Dear Stephanie

As a comment to the post “Not Making Things Worse” I got this:

Andy,

I am a life escort and I escort almost every Saturday morning. And I realize you probably won’t post this on the blog. But I do want you to know that there are quite a few of us who do not wish to hate or speak hateful words to you, any escorts, or any clients. I know that there is a good chance that we will never really find much common ground on this issue. But Ken did say something to me last week about both the clinic escorts and life escorts that I believe is true. He said that we are essentially all there for the same reason…to show compassion. I believe he could not have been more right. I read about the compassion you have for clients almost every week.

I respect you for being so honest in this post. Believe it or not, I too have felt much the same way as you have. I too have been pushed around and hated especially on Saturday mornings. And I too have had a hard time controlling my tongue. And as a result, I too have said and done things I have regretted. And I too have not wanted to apologize for them. But the Lord compelled me to do so. I did apologize and seek forgiveness from that escort I wronged. And here is the part where Stephanie feels the need to tell me all about how I was hurt by my ex, she can empathize, knows what it is like to be me and god can fix it and how great he is for a paragraph or two.

Blessings,
Stephanie

And here is the response I sent her via email today.

Stephanie,

To clarify, I did not write the post about de-escalating. ESM is a collaborative blog and several people write for us. I also want to point out that while you may be able to identify with something that is written here, please do not assume you know about the lives of the escorts and especially the lives of the clients. What is shared here is limited, and certainly not the whole story.

You are correct that I will not post your comment in its entirety. But not for the reason you think. I am not a Christian. I have no desire to hear about your god, beliefs or opinions about the lives of others based on the lack of compassion you and your friends show the rest of us.

I understand you disagree with me and feel like you show nothing but compassion.

We feel judged, harassed and most importantly disempowered by you and yours.

There is a huge difference between intention (what you think you are saying/showing/acting) and perception (what I feel/perceive/interpret).

It is not up to you to tell me that I should not be offended by you if I am in fact hurt by the way you push your opinions on me.

Escorts are a motley bunch with beliefs ranging from very devout Christians, Jews and Muslims to atheists and pagans, but mostly we are people who are just willing to admit we do not have the answers.

We have in our culture a great respect for the faith of our citizens and thus give massive latitude to religious speech. As a person in the cultural majority (Judeo-Christian world view) you may not be able to see that your faith colors every aspect of my life.

And I object.

The protection that grants you the right to speak your faith limits my right to set boundaries rejecting it. This is clearly the Right to Free Speech v. the Right to be free from Harassment social dichotomy acted out everyday in front of the clinic.

And so, this is my blog, and I will not provide space for you or anyone else to prosthelytize.

We know.

We have heard you tell us all about your faith and god ad nauseum.

And the fact that you REFUSE to accept no for an answer puts you in a position as the aggressor. I do not want you to aggress against me or the clients or my escorts any more.

As women we are taught No means No.

I am saying to you, and the clients say to you NO all of the time.

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.

Lastly, I want to point out to you that to escort someone is to safely ensure they arrive at their intended destination.

You do not escort anyone anywhere.

You literally chase people, who are telling you to leave them alone, down the street.

While I understand the literary point you are trying to make, it falls short in every way. You and your friends are engaging in deception.

Your orange vests cause more confusion than they create calm.

I was told the first morning you all showed up in those vests you all were trying to “level the playing field”.

It seems you all view this as a game to be won, strategy to be put into place, and no matter how you spin that statement, I think it was very honest.

And disgusting.

I disagree with Ken on this point.  I don’t think any of you care about these women and the torment you put them through by your actions.

You may disagree with the choice they are making, but many of these women are caused 100% more hurt by you than the abortion will ever cause them.

I know you disagree with me. Which is your right.

But the reality is that this is a choice they must make and live with.

It does not matter one little bit if you and I disagree. What matters is that in my 10 years of escorting I have spoken with thousands of women and most of the ones who talk to me about their decisions are confident they are doing the right thing. And none of the ones who were not sure felt like you all were really there to give them a better option.

I trust you speak with women who are grateful for your services, and while I find the services provided at AWC to be dishonest and disingenuous, it is not my choice make. And I will ALWAYS provide support to every person regardless of what I think about her decisions. This is not the same for you and your friends.

The climate on the sidewalk in front of the clinic is more than just the words we speak.

Can you even imagine what it must be like for women to be surrounded by 15 people, half of them shoving lit in your face, calling you a murderer, shoving in front of you to block you from taking another step?

Your words are the smallest of the ways in which you and your friends intimidate and cause fear.

We are all human and say things that we regret. There are always better ways to interact. But I can not stress enough that you contribute more to the hurt that women feel through your disempowering actions than anything else they are dealing with that day.

I don’t want to be your friend. I certainly do not want to develop a relationship with you so that you can have secret, or overt for that matter, plans to save me. I don’t need saving nor do any of the escorts or clients. Please leave us alone. In the end, all anybody wants is a little privacy to live our lives the best we can.

Andy

abortion is not a dirty word.

