You say to a person leaving the clinic, “Hey, would you like for me to walk with you to your car?” And they’re like, “Sure. Did you go to ____ Elementary School?” And you’re like, oh my god do I really look the same as I did in 5th grade? “Yep!” And now there is a protester tagging along, so you can’t remind them of your name or ask their name, but you vaguely recognize them too. And you don’t want to be like, “You’re such a good friend!” or “Are you ok?” or “I hope the harassment wasn’t too bad on your way in,” or anything where you’re making assumptions or making the situation weird. So you just pretend you’re at the grocery store (and there’s a guy harassing you both?) and try to be normal and make normal small talk without acting like they’re a hero or victim or whatever, for whatever reason they are there, which is really no one’s business. And you are very conscientious to not say something mildly stupid like, “Great to see you here!” or “Have a great day!” which might seem a little… unaware. But it’s cool that they even said anything, because you would have never recognized them, and it’s a very Louisville kind of thing, and you’re really glad they recognized you. As they get into their car they say thanks for being there and you’re feeling like, well, I never would have guessed we’d both be here today but I’m glad. And then many hours later their name will finally pop into your head.
Protester to newer escort: Don’t do this, you’ll become hard hearted and homely like the other women here.
Different protester to different newer escort: Young lady, don’t follow these older women down this path, don’t let them trick you into doing this.
Escorts show up independently, for a wide variety of reasons, but never because the older women in our lives are dragging us out there. I do love the concept of a coven of witches leading the escorts, and I get why protesters think the escorts who are older women are the leaders. But escorts have no leaders and are simply individuals who work together towards common goals with a few binding principles. (Meanwhile I find concern regarding the physical appearance of any escort unnecessary and offensive.)
The biggest thing I hear in these comments is… fear? admiration? bitterness? from the protesters towards older women. Throughout my life I have admired and gravitated towards women who are older than me – women a few years older than me and women a few generations older than me (and now women who are not older than me but just seem that way because I think of myself as a years younger than I am). I grew up with a mom with amazing women friends. Women who were midwives, women who worked at abortion clinics, women who taught dance classes at juvenile detention centers. It’s the same characteristics that make older women seem like leaders that draw me toward them. I see actions driven by compassion and respect for others, carried out with a sense of self-assuredness, assertiveness, and self-respect. So yes, sign me up to be a hard hearted, homely, older woman escort if that’s the price you pay for those qualities. You can also sign me up for the secret coven, and give me my crone card. I’m in.
I had the pleasure of chatting with someone who has been escorting for quite a few years this morning – while chatting isn’t the point of what we’re doing, it is an awfully nice perk. As we talked today we got on to the subject of how we discuss escorting with people in other areas of our lives. How do you reconcile bring proudly pro-choice with a sense of wanting to avoid having your volunteer work interfere with your career, or your relationships with family members who consider themselves pro-life? What are the potential negative consequences – exclusion from your family Christmas party, getting the cold shoulder from a buddy, getting fired?
In a way this is an extension of a conundrum that I have gone through many different times. Do I post about escorting on social media? (Yes, but I am more comfortable doing that after hiding my posts from some outspokenly anti-choice folks.) Do I talk about it at work? Bring it up in casual conversation with friends or acquaintances? When I chat with the employees at my favorite store I sometimes wonder, would telling them the whole story about how I spent my morning ruin the friendly relationship that we have?
It’s something that I think about a lot. In some ways it feels mildly similar to my experience coming out as queer (happy pride month!). I’m lucky that my parents and close relatives will accept me no matter what. It might mean some awkward conversations but no disowning, getting kicked out of the house, etc. (I am so eternally grateful – happy father’s day too!) But there are plenty of people who don’t have that kind of support network. And at what point do you talk about this personal part of your life with co-workers or people you are somewhat obligated to get along peacefully with while having none of the ties that can help smooth things over with friends or family? Point: it isn’t private, it’s not a big deal, no one else’s opinion about your life really matters, and by talking about it you can normalize it. Counterpoint: but you do worry because even though you know that it’s totally ok to be queer, not everyone is there yet. People are murdered for their sexuality. Similarly, you know that it’s totally ok to choose to have an abortion, but domestic terrorists have killed in the name of “life”.
