Monthly Archives: January 2017

Silent Marchers: “Candace”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hi. I’m “Candace.”

But not really.

This is not a story that I tell very often, but I want to tell it now. This movement is showing me how important it is to speak up.

I was sexually abused as a child by a family member.  It has been more than ten years ago now, and my family still doesn’t know. Thankfully, it never amounted to anything. Just a few “abuse sessions” as I refer to them, and then it was just over.

This family member is still in my life. He pretends like it never happened and actually considers us “friends.”

Several years after that happened, I became involved in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a boy four or five years older than me. I ended up being hospitalized, but not from physical abuse. It was his words that put me there. I spent the end of my junior year in high school in a hospital because I wanted to die.  I spent three years in counseling after that because the feeling never went away.

It still resurfaces sometimes.

This has made me a stronger person but it has also caused many problems in my current relationship. My fiancé felt used for the first half of our relationship because I was so wrapped up in hating myself that I didn’t have much room to love him. I’m really lucky that he stuck around. That is how I got to finally experience unconditional love.

We now have a young son together, but I had a miscarriage four months before I got pregnant with him. It sent me into a frenzy at the time. I lost all the progress that I had worked so hard for. I had almost been normal before that. I had gotten to where it was only once a month that I was having days where I shut myself away and cried for hours. But after the miscarriage, I returned to being a daily crier. It sent my relationship into a downward spiral that we are still trying to recover from.

We had another pregnancy scare when my son turned three months old.

That’s something that almost ended us for good.

silentmarcher2I wanted an abortion but wasn’t sure I could handle the guilt. It caused so much tension that I nearly ended my life. Again. (I almost left my tiny baby alone once during this time. I am still ashamed of that feeling.)

I heard so much negativity and shaming in the media regarding women who abort fetuses. The guilt over what I was feeling lead me to almost end it all. I almost left the love of my life to be a single parent to my still so new baby.

I am so ashamed.

I ended up miscarrying again.

Had I not miscarried, I would have gotten the abortion. Had I not miscarried or gotten the abortion, the pregnancy would have been enough to cause me to ruin my family and myself.

I was not emotionally able to handle another child.

I wanted to march in the women’s march, but I couldn’t. We have only one vehicle and only one source of income. My fiancé was working a fourteen-hour shift that day. If I would have had a way to get there, I would have gladly pulled out the baby carrier and marched with my son strapped to my back. I wanted to march, not only for myself for anyone sitting at home who had ever had the same feelings I had – just hoping that they could find the courage in themselves to do whatever they thought was best for them. Only them. No one else.

I also want my son to grow up knowing how to treat a woman. I want him to become a man who knows how to respect both himself and everyone else’s rights.

My life is tarnished but livable. His is pure and ready to be filled with all the things we have to teach him.

My name is “Candace.” But not really. And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“No woman has an abortion for fun.”
– Elizabeth Joan Smith

Silent Marchers: “Bethany”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hi. I’m “Bethany.” (But not really.)

I really wanted to march in the Women’s March. I knew I couldn’t make it to Washington DC for the big march but I would have liked to march in a smaller, more local march. My reason for not marching was that I was out of town.

Sort of.

Okay, truthfully, I was glad to have an excuse not to march. Even though I feel strongly about everything the march stands for, I didn’t want to call attention to myself by participating.

Why?

Because I’m seventeen years old and I’m a lesbian.

Now, I’m not ashamed of this, don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t a choice, it’s who I am. I understand that and my parents understand that. Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of other members of my family who most definitely do not understand.

So I don’t tell them.

silentmarcher3The older I get, the harder it gets. I have a girlfriend – let’s call her “Jessica” – and we are very much in love. My parents and my siblings know, but the rest of my family doesn’t. My grandparents and aunts and uncles are very involved in my life and I want so much to tell them who I really am – to them how much Jessica means to me – but I just can’t. They are very religious and are the biggest Trump fans you’ll ever meet. It’s so hard to sit and listen to their conversations about how gay people are abominations and how they’re “going to hell,” all the while knowing that they are talking about me.