Reproductive Justice is the Antidote to Rape Culture

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to a tactic a group of anti-choice protesters outside of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY is using to deceive the clients trying to access abortion services. Louisville’s Clinic escorts (volunteers provide emotional and tactical support to clients entering the clinic) wear orange vests that say ‘Clinic Escort’ identifying themselves to clients. In the last month the anti-choice protesters have begun wearing remarkably similar vests, the only difference is the wording on the vest: ‘clinic escort’ vs. ‘life escort’. In this post I want to explore the intersection of Rape Culture and anti-choice activism highlighting the places were reproductive and sexual health meet the reality of our cultural norms.

Louisville's Clinic escorts vests

liar

Rape culture is defined as the cultural normalization of sexual violence. We see this in the social context of blaming the rape survivor for the rape; they were asking for it because they attended a party or had a few beers. Our court system routinely blames survivors of domestic violence for staying in abusive situations without providing viable options for those seeking refuge. Melissa McEwan has an awesome Rape Culture 101 post with lots of examples of what rape culture looks like including this gem of a paragraph.


Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”


An example of rape culture being utilized as social control against women and LGBT people can be seen in the 2009 horrifying gang rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, an out lesbian footballer in Kwa Thema, a suburb of Johannesburg South Africa.

The motive for the attack was “corrective” in nature, that is, culturally sanctioned sexual violence in order to enforce heteronormativity. The Guardian reported “What we’re seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them,” said Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle. The goal of the rapists is social conformity to the broader misogynistic paradigm, or in other words the heteronormative, enforced gender binary with women’s bodies and supporters of women’s bodies the target of socially condoned sexual violence and intimidation.

Dr. George Tiller

Now, let’s turn to the sidewalk in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY. Five days a week, protesters chase women and their families from their cars to the door of the clinic, yelling at them, calling them murders and whores, in general harassing them. The anti-choice protesters view themselves as peaceful, information bearers. They genuinely believe they have been ordained/ instructed by God to minister to these women. And while they certainly have the right to speak their mind and oppose abortion, we move squarely into the realm of rape culture when there is no place between the interactions of anti-choice protesters and the women to consent to the interaction. We move even further down the continuum of disempowerment and social control when women clearly DO NOT CONSENT to the interaction. Routinely clients will say something along the lines of “Please Leave ME ALONE” and the anti-choicers continue to aggressively impede their progress, thus crossing the line between free speech and assault.

white male privilege says "yes, you can and are"



The first week the anti-choice protesters showed up wearing their very deceptive vests one of the regular chasers told a group of escorts they (the anti-choicers) were simply trying to “level the playing field”. Which I feel is one of the most disgusting displays of social privilege I have witnessed in my 10 years of escorting in Louisville. What I think this young woman was trying to get across is that they feel entitled to the time and attention of the women entering the abortion clinic for reproductive health care services, and that if it is necessary to be physically imposing to do so, obfuscation and misinformation are appropriate tools to such an end. This entitlement is at the core of rape culture. The attitude that the bodies of women and queers are fair game as a battle field for social conformity is exactly the place where reproductive justice and rape culture intersect. Eudy Simelane and Dr. Tiller’s bodies were destroyed in attempts to isolate and stigmatize the ‘other’.

Tim Tomeny and another bully stand as close to the door as they legally can. from these posts they jump out at clients, shove or trip escorts and sometimes snap pictures. nice guys, real nice.

Well, we are all the ‘other’. There is no ‘other’. Rape Culture hurts us all. Rape is a tool of war. Gender equity is destroyed by rape. And the only way to combat these evils is to fight for the autonomy and empowerment of all people.

Trust People

July 23, 2009

Escorts: 3

Protesters: 7, 3 praying, 4 chasing

Throughout the last ten years we have focused our escorting efforts solely on Saturday mornings. Recently however we have seen a dramatic up tick in both the number and aggressivness of anti-choicers showing up during the week. Neither the clinic nor the escorts have felt the need to assist clients Tuesday through Saturday until now.

For the last threeish weeks we have been sending 3 to 4 escorts down to the clinic in the mornings. I had not been able to make it down until this past week and I was not prepared for the difference in attitude it takes to escort other days than Saturday. Take away the group dynamics between escorts and protester, fewer clients and less general chaos, and the atmosphere during the week is PERSONAL. I was blown away at how much more intimate it felt to be out there with so little emotional cover. I was very quickly defensive and angry, and I struggled to keep my cool.

One of the anti-choices caused me more grief than the others. She was a female presenting, 30 something, who told clients that having an abortion would ‘irreparably damage’ them. She adamantly professed the nature of women to birth babies and used the love of her own two children to prove her argument. When I asked her if she had ever spoken with someone who was happy with their decision to have an abortion she told me that person did not exist and that she could not believe them any way, because she could not imagine not wanting her kids.