I am proud to be pro-choice and to be a clinic escort, and I’m proud of the person I am all around. Being honest about who you are can feel really risky; it doesn’t diminish that sense of pride. I believe that we can chip away at the faulty assumptions of the “norm,” whether those assumptions are in regards to sexuality or the idea that reproductive freedom is a taboo subject, not to be discussed in front of delicate company. I also believe fully that everyone has to choose what that looks like for themselves, and that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in being selective in who you trust. In the spirit of choice, we get to choose who we trust with what information and cannot judge others, or ourselves, for making those decisions.
Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser
Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to firstname.lastname@example.org (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)
I was back at the clinic this morning after quite some time away – time off was very good. It gave me a chance to just not have that racket in my head for a while. I had the opportunity to see the clinic for the first time in a while, with semi-fresh eyes, and to notice some things that come to seem very normal after seeing them happen so regularly.
I hadn’t engaged with any protesters at all until about 8:00. And then Stephanie happened. You may remember Stephanie – she used to be one of the jackass chasers in the orange vests. Now she is a jackass in a yellow vest. Andy wrote a FABULOUS response to an e-mail she sent. You can read that conversation here: https://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/dear-stephanie/
Particularly striking, to me, is this part:
“Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.”
That piece focuses mainly on the emotional trespassing done by protesters, and it is very eloquent, so I will simply second what that post says. We have also discussed many times on this blog the physical trespassing that happens – pushing into clients, pushing INFANTS into a client’s path, shoving handfuls of literature at clients and into their purses and bags… And of course, there’s trespassing onto clinic property.
This morning I had been walking in with a few client/escort groups, and after one I turned around to see that Stephanie had followed us onto the property line. WELL onto the property line, several feet in from both directions – this wasn’t toes over the line, this was trespassing onto private property very intentionally.
I was pissed. I told her to move, that she was trespassing, that she was on private property… She told me that it wasn’t MY property (well duh…) and that I had no authority to tell her to move. I will be the first to tell you that I cannot control what Stephanie does. No matter how thoughtless, rude, cruel, ignorant, etc. her actions and words may be, I have no control over them and cannot make her stop. But I can call people out for doing fucked up things. We ended up very close to each other, me yelling at her to get the fuck off of clinic property and what the fuck was she thinking, her yelling that I had no authority to tell her what to do and that it wasn’t my property… Finally I turned around and backed her off of the property.
I could write a lot about about how weird it is to get as worked up as I did, about how little sense it makes to trespass onto clinic property and then act like it’s totally ok… But it basically boils down to how shocking it is to see these ridiculous things happen after taking some time off, and how insolent and childish it is to trespass onto clinic property and act like you can do no wrong.
Let’s get real. What happened was not ok.
I am in no way saying that I handled things in the best possible way. But, the threat of having a protester invade a safe space for clients and escorts got to me. I got defensive and protective, because the one place where I should be able to count on having my own personal space was invaded. The space where clients should finally feel secure before their steps through the clinic door was invaded. The space that used to be patrolled by police officers that knew what they were doing (who’s mere presence would have almost certainly stopped these things from happening) was momentarily no longer a safe zone, and that is not acceptable.
While I am surprised by how upset I got, how aggressive I felt, I am not sorry for yelling or moving Stephanie off of clinic property. I hope to not get to that place again, to be able to control my feelings when my buttons are pushed like that, but I an not apologetic for my actions. Part of escorting is maintaining safe spaces, and when those spaces are invaded, I don’t think I can sit back and watch that happen without doing anything.
