Thursday, November 14, 2019

When the Bar Goes So Low It's Almost Underground - Dispatches from Days 34-35 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.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33)

(YES I know I previously said I'd get recaps out more quickly by doing them after each session regardless of length and YES that was my intention and YES I know that this one has two days crammed into it and YES that wasn't my intention but life can be busy sometimes and YES I know I'm blessed with readers who will forgive me for this transgression and the others that will likely follow. Be safe, be well, be happy. Thanks for reading and spreading the word - Kit)

(Day 34)
"You know, these Deathscorts, these people want to ban AR-15s yet they're out here protecting abortions, which are the same things! Both are used for murder!"

Yeah, it's going to be that kind of morning.

The sidewalks are PACKED this morning with protesters, including the Northeastern Regional Overseer who is batting leadoff and providing the hot, piping false equivalency that's evidently an important part of a well-balanced breakfast. One of the other escorts informs me the reason we have NRO and some of the other guest screamers is because at this time of year they're working their way north to be able - and I swear, I'm not making this up - to protest the Haunted Happenings in Salem on Halloween. I guess it shows diversity to take a weekend off from shaming women to focus on trying to cram your religion down a different set of throats. Are they allowed to have candy apples while they're there, or are those also tinged with iniquity and sin?

Then again, maybe I'm misjudging them. Perhaps they'll spread love, tolerance, and understanding all over Massachusetts.

"Gay couples can't have kids! And there's no such thing as a 'gay' child!"

Well, maybe not.

The indifference with which NRO and the others say such callous and hurtful things tends to undercut their proclamations of concern for everyone's well-being. While they claim to be devoid of hatred there's a fair amount of bile and barely-muted anger thrown our way, although with the buffer zone reducing interaction that has lessened a tiny bit. A fire can't thrive without both fuel and oxygen, but that doesn't stop them from sputtering along, trying to get us to engage. Homophobic comments like the ones above are intended to set us off, but at the same time they're showing who they are. We're outside a women's health clinic and they are ostensibly here with their claimed objective of 'saving lives,' so why are they instead ranting about sexual orientation? Why are those preaching from a book that calls for understanding and love for all advocating intolerance and non-inclusivity?

Perhaps there's a method behind the madness that we, as outsiders, aren't privy to and thus can't fathom. A master plan that works on several levels, the oratory version of four-dimensional chess. An intricate and cunning blueprint crafted to influence minds and sway hearts with existential questions designed to force us into deep contemplation.

"You know what? Men can't have abortions!"

Or maybe it's just a bunch of dudes who get off on trying to shame women.

* * *

(Day 34)
"I see you laughing, and I know what it means. It's not what you think, no, it is not what you think."

Ye gods, I think Parking Meter Guy is back.

Given the sheer number of protesters infesting the sidewalk today I figure we'll have rapid turnover at the mike, but little do I know that the screamer taking over at 9:30 has been booked for an extended slot. Tall and thin with a shaved head, he seems vaguely familiar as he launches into his spiel with a voice reminiscent of the one informing you that the white zones outside the terminal are for picking up and dropping off only. I think he's this guy, whom I haven't seen for about two years and have missed exactly zero percent. It doesn't take long for his patter to become judgmental, somewhat nasty and, during lulls with no patient intake, laser-focused on the escorts.

"Your laughter is nervous because you hear my words and they cause turmoil inside you. You're laughing to keep from admitting that I'm right."

Realizing his freshman-year-Intro-to-Psych stuff isn't going to goad either Greta or myself into violating the non-confrontational stance required while we're within the buffer zone, the Reverend (as I later learn he has been dubbed) aims his toxic words on the clinic and those inside as he prowls along the outer edge. After a bit I move to stand in front of him, with my back turned, to try to partially muffle his sonic river of hatred and shame. When he moves a few steps to the right I mirror him, and so begins a dance that stretches over the next ten minutes or so. Our waltz ends when this gentleman, who when not predicting hellfire and damnation has been letting us know he's loves us and trying to save us, holds his powerful speaker up by my ears.

This is when I remember my industrial-strength earplugs, sitting next to my alarm clock back home. Sure would be nice to have them right about now.

It's loud, but my hearing is already lousy and so we continue this stupid game of Aural Chicken Dancing. It ends a few minutes later when our northerly escorts bring in a patient. While we're getting them inside, the Runner-Lite continues to yell at them as she cuts through the buffer zone. This is patently illegal and, given that we have the laws about the zone posted for all to read and have made sure that they understand them, likely intentional. I make shooing motions with my hands as I loudly and firmly remind her that she can't be doing what she's doing.

Her outrage at being scolded is palpable. For the next hour she bounces from protester to protester, angrily gesturing in my direction as her mouth moves a mile a minute. I don't care what she's saying and anything that distracts her from harassing patients is a bonus, but it proves to be the opening act for the rest of the circus. The Reverend, still droning on, follows her example by walking across the upper tip of the zone while still orating. I yell, he ignores me. We record him from several different angles, realizing that this was planned act of defiance against the defenses used to protect others from their abuse.

How very noble.