VID00052

Within the anti-choice community privilege shines through as an indicator of worth. As a culture we do not trust teenagers with comprehensive sex-ed, we do not trust poor people with decisions regarding health care, we do not trust queer people to make decisions about their bodies, even to decide their own pronouns. For a white, college educated (she told me she has at least a Bachelors degree) cisgendered person to believe she has a monopoly on truth, is disingenuous at best. And at it’s worst perpetuates false ideas of normalcy and valid life experiences.

A great example of this occurred two weekends ago, I captured an interaction between a client walking into EMW and one of our protesters. Here is the transcript of the 30 second interaction.

Support person to the protesters: …we just got out of the hospital, you all need to mind your own.

Protester: You could go across the street and get a picture of your baby.

Client: Actually I miscarried last night, before I bleed to death, I need to have all of this taken care of.

Protester: The ER is where you need to go, not here.

Client: I’ve already been to the ER.

Protester: Why did they send you here if the baby is gone? I don’t think you are telling the truth; please don’t take the life of your baby.

The truth of the matter is, that if this woman went to UofL hospital she could not obtain an abortion except to save her life, because Kentucky has a law on the books baring a public facility from providing those procedures.

The truth of the matter is, that she could have been sent away from any hospital without a D&C because the physician or nurse or ER administrator might have objected.

The truth of the matter is that insurance in KY does not pay for an abortion unless to save the person’s life, even if she is miscarrying; even if the fetus is already gone our medical system still stigmatizes abortion procedures, regardless of the health status of the client.

Who do you want deciding what is right in your life? Some one who is not interested in listening because they can not even try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?

Maybe these anti-choicers should step back and listen to the real experiences of people’s lives, not what they think other people experience. Maybe they should suspend judgment for just one hour and experience what other people must go through. Maybe we should all address our privilege and stop making assumptions about one another and invalidating other people’s lives.

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Comments by andy

So I am really excited to say we had more comments related to Ken’s post than we have. A few comments have indicated to me that we need some clarification as to the purpose of this blog as well as the expectations for productive dialogue.

!. This is a pro-choice blog and we will not post deadbabybabydeaddeadbabybad comments. We are not here to waste time in a debate we have all had a million times.

2. Religious speech is not appropriate in this forum.

Comments need to be confined to analysis of Reproductive and Sexual Justice, Escorting philosophy and tactics or cultural milieu observations, as well as critiques of said approaches.

3. Respect will be given, no name calling. Cursing at anyone or threatening will not be tolerated and the offender will be banned from further commenting.

4. I identify as a radical queer who will not tolerate derogatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality or any other defining factor. That being said I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to examine the fucked up things we say and think without knowing it. I will make editorial comments occasionally to accomplish this goal.

4. If some other issue comes up and I feel the need to moderate, I will.

Please keep it up, the comments this week are great and the more we use this as a forum, the better off we are as escorts and defenders of our reproductive and sexual rights.

Feb 15, 2009 by andy

Feb 15, 2009

Escorts: 13

Protesters: 90-100

Cops: 1

“The bond that links a true family is not one of blood, but of joy and respect  in each other’s lives;  rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”

Tales of a Reluctant Messiah

by Richard Bach

I showed up at the clinic Saturday morning and at 7:00am there were between 50 and 60 protesters lining the gauntlet before the clinic doors opened. The weather was almost not cold and I guess the protesters were feeling froggy.

2-15-09-21

We had a few chasers this morning, Angela being the main culprit, but in addition to her there was a new young couple out getting up in the mix. The guy mostly took pictures and talked to Zen Master D. The young gal on the other hand was very assertive chasing clients from their cars trying to hand out lit and redirect them.

Rick from the Creepy Crew was out lurking as usual in the parking lot.

2-15-09-9

And sometime around 7:45 am Mary and Mike march up 2nd St and onto Market across from the clinic door with another 35-50 people. They stood around completely blocking the sidewalk for the rest of the morning saying the rosary.

2-15-09-16

The happenings this morning that stick out in my mind the most however, came from a family of 5 I have never seen at the clinic before. The parents were in the late 20s or early 30s and had three small children ranging from maybe 3 to 7 years old. They stood at entrance to the parking lot and as clients walked the mother would push her children into the path of the client and escorts offering to speak with the client about family.

Now I have seen the protesters use almost every tactic I can think of to persuade pregnant people that to give birth to a baby, but this takes the cake.

2-15-09-14

CHILDERN ARE NOT POLITICAL TOOLS.

They should not be used as props to intimidate, shame, guilt and distract women.

There is nothing wrong with having an abortion.

And instead of dragging children out into the cold on a Saturday morning to use them as happy, white, heteronormative examples of a socially constructed familial paradigms, Stop and recognize that all kinds of families make the decision to have an abortion.

Many people make the decision to have an abortion to preserve their family’s well being.

The assumptions made by these protesters about the family structures of women choosing to have an abortion belie the complex reality we, as whole and unique individuals, exist in.

And until we are able to break through the socially constructed heteronormative family as our default interpretation of family we will continue to miss out on the vast beauty of what family can really be.

Inclusive, supportive, loving, tolerant, real, strong and unconditional.