I don’t say anything though. Inside, I’m screaming. Inside I’m telling them how wrong they are and how hurtful they are being to someone that they are supposed to love. But outside? I just stay quiet.

I don’t like confrontation. I’m a peacemaker.

Prom is coming up and Jessica and I will be going together. It’s not fair to her or to me to not go. We want to be there and to experience this rite of passage that every teenager gets to have in their life. There will be pictures of us together so I know that the time of them not knowing is running out.

Honestly, I’m scared.

Not because of what they’ll think of me. I’ve learned to be tough and know that what I think of me matters more than what others think. No, it’s not that. I think I’m just afraid of disappointing them. I’m such a good kid in every way – I never get in trouble, I get good grades, I’m kind. But I feel like none of that will matter when they find this out. Knowing that I’m gay will wipe out everything else.

And that’s not fair.

So this is why I didn’t march. I just wasn’t ready yet. But equality for all is something that I’m very passionate about and as soon as I’m ready to raise my voice, I’ll make sure that it’s loud enough for everyone to hear.

Especially the others who are like me.

My name is “Bethany.” (But not really.) And this was my Silent Marcher story.

***

“I think people feel threatened by homosexuality. The problem isn’t about gay people, the problem is about the attitude towards gay people. People think that all gays are Hannibal Lecters. But gay people are sons and daughters, politicians and doctors, American heroes and daughters of American heroes.”
– Hollis Stacy

Silent Marchers: “Amy”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hello.

My name is “Amy.” But not really.

I wanted to march in the Women’s March. I was all set to travel to Washington D.C. to march with like-minded men and women for a cause I believed in.

But I didn’t quite make it.

Here’s why.

I suffer from anxiety/panic attacks. As much as I wanted to be there, the thoughts of being in the massive crowd with no escape was petrifying. I knew there would be no easy way to find friends there due to the crowds, friends who would make me feel safe, so my anxiety won.

1732007173256It keeps me from living my life and can be so debilitating that some days I don’t leave my room at all. I had even mentioned several times to my housemate that I didn’t want to go alone, and feel a bit betrayed as she swore she wasn’t going to any marches and went to one any way.

Petty, maybe, but I don’t trust her now.

For those of us with anxiety and depression there is so much stigma and guilt we bear that when our fellow female friends dismiss it, it’s even more devastating.

Here’s why I wish I could have been there.

I am a firm believer in equality for all. We have had the Equal Rights Act on the table for what, 90 some years, and it still isn’t ratified?? I am worried to death about insurance issues if the Affordable Care Act is repealed fully. My parents and most of my family will be affected. I worry about fellow veterans who are tossed aside after money-making wars. Our environment is in extreme danger and we do not have a back-up planet to go to!

Here’s what I’d like to say to anyone out there who may have found yourself in my position.

If you suffer like I do from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that kept you from marching, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER IT! Sign petitions, call your representatives, offer to volunteer at local political offices where the crowds are manageable. We can still fight the good fight, it just might not be on the mainlines. I am struggling with guilt over not going but I’m trying to do my part in the ways that won’t make me panic. It’s been a rough few months since Nov. 8. But I’m still here. I’m still fighting.

In my own way.

My name is “Amy.” (But not really.) And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.”
– Bayard Rustin

 

Up Here on My High Horse

“Look at you up there on your high horse.”

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately.

Have you?

Seems like any time I engage in a debate on Facebook about the recent women’s march, or just about scientific facts in general, I get told to “get down off of my high horse.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this, and more often than not it has come from other local women in my small town.

I couldn’t seem to get that phrase off of my mind, so I decided to research it a bit. (For those who aren’t aware, “research” is a thing you do when you don’t understand something. It’s preferably done before you start speaking about a particular subject. I’ll wait if you need to go write that down.)

Okay.

