Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I keep trying to like Texas...

as I know that not everybody there loves Rick Perry and George W. Bush, nor do they all want to get rid of art, hate illegals or eradicate women's rights.

But then, there are people like Rick Perry.

And he's the frickin' governor.

And he's running for president.

I heard this story this morning on NPR this morning and I really didn't need to deal with it. I really did not need to hear that he is cutting funding for women's clinics that provide contraception, counseling and other medical treatment (pap smears, diabetes testing, thyroid testing, annual physicals, etc) for women and girls while not even providing abortions. But the fact that they recommend abortion providers to women and girls who ask, suddenly is losing them their funding.

In the meantime, the money that they are losing is not going to help out with anything useful, like health care, infrastructure, or job creation. It is going to "Crisis Pregnancy Centers", those places that are made to look like women's health clinics, but are actually staffed by Pro-Life activists. They offer no health education, no medical services and no contraception. They offer sonograms and counseling about adoption and keeping your baby. Thing is, these "centers" most likely will not take state money and, due to their deceptive advertising, they primarily get calls about abortion services - so this money is going where? Only 1%-2% of the girls who come in to their centers end up keeping the child or giving it up for adoption, yet, at the family planning clinic, you can hear a story like this:

"For hundreds of thousands of Texas women and teens between the ages of 13 and 50, the 71 family planning clinics in the state serve as their gateway to health care, and for many of those women, visiting the clinics is the only time they see a nurse practitioner or a doctor.

Rosalinda Roman, 19, discovered the People's Clinic in East Austin after she got pregnant at age 16 and gave birth to a boy. Now, she comes to the clinic every three months to get her comprehensive well-woman exam and her contraceptive shot.

"I come here and I do my annual physical here. I also get birth control here [and] Depo shot," Roman says. "I don't know what I would do with a second child right now."

With the encouragement of staff at the clinic, Roman has gone back to school and is two months away from becoming a medical technician."

In the meantime, Texas spends more on teen pregnancy than any other state: "The budget cuts to family planning clinics won't in the end save Texas money. The state estimates nearly 300,000 women will lose access to family planning services, resulting in roughly 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas already spends $1.3 billion [that's billion with a "B" folks] on teen pregnancies — more than any other state."

And somehow that's okay for the state budget?

I would love to suggest writing to Gov. Perry and the Texas legislature, but this is a period of time where I cannot guarantee that they would be listening. Still it can't hurt either...


Peace --Alex

What Are You? at the Brooklyn Historical Society...

Jen Chau of Swirl NYC will be facilitating a conversation on the What Are You culture in America and Katrina Grigg-Saito, in whose documentary film and installation FishBird I am featured, is one of the panelists. (and yes, if you see promo materials for this event, that picture is of ME(!) taken by Lindsay Brandon Hunter for the FishBird project).


Peace --Alex

Swirl NYC on Twitter

I think this is going to be a great chat and totally worth being a part of. And heck, just join Swirl on Twitter!

Follow Swirl on Twitter and then join us for our next TweetChat this Friday: "Naming Race: What others call us, what we call ourselves" - a conversation about the language of race.

Swirl (@swirlinc) on Twitter
Sign up for Twitter to follow Swirl (@swirlinc). Swirl is a national anti-racist organization that promotes cross-racial, cross-cultural dialogue. @jenkchau @onlyONscripting @kadavids

My contribution to the Discussion about "The Help"

I told this story for the first time at the Word Up! bookstore as part of the No Name reading series www.nonamenyc.com

I have read the book and may see the movie. There are good things, there are missing things, but overall it is a good book. And it makes me wonder how I would have been seen in those days…but I learned recently that I do not need to go back in time and down south to wonder what a little of that feels like…

