Il Misogino Italiano

Autostraddle asked me to answer a few questions for their A+ subscribers, one of which was about the worst date I’ve ever been on. I’ve since ceased dating and all romantic activities because quite frankly, I think most people suck. However, back in the day I was a dating machine and I’ve been left with a lot of stories. I have so many dating horror stories that I started a book about them several years ago.

In the interest of keeping my answers for Autostraddle brief, I’m sharing two of my chapters here on my blog with the first below. I hope you enjoy reading about my tales of dating woe.

Trigger Warning: Intimate partner violence, emotional and physical abuse by a cisman.

Il Misogino Italiano

He was a pretty, Italian boy that I found online. He told me he was a former model, citizen of Italy, a law student, and the son of a former model and of a wealthy, Boston based business man. He came across as emotionally detached, spoiled, and arrogant with a sense of entitlement so big that it couldn’t fit on the small tin can of a subway we Boston residents call the T. I thought perhaps it was me and my so called bitterness that left me with a bad impression so I gave him a chance. After a few email exchanges we agreed to meet and stroll around the Boston Commons. We walked, we talked, we shared, and I still felt uncomfortable and ill at ease with him. But, I agreed to a second date with him.

Date two occurred after I was released from the shackles of my classes. We met at my favorite dinner/drink/jazz spot in a neighborhood not too far from my place. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted from juggling work, my political commitments, chronic health problems, and graduate school, but I wanted an exciting distraction. Perhaps that’s why my judgment was so cloudy about this obviously spoiled brat. After a few drinks we ended up back at my place where he behaved like an even bigger spoiled asshole than I thought possible. His royal highness voiced many complaints during the course of his short visit: The wine I offered tasted awful. It was too hot inside. On and on he did nothing but insult my home. Eventually I was fed up and my slight vodka high had worn off. I told him it was time to leave. He became violently angry and behaved as if I owed him something. How dare I, a mere peasant woman, throw his fabulous Italian ass out on the street? I told him again to leave when he suddenly got in my face and started screaming. I had a complete melt down and not in the way that I’m accustomed to. Normally in these situations I’m the first to raise my fist in self-defense, but for the first time in my life I became the trembling victim who wouldn’t fight back.

I ran into my bathroom hoping to lock the door and hide until he left, but he ran after me, screaming and yelling. I was terrified and unsure of what to do. Suddenly there he was standing behind me yelling at me. I could feel his venom laced breath on my face and neck. Finally some sense of survival began to click inside me and I pushed him away. I ran into the hallway of my apartment planning to open my door and push his sorry ass out when suddenly he had his hands on my shoulders and threw me into a wall. I was so fucking terrified and shocked that I was speechless. What the hell happened between him being a rude creep that irritated the hell out of me to him being a violent man that I was terrified of?

He had me pinned against the wall and continued to yell, referring to me as a bitch and a slut. I had my faced turned away from him with my eyes closed, terrified of what would happen next. Eventually I looked at him and told him to get his fucking hands off of me. He didn’t do it so I then began to quietly beg him to let go of me. I was trying to keep the situation from escalating. Unfortunately this tactic didn’t work and I became angrier than he was. Who the fuck did he think he was? No one talked to me in such a disrespectful manner! No man yelled at me! And no man in his right mind grabbed me and threw me into a wall! I yelled at him to get his fucking hands off of me and pushed him away, hard. I opened my apartment door and told him that everyone in the building could hear what he was doing and that if he didn’t get out the police would be called. This seemed to do the trick. He finally left. After I closed and locked the door I collapsed on my apartment floor in a sobbing heap.

A few days later he had the audacity to email me with a half-ass apology about how he was just too drunk and that it was the alcohol that made him behave that way. He then went on to say that if I had simply continued our date as planned then he wouldn’t have become so angry. Because clearly it was entirely my fault and the fault of the makers of the alcohol he consumed that night that he was a misogynistic, violent, piece of shit who believed women had to give him want he wanted. No blame on his model boy shoulders at all.

Here’s where things get really scary. I was so deep in my own victimization and PTSD that this creep triggered that I agreed to go out with him again. I still to this day am unsure as to why I went out with him one more time. I’ve experienced abuse at the hands of men a several times in my life, but I never went back. This was the first time I could understand in a very personal manner part of the psychology of the battered woman. I think that I was so desperate to be loved by anyone that I thought maybe he was sorry and would give me what I so desperately needed.

While in the middle of a conversation on our second date, he caught a reflection of himself and spent several minutes modeling in front of the mirror. I became frustrated with him and told him to “spend time with me and you can stare at yourself when you get home.” I was responded to with a disdainful snort and “when I’m ready.” It was at that moment that I really saw him as more than just an egomaniacal, abusive bastard. He was a part of a violent rape culture that had hurt me and countless other women. He believed, and had been told throughout his life, that because he was a man, a good looking man, a straight man, an able bodied man, a wealthy man that he could demand and have anything that he wanted, including women. His privileges led him to see women as lesser species that he could treat how he saw fit. If he wanted to yell at us, insult us, threaten us, hit us, well, that was within his right as a man. Thankfully my Indigenous Feminist values and sense of self-worth finally kicked in because I shudder to think what would have happened if I had continued to see him.

A few months later I saw him having a drink at the Newbury St restaurant that all of Boston’s Euro trash frequent. I wish that I could say that in the end he got what he deserved. That he was arrested, charges were pressed, a permanent legal record formed, that he contracted a scorching case of herpes that never went into remission, but sadly, I can’t say any of that. Guys like him get away with this abusive behavior everyday because we live in a world that sends a loud and clear message that women, particularly women who are like me (Bi, Disabled, and Native) deserve abuse. We deserve less pay at the same job than a man and our white, straight, and able-bodied women counterparts. We don’t deserve to feel safe on dates, with our families and friends, on the street, in the military and relationships, or at our jobs, schools, or homes. We don’t deserve to be believed when abused or legal protections. We don’t deserve the right to control our own bodies and our own lives. We don’t deserve to decide when or if we have children. We don’t deserve the right to be autonomous sexual beings. We are mere toys for the boys to play with when and how they see fit.

This story isn’t simply one bad dating story that happened to one unfortunate woman; it’s a symbol of how deeply embedded patriarchy and gender based violence are into our American way of life. It’s as American as apple pie. I hate apple pie.

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Trump, Warren, and the Dehumanization of Native Women

I’m incredibly busy with fast approaching deadlines and article pitches, but I wanted to share one of my recently published articles that I’m immensely proud.

I spent countless hours on the research, writing, and editing process. My PTSD was triggered throughout this piece and I was constantly in fear that I would let my ancestors, Indigenous women, and people down by the work that I produced. Through the help of many amazing friends and an incredible editor (I now know why writers thank their Editors) Kelley Calkins, I made it through the other side. I was honored with the privilege to interview Madonna Thunder Hawk and Rebecca Nagle for which I will always be humbled and thankful.