I found a site called phrases.org.uk. Kind of a fun little site that helps you find out where certain terms originated from. This is what it had to say about being “on a high horse:”

“When we now say that people are on their high horse we are implying a criticism of their haughtiness. The first riders of high horses didn’t see it that way; they were very ready to assume a proud and commanding position, indeed that was the very reason they had mounted the said horse in the first place. The first references to high horses were literal ones; ‘high’ horses were large or, as they were often known in mediaeval England, ‘great’ horses.”

Okay, so let’s break that down. What is now used as a term of insult, actually didn’t used to be that way. It was almost a term of honor. It was used to refer to the people who were in a “proud and commanding position.”

A proud and commanding position.

Well.

So, how do I respond to that?  Am I actually up on a high horse like I’ve been accused of being?

I only know one way to answer that.

Hell yes I am!

And here’s why.

During the Women’s March last weekend in Washington, D.C., my friend Cassondra and I were literally smashed between thousands of people. We could not see anything other than the backs of the person in front of us. Sometimes we managed to squeeze ourselves into a position behind a person shorter than us and, in those rare moments of being able to breathe, were actually able to see the speaker on the television screen who happened to be talking at the time.  We couldn’t really hear them, mind you, but we could at least see them for a split second before our view and breath was obstructed yet again.

At one point amidst the ‘standing room only’ crowd, my claustrophobic and exhausted friend started showing signs bordering on a panic attack. I asked around to see if anyone knew of a place we could go to get out of the crowd and, while that was practically impossible, one person did point out that there was a long tunnel-like alley leading down to a locked underground passageway beneath a nearby building. At this point (this would change later, mind you), not many people were down there because of the sight restrictions. The crowd parted in what little way it could to let us make a small path to this spot to give my friend some breathing room.

When we got there, while she could breathe easier and we felt less struggle, we couldn’t quite forget what we were missing up there. Above us, history was being made. We were there to document it, photograph it, write about it – and yet here we were hiding in an alley.

Why were we doing that?

I’ll tell you why

Because it was hard up there.

It was, man. It was hard.

It was terrifying even.

It is a scary thing to put yourself in a situation that you’re not sure you can get out of. We were both asking ourselves why we were there. Why we had subjected ourselves to this flood of people. How were our two little faces in the crowd even going to matter?  Why hadn’t we just stayed home?

And then suddenly, I had an idea.

Our little alley was positioned behind a row of portajohns, and behind that row of portajohns was a metal railing. After studying it for a few minutes, I wondered if it might just be possible to climb up there and snap a photo from up above. It wasn’t going to be easy, I knew that, and we might even hurt ourselves (or her fancy camera) in the process.  But how were we going to let people know what we saw if we weren’t even seeing it ourselves?

We had a job to do.

And by god, we were going to do it.

So, between the two of us and some awkward maneuvering, we managed to ‘scale the wall’ (take that however you’d like) and rise above it.

And when we got there, this is what we saw:

hats

Photo by Cassondra G. Photography

From up there at my vantage point – on my “high horse” if you will – I could see what I couldn’t see while I was down in that pit. I could see hundreds of thousands of people in every direction you look. A sea of pink hats representing a common goal. Men, women, black, white, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim…you name it. They were there.

And what a sight it was to behold.

Here’s the thing about climbing out of a pit and seeing what you couldn’t see before. It’s addictive. You get up there and you realize that is where you want to be. You realize that hiding down in the pit is not going to get you anywhere. You’re missing it. You might feel like you have room to move down there, but the truth is – you don’t. You’re stuck.

You have to climb out. You have to get up on that high horse and take a look around. Be proud. Be commanding.

Make a difference.

And then come back to tell people about it.

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
– Alejandro Jodorowsky

Don’t be like that, okay? Don’t think that flying is an illness. Don’t think that rising above the situation that surrounds you is going to be a bad thing. Are people going to talk about you up there? Sure they are! Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they think it’s not fair that you got to be up there and they didn’t. Maybe they think that you’re trying to be better than them because you took the time and initiative to climb out of the status quo.

And you know what?