He continues to cross back and forth, still spewing malice coated with the thinnest veneer of feigned compassion. After all, what are we escorts going to do? Yell back? Wave our fists in frustration? Stamp our feet?

In the distance, a siren begins to wail.

* * *

(Day 34)
"What I know is that when I walked up here you and the others were blocking the sidewalk! You know you're not allowed to do that, so make room and don't do it again!"

What? The police showed up? Imagine that! What *ever* could have brought them here?

::blinks innocently::

The officer that's showed up already looks irritated beyond words, although he's doing a good job of being polite and courteous. I can't blame him, as this has to be an unwanted and wearisome visit, but the effect his presence creates is what the situation requires. The Mean Girls are trying to complain to him about something but he's still focused on how they were restricting ingress. When he's done with them our security guard talks to him for a bit as the protesters huddle in clumps, casting furtive glances his way. They're not afraid - this is not the first time the cops have been here, not by a long shot - but it's definitely changing the tenor. I, for my part, am more than willing to keep to myself unless he approaches me. While I might be this week's team leader it's not like I'm wearing a badge or epaulettes as identification, and as I had the guard call it in I'm more than content to let the two of them chat.

It always feels strange and a bit unsettling to have the police show up. This is the first time they're here at my behest, as I've only had a few shifts as team leader with the buffer zone so far. I hate to bother them - they almost certainly have better things to be doing - but aside from setting up trip wires there's not many other options available for me.

As the officer moves on to talk with what can be considered the 'brain trust' of the protesters, the Reverend launches back into his patter. He crosses through the zone again, at which point I become aware (somewhat late to the party, to be honest) that he would LOVE to be arrested for this. Exposure, notoriety, 'street cred' among those in their movement, another legal case to claim 1A rights violations - all features in their book as opposed to bugs. Sure, the Go-Pro cameras most of them sport allow them to post their toxic harangues online, but video of one of them being led away in handcuffs would make for a red-letter day. Past legal scuffles have demonstrated that the shadowy entities that fund this so-called crusade would be there to provide counsel as well. The lawyer who represented Luis also litigated for the couple demanding the removal of New Jersey's ban on conversion therapy.

Yes, the protesters love all of us, as long as we're the *us* they want us to be.

Since the patrolman seems focused on easing tension the Reverend's antics go unnoticed for the moment, denying him his martyrdom. We keep filming, the footage saved for the civic and legal battles that loom in the future. His insistence that everywhere is 'God's ground' indicates that he feels he can break any law he wants as long as it's in the Lord's name which, in a perfect world, would land him on an FBI watch list. Then again, in a perfect world we wouldn't need to be out here every Saturday morning.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Runner-Lite hopping around while she speaks to the officer, but it's not until she angrily points in my direction that I realize she's imitating what I was doing in front of the Reverend. I don't possess a law degree but I feel confident that I'm in the clear here, which is confirmed by the sour twist of her lips as the cop says something to her before walking away. The glare she sends my way causes me to laugh, which triggers the Reverend to accuse me of self-doubt once again. It's a vicious cycle, indeed.

After a few more brief conversations the officer heads back to his car, gaining refuge from the lot of us. The Reverend stomps through one more time but his heart doesn't seem in it, and soon after he shuts off his mike. Maybe he can find the arrest he wants up in Salem.

Do they still use stocks?

* * *

(Day 35)
"Sorry for your loss."

Sometime you have to wonder how a person can become so incredibly broken.

If you've been reading these entries from the beginning you're aware of how vile the protesters are capable of being. This morning, for example, the Northeastern Regional Overseer shouted "WELCOME TO AUSCHWITZ!" at a pair of nurses on their way into the clinic. Escorts endure a never-ending litany of verbal abuse from the so-called Christians, much of it straight-up projecting: we're racists (uhm, okay); we're misogynists (wut); we're worse than a murderer who only killed one person (yes, this was said in all seriousness, which is part of the reason my wife and I will never escort at the same time for fear of our children being made orphans); we're liars (says the same person who, after sprinkling holy water on the sidewalk and telling the demons to begone, states that a nearby Planned Parenthood is shutting down - an unfounded lie); we're effeminate (that's me, it would appear); we don't know our place (that would be every woman who dares to be out here instead of being home waiting on a husband hand and foot); we're entitled (as the Runner rolls up in her brand new Mercedes); and many others as well. Refusing to accept their would-be labels is a necessary survival skill. Being the loudest does not make them correct.

"Sorry for your loss."

How long it takes for an escort to become dismissive of the taunts and insults sent our way varies, but I can't imagine someone lasting very long if they couldn't. For people who say they're trying to spread the love of Jesus Christ they seem eager to try to reduce young, frightened women into tears, to shame and mock those doing nothing more than claiming control over what to do with their own body. A screamer, new to me - young, dressed in duck hunting camo, and of course male - starts off his time on the amp by calling out a woman's name and then saying her brother is out here and doesn't want her to kill his niece or nephew. Is this real or just part of an act? Given that he doesn't return to it again in any way leads me to believe the latter is the case, but who knows? Is there anything these people won't say in their attempt to tell women what they can and cannot do?

"Sorry for your loss."

