I want to make change.

What I really can’t get over is how NYC is really the perfect backdrop for the Moxie program.  The broad issues that we discuss – oppression, poverty, capitalism – and the more specific issues – racism, sexism, and homophobia – all manifest themselves into everyday interactions and encounters more clearly in the city.   Since the eye-opening Moxie seminars, it’s difficult for me to walk anywhere without having at least one reminder of either my privilege or my lack of privilege.  I have become increasingly, almost hyper-aware, of my identity, or should I say, the label that society posts on me – white, female and heterosexual –  as I have maneuvered throughout the city.


While I’m sure we could discuss these issues anywhere (I mean we do in the oh so exciting city of Durham haha), I love how we are both discussing and living them at the same time in New York – the birthplace of so much culture.  When the Supreme Court announced that gay marriage would finally be legal in all fifty states, two days later I was marching down Fifth Avenue wearing a flower in my hair and waving a rainbow flag. When Ada assigned us an excerpt to read from Merle Hoffman’s Intimate Wars, a few days later we took the train down to Jamaica Queens and visited Merle’s revolutionary and life-changing reproductive clinic, Choices, and we even got to meet Merle herself!  And finally, just when the newest season of Orange is the New Black came out, we went to see a Broadway play in which one of the actresses from the show was in it!  While the last one was definitely just a pure coincidence, it still illustrates how the city and the Moxie program itself never fail to amaze and surprise me.


Although the city is exhilarating, it is also daunting.  Every day on my five minute walk back home from Union Square, I always see new people, a new protest, or a new street performance. Each subway ride serves as almost a microcosm for the world as people from all different cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities, suffer together in that ten minute ride.  I am struggling to comprehend the enormity and complexity of New York and thus humankind as a whole.  During the Moxie program, I have finally been awakened to so many systemic issues that need to be addressed. I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with many individuals who are dedicating their lives to helping those who need assistance advocating for themselves. My supervisor Lynn spends countless hours away at different conferences educating the legal community about domestic violence.  She has written groundbreaking articles that have exposed the horrific effects that domestic violence has on the neurology of a child.  In her office, she also has a picture standing with Ruth Bader Ginsburg…like what? And then I met Merle Hoffman, who gave women reproductive autonomy when she opened up Choices, which is the largest women’s medical facility in the United States.  She has tirelessly provided women with much needed reproductive care and has fought against much opposition, including several death threats! And we also met Tim, who advocates for elderly members of New York’s LGBTQ community through his work at SAGE, which is a LGBTQ retirement center. These are just three of the many activists and amazing people I have met so far during Moxie and they have inspired me to want to make a change as well.  I want to give a voice to the voiceless and I want to fix the system, but as I have realized since coming to New York, I have become cognizant of my relative insignificance so far on this Earth. It is one thing to be educated about the issues and another to actually do something. Like those who I have met so far during Moxie, I too want to be significant.


Oh, and shout out to our fearless leaders Ada and Shannan!


“I don’t get it.”

This week, one of my close friends “came out of the closet,” a prime time considering that same-sex marriage was legalized in all fifty states shortly afterwards.


My friend (let’s refer to him as “C”) admitted few days before the momentous day that he was uncertain about his sexuality, but knew that he was certainly attracted to men. A couple of days later, he called me again, saying that he had dated women before, and he was still attracted to women. The day after, he said he felt pansexual after being “desexualized.”

If everything seemed overwhelming for me, I can’t possibly imagine how it must have felt for C. However, what really challenged me in my limited encounters with these scenarios was the term C used: “desexualized.” We’ve talked about sexuality existing on a spectrum, and this dynamic identity that may or may not change as we age. Wanting to be supportive throughout the whole process, I was calm, understanding, and most importantly, actively listening. But I admitted to both him and myself that I was confused about “desexualizing.” I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know and still don’t know how to help C, who seeks my help and my comfort in figuring out his sexuality or even asexuality. But I felt guilty of trying to place him into a category, defining people when I don’t understand enough.

One of the many facets that allow us to differentiate from other beings is compassion.