They’re right.

You are better than them.

You took the time to look around for yourself. You took the time to break out of that cage and see what flying really feels like. And when you got there, you realized you weren’t alone. There was a whole sea of people out there waiting to fly with you.

In conclusion, to the next person that tells me I’m up on my high horse, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for the reminder that yes, I am up here. And I’m not coming back down because I can’t.

Can you possibly understand that?

I just can’t.

The view is way too nice from up here. I can’t imagine climbing back down.

But you know what?

There’s plenty of room up here. I’ll slide over and let you on too if you want.  I promise.

All you have to do is ask.

***

“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”
– Dorothea Brande

womens-march

 

Attention-Seekers: The Women’s March on Washington

“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

***

“We’re with a group of strong, beautiful women. We’re fine.”

metropicThese were the words that my travel companion and dear friend Cassondra uttered to her concerned mother by telephone as we made our way into Washington DC by metro train for the Women’s March on Washington early on the morning of January 21, 2017.

I’ve had to replay Cassondra’s words many times in my head in the days since. I’ve needed the reminder that those simple words provide. I’ve needed the strength, the affirmation, the love.

Because, let me tell you, the days following Saturday have not been easy.

The only way I know how to describe it is that I’ve walked out of a sea of love into a swarm of hatred.

I live in a small, conservative area. I don’t mean to use the word “conservative” with a negative connotation, but I’m just going to have to say it like it is. The minds around me tend to be small. They can’t (won’t) stretch far enough to take in all that is out there in this big world. I’ve become used to it. I’ve become accustomed to the responses I receive any time I go against the flow (which is pretty often). This is nothing new. I knew there’d be negativity. I was prepared for it. It’s pretty much the status quo for me.

But what I wasn’t prepared for?

What took me surprise?

The response from some of my friends.

My FEMALE friends at that.

“I’ll march at the ‘we’re all a bunch of hypocritical asshats that love to point out the splinter in another’s eye while ignoring the log in ours’ protests.”

“I didn’t ask anyone to march for me.”

“No one ‘fought’ shit. You guys walked around getting pats on your back from people who already agreed with you.”

“They’re just a bunch of attention-seeking whores.”

Lovely, huh?

And, oh no….these were not comments that I just plucked off of the internet, mind you. These were said by women I know personally. Women I considered friends. In fact, one of them was one I had even considered one of my best friends right up until the moment my eyes met those words.

I feel shell shocked.

I’ve been running their words over in my mind.

Attention-seeking whores.”

Women (and men) just looking for “pats on the back.”

I suppose there is some truth to some of it. Really. For example – attention-seeking? Okay, actually yeah. That’s exactly what we were doing. Exactly. Drawing attention to the things that get swept under the rug. The drastic wage difference between men and women. The daily cat-calling, condescension, and groping that women are submitted to.  The men who make their eight-year-old daughters cry because they want their hair cut but daddy refuses to “let them” because the Bible says they’ll go to hell. (Oh yes. True story.) The Brock Turners of the world who serve three mere months in jail for damage that a woman will live with forever, because it may have hurt his little swimming career.

The men who brag about grabbing women’s pussies against their will because they have the power to do so, and yet advance to become the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Are we wanting attention? Well, yeah. I suppose you can say we are.

So, attention-seeking – I’ll give you.  Whores?  Hell, I don’t know. Maybe some of them out there have been paid for sex. Me, though? Notsomuch. So I’m gonna have to pull a snopes on you for that one. FALSE.

Now. Are we looking for “pats on the back”?

Hmmm. Actually, I think that might be the other way around. We were there to give those pats on the back.

nastywomanmanTo the woman I overheard trying desperately to hear on her cellphone as the crowd thickened and the decibel level rose because she was calling to make sure her son made it to soccer practice? Yes. That woman deserves a pat on the back. So, here. This pat is for you.

To the man who married a “nasty woman” and showed up to show his support and love for her and all women like her? This pat is for you, sir.