I get the reasoning as to why they attack so vociferously as patients are going in. I don't approve, but at least it makes sense. They are trying to dissuade, to take control, to make inroads into luring them into their church under the auspices of providing assistance. As of late they've been pushing the narrative of 'We'll have a gender-reveal party for your baby!', which sounds a bit odd coming from old men who seconds earlier were telling the whopper of a lie that there's a detectable heartbeat at *eighteen days.* The Runner referring to patients and companions as 'Mom' and 'Dad' respectively is repugnant beyond words but at least I can grasp the (loathsome) logic behind it.

"Sorry for your loss."

That doesn't explain the comments fired at those leaving the clinic. What's the point? Beyond arguments based in ignorance that certain procedures 'can be reversed,' there's no tangible reason for the protesters to interact with patients once they emerge. All they can do at that moment is try to inflict guilt, remorse, and pain. What sort of petty, emotionally stunted people would traffic in such behavior?

"Sorry for your loss."

Runner-Lite, evidently, as she was the person who yelled this at a patient as she was leaving. I keep thinking that as a whole the protesters have hit rock-bottom, but they continue to prove me wrong. This isn't yet another attempt to lure vulnerable women into their religious sect; it's not The Runner offering the facade of kindness after being utterly repulsive to them when they arrived.

"Sorry for your loss."

It's nothing more than a bully picking on someone when they're perceived to be in a moment of weakness. It's a comment crafted to cause guilt, designed to inflict pain, intended to invoke remorse. It cannot reverse the procedure, make someone pregnant again, or make it as though the morning had never happened.

"Sorry for your loss."

It comes from someone who believes that she is better than others because of her belief in mythological beings, ones who purportedly advocate for love and understanding. Her way of expressing this faith is by showering scorn and hatred at those who are seen as sinners through the extremely narrow vision of her worldview. Smug and arrogant while wrapped within her mantle of intolerance, she spews bile like this at people she's never met. She wants to control their choices and, being denied that, resorts to lashing out in a toxic manner.

"Sorry for your loss."

Minutes after saying that she's chatting with Bad Dye Job, the two of them laughing and having an animated conversation that features a great deal of hands being waved about. It's clear she's not going to dwell on what she said, that she saw nothing wrong with it, and will likely do it again in the near future. Perhaps her deity is real and, when she passes, will pat her on the back for her zeal and righteousness. Or, maybe, at some point she'll have a moment of self-reflection and realize that what she said was horrible and that she is horrible too.

"Sorry for your loss."

The odds are pretty stacked against that, I fear.

Stay safe.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Hey La, Hey La, My Buffer's Back! Dispatches from Day 33 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.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. )

"So, why do you support a pedophile?"

Sometimes not being allowed to respond to protesters is a feature, not a bug.

Our buffer zone is back (for now) and I hadn't realized how much I missed it. Standing inside the yellow-lined semi-circles which bracket the doors once again was made possible by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by reversing the previous ruling. This is by no means over - it's likely that The Runner and her rabidly anti-choice lawyer will continue to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end - but for now the half-circle of peace and sanity is back.

The return of the buffer means that escorts within it have to keep their political and religious feelings to themselves - in other words, Kit needs to shut up. We're wearing pink vests instead of our rainbow ones and my Pride flag stays in the center console of my truck. I'll miss the both the fashion and the versatility of the cape, but since being here isn't about me it's a pretty great trade-off.

"Hey, you know, I believe in climate change now! I do. Don't you want to know why?"

Have I mentioned how much we love having the buffer zone back?

This is not to say it's transformed the area outside the clinic into a hassle-free zone - the protesters have a large turnout today and the sidewalk beyond the lines of yellow paint (and one hastily scribbled chalk line) is crowded. While they're not allowed to preach, demean, harass, or shame within the buffer they are allowed to pass through. Parker makes a production out of it, slowing to a glacial pace and once pausing to ::shudder:: shake his rear in what I assume to be what he considers an act of defiance. I (semi)politely ask Hinton to move his sign when he sets it down just inside the the line while taking his turn as a screamer, and multiple times I'm forced I to shoo a woman in a long skirt who, horror of horrors, appears to be fashioning herself as a protege of The Runner. Ye gods, nobody wants that.

Speaking of, the fleet non-respecter of both personal space and the phrase 'please leave me alone' isn't putting so much as a single manicured toenail within the buffer. No doubt operating under strict orders from her lawyer, she avoids it as if she's playing The Floor is Lava game, screeching to a halt at the zone's edge. She won't pass through it at all, choosing to get around it by looping out through the handicapped parking space in the street instead. When she's not busy trying to make people take plastic fetus keychains she's jabbering into her phone, glaring at the buffer zone with what one would assume to be burning hatred.

"Hey! Fake News! Are you on Epstein's list?"

I turn away, shaking my head. Ridiculous questions can die lonely deaths outside the yellow lines.

* * *

"'Mommy! Please don't take me to this murder mill on Death Row! Please, Mommy!' That's what a baby in the womb would be saying if he or she could speak."

Yeah, Parker is getting extra weird this morning. 

