services through a private office can be slow. If you are a low- to middle-class woman, even basic services like breast exams and pap smears can break the bank. For many females, local clinics are the only choice — aside from not receiving medical attention at all.

Then, my stomach turns when I think of the women entering the clinic who are terminating a pregnancy, but not by choice. How horrifying might that be? You’re having a miscarriage, and you pull up to the clinic only to be immediately judged without even exiting your vehicle. It must feel awesome, to have THAT as your last image before you go inside and prepare to say good-bye to your unborn child. I can’t even imagine the anger and the pain that must cause for these mothers, on top of what they are already enduring.

Mostly, though, I think about how these parents are teaching their children, so young and impressionable, to judge others.

I was raised Catholic. I know all about heaven and hell and “thou shall not kill.” But I also know, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). (Didn’t think this crazy, liberal, lapsed Christian could quote the Bible, did you?!) I wonder, “Why does it matter whether the woman walking into the clinic is there for a pap smear, a breast exam, or an abortion? Does she deserve to be judged? Does she deserve to be treated with such blatant hatred and disrespect?”

To me, the answers are obvious. No, it doesn’t matter. No, she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. But I guess it’s not so clear-cut for others, and that makes me angry. What makes us worthy of playing God? Why do we feel entitled enough to act as though we are Judge and Jury? What happened to accepting each other, regardless of choices? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to kindness toward our fellow (wo)man?

As I drive past this scene every day, my heart aches for these women. I don’t know their stories, and I don’t care. I don’t need to know their stories to know that the signs they face as they walk in and out of those clinic doors are hurtful to read — because they are hurtful for ME. And as the sight of this daily protest fades in my rear-view mirror, I fear for our children’s future . . . because I fear we are teaching them that it’s easier to criticize and pass judgment on others who aren’t “like us” than it is to provide love and support.