To the woman carrying the sign that said, “I’m the lesbian daughter of a Muslim immigrant?” This pat is for you, you strong, beautiful, brave woman. And here’s another one for your mom.

babyTo the many women in the crowd who carried their babies on their person for hours at a time so that they could be a part of an historical event to have their voices heard? This pat? Yeah. This one is definitely for you. What a story you’ll have to tell them. Kudos to you, momma.

To the little latino girl on her daddy’s shoulders beaming as she watched 6-year-old Sophie Cruz, daughter of Mexican immigrants, give arguably the most rousing speech of the day? That smile that covered her face as little Sophie told her, “I am here to tell the children, do not be afraid”?  Oh yeah, that one gets a pat on the back. And it would have gotten the biggest hug you’ve ever gotten from a ginger stranger if I could have reached you, you sweet little thing you.

hatefearTo the teenager holding the rainbow sign showing the USA and the words, “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here”? A pat on the back for you, little warrior woman. I know full well how tough it is for a teenager who is “different.” How brave you were to walk through the streets of that big city and show the other kids of the world that you were on their side.

To the woman wearing the race bib on your shirt that said “Sarah bear”? Being a runner myself, I had to ask you about it. I thought it was yours. When you told me that you were wearing that bib in honor of your young daughter who had just passed away? I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring. You definitely get a pat on the back. A big one. You possess a strength that I couldn’t possibly know. You are my hero.

To the woman who wrote this sign we found propped against a fence at the white house:

sign

This blog would go on forever if I kept up with all of these ‘pats on the back,’ so I’ll finish it up with one final one.

To the woman who stood by my side through it all. The woman I watched feed a homeless man; defend a woman who was being verbally attacked by a stranger on the street; force a parting of the crowd to help a woman break through to find her son. The woman who continually asked people’s stories. Who felt people’s pain. Who engaged everyone in conversation. Who shed tears on countless occasions simply because she was standing where she was and doing what she felt in her heart to be right. The woman who never wanted to be in front of the camera because she was too busy behind the camera –  documenting the happiness, the strength, and, sometimes, the pain. The woman who lost her job while we were on this trip because of a landslide in our small town, yet who set that worry and grief aside long enough to focus on the matter at hand, and do her part in preserving a piece of history. I laughed with her, I cried with her, I raged with her.

We became sisters.

cassondraSo, to Cassondra? An extra special pat on the back for you, lady.

*THIS* is what this trip was about. This is what this weekend was about. This is what that day was about. This was what that march was about.

Sisterhood.

Togetherness.

Connection.

Strength.

Love.

Determination.

We are going to be there for one another. We just are. Not just Cassondra and me. Every woman that stood there side by side in a collective love.  That day was just the start. The start of something big and beautiful.

And I will not…I repeat, NOT…let pettiness stand in my way.

There will be more stories to tell, I promise. Cassondra is a photographer and there will be photos coming that will blow you away. Her photos will tell stories that my words never could. Wait for them.

We are not through yet.

I just had to get this out while it was weighing on me.

I had to fight back against the oppression, even if it was coming from friends.

We won’t be stopped. You don’t have to understand this now. But one day you will.

One day you will.

not-over

Sign left outside a café the morning after the march in DC

This is Why

“Why can’t you just get over it?”

“What’s the big deal? You ‘lost.’ Move on.”

“Can’t we all just get along?”

“Give him a chance.”

“This is Sally. Sally voted for Trump. This is Bob. Bob voted for Hillary. Sally and Bob are still friends. Be like Sally and Bob.”

Oh yes. I’ve heard them all.

And so have you.

And each time I hear them, I stop for just a second and consider it. I mean, I like peace. Peace is pretty cool. I like when people get along. I like when we work together and hold hands and move forward. I like to forgive. I like to “let it go.” Those things feel good. And they sound great.

Ah. But then I remember.

I will not get over this.

“Why won’t you let it go?”

Let me try to put this in terms you might understand. Let me show you my why.