The real life carework practiced at the organizations the Moxies are partnered with exemplify that the most human trait that we can do is empathize. And by definition, to empathize is to attempt to understand others by identifying and sharing in their feelings. But not all situations demand empathy, and it may not even be the best course of action—something I found shocking.

While I’ve always thought that empathizing would be an effective approach when comforting someone, it is also important to acknowledge what one is going through instead of trying to relate to my own personal experiences.

Even with my work at National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, before I get ready to interview domestic workers and home caretakers, I’ve been informed that I shouldn’t empathize all the time but rather listen. I’m not supposed to comfort someone who’s crying and say “It’s okay! Don’t cry, you’re not at fault!” Instead I’m supposed to acknowledge their sadness or frustration, and let them know I understand their feelings.

The road to self-discovery is not an easy one. Many pit stops are along the way: we go back on what we say, what we’ve promised ourselves; we “double think” by questioning and reanalyzing what may have been previously thought as certain elements in our lives. We may only take a certain path for a while, then switch to a different one. It may just be a phase. But as the youngest person in the Moxie group, and perhaps the most naïve, I realize that it’s okay to not know. College is the time when you question everything about yourself and what you want to do. This is the time where everything gets confusing, but instead of being afraid, I’ve come to the revelation that not knowing is a freedom, a luxury, that I can afford at this time and space.

This uncertainty that would have caused me anxiety not so long ago, has evolved into positive energy. I’ve felt safe admitting that I don’t understand. I don’t need to always need to have an answer, to speak up. Strangely enough I do find myself able to empathize, because I am also confused. That itself is a way to demonstrate my care, instead of trying to redirect someone’s feelings back to myself.

I’m confused, and I don’t know the answers. I may never know. And that’s okay.

How to live through a monumental day.

In case you all have been living under a rock, you would have heard that the Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal on Friday June 26th, 2015. This decision’s timing couldn’t have been placed better within our Moxie program’s curriculum and gay pride month. It is as if June didn’t have enough gay pride!

The week before we had visited SAGE, an organization that provides services to gay, lesbian, and transgendered elderly across the nation, a group that is often forgotten in society. This week’s readings focused around homophobia, gay identity and the intersection between the women’s movement and the gay movement.

After this week’s decision the United States joined 20 other countries by allowing all couples to get married. I still remember watching the neighborhood of Capitol Hill in Seattle go wild when gay marriage became legal in 2012. That was nothing compared to the celebration that I experienced and participated in NYC this weekend.

I think out of all my days as an U.S citizen (aka all my days) this is the 2nd most significant day in U.S history I have lived through. I am thankful that, unlike 9/11, this day will bring joy and happiness to many Americans.

But how does one really celebrate and recognize when they live through something like this?

Step 1:  Believe your co-worker when they tell you the news.

Although I am usually an optimistic at heart, when Julia told me the news about the decision, I did not believe her. I didn’t have the capacity to think that our justice system could really be capable of this. Have faith, sometimes things turn out in equality’s favor.


Step 2:  Visit where the movement began.

Before coming to this program I honestly knew very little about the history of the gay rights movement. Despite my obsession with AP US History, I wasn’t exposed to the early protests of many poorer people of color who refused to be subjected to discrimination and police brutality. Thus the night of the decision, all of us visited the Stonewall Inn. The streets were flooded with all walks of life and happy energy was abundant. I know people say New York City is the city that never sleeps, and June 26th was no exception. When walking I overheard, “I met my first boyfriend here” from a clearly emotional man. Visiting the place where it all started, allowed me to pay homage to those who were brave enough to recognize the injustice they were facing and pay respect to what it meant to many people: a symbol of hope and sanctuary.

Step 3: Find the authentic amidst the commercialization.

Don’t forget we live in America, aka capitalism’s half brother. Thus when something in America happens to  pull at the heart strings of  Americans, 10 different companies try to sell and profit off those heart strings. Example: The NYC Pride parade was filled with different companies marching. How much was this motivated by their excitement of pride and how much was their participation motivated by marketing and branding?

Instead of pushing to get the Chipotle pins, or the shirts they are throwing out, try to take in moments of authentic humanity. This may mean different things for different people.

For me it was seeing couples of all different genders and sexual orientations kissing, holding hands and laughing at each other.

