Friday, April 27, 2012

McDonald's: Friend to Black People

I don't usually write online about racial issues (for various reasons), but this just strikes me as obviously... insulting? Laughable? Ignorant?

A McDonald's website,, is inspired by the idea that "African-American culture and achievement should be celebrated 365 days a year — not just during Black History Month."

Ok, I don't think anyone would disagree with that statement. But then...

"Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald's has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities."


Something about that statement just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because McDonald's isn't exactly a paragon of corporate virtue. ("Nourishes its community"?) Add the cheesy phrasing and imagery targeted to the "African-American community" and I am left with a bad taste in my mouth. Not unlike a Big Mac... if I ate that crap.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seventh-Gay Adventists

Seventh-Gay Adventists is a film about LGBT individuals who identify with or are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church - the denomination I was raised in.

From the film's website:

Being a gay Christian isn't easy, but being a gay Adventist is especially difficult because Adventism, to most, is more than a belief system; it's also a close-knit community with unique cultural habits. For someone who grew up immersed in the culture of the church, attending (vegetarian) potlucks, church schools, and campmeetings, the culture and DNA of Adventism is almost like an ethnicity. For all its unique practices, Adventism does not deviate from the Christian mainstream in its condemnation of homosexuality.
LGBT Adventists face a gut-wrenching decision. They must choose between the church they were raised to believe is God's true remnant church and their innate desire for an intimate, loving relationship. Or is there a way to reconcile their faith and their identity?

This film interests me for two reasons: first, because the church's official stance on social issues, such as gay marriage and women's roles in church, is one of the main reasons I began to question my faith. The church's views on LGBTQ issues is not a particularly personal issue for me - I am straight, and know of only one person close to me who (though closeted to most of their friends and family) self-identifies as other than heterosexual. Regardless, I am very strongly in favor of LGBTQ rights and feel the church is missing an opportunity to "show Christ's love" by abandoning draconian beliefs about sexuality and embracing all its members equally.
Secondly, the filmmakers explicitly recognize the strong Adventist culture and the difficulty of breaking ties with it. This greatly resonates with me. I miss the community and traditions of the church, and would probably still be a tithe-paying, church-attending-every-Sabbath member despite my lack of belief in God if it weren't for the church's inability to move forward socially and philosophically. Unlike the individuals in this film, I don't believe the SDA church is "God's true remnant church," and I don't feel I have to reconcile the faith I was raised in with my personal identity, but I do feel I've had to abandon a large piece of my heritage and cultural identity in exchange for intellectual honesty and human decency.
I'll be sure to post a link if the film becomes available for viewing online. Those in the Miami area can see it at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival on Sunday, April 29th.

The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and Jesus

My mother has a delightful sense of imagination, and as young children, my siblings and I enjoyed many of the same holiday make-believe traditions that many American children raised in mainstream culture experience: hunting for Easter eggs, staying up late on Christmas Eve hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa, and placing teeth under our pillows in exchange for quarters from the Tooth Fairy. However, we were taught from a very young age that, while it's fun to read fairy tales and play make-believe about imaginary beings, entities such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy don't really exist.

We knew that Mom hid the Easter eggs and filled our Easter baskets with candy, that Mom filled our stockings on Christmas Eve while Dad hauled the presents out of their various hiding places in the house to stack under the tree, and that either Mom or Dad managed to slip into our room, retrieve teeth and place quarters under pillows, all without waking us - a magical feat indeed! We enjoyed these traditions, but never had difficulty understanding that we were playing games of make-believe with our parents.

Another dedication to intellectual honesty my parents modeled was in the love of reading and research. When I asked a question, "Daddy, why...?" or "Daddy, how...?" or "Daddy, what is...?" Daddy didn't throw out a half-assed answer. No, if Daddy didn't know the answer to a question, say, about color of the sky, he would reply, "Destiny, get me the "S" encyclopedia." I would run to the hall bookcase, retrieve the appropriate volume, and run back. Dad and I would sit on the couch or at the kitchen table and read the relevant entry together. Occasionally, we'd end up surrounded by piles of volumes as we cross-referenced and sometimes, wander off-topic as we discovered interesting new entries to read.

I remember my mother mentioning at some point the reason her and my father didn't encourage belief in Santa Claus: they didn't want us to become confused about which childhood stories were true (stories about Jesus and the Bible) and which stories and traditions were just for fun (the Tooth Fairy, Cinderella, Santa Claus, etc.). While I appreciate my parents' dedication to honesty and truth as they saw it, I no longer believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, or even necessarily in the existence of a supreme deity. It saddens me that my parents would probably see my new-found atheist-leaning agnostic philosophy not as the result of honest questioning, but as the road to eternal separation from God. Their version of intellectual honesty has certain boundaries.

