I’ve never been particularly interested in politics.
Ten years ago, I was a conservative Republican who was pro-life and didn’t believe in gay rights. That’s just the way I was raised. I grew up in a strict Christian family (we were Pentecostals, which should give you a very good idea of the type of faith I was raised in) and this is what they believed in, so it’s what I believed in.
Even though I couldn’t vote in 2004, I wanted Bush to win a second term, and when he did, I was thrilled.
And then 2008 rolled around. I was 20 and it was my first election. My choices: Barack Obama, a Democrat, or John McCain, a Republican.
I voted for Obama, gladly and happily, and was over-the-moon excited when he won.
And then I voted for Obama for a second term, still gladly, still happily.
But even though I voted Democrat in 2008 and 2012, I considered myself a Republican. I still considered myself pro-life. I just didn’t feel like voting based on one single issue nor did I feel like the Republican candidates fit my vision for America.
This past year, something changed. Maybe it was what happened during this election cycle when the Republican nominee was someone so vile and so repugnant that the only thing I could do was figure out where my alliances truly lie. I became engaged this time. I learned about issues and followed blogs and forums that talked about what was going on. I figured out that what I truly, actually believe, after researching and reading and opening my heart, is nothing of what the GOP stands for.
What I am is a liberal Democrat with a passion for human rights, most especially for women and the LGBTQIA community. I’m pro-choice, which is not the same as being pro-abortion. Then again, being pro-life isn’t the same as being pro-all life. What I do believe is that women should have access to the services they need and, in some cases, that includes abortion services. What I believe is that I have zero right to tell a woman what she should do with her body. And neither does anyone else.
Can I admit that I’m a little scared to say all of that publicly? I know that’s a highly controversial opinion (at least to some people), and I am more than happy to discuss further, calmly and respectfully, with anyone who wants to send me an email.
But back to the matter at hand.
This past Saturday, I attended the Women’s March St. Pete and it was life changing. I feel like I’m still trying to process all of my emotions because it was such a positive, uplifting, exhilarating time. Friday felt like the beginning of the end, but Saturday gave me back hope. It made me realize how many people are ready to fight and to make their voices heard.
This past Saturday, there were marches on every single continent. (Yes, even Antarctica!) I’m not sure of the final numbers, but I do know that there were at least 3 million people marching around the world.
It was peaceful. It was encouraging. It was demanding action without violence.
It was about showing this new administration that is going to be led by someone who has racist, misogynistic, xenophobic views that we are going to fight him every step of the way. It was to tell him that we the people believe in the rights for all… for women, for the LGBTQIA community, for immigrants, for those with disabilities.
At these marches, there were Democrats and Republicans. Christians and Muslims and Jews and atheists. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers. Women, men, kids. Liberals and conservatives. It was all of us coming together to stand together in solidarity.
It was about human rights. That’s why we marched. And if you can’t see how this incoming administration is a threat on that, then I have nothing to say to you. At the end of the day, this march showed that this isn’t about party vs party. It’s about people who fight for human rights vs people who are threatened by those who are different. Those who don’t care about marginalized communities. Those who don’t believe rape culture exists. Those who laughed along with Trump as he joked about grabbing a woman by the pussy.
As I walked along streets I’ve known my entire life in downtown St. Petersburg, so crammed in some areas that I couldn’t move, I felt filled up. I read the signs and snapped photos. I chanted along with the crowd with my fist in the air. Show me what democracy looks like. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.
And, look, I get it. This is not the end. I’m not patting myself on the back for a job well done for going to a march for a few hours on a Saturday. There is still work to be done. There is a lot of work to be done. There are calls to be made, protests to attend, money to donate, organizations to volunteer with. There’s a midterm election to prepare for. This is only the beginning for what is going to be a long and tough-fought four years.
But hell. I am fired up and ready to go. This march was a life-changing experience not because I attended or because of the people who were there. It was life changing because it taught me that women are powerful, that we’re not going to let this new administration run over us, and that political activism is more important than ever before.
I hope he’s ready for us.