On my first Saturday on the sidewalk I had prepared myself for the barrage of hate that would be spewed my way. I practiced steeling myself against the antis’ words. I had long since lost the religion of my childhood, which made it easier to ignore their religious hatred. I was determined to not allow it to get to me in such a way that I would lose it on the sidewalk. I knew that arguing with these people would be a waste of my time and effort.
I was paired with a fellow escort to shadow for the morning and we stood side by side holding the property line. She told me what the antis might do or say and that my goal was to hold the property line so that they could not cross it and prevent clients from getting to the door. As everyone began taking their places, like a show was about to begin, one of the AHA guys came over and stood in between myself and the escort I was shadowing. He was holding one of his giant signs and had a smug look on his face as if he had just beat me at a game of poker. My first thought was, “Oh crap! I need to stand next to her because I don’t know what I’m doing!” Then I felt that just standing next to this guy meant that I was somehow validating what he was doing. It felt gross. I wished he would just move and take his hate somewhere else.
I turned to my right and peered down the sidewalk. Catholics praying with their rosaries, more enthusiastic Catholics holding up signs, two frail looking ladies with looks of worry on their faces as if they had lost a beloved pet. And then I looked across the sidewalk at what was directly in front of me. Signs 3-feet high with bloody fetuses and tiny body parts; one sign said something to the effect of what Hitler did was legal; one sign denouncing atheism was particularly strange because I wasn’t sure what atheism had to do with all of this. Then again, I’m not sure what Hitler has to do with all of this either.
When the guy from AHA turned on his speaker and started preaching to whoever was listening, the environment became like that of a circus, or actually kind of like walking up and down the rows of vendors at the fair where people desperately hawk their wares. I imagine him selling one of those contraptions that cuts your vegetables into noodles.
I spent much of the morning wondering how I would know who was a client and who was a pedestrian or a protester joining their group. When the first client was escorted through the neon orange wall of escorts and on to the door of the clinic, I knew right away that there would be no mistaking who was a client and who was not. They all had the same look of panic drawn across their faces. Most of them had companions alongside of them shielding them from the freak show. One of them could not handle the protesters and had to go for a walk with an escort before the clinic opened. Several of them had earbuds in to drown out the hideous noise. Most of them were rushed through, kind of like celebrities only instead of camera flashes, there were flashes of “Murder!” “Don’t kill your baby!” “Murder in the first degree!” “Let me adopt your baby!” I’ll never forget the first woman who walked through with her head held high as if this shit didn’t bother her at all.
So I had steeled myself against the hate that I would hear and see and most of it just flew on by my head without a thought. What I didn’t expect was how I would feel when I saw the women running through the gauntlet. The looks on their faces. The panic when they finally reached the door only to discover that the clinic hadn’t opened yet. They were shielded by companions and hunched over, even the ones who held their heads high with earbuds in their ears pulled on the door with desperation. The AHA guys would swarm the door whenever someone couldn’t get in. The big bald one used his loudspeaker even though he was 3 feet away from his target. He blared some garbage about God and Jesus, dead babies and “change your mind.” The door finally opens, the women rush inside, and the antis go back to their places on the sidewalk.
I know the antis like to think of themselves as heroes, somehow saving babies. I think most of us know who the real heroes are. The real heroes are the women who brave that mess just to take care of their very own bodies. The real heroes are the doctors on the other side of that door. And we escorts, we are the badass sidekicks.