The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who told me about a friend of hers for whom she babysits. The friend is of Mexican descent, is married to a German gentleman and they have two children, both of whom are very fair. Thus, there are folks who believe she is the nanny to her own children. There is a great picture of her on Facebook holding a sign that reads “Do I Look Illegal?” For anyone that may see her here in the Heights or in Inwood, she is not illegal, they are her children and as to what she does for a living, when she is not teaching women to properly wrap their babies, she is a Soprano in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.. Yes, those people who think she’s a nanny most likely have a subscription to see her on stage…and she probably makes more money than they do.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my friend Jane is a white girl from Western, MA. She married a man from Cameroon and they had a son who primarily looks like his father. When Jane goes around town in rural Massachusetts, no one may think that she’s the nanny, but they do tend to think that she adopted her own child. If you meet her out there, she will be sure to tell you that she is pretty sure that after dealing with 36 hours or so of labor, Xavier is indeed her child.

I think about these situations more now as I am due in January. I am mixed and my husband is white and we are indeed curious as to what our child will look like. Will it be lighter? Will my dad’s dominant genes come through causing it to be darker? Will someone think I am the nanny? Or will someone think it so wonderful that we adopted this lovely brown child? And will I care? I bring this up as, seriously, I just finished The Help a few weeks ago, and while I was reading it, I was up in New Hampshire. A friend of mine invited a few us up to her family’s summer house by a lake, and it’s beautiful. We had an awesome and relaxing week, but, of course, the last day came and it was time to clean. My friend and her boyfriend went out for a trash run, my husband was taking care of the kitchen, while I was finishing up the laundry.
The washer and dryer are right by the front door. As a slung a pillow case over my shoulder and continued to fold sheets, I noticed a car pull in the drive. A white lady and her son got out of the car. I saw that she was holding a bible and Jehovah’s Witness materials, thus this made me go for the door to tell her “I’m sorry, I’m not the regular owner of this house, so if you would like to come back at another time…” To which she replied as she handed me a Watchtower and an Awake!, “Well, maybe you could look at these when you’re on your break…”

As she turned and left, I realized something…She thought I was The Help!!!

I was brown, not the owner of the house and doing laundry, thus, of course what else was she to think?

Now I would like to believe, that if she saw anyone doing what I was doing, white, black, brown, yellow or red, and they also had said that they were not the actual owner of the house, she might also assume that they were The Help. But then again, particularly as during the week we were there - save for a waiter we saw - I was the darkest person up there, I have a feeling that was not the case.

At the time, I was too surprised and they had walked away too quickly for me to stop them and say something. As they pulled away, it really hit me and, admittedly, my first thought was “Oh my God! I have new material for my show!!!”

But as time has passed, I realized, I would love to have said something to this woman’s child. And it's something I am going to have to say to my child, save for the door to door part, as well. This is what I would like to have done:

Excuse me, m’am? May I have a word with your son real quick? Hi, I’m Alex. Could you do me a favor? When you grow up and are walking door to door on your own, if a person comes to the door and they have laundry or cleaning supplies with them and they look like me, or even if they look like you, do not do as your mom just did and assume that they are the help. Because they may not be. Like me. I am a guest here helping my friends clean up before we leave. So don’t make any assumptions about who a person is by what they look like or what they appear to be doing, just offer to tell them about your faith and go from there. That sound good? Because you know what happens when we assume: you make an "ass" out of “u” and “me”. All right, you just remind your mother about that, okay? Okay. Bye now! Have a good day!”


Peace --Alex

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How getting pregnant has made me more Pro-Choice than ever...

Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted. Over a year! And hear I am, kicking things off with a bang, jumping right into the abortion debate.

I've been wanting to write about this for months, but my first trimester was spent in a near chronic state of nausea and exhaustion and I've been playing catch-up during the second trimester, though still vomiting on occasion.

So, as you can see, the man and I are having our child. How has this made me MORE Pro-Choice?

Because, we HAD the choice.

No one was forcing us to have the child, or NOT to have it for that matter. We found out the news, sat down and talked about it and decided to go forward.

Not everybody has this opportunity...

