Monday, February 26, 2018

Come for the Misogyny, Stay for the Religious Intolerance! - Dispatches from my Fourteenth Day as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.)

"The Deathscorts are really aggressive today. She ran into me!"

One of the Mean Girls is upset.

Turns out that sometimes when you deliberately block a sidewalk while trying to pretend that you're not deliberately blocking a sidewalk there will be contact. The odds of this go up when your cohort Parker turns his sign sideways to further shrink the choke point you've created.

"Yeah, they're bullies," says Parker. "Don't let them get away with it or they'll keep doing it."

Bullies. Indeed. We're not the ones screaming at teenage girls and calling them murderers, but we're the bullies.

The morning can't decide what it wants to be yet - it starts off feeling as if it might warm up, but before long a chill breeze presents itself and hats and gloves stay in place. I'm at what's become my usual post, by the clinic's front door. It leaves me in front of the screamers for a whole shift but they haven't been that bad lately, so I figure I'll be fine. Famous last words.

There's between twelve to fifteen protesters today and, as one of the other escorts notes, the removal of the buffer zones has led to them congregating closer to the doors than they used to. This is both good and bad - while it means the patients don't have to listen to vitriol on every step of the sidewalk (aside from The Runner, of course, who is an entity in and of herself), the last ten yards or so have become a vicious, claustrophobic gauntlet of shrieking malevolence. One young girl ends up tears by the time she gets through as she's informed of her eternal damnation and of how horrible a person they consider her to be. The mother has blood in her eyes and is about to turn back to wade in when the daughter catches her arm and gives her a small tug. It's not much, but it's enough. The glare she gives them as I close the door behind her goes ignored, the protesters busy muttering at my back as I box them out.

Bullies. Right.

* * *

"So this morning as I was brushing my teeth, I had an elfanism."

Yeah, I don't know either.

I turn my head toward Ronnie, today's team leader. Her puzzled expression matches mine as she asks, "Did he just say 'elfanism'?"

The screamers are out in force today, with the regulars showing a healthy disregard for the decibel limit. Parker takes his usual opening slot. Luis does an extended set, finishing by working himself into a frothing rage and directing his ire into the brick wall next to the entrance. Little Hitler - so dubbed due to the resemblance combined with an unfortunate mustache choice - even takes a turn, which is new to me. Later we'll have three newbies break their cherries, so to speak, but for now it's Hinton busy confusing the hell out of Ronnie and me.

We try Google, but aside from a few 'don't you mean this instead' results we've got nothing. I do my best not to interact most of the time but not knowing is tearing at the tatters of my English major soul.

"Hinton," I say as he draws a breath, "what's elfanism?"

He ignores me, launches into a new volley. I patiently wait for another opportunity. Not like I have anything else to do.

"C'mon. I'm not asking to be a smartass, we just want to know what it is. Help us."

After a few seconds he mutters, "I'll tell you later," and goes back on the attack. We get pretty busy with intake for a while and I more or less forget about his mystery word. After a while he cedes the shouter role to Luis, who embarks on his spittle-flecked aural adventure. Moments after that he approaches me, phone held at arms length. I have to crane my head back to see because I'm not wearing my glasses, but between that and squinting I can make out 'euphemism' on his screen.

I tell Ronnie and we're both vaguely disappointed, having been hoping for a strange and exciting new addition to our lexicon. Hinton shakes his head and says, "What, you don't like my accent? That's racist, man."

Always the victims, these guys. Possibly a side effect while suffering from acute elfanism.

* * *

"Here we are, at Planned Parenthood."

It's evidently preliminary auditions time at the Anti-Choice version of American Idol.

First up is this guy, who hasn't earned a name yet. We are not, in fact, at Planned Parenthood, and when I tell our contestant that he becomes flustered and starts again.

"Here we are, at the Englewood Clinic."

I point to the sign over the door. "That's still not the name, dude. Details matter."

He looks at me, where I'm pointing, back at me, and tries again. He gets it wrong for a third time but manages to get it together enough to call a young woman a murderer as she gets escorted in. As the door closes behind her he gives it another go.

"Here we are, at Planned Parenthood."

Ye gods.

He proves to have the judging and condemning parts down pretty well but lacks the passion of Hinton or the eye-rolling madness of Luis. He's more like a newborn fawn, awkward and stumbling as he tries to take his first steps toward publicly shaming women seeking legal medical procedures. At least his volume is lower than the others, which is nice.

The guy that follows him has his hat on inside out. The tag that juts out from the side is distracting, to say the least. I try to point it out to him as he fiddles with his amp but he steadfastly ignores me before launching into his big moment in the spotlight.

"You should feel privileged that I'm speaking to you today and sharing with you the words of Jesus."

Privileged indeed. I try to share his munificence by again pointing out that his hat is on inside out and he goes silent for a bit, losing place in his mental script. Too proud to use written notes?