It doesn't take very many shifts on the sidewalk for one to realize the protesters will say anything and everything that occurs to them. Some are planned approaches that have been honed and polished, either in practice sessions or through repeated usage out here: The Runner referring to patients as 'Mom;' Parker giving out ridiculously inaccurate fetal development timelines; Alex and his semantic games; and so on. You do your best to tune them out and not let them get to you.

"Mommy! Give me life, Mommy, don't take me in there past these deathscorts to be ripped to pieces! I'll be good!"

Part of me wonders, as I stand in the buffer zone listening to a grown man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes pretend to be a 'womb-baby,' if I should be horrified by this behavior. It's difficult to get beyond the utter absurdity of hearing rhetorical commentary from an imaginary ball of cells having a pretend conversation with its host, but at the same time it's quite disturbing to think that someone thought about this approach, considered it a good idea, and took the time to suss out some sort of script. 'Pleading Zygote' does not feel like off-the-cuff improv.

Parker has much more to say in this role but most is lost to the wind as we have a rush of incoming patients. You'll just have to imagine the rest yourself.

Or don't.

You'll be happier if you don't.

* * *

"I want to talk to the young woman who went inside this factory of death before!"

Angry Grandpa's obsession with youthful women may not be the creepiest thing about him, but - 

No, wait, it is. There's other stuff as well, to be sure, but his focus on that particular age bracket engenders its own level of ickiness. He's becoming more of a fixture lately, an unwelcome addition to the unwanted menagerie. Given his glasses and pornstache he's been tagged with 'Groucho,' but I find it difficult to besmirch a great comedian's name like that. I've mentioned Angry Grandpa in passing before, noting his predilection to pepper most of his interactions with a healthy dose of 'sweetie' and 'honey.' It's easy to discern that he finds himself quite witty, and as some sort of karmic retribution for something I did wrong during some existence in my past we're being treated to him on the mike today. Oh, joy.

This is not to say we haven't already gotten wayyy too much info from him this morning. Our Lady of the Theater has spent a good ninety minutes engaging the protesters and while most of the interactions are barbed Angry Grandpa seems quite happy to brag about his life before he 'found God and became humble.'

"In the 70's I smoked pot! In the 80's I did coke! And women, well, I did really well with the ladies, let me tell you!"

Gah. Evidently he was quite the rapscallion who lived a hedonistic existence until ::GASP:: he realized his wicked ways and turned to God for redemption. How very convenient for him that his redemption came *after* he'd spent decades doing everything he wanted, free of judgment. No doubt the timing had nothing to do with advancing age and fear of divine retribution drawing nigh.

His turn on the speaker is unremarkable except for the disturbing focus on young women, be they patient, companion, or escort. He keeps beseeching one who went inside earlier to come out and talk with him, reinforcing the fact that they have never believed us when we tell them that they are an unintelligible drone at best in the waiting room. What do we know anyway, we're all just godless heathen deathscorts.

Having tuned him out, it takes me a moment or two to realize when he's finished. Handing the speaker off to someone else, he takes a moment to look around before proclaiming to nobody in particular, "I was great!"

Guess he's still working on the 'humble' thing.

* * *

"I'm not here to judge you. We're not here to judge you. None of us are going to judge you."

Do you get a discount if you buy your cognitive dissonance in bulk?

I'm doing slow twirls within the buffer zone, arms extended as I savor the empty space, not paying much attention to the current screamer. It's late in the morning and a quick consult with the guards has let me know that almost all of the scheduled patients have already arrived. The protesters have more or less settled into ragged clumps of conversation, occasionally remembering to brandish their signs with a notable lack of vigor. The Runner is still prowling about with her protege, while Q-Tip stands on the far corner extolling the virtues of Jesus to passing cars. A tall, skinny kid hovers along the the yellow line, mumbling something at me during pauses in the current oratory that I can't quite make out. I'm okay with that.

No dramatic ending awaits on this day, no great story to tell. It's just another shift on another Saturday, another display of bravery and kindness from my fellow escorts in the face of intolerance and hatred.

Speaking of . . .

As far as the screamers go, this part of the morning is more or less a dumping zone for the less-polished to be given time on the amp. The guy - of course it's a guy - on there now is so unremarkable he hasn't even earned a nickname yet, a short dude given to scowls and stares. His delivery included lots of pauses that are meant to be poignant, I suppose, but instead keep making us wonder if he's done or not. Right now he's focused on Aimee, who has worked the door the entire morning with nary a complaint. Looking in his direction has given him what he supposes is an opening.

"Again, I'm not going to judge you." Pause. "You're a sinner, you lead a wicked life, and the choices you make mean you're going to hell."

No comment.

May all your days contain some sort of buffer zone.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Just Because I Can't Eat It Doesn't Mean It's Not Sweet: - Dispatches from Day 32 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.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23. Days 24-31.)

(writer's note again: last time I apologized for the long gaps between posts. This time I'm going to assume a slightly different approach. Instead of waiting until I have enough material for the usual length of post I shoot for, I'm just going to go with what I've got after a shift. This means the posts will be more frequent than in the recent past but likely somewhat shorter. Tl;dr: More posts, shorter posts. Thanks for reading - Kit)

"I don't know why you have to use the rainbow, but you can't even get that right. A rainbow has seven colors!"

