All I could say was, “I get it.”
I sat in my car as a number of thoughts swirled through my head. It had already been a long day and I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about anything that required any kind of exertion on my part. California doesn’t have seasons so much as it has “Summer” or “Slightly-Cooler-Than-Summer” and despite it being October, I found myself with a desperate wish to be in shorts and a t-shirt instead of my suit.
This was my first visit to a Planned Parenthood center and I couldn’t shake the slight feeling of unease that seemed to hover over my head. I’ve never really had cause to go to a health clinic as I’ve been fortunate to grow up in an environment where my partners and I had good relationships with our doctors. I distinctly remember that my high school girlfriend’s first instinct to obtain birth control pills was to talk to her primary care physician (which was a bit awkward as her doctor knew my girlfriend’s father, and totally blew our cover, but that’s another story). Like anything unfamiliar, the Planned Parenthood visit presented an unnerving situation: “What if somebody sees me going in? What if somebody attacks my car? What if there are protesters?”
On the outside, I appear to be an adult and am presumably able to keep myself together. But, on that drive over to the building, I found myself making things worse as I played the various scenarios in my head. I slowly worked myself into a frenzy as I neared the neighborhood and I briefly thought of just abandoning the trip for another day.
That’s when I realized that if I turned around, the terrorists would win.
I did not think that my small act of cowardice would allow Al Qaeda to overthrow the government, but if I refused to go to Planned Parenthood because I was afraid, then unjustness would win. Had I allowed fear to dictate my actions, I would have lost a fight for something that I believed in along with some part of myself.
In that moment, I came to realize that no matter how much I talk about safer sex education, I can’t always be there to tell everybody that everything will be fine. What I can do, however, is try to make things less scary. I now see why some individuals choose to try to perform their own abortions (which, is not recommended) because if a twenty-something male had trouble going in for business, how much harder would it be for a teenaged girl? I understand the sense of shame that some might feel when approaching a clinic but, at the same time, by simply crossing the threshold, I had also overcome one of my fears and surely that was something to celebrate?
One of the things that I have learned over the years is that anybody who has felt “less than” in their lives, for whatever reason, is a survivor and I feel that we all have the obligation to support those who come after us. So, to all of you who have been able to conquer your reservations and step into a center, I am proud of you. For those of you who are still self-conscious about making the trip, I understand what you’re feeling, and I hope that you, like many heroes-in-the-making before you, realize that you had what it took all along.
I took a breath and pulled into the parking lot of the nondescript building, letting my engine hum as I gathered myself. I put on my sunglasses and braced for the rush of hot air that would envelop my face when I opened the car door. Leaning over to brush off a leaf that had fallen onto my windshield, all I could say was, “I get it.”