With that said, I give you Trump, Warren, and the Dehumanization of Native Women

http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/08/08/trump-warren-and-the-dehumanization-of-native-women/

Pride, Dignity, & the Failing of Section 8

*I apologize for the bad formatting, but WordPress refuses to properly post this and I refuse to wait for this program, or any other, to give me the space to express myself through grammatical correctness.

I’ve had a lot of questions and suggestions lately regarding my housing search with my Section 8 voucher. I thought I’d take the time here to explain how this program works, or rather how it doesn’t work.

There are a variety of housing vouchers and public housing options with continuously changing program stipulations that are impossible to keep up with. I have a Section 8 voucher which means I can, in theory, move where ever I’d like. I pay 30%, or up to 40%, of my income in rent and the housing authority pays the rest. I can’t go above 40% of my income in my portion of the rent because then I’d be rent burdened and Section 8 is supposed to help eliminate that.
The housing authority that issues a person their voucher is dependent upon what city they live in. There are a set number of vouchers available for disabled people, the elderly, families, and single, able bodied people. The wait lists vary a great deal based on which of those labels are applicable to you and on what city you live in. Brookline has a 10+ year wait for a voucher. Somerville had Section 8 vouchers available only to disabled people. It took me approximately 3 years to get this.
Now on to the rental details of this ineffective and soul crushing program. Everyone is issued a Section 8 voucher for a specific number of bedrooms, not a monetary value for rent. My voucher is for an one bedroom apartment. All voucher holders have to adhere to what is referred to as “payment standards” that are set by each municipal housing authority. This is essentially a cap on how much rent and utilities are allowed. The payment standard for an one bedroom in Boston is $1387 and for Somerville is $1261. Anyone who lives in Massachusetts knows that rent costs a great deal more then this and salaries don’t come close to covering it. That’s why you have so many adults living with roommates in this area. Given that we’re currently facing a serious housing crisis in Boston the unrealistically low Section 8 payment standards create an even larger barrier to safe and affordable housing for disenfranchised people.
So you can’t spend over $1387 in rent and utilities for an apartment in Boston so get a roommate. Makes sense, right? Except you can’t. Anyone who lives in the apartment is considered additional household income and then that counts against me and the services I receive. Why don’t you lie to get around this? Because you can’t. The voucher can only cover the set amount of bedrooms in an apartment that it’s issued for. I can only use my voucher for an one bedroom apartment. I still can’t have said apartment go over the payment standards. You still can’t lie to get around this? How will the housing authority know? Because they inspect the apartment before the voucher holder moves in and they receive a copy of the lease. Having a roommate doesn’t help me in finding a place they’ll approve of, nor does it impact how much I’ll directly pay in rent. It merely increases the likelihood that I’ll lose my voucher for not following the program rules.
Coincidentally, I’m only allowed a guest to stay a total of 22 nights in a year. That’s isn’t 22 nights per person. It’s for the entire year. Let’s say I’m dating someone and we want them to sleepover 1 night a week at my place. They can’t because I’d then risk loosing my voucher. I could also risk loosing my voucher for using medical marijuana in the apartment because while it’s legal in Massachusetts it’s still illegal on a federal level and Section 8 is funded through the federal government. I can use oxy (with a prescription) until my heart’s content, but I can’t use weed which helps my pain a great deal and has far less side effects then narcotics. These are two great examples as to how Section 8 further polices the bodies of the poor and plays the role of the institutional Daddy that is there to make sure we do right because we can’t possibly be trusted to make the best decisions given our situations for ourselves.
Moving along to the inspection. In theory, the inspection makes sense. It’s to ensure that Section 8 voucher recipients are living in safe homes that meet health and sanitation codes. However, it takes one to two weeks to have the inspection completed and the apartment must be empty when inspected. This means that the property owner is going without rent for part of a month in the hopes that they’ll pass inspection and they can rent to the voucher holder. They also have to fill out and submit a great deal of paperwork including some of their financial records. How many landlords have you had that would do this? I haven’t had a single one in Massachusetts that would go through this. When going to see apartments there’s almost always someone living in the apartment at the time of viewing and they usually move out the day before the new tenant moves in. Landlords here don’t even take a day to clean, make necessary repairs, and paint. The inspection then creates one more barrier to finding an apartment with Section 8. There is also of course the discrimination that voucher holders experience, but I’ll leave that for a later discussion.
Don’t some buildings have low income units? Yes, buildings that receive certain tax subsidies do have to put a set number of low and moderate income units in their buildings. The problem is that they don’t have to put in many of these units. In Boston, and many other large American cities, the only housing being built are high rise condo and apartment buildings for the obscenely wealthy. Many of these units begin at million and go up in cost. The developers become wealthier on the tax payers’ dime while creating a greater housing disparity that creates housing instability, higher rates of homelessness, over crowding in housing, and rent burden. The government of course plays their part in allowing this to occur.
I have a list of approximately 500 buildings in Boston that currently have these low to moderate income units. Can’t you apply for one of these units? How does this work you ask? It’s a long, tedious, time consuming, and soul crushing endeavor. The list shows 20 to 30 property management companies that manage most of these properties. It makes sense that you’d call the management company to find out about the units they have in all their properties, right? In case you haven’t figured this out yet this system doesn’t work on common sense and a stream lined approach to housing. You have to call each individual property to find out if they have units available. They’re also primarily open only Monday to Friday from 9 to 4. If you can’t make the multiple hours worth of phone calls in that time period then too bad. You’re simply out of luck. To add to this frustrating and draining process many of these sites don’t answer the phone and only have an option to leave a voice message, but they never return phone calls.
Isn’t there a website you can go to to submit an application or inquire about availability? No, there isn’t. When I have been able to get someone on the phone I’ve often been told they’d email or mail me applications, but that more often then not hasn’t occurred. Some properties require applicants to send self-addressed stamped envelopes for an application or to apply in person. Not every voucher holder has the means to apply in person due to a variety of factors such as disability. work schedule, and cost of transportation. Poor people also don’t have the money to buy numerous stamps and hope that the applications will be sent to them. Many of these applications are also 10 pages long so one stamp on a letter size envelope won’t work.
If these units exist why are you complaining about how difficult it is to find housing with your Section 8 voucher? Because the units are always taken and the wait lists, if they’re even open, are 1 to 10+ years long for an unit. I called one property last week that has had their wait list closed for 9 years because they have such a backlog of people in need of an affordable unit. One property management company that I’ve spoken to has a company policy not to tell Section 8 inquirers how long their wait lists are. I suspect that this is an attempt to appear as if they’re helping the community while really they are only pillaging.
10 years is a long time, but isn’t it better to just get yourself on these lists and try to wait it out? Think again. Waiting out a dire situation of poverty and rent burden leads to homelessness, abuse, and the growth of personal health issues and disability, as well as public health concerns. It’s also inhumane, elitist, and an unrealistic option to tell people to wait it out. To add to the emotionally, physically, and mentally crippling problems that poverty leads to for so many of us there is also the issue that vouchers expire. A Section 8 voucher holder has 60 days from the date of issue to find an apartment and sign a lease. If after 60 days you don’t have an apartment then you can file for a 30 day extension. If after those 30 days are up you can file for one more 30 day extension. In total, voucher holders have 120 days to find an apartment that meets the completely unrealistic demands of the Section 8 program.
I’ve opted to fill out applications for buildings in the Boston area that have a wait list of a year or less while hoping that I can find something in the now 3 months I have left on my voucher. Let me tell you about some of the questions that are asked on these preliminary applications. I’ve been asked my gender, age, race, eye color, height, weight, and if I have a criminal history and if so the details of said record. But discrimination in housing is illegal you say. Ha! I say to you. Even before I began my housing search with my voucher and I was employed full time I was told by landlords that because I’m a single woman they won’t rent to me if my father doesn’t co-sign the lease. As we all know we women can’t possibly handle our finances ourselves without a man involved and we all have fathers to fall back on. I’ve had landlords ask about my sexual orientation and dating practices. I’ve had landlords make racist comments about the fact that I’m Native. And on and on and on. While this is all illegal that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur and the applications that most affordable housing units use are full of bigoted questions that can lead to housing discrimination, as well as the complete breakdown of one’s self-worth which is already difficult to maintain in the face of poverty and oppression.
Let’s move along to a possible happy outcome. You found an apartment! Let’s celebrate! No my friend, not yet. Now you have to come up with the financial resources to secure the apartment. The housing authority only pays the first month’s rent and the last month’s rent is only paid in your last month in the apartment. They don’t help with deposit nor do they put a cap on what the property owner may ask for. There’s also the matter of the non-refundable one month realtor fee because so many landlords in the Boston area use realtors to advertise their property. This is also not regulated by the housing authority. Even with a Section 8 voucher I could still be looking at anywhere from $3-5,000 that I have to put upfront to move into an apartment. I have Section 8 because I’m poor so I don’t have that kind of money.
Aren’t there other government programs or charities that can help with moving expenses? In theory, yes there are, but like the Section 8 program itself these programs are few and far between and have many stipulations that most people don’t meet, even if you’re poor and disabled. Because I’m disabled I have a much higher cost of living due to my health and life needs and I don’t have the luxury of moving with a Uhaul and some friends. I have to hire movers which increases the amount of money I need to get into a new apartment. Thankfully I can pack myself so I don’t have to hire packers, but that’s still incredibly painful and difficult for me to do so it’s a slow moving process that keeps me from taking care of other issues in my life, such as maintaining my health, applying to jobs, or writing. I might also mention that many of the charities that do supposedly help poor people are incredibly misogynistic and bi/trans/homophobic such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army. I finally swallowed my pride today and called both for help, but was told that Catholic Charities had no money to give-because the Catholic Church is so hard up for cash-and no one answered the phone at Salvation Army.
Let’s say that by some small miracle I was able to save the amount of money that I need to move into a new apartment. Here’s where the system really fails me and countless others. The fact that we’d have that money is counted against us in the services we receive. Any money that I save means that my food stamps, disability, health care services, and Section 8 can be drastically cut or eliminated all together. Even if I were able to save money, which I’m not because I’m given so little that I can barely even live, I would have to keep it in my sock drawer or a coffee can because I can’t have it anywhere that the government can see. This is one more way that the system keeps poor people from being able to save and invest in order to get out and stay out of poverty.
Just to add to the ridiculously out of touch nature of government based social services student loans are not considered in your cost of living breakdown. As we all know us poor people are uneducated, lazy, and stupid. We couldn’t possibly have pursued, or hope to pursue, a higher education. (Full time students are not allowed to live in many affordable housing units). I can’t file bankruptcy to eliminate my student loans and because I have private loans I can’t even have the interest rates or payments lowered or deferred. Every time I apply for a service or fill out any of the countless forms that keep my current services in place they don’t count the nearly $600 monthly student loan payment that HAS TO BE PAID as one of my living expenses. If my mom didn’t co-sign those loans then I wouldn’t have been able to get my education which has proven to be utterly useless and detrimental to my financial health. As many know my relationship with my family is tenuous at best and outright toxic and abusive at its worst. I believe that if my mom wasn’t financially obligated to pay my loans  then she wouldn’t help me in paying them. As a result I would default and the government would most likely take that money out of my monthly disability check to make the payments.I then would be without a doubt homeless. Thankfully she is obligated and able to pay them so this is a concern that I’m able to put on the back burner for the time being. Of course having excessive student loan debt doesn’t help my credit score so it does impact my current state.
There you have it. This is a basic breakdown of Section 8 and its many failings. I’ve come to the conclusion that pride and dignity are privileges only reserved for those with some measure of financial stability and mine are being chipped away more and more with each passing day. I currently am at a rent burden rate of about 80%, live in an unsafe house where I’ve hurt myself twice on the property due to my landlord’s negligence, and am unable to have many of my health care and life needs met and am without the resources to climb out of poverty. My depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are only growing worse throughout this housing search process. I honestly don’t believe that I’ll continue to fight if I lose my voucher. If this occurs I’ll mostly likely be one more statistic of an Indigenous, bisexual, disabled, woman that’s a rape and abuse survivor that found the system and society to be nothing more then a serious of humiliations and abuses that were too much to bear.
After years of studying and working in politics and now being on the receiving end of so many government services I can confidently say that the system is not working to help people survive or thrive and move into a place independence; it is set up to keep the oppressed down so that we can never rise up and take what’s rightfully ours.