Yeah, Parker's still hung up on our escorting vests and my Pride flag/cape. Evidently on ROYGBIV, as well, which actually makes sense for someone stuck living in the past.

I'm never going to say that an escorting shift can be 'easy' but when a quiet, uncomfortable-looking young couple bolts at around nine o'clock we outnumber the protesters for the moment. Maybe it's too nice a day to SAVE THE BABIES? Not going to complain about that, but I will kvetch with great and furious purpose about the Runner showing up at 8:30, which is just straight up bullshit. Nobody wants that.

Low protester turnout plus us having a full crew allows me to stand directly in front of Parker's speaker, which has him in an extra salty mood. He snarls at me as I once again question his assertion that 'Satan is a murderer,' first insisting he answered it last time (he didn't) before launching into a lengthy rendition of the Adam and Eve fairy tale. When he finishes that he says, "There. That's why he's a murderer."


 As he drones on it comes apparent that the rainbow thing is really sticking in his craw, as he can't stop going back to it. Other screamers in the past have insisted that they were 'going to take the rainbow back,' whatever that means, but Parker wants to claim superiority because my Pride flag only has six colors. He's pretty smug about it, smirking at will. "Everyone knows a rainbow has seven colors."

Alas, his arrogance may well be misplaced. In recent years indigo has pretty much been combined with purple, as the concept of a seven-color rainbow has a pretty strange origin. Hell, half the people with me on the shift have never heard of good old Roy G. Biv. I do my best to explain this to Parker but he's shifted tactics to talking over me and insisting I'm FAKE NEWS.

A breeze kicks up, only for a moment or two, but enough to make my cape flutter in his direction. Six colors seem like enough to get the job done.

* * *

"Can I steal their signs?"

My rookies are *feisty* today.

In the early days of our escorting crew, long before I entered the ranks,the founders often found themselves taking shifts on consecutive weekends to make sure they had enough escorts. They didn't have the numbers they needed to give themselves some well-deserved time off but were so dedicated they did what they had to do. I didn't understand what my wife and others were pouring into this, didn't fully appreciate what they were doing. I do now and consider myself lucky not going through that as well.

There was a large bump in enrollment after 2016 - hello, Kit - which allowed them to both expand the size of the crews for each shift and  take some well-deserved time off. The numbers stayed relatively steady for a while, but with the march toward medieval times happening in places like Alabama and Georgia we're getting an influx of interested candidates again. Three training sessions have swelled our ranks and I find myself having to look at least a month or so out to book a shifts.

This is a good problem to have.

I was supposed to be a foot soldier today but when the scheduled Team Lead had to bow out I was happy to step up. A few months ago I would have been worried about having a pair of rookies to watch over, but putting them with experienced escorts to teach them the ropes makes having concerns unnecessary.

"Can I kick the signs instead?"

Okay, maybe not *entirely* unnecessary.

The training sessions are excellent (or so I've been told ::cough cough::). My rookies are both female, so they're already well-versed with having a bunch of arrogant, entitled men telling them that they're wrong, that they shouldn't be here, and that they have no right to make decisions concerning their own bodies. The sidewalk is a different venue, that's all.

I'm happy Roxy (her real name isn't Roxy but it absolutely should be) isn't going with the 'easier to request forgiveness than ask permission' approach. More questions follow about what we can or can't do, most of them garnering "uhm, please don't" from me as a response. We don't trip The Runner, we don't throw glitter, we don't use super soakers, we don't toss water balloons. Given the heat, I'm not sure anyone would mind the latter two today.

It's possible the rookies are a little underwhelmed by their maiden shift, given the dearth of protesters and the lack of zeal from those that are here. I've had this before with a first-timer who worked the door with me on an exceptionally quiet day. His second shift was a sidewalk-jamming circus where we were outnumbered three to one. You learn to appreciate the easy ones. Maybe there's not as much to write about, but it's not about us anyway. In a better world patients would be visiting the clinic with zero harassment and we'd be off doing different things on Saturday mornings. Alas, here we are.

At least Silly String hasn't come up for discussion yet.

* * *

"Hey! Uhm, I have something for you."

If I had a nickel . . .

One of the other nice things about having a crew of seven is that it gives me a good deal of freedom to move about and go where needed. With two on the door and pairs north and south, I can join escorts to make a trio for incoming patients (always a boon when The Runner is underfoot), cover for someone who needs a break, or stand directly in front of the current screamer so my body can block their speaker. I'm just finishing up a final rotation of teams - the northern chunk of sidewalk stays in shade during most of our shifts so I've been shuffling people around to give them respite from the brutal sun - when someone calls out from the street behind me. Wariness is the first feeling to arrive. I turn, expecting, well, anything.

It's a young woman in a coupe, pulled far enough over so that she won't greatly impede traffic. Her door is open and she offers me a smile before saying, "Hold on." She then turns and reaches over to the passenger side seat. I'm in no-man's-land here, between two of my crews and being largely ignored by the listless protesters. If this is someone who wanted to turn and fire a shot into my chest, the tableau couldn't be any more perfect. I'm not getting that vibe, so instead I mop sweat from my brow and I wait.