There are some important qualities I can retain from my upbringing: intellectual curiosity and honesty to the best of my ability. If I do choose someday to procreate or adopt, I will answer my child(ren)'s questions honestly. I will help them develop skills to distinguish between fairy tales and reality: in holiday traditions, in children's literature, in popular culture, in politics, in history, in religion. I don't intend to raise my child(ren) in a religious tradition, but I do want them to learn about the myths that have so greatly influenced western culture, and I do want them to understand what their grandparents and great-grandparents believe. I will probably even raise them observing a few select religion-derived traditions.

If I do have children, I'll be raising them on an unfamiliar path - a childhood without God. I realize, as an imperfect person, there may be other beliefs I pass on, unwittingly, that are not true. But most importantly, I hope to instill in my children a love for questioning, for critical thinking, for discovering answers for themselves. My reply to a question, instead of "Get me the "S" encyclopedia," just may be "Let's Google it together."

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Had An Abortion (Part III)

(...continued from Part II)

Why Was My Experience Positive?

Other than the aforementioned red tape and the physical pain of the procedure, I can only describe my experience as positive. The Planned Parenthood workers were professional and straightforward with information, nurses were caring, and my doctor was caring and competent, combined with a great sense of humor. I’ll admit I was little surprised at my own positive post-abortion emotional state, being that I have heard the post-abortion trauma propaganda all my life. I think my relatively positive experience is owed to three specific factors, and unfortunately, not all women will have these advantages - I consider myself very lucky.

I knew what I wanted. 
I had very carefully thought through the issues long before I became pregnant, and I was clear on what I would do if I had an unwanted pregnancy. I did not agonize over or second-guess my decision. At 28, I had maturity and plenty of time to develop my own views, separate from those of my parents or church.

Many women with unintended pregnancies are much younger and have not yet developed their own independent moral codes. Some pro-life women find themselves in situations they never dreamed they’d face (e.g., rape) and have to wrestle with a philosophically or religiously impossible choice. Some women have incredibly difficult decisions to make regarding wanted pregnancies that have developed dangerous health risks for mother and/or future baby.

I had support.
While it was my decision to make, it was helpful that my husband agreed with and supported my decision. I had a like-minded friend with whom I could share my story. It is not surprising that women have post-abortion emotional trauma when their partners, families, communities or churches vilify them for their decisions. I am a little sad that this is an experience I can probably never discuss with my mother or other family members.

I had resources and received quality care. 
There was a Planned Parenthood and a practicing abortion doctor in my town (albeit the only one within a 90-minute drive). If it had been necessary to travel to another state for an abortion, as it is some areas of the country, I would be able to take time off from work to do so. Although my health insurance (like most providers in this country) did not cover abortions, I was able to pay the $400+ out-of-pocket for the procedure and related appointments without significant financial hardship. The healthcare providers I dealt with were respectful and competent. In fact, because I was so impressed with the professionalism of the Planned Parenthood staff, and so grateful for the resources they provide, I left a donation. (Parenthetical rant: I’m hoping, and suggesting, that other women who can will do the same. I would also encourage concerned citizens to get involved politically; I think it’s criminal that health care plans do not provide abortion coverage.)

Not all women have access to quality reproductive care. Not all women can afford to take time off work or pay for an abortion. Some women live in states with legal or logistical hurdles to abortion, such as parental consent for minors, waiting periods, or where they must drives long distances to access care. (Although I had to comply with a waiting period, in my situation it was more of an inconvenience than a hardship, since the provider was in my city.)

Share Your Story

So that’s my story. I encourage other women to tell theirs. Positive or negative, anonymous or outright, just honest. I realize not all women have had it as easy as I did. But maybe if we all share our stories, abortion will not carry the stigma that it does now. Maybe someday I’ll have the guts to tell my pro-life mother, “You know what? I had an abortion. And I don’t regret it. It was the best decision I ever made.”

I Had An Abortion (Part II)

(...continued from Part I)

This is What an Abortion Looks Like

Two days after my "counseling appointment," I returned to the clinic. On the Christian clinic side of the parking lot entrance was a small band of pro-life demonstrators, apparently aware that the clinic regularly schedules abortions on that particular day of the week. I was relieved that no one tried to block the entrance, no gruesome pictures were held aloft, and nobody screamed threats of hellfire and damnation - only a faint plea to “consider your other options.” Let me say that, although I vehemently disagree with anti-abortion politics and policies, I do realize that there are good, honest, caring people with pro-life beliefs, and I certainly wouldn’t deny them their First Amendment rights. Then again, there’s a fine line between peaceable assembly and harassing women, and I was very relieved to be the target of a prayer vigil rather than the enemy in a holy war.