I cooled down at the corner and talked with another escort. As it got to be time to head home, we walked towards the clinic doors and passed Stephanie, who, making no eye contact with me, told us to have a nice day. How sweet.
Update: Stephanie commented to say I’m lying about most everything in this post.
Shout out to Stephanie: you still owe the escorts an apology. I don’t know how you remember things, but my account is from very shortly after this all happened. While I know human memory can be altered (I listened to a podcast about it just last night), I am not a liar, and I stand by what I have said here. You are allowed to have your version of the “truth” but it does not change the basic facts of what happened. Whether or not you honestly think you “accidentally” trespassed onto private property, we both know that you WERE on private property. We both know that you did not move when you realized what had happened. You still have some apologizing to do.
Hi! Several escorts are working on a documentary about abortion access in Kentucky. We are looking for people who would be interested in telling their stories about seeking an abortion in Kentucky. If you are interested, please get in touch.
E-mail us at myabortionstory (at) gmail.com, or call us at 502 299 7492. Also visit kyaccessproject.wordpress.com for info and updates.
Please forward this information along to anyone that you think might be interested, or anyone that you know that has a powerful story.
P.S. We are committed to protecting your privacy. No information about anyone who contacts us will be shared outside of those working on the film unless we are given permission.
A few escorts and myself have been talking about moral development for a while now. Basic psychological theories of moral development go from very basic levels of thinking (Will I get punished? Did someone tell me this is right/wrong? Will I get what I want?) to higher levels of thinking (What’s the context of the situation? Regardless of whether I was TOLD this is right/wrong, is it?). One theory that I particularly love (and keep coming back to) is Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I’ve thought a lot about where I fall on this scale, and where others at the clinic fall on this scale.
Kohlberg’s stages go from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional, with six stages that fall into those categories. Kohlberg discussed the idea of regressing from higher to lower stages and had other important insights, but I won’t go into all of that here.
Pre-conventional: Common in children, but exhibited in [many] adults. Judge morality based on direct external consequences.
- Stage One: Obedience and punishment driven. Individuals in stage one consider the consequences of their actions on themselves, and usually think that the worse the punishment, the worse the crime, morally speaking.
- Stage Two: Self-interest driven. Individuals in this stage wonder what’s in it for them, and define right behavior as whatever is in their own best interest. Limited concern for the needs of others (except in the context of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”). Lacks societal perspective.
Conventional: Typical of teenagers and adults. Judge morality based on societal views and expectations, and accept social norms concerning right and wrong. Major concern for “the rules.”
- Stage Three: Conformity driven. Individuals in stage three consider the consequences actions might have on their relationships and are concerned with social roles/living up to expectations of others. The intention behind actions becomes important (whether someone means well or not), and there is a desire to maintain rules and authority.
- Stage Four: Authority and social order driven. This stage focuses on laws, social conventions, and above all maintaining a functioning society. Often a central idea guides judgments of right and wrong (perhaps religion), and morality is dictated by an outside force. Views breaking a law as morally wrong (and potentially leading the way for others to follow, which would break down social order)
Post-Conventional: Recognizes that different individuals will have different perspectives, and these people live by their own (abstract) principles about right and wrong. View rules as useful but changeable (not absolute, not to be obeyed without question). Post-conventional moral reasoning is less common. It is worth noting that “Because of this level’s ‘nature of self before others’, the behavior of post-conventional individuals, especially those at stage six, can be confused with that of those at the pre-conventional level.” (That was a concern for me, honestly.)
- Stage Five: Social contract driven. Individuals in this stage view the world as full of different opinions, rights, and values, and feel that these should be mutually respected. Laws are viewed as social contracts, and those that don’t promote general well-being should be changed to do the most good for the most people.
- Stage Six: Universal ethical principles driven. Moral reasoning in this stage is based on abstract reason, using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only if they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws (I love that!). This stage involves imagining what you would do in another person’s place. Individuals in this stage act because it is right, not because it is legal or expected.