"Here. Thank you all so much for what you're doing." She's holding a paper bag by the string handles, the side emblazoned with the name of a fairly famous bakery that's on the one-way street that runs parallel to ours. After shifts I almost always get caught up in the overflow from their undersized parking lot.

I take the bag and offer thanks, blushing like I do whenever someone does something nice for me. There's an awkward moment where I think she's trying to decide if it's okay to get out of her car and hug me - it would have been - but in the end she settles for thanking us again, smiling once more, and shutting her door before driving away.

There's a box inside the bag with writing on it. Of course I can't read it without my glasses, but I don't want to open it around others and I'm certainly not going to take it into the clinic before determining what's inside, despite how pleasant the bearer of gifts was. I step to the curb and, making sure nobody's near me - not even the Runner - I lift the lid and take a peek inside.

And smile.

We don't do this for glory, recognition, or rewards. It's not about excitement or having an adrenaline rush - truly, the best shifts are the ones during which nothing happens, when the incoming patients suffer little to no harassment. We're out here doing what we can to protect a woman's right to control decisions about her own body, and so many of my fellow escorts do even more in arena besides this one. We're not out here for supportive horn honks, enthusiastic thumbs-ups, or drive-by gifts of delicious pastries.

That being said, they don't go unappreciated and they never, ever miss hitting our hearts.

Thank you, Sonia

Friday, May 31, 2019

Bad Religion is a Much Better Band than Bad Faith - Dispatches from Days 24-31 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.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23.)

(writer's note: please accept my apologies for the long stretch of time between posts. If the material isn't there there's not much I can but wait until there's something to write about. Despite the claims of the protesters, I don't make stuff up. Also, my fellow escorts are awesome. If you're interested in being an escort please search for a local team or hit me up and I can help you find the right direction. Thanks for reading and feel free to spread these essays far and wide - Kit)

(Day 31)
"So you say terrible things about our President, say he's bad and evil, yet you're down here helping people murder babies, what does that say about you?"

I love the smell of logical fallacies in the morning. Smells like . . . ignorance.

It's a miserable morning outside the clinic. The rain is steady and, aided by the wind, coming in sideways. Despite an umbrella the left side of my body is soaked fifteen minutes into the shift, my third as a team leader. Others have much more effective rain gear and I'm not going to dwell on my extremely poor choice of footwear. At least it's not too chilly. Plus the Pride flag I'm using as a cape keeps flapping up near one of their speakers.

I helpfully point out Alex's mistake, an assessment he doesn't agree with. For the next ten minutes or so I try to have a serious debate with him, which is *my* mistake. Sure, it keeps him from yet another droning monologue on his loudspeaker, but it also serves as a reminder of the folly of attempting to have rationale discourse with the protesters. It's simply not possible.

Why? It's not necessarily an intelligence issue (although it might be) but rather a spiritual one. They consider their belief in the Bible and all things it contains to be factual. Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt . . . they flat out believe these things happened because a poorly written book tells them so. Hence, every discussion shared with them starts in bad faith on their end. They won't accept any facts or logic that are at loggerheads with their beliefs. When they have no legitimate rebuttal they fall back on their version of  'A wizard did it!' It's wearisome.

Alex and I go back and forth for a while as he does his best to lay semantic bear traps. Later one of the escorts stationed up the street asks me what was going on, since she could only hear the part of the conversation being broadcast over his loudspeaker. Lots of 'no,' and 'you're wrong,' both of which are better than moral parables and judgmental rants.

It's a fair trade-off. I'll take it.

* * *

(Day 30)
"All women *always* regret having abortions for the rest of their lives."

That's right, females of the world, a man is here at the clinic to tell you what you think and how you feel.

Aren't you relieved?

Early morning showers have given way to something acceptable, pleasantly warm and dry as the sun keeps trying to break through. It's my fourth shift as a team leader and with a crew of seasoned vets today I'm feeling pretty relaxed, despite the increased saltiness of the protesters. One of their higher-ups is here today - maybe the Northeast Regional Overseer or however they rank themselves in their weird little cult - and the regulars are peacocking around, trying to impress him. It would be sort of adorable, like goslings around a goose, if the bile they're all spewing wasn't so repulsive.

"Are you going to go home and post about this on social media, m'aam? Are you going to put this up on Facebook?"

The woman who exited the clinic stops and looks back at him. "I'm sixty years old. What is it you think I'm here for?"

NRO (I know his name, but since his ego desperately wants attention I'm going to eschew mentioning it) ignores her response and continues trying to shame her, working his online angle like a dog gnawing a bone. His tone drips condescension and as he drones on during his second turn on the loudspeaker it becomes somewhat obvious that he *likes* this, likes being in this role, with others kowtowing to him as he berates women via amplification. There's nothing new or witty about his approach - same old tired tropes, same old shaming tactics.

"These deathscorts are out here laughing and giggling at you, they think what you're going through is funny."