It was being blinded by how many rainbow colored flags flooded fifth avenue.

It was being offered ginger-biscotti by a women from Sanctuary for Families who complemented us on our pride themed outfits.

gay pride parade

Step 5: Recognize this one day doesn’t define history.

Yes, I just lived through a major judicial win for the gay movement. It would be easy for me, as a cis gendered heterosexual woman to mentally check off, “helped support the gay movement” on my lists of things to do. For many this could be an easy excuse to move on to different social justice issues. However, to truly make a change, a difference, an impact is to recognize that this movement is far from over and may never be. Our discussions in seminar have opened my eyes to reflecting on the intersections between marginalized groups in our society. As a proponent for women’s rights and equality, I need to and hope to continuously fight and be aware of how my position and my actions have the potential to help move and affect movements of groups other than “my own.” The longer I am in this program, the more and more I realize to truly be a proponent for one movement is to be a proponent for all because people and humans are multidimensional and have multiple identities.

So when living through either a national celebration, a historic decision, or even a country’s tragedy take a moment to recognize how this happened, why it happened, what it means to you and how you will contribute moving forward.




Week 3 In Photos

Sunday: June 21, 2015 – Heading to the BAM Cinema Fest to watch Advantageous

June 21June 21 _


Monday: June 22, 2015 – Heading to Work Together (On Monday’s we wear cute clothes and hold our bags protectively in our laps.)

June 22


Tuesday: June 23, 2015 – New Experiences

June 23

Abby and I right before the play: Consent

June 23 __

We met CATHERINE CURTIN from Orange Is The New Black!!!

June 23 _

We hung out at the Rockefeller Center.


Wednesday: June 24, 2015 – The Work Struggle 

June 24 _ June 24


Thursday: June 25, 2015 – Fuzzy Guests at Work (Her name is Pinkie!!!)

June 25


Friday: June 26, 2015 – A day in history. Marriage equality is established across all 50 states!

June 26

Abby is not having it. Where is this train?

June 26 ___ June 26 __

Watching Paris Is Burning in Brooklyn

June 26 (2) _ June 26 (2) __

Visiting The Stonewall Inn on this historic day. 


Saturday: June 27, 2015 – Reuniting With My Dukies 🙂 Exploring Soho and eating all the baked goods we possibly can. 

June 27 June 27 __ June 27 ____ June 27 _

Property Of Society

The events of the past couple of weeks have been eye opening to say the least. Perhaps what I find most fascinating and simultaneously frustrating is that I feel I am gaining so much more from my Duke Engage experience than I am giving back to my community partner. From being exposed to so many different forms of expression and sexuality to being thrust into foreign situations and places, I have never felt so emotionally drained. Simultaneously, I have never felt so alive and aware of my surroundings.


The main reason I am bringing this up is because the past two weeks have taught me so much about myself and what I realized is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy learning about yourself. For one thing you are biased to think you are doing better than you really are. Accepting that I am flawed or doing something wrong requires a great deal of humility. The past two weeks have forced me to sit down and examine my beliefs, thoughts, and personal biases. I had to recognize my own shortcomings and accept them so that I would be able to look at where those shortcomings were stemming from and how I could change.

After walking around the city  for two weeks and processing all the visual pollution around me, I noticed that there was a recurring theme connected to identity that was constantly being played out around me. Our society loves to box people in. We love categories. You’re tall, short, black, white, smart, dumb, pretty, ugly, etc. It’s just labels after labels after labels that seem to be telling us exactly who we are. Then why is it that my generation seems to be the most confused about this fundamental human question: Who Am I?



Here’s the problem. We think that we can answer this question with a couple of adjectives and some letters from the Myers-Briggs Test. News flash: we are a complex and diverse species that could never and should never be described with only a couple of adjectives or letters from a test. This habit of ours to use simple descriptors for people dampens our diversity and the innate complexity within each of us. It limits us to thinking that we are all similar and that there is an in-group (the people that share those same descriptors) and an out-group (the people that do not use the same descriptors). Honestly, I think all of us are the out-group. No one is truly like anyone else and we wouldn’t want it that way. Life is challenging and people challenge us because they are different. We wouldn’t be where we are today if our society thrived on sameness. Our ability to adapt and grow is part of what makes us such beautiful creatures and allows us to go where no other species has gone. Why would we want to dampen that ability?