Let me tell you how all this went down for us.

When we got married, we talked about having kids, but, like a lot of couples, we knew we wanted to wait a couple of years first. Well, three years had gone by and we still were just trying to live our lives and not sure we were ready to have a child.

And then, last year, due to my getting a blood clot (and no, I have never smoked in my life, but I did a LOT of long distance travel in a short period of months and next thing you know...), I had to go off the pill. We talked about other types contraception (condoms) and what we wanted to do and then it came down to, "well, let's see what happens..." At the time, I was 38 soon to be 39 and I knew my pregnancy chances were slimmer, but then again, I have what my husband calls "child bearing hips", thus, if bone structure is an actual factor in fertility, perhaps I had a better shot than most women my age. I also am a product of a later-in-life pregnancy as my mother was 36 when I was born, and my mother was a later-in-life surprise to her mother. Still, we were guaranteed nothing and decided to just see how things played out. If we got pregnant, great! If not, fine!

I went off the pill in June of 2010. In May of 2011, I got a symptom I never had with my period. And I got it the day I was supposed to start my period. And I didn't start my period.

Now, as my period used to be highly irregular until I went on the pill, I was never very good about keeping track as to when it happened. It would just surprise me(!) After being on the pill, my period came around like clockwork; I knew it would come on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the last row of pills. The first few months after I went OFF the pill, it was clockwork...and then not as much. I still wasn't great at paying attention to exactly when it came until I finally decided in March to keep track. That was how I knew in May, something was up.

I still wanted to believe that perhaps my math was off, but something in my gut told me otherwise. And even my husband seemed to notice as he asked me two days after I was supposed to have begun my period "Honey, have you had your period yet?" GAH! Luckily, I had a physical coming up a couple of days later so we could settle this once and for all.

I can honestly say that I was actually praying that I was NOT pregnant the morning of that physical. I was completely freaking out. I was like "We can barely take care of our cats, let alone a child!!!" Were we ready for this? This is THE life changer!!! We have stuff to do, still! Stuff we have not done yet, as in procrastinated on!!! How can we fit a child into this?!?! My husband knew I was freaking out, knew I may have wanted to make a decision that, liberal as he is, he may not have liked, but he was ready to support me.

I went to the doctor, asked for the pregnancy test, peed on the stick and got the result. Yes, I was pregnant.

I remember feeling something powerful at that moment. I wish I could describe it as joyous or scary, but I can't. It was just...overwhelming. I knew I still wanted to talk to my husband about this. That I still wanted to take some time and think on it and how we wanted to move forward. I told this to the Nurse Practitioner and she gave me the number of the hospital's family planning office and also told me that she would give me the number of a good OB-GYN if I decided to keep it.

I called the family planning office later that morning to make an appointment to talk about my options...the appointment was for a week and a half later. In the meantime, I had also called my husband with the news and said we needed to sit down and talk about this.

It was then that I realized how good I had it.

I am in a healthy and happy relationship. I am 39 rather than 13. I have been having a life. We may not make a lot of money, but we can make this work. We have insurance. I have a husband who was ready to support me either way. I live in a state and go to a hospital where, if I felt I needed to terminate this pregnancy, I could do it safely and discreetly and get proper counseling before and after.

There are so many women and girls who are NOT in my situation. Women and girls who are dealing with every situation from the one-night stand where the condom broke to the teenage girl who's been told "If you loved me..." to the girls and women dealing with rape and incest. They have families who think sex education is sinful or unnecessary as you should just be able to abstain. They live in states where there's only one clinic left in the entire state...and it's six hours away. They don't have insurance, can't afford it or can't get a job with benefits. They don't have access to contraception. The list goes on...

I am lucky. I am in a good place. We still freak out on occasion, but we are excited about the undoubtedly hyper-active mutant we are going to bring into the world. Nobody is ever really ready for this, but we are as ready as we can be. And we knew we could make the choice.


Peace --Alex