Ok, so all of these stages are lovely and great, but how do they tie in? Well, as adults who are doing something we believe in (which applies to most of the protesters at the clinic, not just the escorts) we have to have used some method of reasoning (moral and other) to conclude that what we are doing is indeed right.
To me, it seems fairly obvious. It seems clear that many (many, not all – this is a generalization) of the protesters are hung up in stage four. Which is where many people are – I’m not using this as a fancy (long winded) way to say that the protesters are stupid, just that our thought processes are very, very different. Consider the criteria for stage four in the context of the clinic. So often I hear arguments about how god has told us what’s right and what’s wrong, and god has said what to do and what not to do. But those arguments don’t seem to go much further than “Because god says so.” I don’t care of the law or god or aliens tell me if something is right or wrong, it’s still up for question if it doesn’t sit with me, and if it doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of people in general.
As for the escorts, I think that many of us have had to think deeply about escorting, abortion, and the situation at the clinic. It’s not a matter of someone having told us to do this, or someone telling us that abortion is right and us blindly obeying. It’s something that we had to tease out for ourselves, from our experiences, beliefs, intuition, and the world around us. I think that escorts tend to feel a commitment to justice, even when that includes doing something that our families, friends, parents, teachers, peers, and on and on, might take issue with. We feel a commitment to justice, even if that means doing something that can be potentially dangerous. We honor this commitment, even when it means being harassed and bullied. We honor this commitment because we see how important it is, and because we see that the rules and laws may not be doing the trick. Those of us who are at a place where we are able to escort (because there are many factors that make it impossible, and for some it is not the best place to direct their energy) honor this commitment because once we’ve seen the necessity we realize we cannot ignore it.
I’m in a lot of psychology classes in college (and I love those classes, which is why I’m a psych major). For instance, taking social psychology led me to have a brand spankin new insight into escorting and the mentality that people get when they do things like go to the clinic and harass people.
Taking Adult Development led me to thinking about the 5 stages of grief proposed by Kubler-Ross (here at the end of the semester we’ve been talking about death and dying – a jolly way to kick off the holiday season). It came up at clinic, and I’ve been thinking about it since.
The five stages are:
Denial – I think in the case of the clinic, this is manifested in how some folks don’t think it’s a problem, choose to look the other way, or pretend that reproductive healthcare is doing just fine these days. But once people get past that denial they sometimes start to escort when they do recognize that a problem exists and that they can do something about it.
Anger – I see this a lot at the clinic (on both sides). I think escorts deal with anger in many different ways, but it definitely shows up. It’s interesting how people who seem incredibly calm and patient can lose it. I see myself lose my cool sometimes, because I get hot headed and upset and frustrated, and I think that I have grown a lot from trying to handle anger and learned about myself in the context of anger.
Bargaining – Sometimes we escorts try and reason with protesters. I think that sometimes we convince ourselves that conversation will work. Sometimes actual bargaining does go on – but the deals aren’t often seen though, just proposed. And maybe in some way showing the protesters that we are human, by having pleasant conversations with them, we are trying to bargain – if I’m human to you and don’t yell and swear at you, will you calm down too?
Depression – This is a tough one. It seems so overwhelming sometimes, to continue escorting. Or to escort on days when not many other escorts show up, to have your buttons pushed, or to see strangers cry because they’re being harassed. It’s hard not to feel helpless and insignificant. It is an awful feeling, thinking that we’re up against a brick wall – that the government isn’t going to change things for the better, that the police aren’t going to save the day and enforce laws, that the clinic won’t even work with us. It gets depressing. But I try to stay positive and look on the bright side, and recognize that what we do might mean the world to someone walking into the clinic. No, we might not get a bubble law on the books here in the great state of Kentucky, but to one person who walks in the clinic, we might be really helpful and give them the support they need. And that gives me a little bit of hope.