We say we value differences and revel in the unique passions of our peers but then explain to me why society believes all women should look a certain way to be “beach body ready” i.e. skinny, white, blond, and tall? Why are we not beautiful as we are? The ad below has been prevalent all over the NYC subway stations  and is targeting a surface level concept about beauty perceptions but, I see it as evidence of a much deeper seated issue that is plaguing our society and preventing us from advancing. It’s that concept of wanting sameness. Of valuing one look or one mentality or one personality trait over the others instead of empowering the differences in each of us.

Protein World's beach body ad on the London underground

A Fool-Proof Formula for Feeling Outnumbered

This week I did something I never thought I’d do. I visited an “abortion clinic.”

I use quotations because “abortion clinic” is not really an accurate term to describe Choices–one of the leading medical centers for women’s reproductive health in the United States. Founded in 1971 by Merle Hoffman, Choices offers female patients a wide variety of services including prenatal care, a full spectrum of gynecological services, counseling, financial assistance, and yes, abortions.

When we visited Choices last week, we had the opportunity to tour the facility. It was one of the most beautiful medical centers I’ve ever seen. Clean, bright, and full of helpful staff, I remained oddly at ease there. Even as we entered the wing of the building devoted to abortions, learned how doctors perform the procedure, saw the medical equipment, and examined a specimen of the products of conception (what is removed from a woman’s uterus during the procedure), I never felt anxious. I think that’s because everyone working at the Clinic seemed so focused on the well-being of the patients, and so assured that they were doing worthwhile, important work that I couldn’t help but feel comfortable.

That changed when we met Merle Hoffman. Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Hoffman is an incredibly generous, impressive woman. She pioneered the abortion-rights movement and  is a marvelously successful business woman. I admire her conviction, her endless dedication to doing what she believes is right. But when she asked me–in a room of 12 pro-choice feminists–why I identify as anti-abortion, I felt just a tad nervous.

And then I explained my position.

I see abortion as a power struggle between the mother and the unborn child. In that relationship, the mother holds all of the power to decide whether or not the child lives or dies. The child cannot advocate for itself. I believe in advocating for the lesser of the two. Thus, I am anti-abortion.

As you can imagine, this is a highly unusual stance for a feminist such as myself to take. Ms. Hoffman and my fellow Moxies agreed. For the next hour, I listened to them discuss why it is absolutely necessary that women have access to abortions.

They described how systems of power and privilege are related to women developing unwanted pregnancies.

Education.Schools, whose curriculum has historically been determined by men, do not provide sex education until boys reach puberty, several years after many girls have reached child bearing age. Traditional teaching on birth control emphasizes two things: abstinence–which is clearly ineffective since 10% of all births in the US are to teenage mothers–and that the burden of contraception rests on the woman (i.e. she must take birth control pills, have an IUD device etc., while there are no pills that, for example, lower sperm count for men). Furthermore, students are not exposed to all methods of birth control. I had a very privileged educational experience, yet I only learned that there are 21 methods of birth control a few weeks ago.

Economic Inequality. In her book Intimate Wars, Merle Hoffman described a study she did in the 1980s which found that 53% of women have abortions because they cannot afford to have a child. She called this phenomenon “Abortionomics.” Unfortunately, the results that came out in her report remain true today. According to a 2014 report by the Guttmacher Institute, 42 percent of women who get abortions live below the federal poverty line. 64% of women who have abortions are women of color. In citing why they have an abortion, three fourths of women say they cannot afford to have a child.

Listening to pro-choice reasoning is compelling. Women–especially poor women and women of color–experience oppression which makes it more likely they will develop an unwanted pregnancy than if they had greater access to and knowledge about contraception, as well as financial support.  I really do understand the perspective of pro-choice activists. Without the option to choose whether or not to have a child, many women and their families would fall deeper into poverty.

Yet, in spite of that, I remain anti-abortion for the same reason I described above. I feel a moral obligation to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

What surprised me the most during my visit to Choices–and in hindsight should not have surprised me at all–was that the staff and Ms. Hoffman herself expressed a strong desire to see the day when women no longer feel they need abortions.

