On Acceptance and Clubs and The Ones We Will Never Be a Part Of
This time last year, I had no idea what I was doing. I was reading voraciously about rape and the alt lit scandal--both as a concerned feminist and as an editor putting together a series of reactions to that shitshow. (As ever, "scandal" doesn't really encompass the terrifying reality of what happened in alt lit.) The supersecret group of women writers on facebook phenomenon had just taken off, and I was newly a member of Hempo, another private collective of not-men writers. And after years of admiring Delirious Hem, Hempo's public face, from afar, I was suddenly--and with functionally no vetting--publishing on that very site. Even if I didn't know what I was doing, I knew I was in the right place doing stuff I was passionate about.
I discovered Quaint Magazine, an upstart literary journal of women and nonbinary/genderqueer writers only, around the same time; I immediately dug them. My husband and I chipped into their first kickstarter, happily, because they were just so goddamn cool. I loved the aesthetic and the political mission--hello, my people. My goal with my poetry has never been to find a tenure-track job, publish in big-name journals, land a manuscript with one of the Big Five. What I want and have always wanted is to find a place to call my own. And I think I have. A club I so wanted to be a part of wanted me, too. Eight pages of Issue 5 are all me and all about abortion. (Read the poem online here.) Like, holy shit.
That poem that Quaint published, "Appendix: Online How-To D&C," was a slippery bitch that took me nearly ten years to pin down. Way back in 2005, South Dakota passed a restrictive abortion law that functionally stripped the right to abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. After that happened, a feminist blogger posted a detailed set of instructions for performing dilation and curettage--the most common abortion procedure--on her blog, Molly Saves the Day. (That blog is gone now. Here's a link to another old--and busted--blog with the original blog post and some context. It's super janky, but you can read it if you try real hard.) And while Molly thought she was saving the day in South Dakota by providing information, the feminist blogosphere erupted in outrage over that theoretically value-neutral information.
Already pissed off about the laws in South Dakota, some feminists thought Molly was only acting responsibly by providing information about how to safely perform an abortion. Others thought that reading a how-to manual in the internet and then actually performing an abortion based on those instructions was irresponsible at best and deadly at worst--and those deaths would be on Molly for publishing the information in the first place. This is an impossible fight to have. If abortion is illegal, some people will die from attempting to attain one any way they can. Having trained providers, even if they are trained illegally or underground through a resistance network, would be better than knitting needles and coat hangers. But really, I don't know how it isn't already obvious to everyone in this fucking country, what is best is legal abortion performed by doctors (and nurse-practitioners and midwives) in medical facilities. The debate was, once again, women (and trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary individuals) fighting for scraps of power over their own bodies.
So I read that blog post and lots of the commentary about it, only a couple years after I had an abortion. And I just couldn't deal with it. It haunted me. Abortion is surgical. Surgery is violent, even when it saves lives. And though I supported the idea behind the post and rarely flinch at the unspeakable, the descriptions in that post were too much even for me. Naturally, I wrote about it. The first draft of the poem ultimately turned into two poems, both of which are in my chapbook What's pink & shiny/what's dark & hard. One of them is "Appendix: Online How-To D&C," which ultimately settled into its final form as an erasure of Molly's original blog post.
It is ten years later. 2015 is a decade past 2005. And "Appendix: Online How-To D&C" is still relevant--perhaps even more relevant? Congress is trying really hard right now to defund Planned Parenthood, even though government money does not fund any abortions, even those performed at Planned Parenthood. Congress is trying to defund Planned Parenthood over a procedure the federal government already doesn't pay for. It would be like defunding SNAP because people sometimes buy beer even though that beer money doesn't come from SNAP. Wait, oh, I think conservatives try to do that, too. Anyway, off topic. My topic here being my fucking rage that we are still having this fight.
Lots of people are talking about their abortions and tagging them #shoutyourabortion (thanks to Amelia Bonow). This is wonderful. Also this is fucking bullshit. I have been shouting my abortion for a dozen years, and half of this country deliberately doesn't listen. Much like domestic violence and rape, the only way to destigmatize abortion seems to be to ask the already disadvantaged to further endanger themselves by telling their stories. Ugh. Ugh. Why do people who already know there are people in this country who would stone them for having an abortion have to be the ones to carry the weight of destigmatizing abortion?
I cannot tell you the number of conversations I've had in my life where some person (some dude, honestly) says, "I'm not pro-life, but I know that no one I'm friends with would ever have an abortion." And my brain goes, well I did. And I know at least three other women you're friends with who have had an abortion, too. And let's not even get into the overlap between abortion and miscarriage. I've had two babies medically removed from my body: an elective abortion with the abortion pills and a D&C to remove a baby I very much wanted but who was already very much dead. And I wouldn't make a different decision about either of those procedures. Both were sad; both were necessary; both should be well outside the government's regulatory powers.
While I'm now happily in a community of feminist writers who support one another, who understand the cost of living in a body that isn't cis/het/male, I know I will be forever outside the circle of mainstream America. I want to control my body, and this country proves over and over that it doesn't want me or anyone else who isn't a white cisman to control his/her/their body. Or, alternately, if this country is to ever stop fighting over who should control my body, it will be thanks to communities like this one I finally found my way into--communities where people speak the truth at any cost. And as much as I hate that destigmatizing abortion it is my burden to carry (truly, a burden--god knows how many teaching jobs I wasn't interviewed for because my abortion is easily discovered on the internet), I am really good at saying whatever the fuck I want.