Acceptance – I guess that acceptance comes through a little bit in what I was saying about depression. We have to accept that what we do DOES make a difference, and that even though it might seem insignificant sometimes, it might mean the world to a client or their support person. And it is important to take a stand for what we believe in, to not let bullies run things, and to get people thinking and talking about important stuff (or hell, even the unimportant stuff – you just have to start thinking and talking about SOMEthing).
The thing about these 5 stages, at the clinic and in other situations, is that people experience them differently – in different orders, in different ways, and some people don’t experience certain stages at all. I think that I cycle through the stages over and over again – I go from feeling angry to depressed to acceptance and back around again as new things come up and as I change and learn.
I can get very college-student-ey about this stuff, and definitely tend to take things that I’m learning about and apply them to different areas of my life. But that’s one way that I deal with the things going on for me – it helps me sort through everything happening.
It helps me to get thoughts out – they stop swirling around in my brain so much. That’s part of why I love this blog and our wonderful clinic escorts. I love the conversations we have over breakfast, at the clinic, on the internet. I love the community that has formed, where I can verbalize stuff like this!
Because it’s late and I get goofy when it’s late, and because the Golden Girls have always helped me get through my sad days, this one goes out to all of the amazing escorts out there:
P.S. In case you were wondering, the Golden Girls were pro-choice – they even filmed a pro-choice ad in 1989 for Florida Voice for Choice while a columnist came to Florida to speak against abortion, right before the Florida governor began sessions to consider abortion restrictions. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find the ad on youtube.) They are the greatest, in my book.
Hello, it was raining and cold on Tuesday morning.
Donna needed her hands to clutch her black umbrella, so at least the gruesome CHOICE sign wasn’t around. However, she kept using her body and the umbrella to block the sidewalk. There were only two safety escorts present: a man who has escorted for 11 years and myself.
A young black teenager came around the corner of 2nd and Market, alone, shivering in the cold, carrying her own umbrella. Donna, already blocking the clinic side of the sidewalk, angled in, walking beside the young woman, herding her toward the street side of the sidewalk, and ultimately cutting her off.
Now I ask you to picture this: From the edge of the sidewalk, we have one large tree, surrounded by deep puddles of water on the sidewalk, edged by a young black woman holding her umbrella, who is pinned there by a short and soft-spoken white woman so determined to make herself heard that her own umbrella is layered up underneath the client’s umbrella, while her face is up in the young woman’s face.
“Is she allowed to do that?”
I ask my fellow safety escort. I’ve only been doing this for a couple of weeks.
“She can say anything she wants on the sidewalk,” he replies.
I step closer, on the inside track of this sidewalk cowgirl hogtier roper brand ‘em and drag ‘em to the fake woman’s choice clinic person.
To Donna’s left, I am facing the young girl underneath the two umbrellas. Tears are rolling down her cheeks.
“You don’t have to talk to her if you don’t want to. Do you have an appointment at the clinic?” I ask, although I already know in my gut that she does.
She looks into my eyes, nods, wipes the salty pearls from her face, yet cannot move forward without wading through the puddle or somehow pushing past Donna.
I spread my arms, angling my hands toward the sidewalk, my right hand just between the client and the anticlient, and say, “You can go this way if you want to.”
The woman nods, turns to her right, walking past my arms. Donna calls out, loudly for her,
“Sweetheart, she doesn’t care about you. She just wants to kill your baby.”
Later, I warned Donna to not block the sidewalk. I even had to tell her that if, while walking behind me, she ever banged on my shoulders again with the prongs of her umbrella, I would break her umbrella in half. She said,
“Sweetheart, I would not hesitate to prosecute you.”
I only wish.
Today was hard.
I’ve been on a semi-hiatus for a while, due to oversleeping, being out of town, and feeling the need for a bit of a break. But I managed to get my butt out of bed this morning, and I’m glad I did.
We had 6 escorts this morning, and not very many protesters, but the 10 or 15 that were there were pushy and horrible (what else is new though, right?).