I share the same sentiment.

Hopefully, one day, schools will teach girls about their bodies before they develop, knowledge and access to contraception will be a right not a privilege, poverty will constrain no one, and unwanted pregnancy will be a thing of the past.

I know that’s idealistic. We live in an eternally imperfect world. But maybe, if we keep arguing, reasoning, fighting for change, at least part of that vision will come true.

It’s An Emergency

I’m glad to say I’ve been settling into NYC life fairly easily and seamlessly. Things are starting to feel familiar. The hundreds of people packed into a narroHudsonw subway car reminds me of the C1 ride during a class change. Running along the Hudson make me feel like I’m running on path along the river at home. The screeching and bustling of 14th Street that my apartment overlooks is becoming background noise. I’ve learned I can only buy at the grocery store what I am able to carry back five blocks to my apartment (which means I need to make special trips for watermelon, but it’s worth it). I even cracked the code that is the laundry payment system.

Yesterday morning was a typical one: April and Raissa knocked on my and Sai’s door a few minutes before we were actually ready to leave, we rushed out the door and into the concrete jungle and were on our way to Union Square Station. On the walk to the station, I chatted with Raissa while April and Sai trailed a few feet behind. Our conversation was briefly interrupted by ear-piercing sirens as an ambulance zoomed by, weaving through the dense traffic on 14th Street. Raissa looked at me and said, “I find the sight of cars moving out of the way for an ambulance so beautiful.”

I paused for a few moments to think about what she had said to me. I responded with a question, asking if it was because she knew someone who was suffering was about to be helped. Raissa answered my question and the conversation switched to a different topic.

I had never thought about a loud, bustling ambulance as a beautiful sight, but I understand it now. An ambulance is sent to someone who immediately needs help. For the vehicle to get to where it has to go, it requires the compliance of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people to stop what they are doing for just a brief moment and to clear a path. These people are unaffected by the situation to which the ambulance is answering and have no personal connection to it. They may think to themselves “someone is hurt” or “someone may be dying” and move out of the way. Regardless, they create a route that potentially will give someone an opportunity to be helped.

As I volunteered as Choices this past Saturday, I witnessed the stark contrast between the situation described above and what occurs when the protestors come. Each Saturday, people who are anti-abortion, known as “antis,” arrive outside the clinic in Queens by about 6:40 a.m. in anticipation of the women who will be arriving when the doors open at 7 a.m. As a Choices escort, I threw on a white coat and joined the protestors in lining the streets, awaiting the patients. My responsibility as an escort was to ensure the safety of the women as they entered the building. It sounds like a simple task, but it took some self-control, courage and the willingness to be slightly physical with the antis who were forcefully trying to hand women pamphlets and restrain them from entering the clinic. My years of experience playing basketball and lacrosse came in handy as I was playing defense on the antis, inserting myself between them and the patients.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 9.38.42 AM

Just as thousands of Americans create a path daily for an ambulance to reach a person in need, I helped create a path for women to have safe access to healthcare. However, no one is physically restraining the drivers from clearing the way for someone in need. While these women entering the clinic were not necessarily emergency cases, the oppressive conditions in which they are entering urgently needs to be addressed and changed.

Due to these circumstances worldwide, women are hurt. Women are dying.

Who is going to help clear a path for them?

Subway Revelations

I’d dreamt of the dizzying blur of giant, metal cages whittling by, filled with mysterious people headed to mysterious places that I would never know. I’d seen in famous movies, read in great novels of the infamous underground stations, thinking it was some great rainbow road transportation service comparable to flying across the world in an airplane. All my training on Duke buses (C3’s, anybody?) had prepared me for this very moment. And by the end of my first day in one of these magical, speeding contraptions, I could finally say that I had been inside a real subway train. A real New York City subway train.

A real smelly, crowded, fast, disorienting, jerky New York sbway train.

