Escorts are present to support people and create space for them to be empowered while accessing reproductive healthcare.
What does that mean? “Support.” “Create space.” “To be empowered.” What does that look like?
It may be a little bit different for different people. Here are some ideas.
We support with our presence. The orange vest. A relaxed, calm appearance. An air of confidence. These are ways we support before we say a word.
We create space by walking with the client and companion. Some of the space we create is physical. If I’m walking next to you, the anti following us down the sidewalk can’t get quite as close to you as he or she could if I weren’t there.
More of the space is ~ I think ~ emotional. I often use the term “to accompany,” when talking about being with the client on the journey up the sidewalk. We are not there to protect, or to guard, we are there to accompany. So we try to be in tune with the client, pay attention to their body language and other cues.
Some clients want to talk, or want us to talk to them while we walk. Some may be listening to music or talking on their phone. We follow their lead in deciding whether to talk with them or not.
When we do talk, we keep it simple. We may remind the client and companion that they both need their IDs in the clinic. We may tell them that most of the protesters will be gone when they come out. We may tell them the sidewalk gets a little “wonky” up ahead. When I run out of other things to say, I sometimes say, “And really, I’m just babbling now. I’m pretty good at that, in fact, I can pretty much keep talking about nothing the rest of the way there,” which sometimes makes them laugh.
Whatever we say, with our physical presence, and with our words, we create space that helps put distance between them and the protesters.
And the point of putting space there, the point of putting space between the client and the protesters, is not to protect, to rescue, or to defend. The point of putting space is so the clients themselves can be empowered.
So we trust the client. If the client wants to stop and talk to the antis, if they want to take the literature, if they want to go to the fake clinic, we trust that they know what they’re doing. If they want to cover their whole head with a towel, borrow an orange vest, or scream “fuck you” to the anti’s all the way up the sidewalk, we trust that they know what they’re doing.
Sometimes, the client doesn’t want us to escort them in. Sometimes, when we ask, “Do you want us to walk with you?” they say, “No. We’re fine.” If it’s the companion who says no, they don’t need an escort, we ask the client again.
But when the client says no, we trust them, we believe them.
Now, even then, we may follow along behind them, waving off other escorts coming toward them, so they don’t get asked again. And we may stay not too far away, because sometimes they change their minds. Sometimes, they suddenly look around with that deer in the headlights look of panic, and then we ask again.
But we try to remember, this is the client’s choice. The client’s experience. We’re there to support. We’re there to create space so they can be empowered.
This is, of course, from my perspective, and there’s lots more that can be said. For example, I was trying to research the concept of “accompanying” which I think is beginning to have a particular meaning, and wish someone would speak to that. I know that at least one other escort is writing some thoughts expanding on the points of unity ~ I hope they, and any of the escorts who are so motivated, will share those thoughts here.