I want you to picture this in your mind. A man grabs my 16-year-old daughter and holds a gun to her head. He threatens her. He tells her that the life that she has known is going to change. He makes fun of her friends, her family, her.

I stand by and watch.

I wonder how this happened. Where did this man come from? What did my daughter ever do to him? Why can’t I stop this? He’s too strong. He holds the gun – the power – and I have no idea what to do. I hate him. I hate him for what he’s doing to her. I hate him for instilling this fear into her. I pray that he won’t pull the trigger, but know deep down that even if he doesn’t, so much damage is already done. So much.

And then.

Then I notice he’s not alone.

Standing behind him, is you. No, you aren’t holding the gun to my daughter’s head. And hey, you maybe even don’t agree with him holding it there. You think he’s being a little too rough. You know he’s not really going to hurt her. He’s just saying all that stuff, he doesn’t mean it.

And yet.

Yet.

YOU HANDED HIM THE GUN.

gunThat is my why, people.  THAT is my why.

The fear that this incoming administration has put into the hearts of so many in this country is UNFORGIVEABLE. And if you voted for it, you are to blame.

Are we really going to lose our insurance? Is the LGBTQ community really going to lose their rights? Are disabled children really going to lose protections within the school system?  Is the black community really going to again be looked down upon as the “less thans”?  Is there really going to be a wall built between us and our Mexican friends? Is our country really going to be besties with a dictator who has proven himself vile and evil? Are women really going to be treated as weak and unworthy of respect because our leader deems them so?

You know what? I don’t have those answers. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

But what I do know is this fear.

This fear is real. It’s debilitating.

And I know who is holding that gun.

And I know who handed to him.

Is he going to pull the trigger?  I don’t know if he will or not. But, as for me, the damage is already done.

No, I won’t be getting over this any time soon.

I will remember.

I will remember.

And I will fight with the last breath I have in my body to ensure that no one else will ever be held under that gunpoint again.

Watch me.

***

 

 

 

#WhyIMarch

“I learned I had to stand for something, so I could stand to be me.”
– Martin Sheen

The Women’s March on Washington is next Saturday, January 21, 2017, the day after President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

And I, Melissa Edmondson, will be there.

My critical father asked me a simple question about this choice.

“Why?” 

Why?  Gosh, how can I answer that? How can I make my dad understand? How can I make anyone understand? How can I make me understand?

Allow me to borrow a few more words from Martin Sheen:

“I do it because I can’t seem to live with myself if I do not. I don’t know any other way to be. It isn’t something you can explain; it is just something that you do; it is something that you are. “

How can I say it any better than he already did?

I don’t know how to not be there.

I don’t know how to turn a blind eye to what is happening around us.

I don’t know how to make myself utter the word “President” before the word “Trump.” I don’t know how to watch as basic rights are being stripped away from the people I love. I don’t know how to watch a wall be built between two groups of people because they are different. I don’t know how to watch our country’s leader play footsie under the table with a horrendous dictator who kills innocent men, women and children with no remorse. I don’t know how to continue being the recipient of the “talking down to” that comes from the men around me. I don’t know how to watch men who don’t even know me make decisions for me about my body.

I don’t know how to watch my friend Jeff die because he is about to lose the insurance that pays for the treatments that are keeping him alive.

I don’t know how to do it.

“I don’t know any other way to be.”

I just don’t.

So, daddy, this is why. Is it the waste of time and money that you say it is? If we’re speaking in immediate terms, sure. Maybe it is. I’m not saving the world. I’m one small little pussy hat-wearing face among many. One little voice that will probably be drowned out by all the others.

But one day.

One day.

I will be remembered.

I will be remembered for speaking up. I will be remembered like the role models and heroes that came before me. My children will remember that I was not silent.

I will remember that I was not silent.

We have to fix this. We HAVE TO FIX THIS.

There is no other choice.

wall

***

“I honestly do not know if civil disobedience has any effect on the government. I can promise you it has a great effect on the person who chooses to do it.”
– Martin Sheen