All this time, I had romanticized the idea of the subway–a fantastic line of trains, hidden from plain sight on the ground, but busy taking people across the state underneath the surface. Not to mention super convenient and very wallet-friendly! But as I stood inside one of these hovering cars, the realism hit me: the tangible fact that I was inside one, getting to my first day of work at National Domestic Workers Alliance…and it didn’t feel that great. To be honest, I felt a little cheated. Strange men would floss their teeth with their beards in front of me, people who smelled like they lived with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the sewer would linger nearby.

And let’s just not mention the lack of personal space. 

Before my work this summer, I had always dreamed of what it would be like working for a non-profit organization. Saving the world during the day, feeding children and families by night. What would it be like serving in the non-profit, doing the most noble work, helping those who can’t help themselves?

And I found out. By the end of my first week, I’d put together information packets, run errands, organize deposit slips, eat lunch at my desk, make seating charts, deal with demon printers from hell. I hadn’t saved any domestic workers. Or their children. Or fed any of them.

I had become one of those mysterious people headed off to mysterious places that I’d dreamt of, but I wasn’t riding a unicorn to work every day. I wasn’t saving any lives by keeping the office tidy and getting supplies.

But as NDWA drilled in the meetings and interviews I attended thus far: all work is valuable. Sure, I’m not doing some grand gestures with the underprivileged.  But just as domestic workers assist with the basic work that keeps families running, I am helping the people who help domestic workers fight for their human rights. The administrative and events planning I do serves as a foundation for the work that the other staff can build upon. Without this helping hand, there’s more work for the staff, and less time assisting the needy.

The subway trains aren’t whimsical hovercraft shuttle services, but #funfact they transport over millions of people a day. They may be stinky and crowded, but they get everyone where they need to go, on time and safely, without going bankrupt.

As a tourist and a student intern in a completely foreign place, I do have to abandon my comforts and expectations of my subway daydreams. But it’s through this demolishment of the romantic that allows me to truly see the makings of the world–in particular, the non-profit world.

It would be ridiculous to claim newfound understanding of the care sector; but within this week and a half, my vision has only grown. And who knows what more I will discover about charitable work and myself.

And with that, I should probably get off at this stop! 

Until next time,



I’ve never lived in a city before. Sure, Duke is *technically* an urban campus because it’s in the middle of Durham, but let’s be real here – we’re in such a bubble that the city might as well be miles away. My hometown is a friendly suburb near Dallas, home to about 40,000 people and 1 large public high school (technically 2, but the smaller one shared so many facilities with us and has such small graduating class that we don’t take it seriously). Living in Manhattan, less than a few minutes away from Union Square, is such a change. Somehow, this borough manages to house 1.6 million people in about twice the area that my town holds literally 40 times fewer. The entire population of my town equals about half of the students who graduate from New York City’s school system every single year. It’s hard for me to even comprehend that quantity of humanity clustered in such a small space, but it’s obvious basically every time I step out the door. I’ve always been an extrovert, and I’ve always been a complete night owl, so being let loose in the city that never sleeps is basically a dream – I take so much joy in walking back from the gym late at night, just amazed at the number of people I pass on my 5 block walk home, all busily headed somewhere, undaunted by the darkness interrupted by the bright lights of the seemingly infinite buildings around us. It’s majestic. I doubt I’ll ever be less stunned by it.

How lucky are we to live right here?!

But I have to say, it’s also given me a new perspective on my little hometown. I spent my entire life waiting to get out of it, and it’s only once I’ve left that I realize how much of myself I owe to the place I grew up – how much the circumstances of your childhood shape the person you are, and how vital that understanding those circumstances are to understanding a person – and especially a community. My fully grown, adult co-workers at GGE lack licenses, but have probably been fluent in the language of the subway since they were tweens. (Middle school students have no difficulty switching between subway lines and buses to get where they’re going, whereas I accidentally went all the way uptown instead of downtown on my second day of work…) I’m so comfortable with the leisurely small talk typical of a Southerners that I’m totally thrown off by New Yorkers always in a rush to get everywhere. I’m still adjusting to having to be on guard constantly, to the idea of always being surrounded by strangers, and I realize that my general lack of awareness and carefree, naive attitude comes from having grown up in a place where I never felt remotely worried for my safety. This whole idea of applying to high schools, or going through a metal detector every morning to enter the building, or being “pushed out” of school by harsh discipline policies are entirely foreign to me. I might have spent my entire life in public school, but it was a reputable district in which I was academically challenged and felt almost stifled by the care of my administrators, unlike many NYC public school kids who have the opposite problem.