Advice Needed

I need some serious advice. I just found out that my roommate has been charging me $175 more a month for the rent. Our rooms are the same size. We both pay half the utilities and oil bills. I don’t use any of his belongings. He does NONE of the cleaning. This property is falling apart and is so unsafe that I’ve hurt myself two times because of my landlord’s negligence and my roommate won’t do anything about it or allow me to. There’s also no lease so that’s not even an excuse he could use as the only person on the lease.

$175 isn’t much for many people, but it’s a great deal for me. It means the difference between going without enough food, and healthy food at that, and having my diabetes become worse and putting me that much closer to blindness, losing limbs, kidney failure, and heart disease. Two of those are already issues in my family. It’s the difference between me having enough money for the T, The Ride, and cabs so I can get places I need to go. I’ve missed doctors’ appointments because I didn’t have enough money to get their or the physical energy to take the T. It means being able to join the Y so I can have access to a pool so I can get in better shape and have my chronic pain be that much better. It means being able to send out my laundry on occasion rather than having to limp to and from the laundromat and having to take extra pain pills as a result. It means not having the horrible side effects that come with pain pills and not exacerbating some of my health issues. That amount of money could also give me the tiny cushion I need so I can put some energy into things I enjoy and want to accomplish like writing, getting published, starting the reproductive justice organization that I so desperately want to form. $175 makes a huge difference in my life.

