Speaking Power to Our Truths

28 Feb

I am unapologetically proud of my reproductive justice activism, including the seven months I worked as an abortion counselor and sexual health educator at a local reproductive health clinic.  Supporting female-bodied persons – and at times their partners, friends, family members and loved ones – as they moved through and processed their abortion experience was work I poured my entire heart into.  In the near future, I hope to return to the reproductive health care field to serve in a similar capacity.

Á few weeks ago I was shamed for the pride I take in my experience.  I was in my ophthalmologist’s office to have a stye removed from the underside of my upper eyelid (sexy, indeed).  The walls are covered in pictures drawn for him by his children.  His desktop is a picture of them all decked out in their ski apparel on top of some mountain in what I imagine is some place I can’t afford to visit in Colorado.  A “family man.”  He comes in, talks at me for 15 minutes, then leaves.  My mom is with me.  “Bella, don’t be so cynical” is her response when I start snapping off about how he doesn’t let me finish my questions before he starts to answer them.

We move to the operating room and he starts the procedure, which, let me assure you, is not very pleasant.  There were multiple injections of lidocaine, then miniature forceps, followed by many failed attempts at grabbing a hold of my eyelid, flipping it over and pinning it down.

“Just make sure you don’t move around too much,” he cautioned.

So this doctor dude lances and starts digging around in my swollen exposed eyelid and decides to start making small talk with my mother about the instruments he is using.

“Oh, that is an interesting-looking tool,” she commented.

“Yeah, what it is?” I asked, feeling suddenly that I was awkwardly being excluded from the conversation surrounding the invasive procedure being performed on my body.

“This is just a little instrument we use to empty out styes.  It’s called a curette”.

“Oh, I know what that is,” I replied.

“Oh, do you now?” he asked me, the way you encourage your friend’s 7-year-old to describe flute practice.

“Yeah, I worked in an abortion clinic and we used curettes for surgical procedures.”  As the words fell from my lips, I could feel the disgust seeping from his body as he continued to scrape my eyelid.

“Uh, don’t tell me that,” he said.  “These aren’t anything like those curettes.”

My mom’s grip tightened on my leg.  Silence.  She didn’t say anything, neither did I.  My whole body felt icy hot.  Nothing really sunk until we we’re leaving the clinic, when I began to really feel the anger bubbling up in my belly.  I realized how incredibly fucked up it was that he used his power in that situation to disrespect me, a young patient lying on his operating table literally cut open, being penetrated while I spoke my truth.  I had stayed silent in that moment, not knowing how to respond safely to his violent assertion that the work I live and breathe for is dirty, shameful – something that I’m not supposed to talk about, let alone take pride in.

I haven’t returned to that clinic, but I have plans to do so with a very strongly worded letter about my experience.  I refuse to remain silent.  I refuse to apologize for supporting people as they assert their autonomy over their bodies and their lives.  I chose to speak power to my truths.

4 Responses to “Speaking Power to Our Truths”

  1. Political is Personal February 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    As much as I am impressed by your activism and courage, I can’t help but see that you have internalized some of that judgmental mentality and are judging a population based on their choices which is what you are really fighting at the end of the day. Why does this doctor being a family man or having pictures of his kids and their drawings up matter? How does that relate to his opinion? Why is it important that he is able to make a trip to some place you can’t afford to go to? I think you need to think critically about how you are stereotyping and making these subtle links which hurt your cause and the cause of all of us who are trying to fight for the right to choose, the right to have our opinions respected and the right not to be judged based on the obvious characteristics such as our looks, race, sex, social status and clothes. I am someone who has pictures of herself skiing in Montana stuck to the walls of her office and who loves her kids to death. I am also someone who once had an abortion and will always stand for a person’s right on their own body. You have every right to be critical of his opinion, his lack of respect for yours and his rudeness but please do not link it to him being rich or being a family man who loves his kids. Having money or loving your kids does not make you a hater and misguided criticism, especially on a forum so effective as this one, hurts the very cause you are fighting for.

  2. Political is Personal February 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    All of that said I think you are a great writer and would like to see a lot more from you. I do hope you will let that doctor and his supervisors know what he did was extremely disrespectful and hateful. The only weakness in your post is the link to richness and family because stereotyping is something that has taken me a while to stop doing and it is something I have struggled with for a long time. Please do keep writing.

  3. Susan Ripplinger March 1, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I am very proud of Chere’ for her passion for reproductive right. Keep the passion!

  4. Christina Ramos March 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Bravo to you! You are a great writer! Thank you for standing up for a woman’s right to choose! Your experience reminds me greatly of the book that I just finished called This Common Secret. Horrible that people villify a medical procedure. Ugh. But we will keep fighting!

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