Not to say that my experiences in some way make me superior (despite clearly having grown up with considerable privilege) but that my background is vastly different from that of the people I’m surrounded by at GGE, and the girls that I’m working with. This summer, I’ll be heading up a project to bring anti-harassment workshops to a Brooklyn high school, so I’ve been talking to recent alums of the school to get a sense of their school culture and policies, and I was stunned to realize how different it was from my own. Working in a context so different from the one I’m used to means that I’ll have to listen a lot more than I speak, and address this community according to its own self-defined needs rather than my perception of it. I’m a foreigner in this big, wild city and I can’t expect to understand it or its people unless I really rely on the natives here who know it better than I probably ever will. I’m starting to get comfortable in everything that I don’t know, and accepting that I’m a newbie around here, and that I’ve got a lot to learn. If any of these New Yorkers show up in Dallas, I can show them around my home turf – but as long as I’m here, I’m going to soak up as much of Big Apple as I can, and hopefully I’ll come out of this summer a little less suburban and a little more versed in the life of a city kid.

Threatening Choice

While touring Choices, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an event that happened over Winter break. I went with my two older sisters and mother to eat pizookie one night while my dad was out of town. We all split one Oregano’s pizookiepizooki, which is not very big. For outsiders, we eat very quickly and aggressively. Towards the end, my mother pulled the pizookie towards herself in order to secure some cookie and ice cream without my sisters and I stealing it from her spoon. I was a little snippy and was slightly angry that she took the pizookie for herself because I still wanted some. My oldest sister then eloquently said, “It’s okay for her to choose herself over you now. You’ve had your time.”

As I thought about it, I realized that obviously my mother can choose to eat something and not give it to me; it was very trivial of me to be upset. However, I don’t think I understood the depth of my sister’s words until I started thinking about reproductive health this week and being reminded about how important a woman’s right to choose is. My mom, from the moment of my conception (whenever that was in the process of gestation), had chosen to put me before herself and showed that every day since. In a small example, if she had food and I were hungry, she would give me the food and not have as much for herself. In most cases when a woman decides to have a baby, she is deciding to put that life first from the moment she accepts carrying a fetus for nine months INSIDE HER body. She is allowing something else to take space that has previously been only hers.

Bringing life into this world should not be a decision that is made lightly. Nowadays, with the media and businesses bombarding everything we can see with sex, it is much more accessible because people know about it at such a young age. Couple that with NOT being bombarded with safe sex practices, or really any healthy, standard sexual education at all, and that’s a recipe for disaster. At an elite college campus, some people are still unaware the condoms are not 100% effective and are better used for protection against STI’s and STD’s. The safest measure is to be on birth control, of which there are over a hundred to choose from and many different types, and use a condom. The goal of reproductive health clinics is to eradicate the need for abortions. They are there so people can get access to safe sex information, birth control, pre-natal care, and most of all they’re cheap for the people that cannot afford to go to private doctors for their healthcare needs.

To the people that consider themselves pro-life and anti-abortion, most people that are pro-choice are also pro-life and anti-abortion. We want people to live happy and successful lives, in whatever way they CHOOSE. That is contingent upon whether or not they decide to become a mother. No one can dictate whether something should grow inside another person for nine months. No one can dictate whether that something should grow up in a household of abuse, whether that be physical, emotional, sexual, economic, social, etc. If every person that got pregnant were to have the child, then the world should provide, free healthcare, free (and substantial) public education, free children’s clothing (i.e. diapers, baby wipes, onesies, socks, etc.), and much more. Every woman that gets pregnant is not always able to provide for another life, and if we decide to bring another life into the world, then we sure as hell better be able to support it or have the necessary access to organizations/people that can support it. Most pro-choice people are also anti-abortion. No one wants abortion to be a thing. The only difference is that most pro-choice people want it to be an option since there are a lot of social factors working against women to protect themselves in the first place from becoming pregnant and there are a lot of social factors working against women to help them thrive after the pregnancy. It is a matter of who can choose what happens to someone’s body—not just during pregnancy though. Who is going to help that child once it’s actually born? Ideally, there would be no abortions because the people that decide to have children will be able to provide for them with all the necessities to have a happy and successful life.