I only moved into this place because after 10 months of searching it was all I could find. No one in the Boston area wants to live with one of us so called dirty, diseased, slutty bisexuals. Yes, I’ve been called those things multiple times by both straight and lesbians and gay men here in so called progressive Boston. I’ve had a roommate call me a squaw and think it was just hilarious to talk to me that way. Even if I can swing the rent for places I don’t have the thousands of dollars to put down that landlords require now. I’ve lived in roommate situations where I was so scared for my safety that I moved furniture in front of my bedroom door. Then there are the numerous costs associated with getting housing that meets my disability needs.

I moved into this shitty house because I had no where to go and was trying like hell to get out of an abusive relationship with little to no help from anyone. I had to fight just to get paid by the “progressive” candidate I worked for at the time. I was at the point of looking at women’s shelters because I was so desperate. Meanwhile I had to go on living life as if everything was ok because I couldn’t possibly tell all the productive and successful people I know that I was currently being abused and needed help. I reached out to one person for legal advice that I thought was a close enough friend and she simply told me to figure it out on my own because it wasn’t that complicated. She’s now a City Councilor and only reached out to me last spring when she decided to run and needed money and volunteers. The hypocrisy of the people in politics in MA is unbelievable. And people in the political world here wonder why I’m so angry with the MA Democrats and “progressives.”

Things got so bad that I tried to kill myself. My psychiatrist was shocked I was even still alive after I finally told her and my therapist what I had done. If I wasn’t pumped full of so many fucking drugs on a daily basis then I might have been lucky enough to have this miserable excuse of a life finally end.

Every day is a constant struggle just to keep myself alive. I’m so upset that my roommate is one more person that has significantly added to the misery I suffer through day in and day out. I have no where else to go and no one to turn to that could help. My own mom can’t even be bothered to call me on Christmas or my birthday.

I don’t know how to handle this and right now I feel like I’m going to have a complete meltdown. I was already having a hard day because of a night full of horrible nightmares and sifting through the over 20 prescriptions I take daily so I can possibly figure out what’s helping me and what’s making my health worse. I hate my life so much that almost every day just feels like a futile exercise of survival that only brings agony. I’ve been trying for three years just to get some in home help with domestic chores which the MA government has the ablistic audacity to refer to as “adult foster care!” Apparently being disabled and poor in MA means that I’m little more than a child. Even the case workers, therapists, and doctors I have can’t make the services I need happen.

I seriously need help and have no idea what to do. I don’t know what could possibly be suggested that I haven’t already tried, but throw any ideas my way. Please.

The Recent Omission of My Truth

I recently removed several of my posts because I’m job hunting and applying to graduate school. I know that this blog will cause great detriment to my chances of being admitted to my graduate program of choice and receiving the necessary funding as well as being offered employment. I’ve had so much taken from me over the years that I can’t bear the thought of loosing more so I gave in to the -isms of the world and removed my reality with the hopes of moving forward. I’m now on my third week of mind numbing pain that has now kick started my depression and I say “fuck it”! This is who I am and this is my life and if an employer or graduate school is too blinded by their own ableism to see my intelligence, dedication, and worth then it’s simply not a place I want to be. My previous posts are going back up.

Another note, I’m now seeing a Rheumatologist. My hands and wrists have decided join the chronic pain party. As a result of this and other health issues several of my doctors suspect that I may have an autoimmune disease. Yippee. One more obstacle to overcome. As if I needed more.

In the meantime I’m searching for part-time, temporary jobs, studying for the GRE because my scores from my previous test are now invalid, applying to policy grad programs and funding streams, am an Organizer for an anti-racist group, and am now on a programming committee for a local abortion doula organization and am half-way through my doula training.

I’m fighting like hell to keep going as if my life isn’t over, but there are some days when the pain is so intense that it’s impossible to find a shred of hope. I suppose that continuing to write openly and honestly is one of the ways in which I do that. No one will take that away from me.

I will not omit my truth for you

Ableism: The Other -ism to Bitch Slap in the Face! Part 1

For those of you that have  not clue one what ableism is I’ll school you. Ableism is discrimination and oppression against those with disability. It may come in a variety of forms from the serious to the everyday inpracticalities and impossibilities that are thoughtless and wear one down. An example of a serious current issue is the very real threat of extreme budget cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Many disabled people live below the poverty line and rely on these services to barely squeak by in life, yours truly being one of them, cuts to these services could literally mean the difference between receiving mandatory health care and a roof over one’s head to living on the street, no health care, or death. 

A less serious example, but still problematic issue that I often face in Boston is the constant hurtle of stairs. The damn things are everywhere. Just to get into the first floor of a building I usually have to climb half a flight of stairs. I am very rarely told about the presence of stairs before arriving at an establishment either and this includes doctors’ offices. For example, after a 2 and 1/2 hour T commute to the oh so trendy Shag Salon in Southie on what had to be one of the hottest days of the year, I arrived utterly sick and in pain to find the salon was on the third floor of a building that did not have an elevator. When stairs are difficult or impossible for one to climb and no one informed you of this because they assume that everyone is able bodied you tend to get fucking pissed off! Thankfully I was able to slowly trudged my way up, but I never went back again. My first appointment with my current therapist was not too long after my first knee surgery and I was still in a lot of pain and on crutches. I arrived to find several stairs I had to climb just to get to the elevator. I was in agony by the time I made it to her office. Assuming that everyone is able bodied because someone happens to be able bodied is similar to heterosexism in the way that it works under the assumption that everyone must be straight because said person in charge is straight. Get it? Good. 

There are important deviations of ableism and other -isms to keep in mind. Every oppressed group has these ol’ bugaboos and we’re no different: stereotypes! I’m using my experiences as examples, but stereotypes represent larger systematic problems at play. There are two primary stereotypes/challenges that I face regarding ableistic stereotypes. The first being the paternalism of the system because I am viewed as a child and the second being the desexualization, the fetishization, or the victimization as a disabled woman. 

Let us begin with the issue of paternalism and the childlike treatment. Upon becoming disabled I was treated radically different by people, doctors, society, and the system. I am now no longer seen as a human, a person capable of thoughts and feelings and the ability to know what is in my best interest. I am viewed as nothing more than a disabled blob, a child really, who cannot possibly take care of herself and therefore is patronized and left to beg and wait for the bread crumbs that are thrown my way. Two cases come to roaring to my mind right now. The first is the meal delivery program that I use, Community Servings, and the second is my current health insurance quandary. 