I look over at Parker. "C'mon, man. These guys aren't ripe yet."

He gives me an impassive look, which I get. Kids gotta learn how to swim sooner or later, can't keep depending on the veterans to supply all of the slut-shaming. Manny, Moe,and Jack here are going to have to emerge from the nest and hit us with their best material.

"Life begins at conception, which any doctor will tell you." That's recycled Parker BS, but I don't call him on it.. "You probably missed that because you skipped science class to fornicate."

I double over with laughter, which knocks him off his game again. After a few moments he manages, "It's true," but I'm busy wiping tears from my eyes. This kid might be a keeper.

He's all over the place after that. God is going to punish everyone for every sin ever. This is a place of death. Jesus died for our sins and don't I understand how that shows Gods loves us. Only through Jesus can we be forgiven for our sins and have them washed away. There's no hope -

"Wait." I hold up a hand and, bless his heart, he stops. They're so cute when they're young. "Before you said that God is going to punish everyone for all the sins. Now you say the sins go away. Which is it?"

He goes silent again, long enough that I think maybe something broke inside. I give Parker another admonishing look for putting this under-baked loaf of babble-bread out here but it just rolls off him. After another awkwardly long pause the guy lumbers to life yet again.

"When God comes to punish these sins he will address the abominations, such as adulterers, homosexuals, the wicked, and the non-believers."

Ah. Perhaps we won't keep him after all. His decent into the cesspit of hatred and intolerance marks his final act as he gives way to the third newbie, a chip off of Mutton Chop's block. Nothing new or interesting here. At most, we appreciate the decreased decibel level of the three contestants.

Silence would be better, though.

* * *

"I just wanted to thank you for what you're doing."

I appreciate the gentleman stopping by to say this and shake my hand, but at the same time I don't envy what I figure he's going to have to endure next.

Unfortunately, my prediction proves correct.

I've mentioned before about how the protesters go out of their way to harass, mock, and demean the Jewish people they see heading to the nearby synagogue. Most have become wise enough to walk on the other side of the street or simply avoid the area altogether, but this fellow either isn't intimidated or felt the need to thank us outweighed the repercussions.

Given the way the protesters have started clustering close to the entrance his exit route is reminiscent to one of the trenches on the outside of the Death Star. With the same level of vitriol they usually spew at the patients the mob sets on him as he passes through, yelling 'Christ is King!' in Hebrew and besmirching the tenets of his religion. They continue hollaring as he heads up the sidewalk before sharing in group smiles and happy camaraderie, proud of what they've done.

Matthew 7:1-3 seems to slip their minds when they hit the sidewalk.

* * *

"J! E! S! U! S! Jesus is number one! Yay Jesus!"

Q-Tip is kind of fascinating. 

To be sure, she marches to the beat of a different drummer. All morning she's been doing Jesus chants by herself, waving her index finger over her head and exhorting the others to join in (they don't). She likes to echo some of the things the screamers say, filling in blank spaces when they pause to take a breath. I can't help but notice the wistful gazes she gives to the amplifier as the last newbie drones on. Hmmm.

"Hey," I say to Parker. "Why don't you give her an amp? She's got to be better than this guy."

Parker just shakes his head and smirks, and I feel as if I'm missing something. As I stop and think about today's lineup I have my blind squirrel/nut moment.

"Why is it I've never seen any women on the mike here?" I gesture over at the Mean Girls. "Why not one of them? I'm sure they've got plenty to say." Their immediate responses move my comment from theory to fact.

Parker waves a hand in my direction. "It's all fine."

It's not, though. I have zero doubts that any of these people would be more articulate than the rookies we've been subjected to today. "Seriously. Why are there no women being screamers?"

I'm favored with smug, condescending smile. "God's house is in order."

I blink a few times, soaking in the blatant misogyny. If the Mean Girls object to being classified as lesser beings they don't feel the need to vocalize their dissatisfaction, and I turn away with a low whistle. It makes their willingness to lambaste other women a little easier to comprehend, I suppose. How can you offer respect to others when you don't have any for yourself?

* * *

"I don't hate you, man. I love you. I'm praying for you because I love you and want you to repent and be saved."

Hinton's declaration has come three days too late for me to get him a Valentine's Day card, although I suppose there's still time to pick up discounted candy. But I'm not interested in his brand of love, the kind that only manifests itself if I become the person he wants me to be. I'm worthy if I abandon who I am and embrace his way of thinking. It's not the language of love.

It's the language of abusers. "Do what I say or bad things are going to happen to you."

It's the language of manipulators. "Do what I say or I won't love you."

It's the language of misogyny.  "We're all equal, except for those things I don't let you do because you don't have a penis."

It's the language of hatred and shame. "Only a woman with several mental issues would do what you're doing. You're a murderer."

It's not my language.

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