Towards the end of the morning, a woman walked up, crying. Her support person was nearby, and Angela ran over. Angela evidently knows this woman, and also really loves targeting people of color. Angela was freaking out, trying to push through our circle of escorts, screaming that she knew the woman and that the woman wanted to talk to her. But the woman was crying so hard she could barely walk, let alone answer any questions about whether or not she actually did want to talk to Angela.
Then something kind of amazing happened. As we escorts were making really slow progress towards the door, an inch at a time, several people that were already inside of the clinic (and I’m not clear if they were with the woman coming in or not, but I believe at least one person was with another client) came outside. They held the woman’s arms and walked her up to the property line, pulling through Angela and Donna and all of the other really excited protesters. They created a space for her to make it up to the property, and really did what we try to do as escorts. It was so amazing to see that. Angela was still yelling, and Brady was losing it, but the client made it through the gauntlet, past the harassment of a supposed friend.
I’ve never cried at clinic, or ever even come close. That was one thing I was really concerned about when I first started going (and before I ever went that was a big concern, that I would just break down and be a mess), because sometimes I just get weepy. TV shows can make me cry, seeing other people cry can make me cry, and sometimes I just need a good cry to let go of some stored up shit. But nothing at the clinic has ever made me so sad. It’s also the first time I’ve seen some very even tempered escorts really get upset. It’s hard not to just want to get violent and angry and sad when a woman, so upset and crying so hard she can’t talk or walk, is being SCREAMED at by a “friend,” by someone who “cares,” not to mention strangers who can’t mind their own business.
This is a time that people really need support, and love, and a friend to tell them that they will be ok, that they are making the right choice because it’s what they are choosing for themselves based on their situation. Angela doesn’t know what’s going on with this woman, whether she had an unwanted pregnancy or had a very wanted but nonviable pregnancy. And screaming “I know you talked to ____ from our church last night, she told you I’d be here and she was right! Don’t do this, NO!” is not support. It’s not coming from a place of love, understanding, respect. Or even a place of basic common decency.
Days like today, I really hate how ugly religion can make some people. It’s hard not to be completely bitter towards religion, which is a shame because for so many people it manifests in a very beautiful way. But all I can see on mornings like this one is how hideous and hateful religion can be.
So for this morning at least, I’m going to re-focus my attention to the friends and partners and support people who go in with clients. They set aside their own beliefs and are there to support a friend. And sometimes that’s what it takes to be a good friend – shutting up about your shit and what you feel is best and standing beside someone when they need you. Thank you thank you thank you support people. You make me feel better about the universe.
I made a tribute to some of the dudes that come out to tell women what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. It’s an interesting phenomenon. This video is more for entertainment value than anything else, using a lot of footage I’ve taken and a lot of pictures I’ve taken.
I would like to point out that while some of the male bodied/male presenting people that come out can be really horrendous and pushy and entitled, many lady protesters are worse. So don’t take this to mean that it’s all dudely dudes that come out, or that they are the worst (I think that Donna, Angela, Mary, other Mary, Pregnant Lady, etc all support the statement that female identified protesters are pretty awful). But it’s strange because none of these dudes have had a pregnancy scare (maybe their partners have had scares, but they’ve never had to pee on the stick and wait those long minutes to try and find out what’s up). They’ve never had to honestly take a step back and think “This is a decision I have to make for my own life – what is honestly the best option for me?” Maybe they’ve decided that for other pregnant people in their lives, but you get my point.
Anyways, it’s such an obvious, basic issue, but who are they to say what’s right for women? And, lets take the gender out of this and get at the biggie: what right does ANYone, male or female, have to evaluate someone else’s situation and make the “best” choice for another person?
So, without further ado, my tribute to the kind of men that are probably not very good in bed (because really, I don’t imagine that men who don’t respect women are very good at sex, respecting their partners needs, etc.):