I am currently a client of Community Servings meal delivery plan because I am often unable to cook for myself or go to the grocery store because of my chronic pain and limited mobility. At first I was very excited about this program as well as furious that despite my multiple inquiries during my knee surgeries I was repeatedly told that no such program existed. As a result I was left to fend for myself when I was so immobile and deep in pain that getting from bed to bathroom was next to impossible. That’s a rant for another day though. Moving on…Seeing as I have diabetes I’m signed up for the diabetic meal plan. Do I receive lots of high fiber veggies, whole grains, and lean protein? No. Instead I get white flour starches, starchy veggies, rarely a green veggie in sight, dark chicken meat, and yogurt and desserts made with cancer and migraine inducing fake sweeteners. I can’t eat anything with fake sweeteners because they bring on a migraine faster than chugging a bottle of Jack. I also have no desire to eat the desserts or a lot of the food in the meals simply because they’re not healthy and they just don’t taste good enough to risk the harm to my body. I often throw out half the high glucose causing foods and then substitute with my own healthier food. In the end I’m still cooking a bit, but this at least helps me stretch my meager $200 monthly food stamp allotment.

After becoming tired of wasting the yogurt and such I finally called and told them that I wanted to stop receiving the fake sugar items. I was then told that because I’m diabetic that I’m not able to make changes to my meal plan and that I need my doctor to authorize the changes. Now take a minute to absorb that. I’m 33 years old and I need my doctor to allow me to eat what I know is best for me. Meanwhile that particular week these people brought me not one, but two frozen meals of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and corn, as well as enchiladas with white rice, but I’m not qualified to make decisions about what I should eat.  Apparently I am nothing more than a 5 year old that needs a parent to make my plate for me. Along with this condescending behavior regarding my food this program only delivers to me on Tuesday. There is no time window either. I have to stay home all day on Tuesday and wait for my delivery. I’m not an adult with things to do. I don’t have numerous medical appointments to go to, errands to run, or Heaven forbid possibly do something enjoyable if I feel up to it. I don’t need to register with Mass Rehab that happens to only register people on Tuesday morning. Nope. I’m just a poor, disabled person, ie a child that needs my parent to think for me. 

Issue number two pertains to my health insurance.  Overall I’m very happy with the insurance that I receiver through the state. I don’t pay deductibles, co-pays, and they’ve approved every drug and procedure I’ve needed. I’ve had some issues, but overall I’ve had a great deal of freedom with this insurance plan. Out of nowhere I received paperwork last month stating that I would be cut off from my current insurance plan and that I’m now enrolled in Medicare. Medicare comes with deductibles, premiums, co-pays, and prescription co-pays. These are all things I cannot afford to pay and will mean that I cannot see my doctors or get my prescriptions. These changes have been made without my consent. 

What did I do with my day today? Did I spend hours writing? No. Did I do my exercises? No. Did I make all the financial and doctor related phone calls I needed to make? No. Instead I spent my day on the phone trying to deal with the insurance issue. Of course the problem is not solved and this led to an anxiety attack, migraine, and increased neck pain. Thank you fucked up health care system for causing me more physical pain. Well done! Is there any wonder I have multiple ulcers in my esophagus?  

I was finally told that my state insurance is cut off because I now have Medicare, but I can apply for a program that will pay for the deductible, insurance premiums, and co-pays. This application period takes roughly 45 days and may not be in effect by the time my current coverage is cut off. This plan, if approved, will leave me paying co-pays on prescriptions which I currently don’t pay. I’ll now be looking roughly at an extra $30 a month in expenses that I simply do not have. This means I’ll now have to decide which drugs I need most when the reality is that I need them all. 

After speaking to Social Security I was told that if I waived Medicare then I would be responsible for paying back the disability I earned while I was eligible for Medicare. I didn’t entirely understand the time frame, but knew this wasn’t an option. My primary concern in all of this since it seems I can get most of the financial issues taken care of is that I doubt Medicare will pay for many of my necessary treatments. What happens to the doctors I’ve established relationships with? I have a lot of specialists and it’s been hard as hell to find them all. I recently found out that my PCP is leaving Boston and it’s going to be next to impossible to find a new one. I can’t possibly hunt down new specialists too. What happens to my mental health care? I see a therapist twice a week. Most private insurance companies would never pay for that, let alone Medicare. What about all the physical therapy I need? What happens when/if Medicare suffers more budget cuts? What happens to my quality of health care then? My current health insurance plan is perfect for me and yet I get no say in the matter because I’m simply poor and disabled. My voice, myself, doesn’t count. I just don’t matter. 

When I was merely poor I had no issues with the MA insurance plan, but once I became disabled it was all a new ball game. I lost any and all rights I had. I became a pawn between federal and state agencies. Who will pay for my healthcare? Who assumes responsibility of my gimpy, childlike self? I’m merely a burden that someone must think for. The goddamn paternalism that goes with ableism is fucking maddening! I already experience paternalism from the government as a woman and now I get this shit?! It’s enough to drive me guano and I’m already crazy. All I can say is that Medicare best pay for my therapy, psychiatrist, and meds or they’ll have one more loon walking around, not that they government would care one bit. Hell the Republicans would be nothing but thrilled to have a reason to lock me up and keep me from participating in society and democracy.

Deep breath. Calm and collected now. Zen Jen. As zen as this Jen gets without a vodka martini in hand or a good fuck anyway.

I’ll be back tomorrow for the concluding part of my Ableism piece.

Until then, you foxy readers you.

 

Roe, Reproductive Justice, & Me

NARAL America Blog For Choice 2013 2

 

I’ve finally returned to the land of the blogging. I’ll get into details of the last couple of months in my next entry. Today I want to celebrate the 4oth anniversary of Roe v Wade and share my story which will give you a glaring look into why I am an adamant supporter of reproductive rights and justice.

There are a litany of reasons why I support reproductive justice and why I use the term reproductive justice rather than pro-choice. I could easily write a series of books about these reasons, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stick to a couple of examples.

As a Native woman my body has been colonized just as our land has been. My people, the Cherokee, were forced at gun point by the US Government to walk in the dead of winter on what is known as the Trail of Tears. We left our home of the Southeast for our new home of then known Indian Territory and present day Oklahoma. It is estimated that 5,000 of us died during that winter. Our new land was stolen from us not even 100 years later by the government when they opened the land for white settlers during the Oklahoma Land Run.

Native women have (depending on the studies you read) a 3 to 6 times higher rate of rape in the US than any other race of women. To add insult to injury the Violence Against Women Act which was once a bipartisan supported bill was not resigned into law partially due to the fact that it gave tribes the right to prosecute non-tribal members, ie white men, who raped Native women on tribal land.

In the past we have faced the theft of our children to have them placed in Catholic “schools” that were nothing more than factories to teach them indentured servitude. While here our children were ultimately emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by the so called enlightened Christians. We have also faced forced government serialization simply because we are Native women. There have been cases of forced sterilization at the government owned and operated Indian Hospital in Claremore, OK. This is the very same hospital I used as a child.

As a disabled person I suffer a higher fate of health complications during pregnancy, difficulties raising a child, as well as the very real threat of forced sterilization by the government or having my child taken from me. A blind woman in Missouri had her child ripped from her arms only days after birth by the state simply because she didn’t properly breast feed on her first attempt. Because she was blind she was written off as an unfit mother.