(that’s me convincing people that I am not the ONLY one who thinks about these kinds of things)

Expanding my pro-choice stance, I was finally able to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. This past Saturday, I escorted at Choices. Every Saturday, Choices has 15-30 protestors that stand outside their facility on the sidewalk. Each protestor has pamphlets filled with scientific error and religious rhetoric to convince people entering the clinic to not have an abortion. Keep in mind that the majority of people that access reproductive health clinics are NOT there to have an abortion. Reproductive health clinics, contrary to what religious right-wing politicians would have you believe, have LOWERED the number of abortions (legal and illegal) because they provide cheap birth control, access to an affordable OBGYN, pre-natal care, and safe sex practice education.

Anyways, I stood in between the main entrance to Choices and the place where the preachers would stand and spout their opinions. (On a side note, I did this while running on two and a half hours of sleep, which was not my best idea.) At 7:15am, we were out there standing on both sides of a client to escort her/him into Choices without being harassed too much by the protestors. To describe the picture: one preacher was speaking non-stop about everything and nothing while there were people scattered with their pamphlets and then there were the blown up posters of aborted fetuses every 10 paces. No one that was walking or driving NEAR the street, let alone walking into the clinic, could miss the posters. The first preacher called the escorts all kinds of names, but my favorite was definitely “Hitler’s henchmen.” It was hard to drown out his voice, but the escorts were standing around and having conversations about all sorts of things such as, politics, social issues, school, other clinics, marriage, TV, and the list continues.

Every time we saw a potential client, we would pause the conversation to escort the client and deflect the protestors. For me, this was the embodiment of what I had been preaching about pro-choice for the last ten years. I was physically creating a space where women could access a reproductive health clinic without judgment. Obviously, it wasn’t me creating the space, but I was helping and hopefully I was an encouragement for the women entering that someone supports them and whatever choice they make.

One of the most poignant moments for me that morning was seeing a young woman bawling her eyes out, being separated from the partner she brought by the protestors, and then watching the protestors swarm her and shove pamphlets into her hand. She was obviously distressed making the decision to even go to the facility, and these protestors just made it even harder and more traumatic! It was a situation where I thought about how much thought and effort she must have put into the decision to go to Choices and how she still wasn’t satisfied with the options in front of her. I quickly stepped to her side to block the path of one of the aggressive pamphlet-handers from continuing next to her. I walked her to the door and her partner followed with a solemn head down while the protestors were shouting about how killing babies is wrong.

9072937_origWell, shit. Let me check my privilege really quickly. I have an OBGYN for a father; my family has talked about sex since I was probably 6; my family has talked about safe sex practices since I was probably 6; I was able to talk to BOTH of my parents about starting/stopping birth control without hesitation. My education about sex and reproductive health was incredibly extensive (read: there were diagrams involved).

Even if people get the “sex talk,” it’s rarely the kind of education I was fortunate enough to receive. If people are unable to be educated about SAFE sex, then how can we expect them to know what to do? If people are unable to talk about sex without being stigmatized, then how can we expect them to know how to act? If people cannot talk to their sexual partners about birth control because they’re not educated themselves, how can we expect them to take preventative measures? Abstinence-only education DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Honestly, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX. We may as well teach them how to do it safely and reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Reproductive health clinics are necessary, and the need isn’t less for preaching abstinence-only. If you don’t teach someone about safe sex or preventative measures, you can’t be upset or surprised if they get pregnant. You are taking away EVEN MORE CHOICES by withholding important information. This summer is about looking at the big picture, as opposed to just through one lens. There is a cycle relating sexual health education, pregnancy, and abortion. If we continue to withhold information and access, it is only going to backfire. Providing choices for women, whether that be ALL the information we need to live a healthy life that includes sex or providing access to safe a legal abortions, will only improve society. We’ll have educated women that are agents in their own bodies. Crazy thought.