It's true, we have been laughing a lot today. I'm running an experienced and amicable crew, or rather it's running itself, and the protesters have been particularly incongruous. Still, we're mindful of our surroundings - nobody is cracking up while we're bringing someone in or escorting them out. We understand the gravitas of what's happening, of what the patients and their companions are going through, and aren't going to belittle it in any way.

Once they're safely delivered, though? Damn right we're going to laugh in the faces of the cultists who were just crowding us, screaming horrible things, waving gruesome and misleading posters. For f*cks sake, Alex is carrying one that says, "EVOLUTION IS A HOAX."

How do we *not* laugh?

* * *

(Day 27)
"Why do you have to try to tie homosexuality in with murdering babies?"

It appears that the protesters aren't fond of our new rainbow vests.

The warm-up we've been promised didn't appear to get the memo about making an appearance and instead we have a bone-achingly cold morning. I'm extremely humbled and honored that the kick-ass warriors who lead our escorting group have decided that I'm worthy enough to be promoted to team leader, and nervous energy is doing its best to keep me warm as I make my debut in that role. I've gotten the first part down - I showed up with bagels and hot chocolate - but now it's time for juggling the tricky tasks of spotting incoming patients, getting them through, and not losing my cool with the cultists clogging the sidewalk.

And clogging they are. There's a whole slew of them and they've been pushing the envelope lately by using their signs to make getting by as difficult and traumatic as possible. They're not straight-up blocking the door - they know better than that - but they push in from all sides, either shaming patients for making a choice with their own bodies or begging them to keep the baby with promises of support and aid. For the latter, all you need do is join the cult. What could possibly go wrong?

Parker is standing behind me by the door, his balaclava askew as he mutters in my general direction. The Pride flag I'm wearing as a cape is irritating him, as usual, so he's telling me that I'm just wearing it for attention before launching into a 'fake news' rant.

Is he right? Sort of. First and foremost it's to show support. We have LGBTQ members on our team, and if you'd like to hear Jesus' teachings twisted and perverted beyond belief stop by when the protesters know we've got, in their words, 'one of them' out here. They're even more vicious if a pair of partners are on duty. They lead with a bad faith argument - apparently the theme of this post - in that they, the protesters, are the good people here because they want to 'help' the homosexuals. They want to make them see 'the error of their ways' and to find salvation in Jesus.

It's an approach that sounds chillingly like the base tenets of the loathsome 'gay conversation therapy' that has been rightfully getting banned in states all over the country. That's not surprising when given the knowledge that the lawyer Luis used to battle a harassment charge was the same one who was the legal representation for a couple who tried to get GCT overturned in New Jersey so they'd have the right to have their child legally tortured. It underlines what appears to be their outlook - you don't get to make choices. Only God does. If that's the case, then hasn't God or Jesus or St. Somebody already made the celestial decision for that person? Indeed, aren't they invoking wrath by questioning their savior's plan?

So to answer the query that started this section - because hatred is hatred, and it needs to be fought at every level, no matter what gender or orientation it's being directed against.

Plus the vests look pretty cool.

* * *

(Day 29)
"Yeah, you know, you're so proud of Planned Parenthood, do you even know about the founder?"

Oh, boy. Here we go again.

There was a time when I thought Alex was a little smarter than the rest of the protesters. Maybe he is, but after repeated exposure to his rhetoric I've come to realize he's more akin to a jukebox that's no longer can be opened to change the contents inside - it's just the same limited playlist, over and over, never changing, never evolving. Definitely one from some good ole' boy diner in Alabama or Georgia, where they're evidently trying to become Gilead. I have no doubt the protesters will be cackling with glee over those soon-to-be-quashed laws, bits of ridiculous jurisdiction created solely to be struck down and used against Roe v. Wade. They'll say their joy is because of the babies, but we know the truth - it's about more agency over women.

Am I making it up? I could ask some of the women the protesters allow to preach on their speakers - if there had actually been one in the two-plus years I've been doing this.

"Yeah, this guy should do some research into Margaret Sanger, he'd find out she was all about eugenics."

This raises the question - are Alex and the others willfully ignorant of the truth, or do they just believe what they're told without doing the research themselves? It doesn't matter, I suppose. The disinformation about Sanger was exposed as a hoax years ago, yet still the protesters try to beat this drum (the clinic we escort at isn't Planned Parenthood anyway, but the cultists seem to forget that from time to time). The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, yet still they slander an organisation that provides healthcare - not just abortions - to millions of women by touting a discredited story and ignoring the truths about Sanger and her life.

This can be applied to the 'picture' of Sanger at a KKK rally as well, which was also patently faked. So eager to strike down anyone who might champion the right for women to have control over their own bodies, the protesters will take quotes by people such as Dr. Martin Luther King and twist them out of context for their placards. Words may be better than being forced to see images magnified hundreds or thousands of times, but that doesn't make them any more truthful. When Parker offers his wildly inaccurate fetal development timeline (usually multiple times during each turn on the mike - it's his oratory version of comfort food) it's not just a mistake - it's deliberate misinformation, dangerous and misleading.