Many in my government would rather see me die in a hospital than allow doctors to perform a lifesaving abortion. If I chose to have a child I would not receive the proper assistance I’d require as a disabled person to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child. Despite this though my government also believes I shouldn’t be allowed access to birth control or abortion. I suppose I just shouldn’t have sex.

There are countless other reasons that I rock the reproductive justice movement. I’ll always support organizations that are self-identified as “pro-choice.” We are all in this fight together, after all, but the legal right to abortion is not enough to guarantee reproductive rights and health for all women.  While many of these organizations fight for legal rights such as birth control and sexual education, they are often unable to push further on reproductive justice issues, particularly ones that may be more controversial like the rights of incarcerated women.  I say reproductive justice for me, reproductive justice for you, and reproductive justice for all!

To end this blog entry I have included a chapter from the book I am writing Cute, Crazy, & Chauvinistic: The Real Life Dating Adventures of a Bi Grrrl. This chapter is my abortion story. It is honest, heartfelt, and one more reason that I believe women, not the government or religious bodies, have the right to make healthcare and life decisions for ourselves.

 

Pink Lines

I’m making a departure in this chapter from my established theme. This chapter, like the others I’ve written, is highly personal and highly political. It’s a story that I’ve yet to tell in full to anyone: the story of my abortion.

I met the soon-to-be-father of my unplanned pregnancy on my 26th birthday. He messaged me on Myspace and we soon began chatting. Turns out he literally lived across the street from me. I took it as a sign and I invited him to my party. He seemed wonderful. He was attentive, smart (off to graduate school that fall), super cute, and my friends seemed to like him. I knew it would only be a summer fling, but I was a spontaneous risk taking kind of grrrl so I went with it. A few hours and many drinks later that night a friend was holding my hair back while attempting to calm me down while I heaved up my birthday shots and cried. I knew he would hurt me when he left. I had no idea at the time just how he would hurt me.

We casually dated for a few weeks and spent a few nights a week together. The fact that we were neighbors definitely played a part in the amount of time we spent together. In some ways he was very thoughtful & caring, but it wasn’t often that I saw this side. He actually cried when I told him about an incident of gender based discrimination that I encountered while I was a music student at USC and how it sparked PTSD from having been raped as a teenager. I’d never seen a man cry before, let alone for me and my pain. The few times I had ever attempted to open up to a man about these incidents they usually 1. Became awkward and withdrew from me 2. Blamed me for what happened or 3. Treated me like a weak victim that was broken beyond repair or that could only be put back together by a man.

I was blown away by his show of softness and concern. Despite this one time display of compassion and pain he more often than not was cold and lacking affectionate. I remember us walking through our neighborhood and him mocking me for wanting to hold hands. Eventually I had enough of his emotional aloofness and I ended it.

A week or so later he showed up at my house with a David Sedaris book (I had borrowed one of his and loved it) and a card.  I had never had a man give me a book. Most men seemed intimidated or put off by my intellectual side; this one seemed to really like it. Many of the nights we spent together had included us lying  in bed together reading. It was an intimacy and acceptance that I had not experienced until then.

He told me that he missed me. I, being the secret softy romantic that I am, melted on the inside, but kept my tough exterior. Of course I began seeing him again. During one of our makeup sex sessions the condom came off inside me. I had been on hormonal birth control and had just stopped taking it so I wasn’t too worried about pregnancy. At that point my main concern was cancer. I had just recently had a cervical biopsy and was terrified of any possible links between hormones and cancer. In hind sight I should have put that unscientifically supported fear aside and taken a dose of emergency contraception just to be safe, but I didn’t.

In the grand scheme of my life the biopsy wasn’t that traumatic, but I was scared and I went through it alone. I recalled a college friend of mine requiring the same procedure and her mom actually offered to fly to Los Angeles from New Jersey just to be with her daughter. My mom could barely acknowledge my feelings around the matter. I had also recently told someone I was dating about the biopsy. In the midst of our date he freaked out and literally walked away from me. His father had died from cancer so the mere mention of my biopsy sent him into panic mode. Once again, I was left feeling that men would always view me as damaged goods and ultimately be unreliable and only provided another source of pain.

A few weeks after the condom incident I was yet again fed up with my summer fling’s cold aloofness so I told him to get lost. He did…and so did my period. When my period was about 10 days late I decided to take the dreaded test, but I never really thought I could be pregnant. I had never once had unprotected sex, not even in high school when so many people have risky sex. I had unofficially taught and counseled the girls in my conservative, West Texas high school about safer sex and STDs/STIs. As an undergraduate student I taught sex ed to junior high kids in East Los Angeles. I had even just begun volunteering with a local LGBTQ health center and was giving out condoms, lube, and safer sex information in LGBTQ clubs. There was just no way I could be pregnant!

Once I pulled the decider of fate from in between my legs I noticed that damn pink line forming. I felt instant panic. I was only 26. I had a shitty, dead end job that paid me a lousy 26k a year. I couldn’t even financially take care of myself. I lived in a crappy apartment with a rude roommate. I had 125k of student loan debt from only my Bachelor’s degree! I was studying for the GRE and looking at grad schools. I had too many emotional and physical health problems to possibly consider carrying a pregnancy, let alone raising a child. I had just broken up with the father of this unplanned catastrophe. He was moving away for grad school in Georgia. This couldn’t be happening to me!

I hoped maybe it was just my imagination so I didn’t look at the test for a few minutes in the hopes that the line would disappear. But there it was: a fucking pink line. I hated the color pink! It was only fitting that my bad news would be delivered via a “perky” color.

The room began to spin and I could hardly breathe. I was in a full tail spin panic. I knew what I was going to do. There was no doubt in my mind in how to handle this nightmare come true. I knew with absolutely certainty though that this wasn’t my burden to suffer alone. I quickly messaged the father and told him that we needed to immediately talk and that it was very important. That night I went to his apartment and delivered the news. I told him that I had an appointment the following day at Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test and that I’d let me know the results as soon as I did. He insisted on coming with me despite my telling him that I really wanted to have the test alone. I honestly didn’t see him as a proper support system and I felt that if he went with me then this was real; it wasn’t some home pregnancy test error. Despite my wishes he still came along.

We sat nervously and awkwardly in the waiting room of the Brighton Planned Parenthood. When my name was called I was instructed to pee in a cup and leave it in a small window area. I could call for the results within two days. After doing as instructed we walked out onto Comm Ave, shell shocked and silent. He asked me if I wanted to take a cab with him back to Cambridge. There was a yoga class he wanted to take and it started soon. I was so angry when he said that. How dare he go on as if everything was fine! Didn’t he know that I was probably pregnant and would have to have an abortion? Didn’t he know that this brought back horrid images from when I was only 14, had just been raped, and was terrified I was pregnant? I couldn’t even buy a pregnancy test for myself at the time because my town was too small and people would talk, let alone privately acquire an abortion in the harshly anti-choice state of OK! There I was, once again terrified I was pregnant. My current circumstances were vastly different, but that didn’t make them good. How dare he not share my pain, anger, confusion, and helplessness! Yoga?! Really?! That was why he wanted to take a cab rather than the T? The fact that I was tired, stressed, and about to burst into tears at any minute wasn’t enough for him to warrant a cab, but a yoga class was? I firmly said no and ran for the train station.

Two days later I was at work and decided it was time to call for my results. I needed complete privacy so I went to the office gym when I knew no one would be there. I sat down on a weight lifting bench and heard the news. I was, in fact, pregnant. I immediately asked to schedule an appointment for an abortion. After being transferred to another department and being placed on hold I was asked if I wanted the surgical or the medical abortion. I knew my options and I opted for the medical abortion. I didn’t like the idea of having to sit in a clinic like a prisoner waiting on death row. I didn’t like the idea of some doctor man handling me while bringing my pregnancy to an end. I felt that the entire scenario was too familiar to being raped for me to endure.

The soonest I could get in was the following week on a Wednesday, but I was worried that I’d need a day or two to recuperate. Of course I couldn’t come in for the abortion pills on the weekend or a Friday night. I had to come in on a weekday morning. I scheduled the appointment for the following Friday so at least I would only have to take one day off from work. I was also forced to be pregnant for one more week. I didn’t know how I was going to keep myself composed until then.

I managed to get a day off from my rather resistant boss. I couldn’t afford to lose a day of pay so I took a vacation day. A vacation day! For an abortion! Damn it why wasn’t that bastard who was responsible for this going through the same nightmare I was?! It wasn’t fucking fair! That night I went to his place and gave him the latest news. We sat quietly on his bed for a few minutes before he told me that he couldn’t be with me if I had the abortion on Friday. He was moving his belongings to his parents’ house in CT that day. I explained the situation and asked if he couldn’t just delay his move a day. His lease wouldn’t be up yet. He had already planned to be in CT for a week before moving to GA. It wasn’t crucial that he left that Friday. He said that he wouldn’t change his plans and that if I really wanted him with me then I’d take the Wednesday appointment. Once again my feelings and needs were of no importance to him. I went home and laid down in bed and cried until I felt numb inside.

The week dragged on and I felt like Friday would never come. I was nauseous, exhausted, sore, and in emotional misery. The most basic things like going to work at an office for 9 hours felt so draining that one would think I had been doing hard labor for 12 hours. A co-worker’s Chinese food almost made me throw up on my computer keyboard and monitor. Every time I saw a child it was all I could do to not sob. I knew I was making the right choice for myself and a potential child. I knew that I was a good, responsible person and that it was bad luck that led to this. I knew that it was my right to make this decision and that no one had any business telling me what to do or how to feel. I was a feminist, after all. My body, my choice. Blah blah blah. None of this made my pain and frustrations go away. It was while on the T that I noticed what I was left to assume were a couple and their child happily playing. Their little boy looked so happy and amused from the simple act of riding a train. His parents looked just as amused watching him. It was that moment that I realized this pregnancy was a potential life. This nightmare could be our child. It would be so damn smart and cute with both of us as its parents. I practically ran home when I got off the T. I once again threw myself on my bed and cried until I couldn’t feel my pain.

That night I told him how I felt watching that little boy and his parents. He asked me if I had changed my mind and I told him no. I knew what I had decided, and the choice he agreed with, was best. I told him that despite my unwavering certainty in my decision that I still felt like I was killing a part of him, and of us. He broke down sobbing and so did I. We spent the night together. He was more affectionate to me that night than he had been when we were dating. Looking back I think it was the loneliness of the situation that led me to stay with him that night.

As Friday came closer I began to panic. I was terrified about the possible physical pain. I was scared of what the staff at Planned Parenthood would say or do. Maybe I should have the surgical rather than medical abortion? I called Planned Parenthood to ask if I could change to the surgical, but they informed me that I would have to wait another week if I did. I knew I couldn’t take another week of this insanity. I kept my Friday appointment.

A friend said she would go with me since the father wouldn’t. Friday morning the three of us were at my apartment trying to act as if everything was normal. My friend later told me that the father had thanked her for going with me and that she coldly responded by telling him that she was going for me, not him. When it was time to leave my apartment the father and I said our goodbyes. I told him that I loved him, which I did in an unexplainable way, and he returned my comment with a stoic expression. In utter frustration I almost screamed “say it back!” I knew he didn’t love me or care for me. Hell, he didn’t care enough about me to be with me during OUR abortion. I just needed to feel, no matter how briefly, that I mattered. That the experience I was going through wasn’t me alone, but rather our experience. He finally said that he loved me and I walked away to join my friend.

I was praying the entire T ride to whatever deities may exist that there wouldn’t be protesters outside the clinic. I had dealt with them while getting my checkups and biopsy and didn’t need a repeat encounter. My meeting with them had been rather ugly. The Brighton Planned Parenthood is on a busy street that runs between Boston University and Boston College. There are numerous young people on that street at any time of day. At that time, pre-Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law, the protesters would line up along Comm Ave and harass any woman that happened to walk by that stretch of side walk. The law at the time was so loosely written that these misogynistic monsters would literally get right next to women to the point of practically touching us, even if one of us were simply trying to cross the street to the grocery store that happened to be next to the Planned Parenthood.

My pre-pregnancy appointment at Planned Parenthood was for my biopsy. As I walked closer to the Planned Parenthood I was stopped by one woman hater after another with each one being more aggressive than the last. Once I finally made it to the door and began to open it a woman got right behind me and screamed “Don’t kill your baby!” Without even thinking I turned around and looked her dead in her eye and screamed “I’m here for a biopsy for possible cancer, you nosy bitch!” She looked utterly shocked and was silent for a moment. I turned around and as I walked in I heard her yell “Oh yeah that’s how you talk for a normal doctor appointment. Murderer!” There was no way in hell I could deal with an encounter like that on the actual day of my abortion. I knew if I had to see these horrible wastes of oxygen then I might break and punch one of them and end up in jail. The Goddesses cut me a break and there were no hate filled “Christians” to contend with that day.

My friend and I both took off our coats and put down our bags and separately walked through the clinic metal detectors. We then passed through two different locked doors before arriving in the waiting room. Yeah, can’t imagine why any woman would get angry and scream at a protester under these conditions. I never had to walk through metal detectors and locked doors for any of my other doctors.

I irritably signed in and sat down as far from people as I possibly could. I saw several different people throughout the eight hours my friend and I spent at Planned Parenthood. My appointment began with having my blood drawn and a hospital bracelet put on my wrist. I told them I didn’t want the bracelet and that I was only there to get the pill. The nurse responded in a bitchy tone “If you don’t wear the bracelet then you can’t have an abortion.” I was utterly furious! I felt like I was being branded with a large scarlet “A.” I got the bracelet and sat down to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Meanwhile my friend was reading one of her law books while occasionally complaining about the wait. The waiting room had several couples throughout it with the women wearing the scarlet A bracelet. I thought I might scream at any time. Why the hell wasn’t he with me now? Why did these women deserve to have their partners with them, but I didn’t? The entire damn reason I elected for the medical abortion was so I wouldn’t have to spend a day in a clinic enduring this added pain and rage and yet that was exactly what I was doing on my “vacation” day.