"There's a professor, Richard Lewontin, he's one of the leaders of evolutionary biology, and he says that scientists 'cannot allow a Divine foot in the door' when it comes to finding material explanations in the world. Think about that!"

Okay, Alex. Let's do that.

This is a textbook example of how the protesters attempt to twist and manipulate actual science to support their religious beliefs. The statements he's shouting about are from an article written in a pro-creationist magazine dated over twenty years ago. Is Alex aware that Lewontin's words are taken from . . . a book review? Probably not - the 'magazine' footnotes it but doesn't provide a link, increasing the likelihood that readers would never bother to do the research.

But let's think, as Alex says. Forget for the moment that the quote is taken out of context, and instead view it as it's presented. 'Cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.' For the cultists, it's proof that science a the foe of religion and further stokes their fervent desire to view themselves as persecuted, their beliefs viewed with unfair perspective. In truth, isn't it a viewpoint that has enabled us to grow and thrive as a species? The death toll from diseases has steadily declined as cures/vaccinations are developed and implemented. It's a certainty that solutions weren't discovered the first time, the second time, or even the one-hundredth time the issue was approached. What might have happened if they'd embraced Alex's viewpoint? "Well, we tried, but we haven't figured it out yet so it must be God's will that people are dying from Disease X. Let's not try to find a cure anymore."

That is a dangerous, chilling approach to science and, truth be told, to life as well. Scientific discovery is about trial and error, about failure and persistence. It's not about hitting a setback and being allowed to say, "I don't know why we haven't been able to isolate that pathogen yet, so I guess it's supernatural in nature." Science deals in facts, not bad faith arguments. Do the protesters pause, even for a second, as they take a pill for high blood pressure or get a flu shot, and consider that they are being spared sickness and/or death because a scientist somewhere refused to believe the answer they were seeking was something divine?

::sigh:: I know the answer.

* * *

(Day 31)
"Billy. C'mon now, Billy. You know what you need to do, Billy. You need to be a man now, Billy."

And thus we reach the portion of a shift where the protesters actively try to goad someone into committing physical violence.

Sherlock, aka the Queen of the Sidewalk, is running the team today and I'm content to be nothing more than just the guy on the door. The weather gods have finally decided to bestow a nice Spring morning on us, and for the first time in a while sunscreen had to be broken out in our prep room. The ranks of the protesters are swollen today with a number of older folks I haven't seen before, including one particularly charming fellow who offers such discourse as, 'It's Summer, let's murder babies!' Everything he says to a woman ends with either 'sweetheart' or 'honey.' He brags about the stories that he tells his grandkids and my skin crawls a bit at the thought of him being allowed near children. "Hi, Grandpa! I lost a tooth! Wanna see?" "Sure, but first let me tell you how I slutshamed some whores at the murder mill today!"

Billy is a young guy, late teens or early twenties. He keeps coming back outside, either to feed the meters or have a smoke, and once he showed he was either too nice or too laid back to shoo the protesters away they latched onto him like leeches on a swimmer's leg. When he wanders down the sidewalk a couple follow him, rattling away while he nods absently. There's not much we as escorts can do in that situation - unlike the protesters, we recognize that patients and companions are adults that respect that they have the right to make their own decisions about their lives.

The cultists? Not so much.

"Be a man, Billy. Don't be feminine like the guy standing next to you."

He glances over at me, chuckling. Either he agrees with their assessment or is laughing at the absurdity of the statement, but either way he shakes his head and takes a long drag. It's not a great idea for him to stand in front of the doors like this, but I'm loathe to shoo him away and have him out there in the thick of them again. At times he seems like he might be paying attention what they're saying, but so far they haven't seen the results they're hoping for. It's not the first time I've observed them working on a companion like this, calling him 'Dad' and trying to shame him into doing something potentially dangerous, but today it feels like there's an extra bit of venom in their patter.

"Billy, you know what you need to do. Go up there, grab her by the hand, and drag her out of that place. Do it, Billy!"

And there it is. I blink a few times behind my sunglasses, processing what I've just heard. No respect for a woman's sovereignty over her own body, no respect for law. Drag her out, as if she's an unruly toddler who won't sit still during Mass. Assault her, forcibly remove her against her will, force her to bear to term a pregnancy she doesn't want. This is the true face of the anti-choice protesters, and it's an ugly one. I keep silent because it's not my right to tell Billy what to do with his life, but you can be damn sure if he nods his head and goes in under a full head of steam I'm going to give the security guard a heads-up.

After a few tense seconds, Billy dons an 'aw shucks' grin and waves a hand in their direction. "Nah, I'm not gonna do that. I can't afford any more child support. Unless you want to pay it?"

There are no takers, and Billy shrugs while stubbing out his cigarette before slipping inside without a word. Later, when he emerges with the patient he arrived with, the protesters' previous demeanor towards him takes a markedly sullen turn. His smile at their attempts to further shame him with their disappointment causes one to yell out, "You won't be smiling in Hell!"

Since he won't be forced to smile from the prison he'd have been sent to if he'd listened to them today and attacked someone,  I guessing that dire proclamation won't have much effect on Billy. Flanked by a pair of escorts, Billy and the patient head towards their car, holding hands.