Next I saw a counselor. Thank goodness Massachusetts doesn’t have those horrible laws that require medically unsound and highly judgmental “counseling” designed by asshole legislators that care more about their so called morals than they do about women. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the counselor from making some faux pas. She had asked me when I had “unprotected sex” to which I responded that I hadn’t. I told her that she shouldn’t assume that every woman that walked through her doors had unprotected sex or even sex at all. I reminded her that many women are raped and that rape isn’t sex. I also reminded her that half the women who get abortions were using birth control at the time they became pregnant. She politely agreed with me and asked a few more questions before I could finally see the doctor. I went back to the waiting room and sat down in a very angry huff. Why should I have to tell these morons how to talk to women?! If there’s any damn place that assumptions should not be placed on women it’s at Planned Parenthood. While sitting angrily I also had to listen to the Wedding March being piped through speakers. Who the hell was running this place?! I sat there screaming in my mind “Jesus can’t I just have my fucking pill so I can go home and end this pregnancy already?! I just want to be free from this!”

Eventually I was called back for my ultra sound and pills. I was roughly six weeks along. I couldn’t believe that I was that far along. Finally the doctor came in and explained the pills to me. She told me that some women experience pain, cramping, and nausea and that I shouldn’t be alone. She asked if my partner or a friend would be with me and I said yes. I lied. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that the father didn’t care enough about me to post pone his move one day to be with me. I couldn’t tell her that I only had one friend in Boston that I could tell and that while she was sitting in the waiting room she couldn’t be with me that night. I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I was utterly alone.

She finally gave me the first pill to take at that moment and the second to take a few hours later at home. That night I chatted online with the father after I took the second pill. I mentioned that I was beginning to have cramps and that I didn’t feel so good. His response: “I have packing cramps.” I ignored it and told him to please stay online and that I had to go to the bathroom, but that I wanted to chat more. When I returned to my computer he had signed out.

I spent the rest of my Friday night in agony. I had never been in so much pain in my life. The time I dislocated my knee cap didn’t even compare to this pain. I was throwing up, had diarrhea, horrible cramps, and heavy bleeding. At one point I woke up on my bathroom floor not knowing how I had gotten there. The pain was so intense that I had passed out. I desperately needed a glass of water, but I didn’t have the strength to get it myself. Finally, after hours of this excruciating pain, it was over. The doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able to know when my body had expelled the fetus from my uterus and that I was so early in my first trimester that I wouldn’t be able to see the fetus, but I knew. I just had a feeling wash over me. It was finally done. I was no longer pregnant. A bit later the bleeding considerably slowed down and I was finally able to walk to my bedroom. I looked at my computer and he never signed back on. There were no messages on my phone either.

About two weeks later I finally heard from him. He emailed me to tell me about his move. He emailed to complain to me about how hard his life was and how horrible us Southerners were. He didn’t email to ask how I was. I became enraged. How dare he show such blatant disregard for me and what I had gone through! The hell I just went through was partially due to him and the hell I went through benefited both of us. I knew he was happy with the decision I made because the minute I told him I wanted an abortion he let out a huge sigh of relief. Who the fuck did he think he was to be so cruel?! I said all of this and more in an email to him.

He later responded to tell me that it was my fault he wasn’t with me during the abortion because I didn’t schedule it at a “convenient” time for him. He went even further telling me that it was my fault that I had become pregnant. Up to this point in my life only three people had incited so much rage from me: my emotionally abusive father, the boyfriend who raped me, and the guy who tried to rape me while I was in college. I hated all of those men and I hated my ex almost as much as them. I told him this and that I never wanted to speak to him again. He replied that it hurt him to hear that. I didn’t respond to him and we haven’t spoken since.

Roughly a month after the abortion I was at a counter protest sponsored by the Boston chapter of NOW. We gathered outside the Commons to show our support for women’s reproductive rights as the so called “pro-life” people walked by us. I thought I was mentally prepared for the onslaught of demeaning and derogatory words that the anti-choice monsters use about women such as myself. Turns out I wasn’t  A man walked by us with a sign that read “Abortion is Manslaughter.” Tears instantly filled my eyes. It hurt me deep down to my soul that I, the always caring activist that gives countless hours to help others, was thought guilty of manslaughter. Did these people realize that I was keenly aware that I had the potential for a life growing inside me and that I didn’t take that lightly? Did these people not realize that I took every means necessary to prevent a pregnancy? Did these people not realize that there was a man involved and that responsibility did not solely lie on my shoulders?

At that moment I became incredibly angry that I was considered a murderer, but that my ex-boyfriend got off scot-free. He didn’t have to beg for a day off from work. He didn’t use a vacation day for an abortion. He didn’t sit for hours in a clinic waiting for a pill. He didn’t have to endure hours of extreme pain and illness and days of bleeding. He would never be called a murderer, a slut, irresponsible, or the countless other fucked up stereotypes that the anti-choice and anti-woman agenda forces on women. That was the moment that I realized this was a highly personal and painful matter that the public felt entitled to judge me, and only me, for.

Slowly, over time, I began to talk to more friends about my abortion, many of which I learned had their own stories. I even read a personal essay about part of my abortion experience at an event held by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I so scared to read my story in front of strangers, politicians, and the people I volunteered with that my hands and voice were shaking. Later, several people, including a state politician, thanked me for sharing my story. Even now, almost seven years since the abortion, I cried while writing this chapter. My palms are cold clammy at this very moment.

I continue to be a tireless advocate for women’s rights, particularly our rights to control our lives and bodies. No on, and I mean no one, has any right to tell us what we may or may not do with our bodies. Forcing a woman to have a child, not have a child, or taking away her right to have or refuse birth control and sterilization is tantamount to rape. The so called “pro-life” people and movement can trump up all the medically unsound and unscientifically proven statistics they want. They can talk until they’re blue in the face about saving children. They can harass and abuse women. They can judge us and turn their backs on us. They can do their goddamn best to take away our legal rights and say it’s all in our best interests or that of a child, but I know the truth. They do not care about saving lives, but rather controlling women. Strong women with self-determination, money, and education scare the hell out of them. If they take away our right to control our reproductive systems then they can keep us pregnant and under men’s control. They want us beaten down, helpless, and weak. This is the exact same mentality of how a rapist views their victims. These “pro-life” people are nothing more than monsters that must be vanquished. Those of us with integrity and respect and love for women must fight back. And lastly, there are some men that need to understand that you are not pro-woman or pro-choice simply because you believe abortion should be legal. If you only view abortion and those of us who have them as a matter of convenience for you then you’re only a small step above the “pro-life” monsters and their agenda.