In the operating room, a nurse stood by my side to answer questions and monitor my well-being. She told me they had in the past allowed one additional person of the patient’s choosing to be present, but one man became so distressed by the procedure that he threw some equipment at the doctor; supportive partners and family members must now wait in the lobby.  The doctor explained what would be happening, and before proceeding, did an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy progression – six and a half weeks, just as I calculated. I did not request to see the ultrasound, and was not pressed to do so. The doctor applied a local anesthetic, and inserted several rods of increasing diameter to dilate my cervix. The pain was like severe menstrual cramps. (I hate to scare anyone who is considering an abortion, but I found the dilation to be excruciatingly painful. I do have a very low pain threshold - I've been known to pass out after merely superficial cuts or injuries - but general anesthetic, if an option, is something to consider if you're like me.) The curettage itself was not painful, just a rather odd sensation, but I was still in such pain from the dilation that the nurse had to remind me to hold still and not hyperventilate.

It was over fairly quickly. I lay on the operating table, trying to slow my breathing. I must have been in more distress than the average patient, because the doctor then did something I will never forget. He looked at me with genuine empathy, and grasped my hand. “You’re going to be ok.” He held my hand a while longer until I nodded that I was all right. After he left, I continued to lie there until the nurse insisted I try to stand up. I weakly protested, but slowly, with her assistance, sat up, then tried to stand. I took two steps, nearly passed out, and crouched on the floor as she supported me and yelled for help. The doctor and another nurse rushed in to assist, but my dizziness passed in a few moments.

After I regained my balance, I was taken to another room to rest in a comfortable recliner under the watchful eye of the recovery nurse. I shared the space with another woman, a mother of two in her mid-thirties. Another young woman, about my age, joined us, protesting to the nurse that she felt just fine and wanted to go home “now!” I learned that this was her second abortion. The three of us shared our experiences and bonded over crackers and juice. About an hour later, revived by the refreshments and camaraderie, I drove myself home (I had insisted my husband go to work as scheduled due to a precarious employment situation), downed some ibuprofen, and later spent the evening cuddled on the couch with my husband and a mug of warm tea. I recovered quickly, bled very little and the next morning was able to drive two hours to a business appointment and work a full day.

(continued in Part III...)

I Had An Abortion (Part I)

Note: "I Had An Abortion" was inspired by this post at Love, Joy, Feminism. Many thanks to Libby Anne for her thought-provoking writing. "I Had An Abortion" was originally published at my previous blog, and on this blog has been divided into parts and edited for clarity and length. You may view the original post here. 

A Positive Abortion Experience

My abortion experience was, I think, remarkably positive. Then again, maybe a positive abortion experience isn’t so remarkable, but unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to abortion, one only seems to hear the far right’s stories. You know: horrifically botched procedures, nurses who turn pro-life after witnessing an aborted fetus kick and gasp for air, women who suffer post-abortion depression, regret and wrenching guilt. I experienced none of that; in fact, I felt empowered by my choice.

I hope that someday I will have the courage to share my story in my own name (and wear one of those awesome I Had An Abortion t-shirts!) In the meantime, I’m just happy to put my narrative out there as an honest example of a positive abortion experience. I also think it's incredibly helpful for any woman considering an abortion to have access to narratives describing what actually happens during an abortion procedure, from a personal, rather than technical or clinical perspective.


I was raised in a conservative Christian family, with a mother who votes strictly Republican, regardless of candidate, because she "doesn't agree with Democrat morals" (i.e., baby-killing). Although a member of the same church, my father is less vocal on the subject. He did in one conversation many years ago imply that he's pro-choice as a matter of public policy and pro-life, personally. Anyway, luckily for myself, I hashed out my own view on the subject before I was faced with an unintended pregnancy at twenty-eight.

Although I am married, my husband and I were in no position to be parents, recently having gone through some difficult times in our marriage, and myself still working through a pretty rough bout with depression and related health issues. I knew even before the pregnancy test made it official that I would be getting an abortion. When my husband returned from a business trip the next day and I informed him of my decision, I was relieved to find that he supported me completely. We had discussed this possibility before, but of course it's nice to know that theory and practice concur.

Not quite sure how to proceed next, I called my doctor's office, explained that I was pregnant and planning an abortion and asked to make an appointment with her. The nurse explained that I was welcome to see my doctor if I wanted, but that my doctor usually referred OB patients to the office next door. Not wanting to waste any time, I called the OB/GYN office. The conversation went something like this (ah, I was so naïve):

Me: Hello! Dr. C referred me to your office. I'm pregnant and I'm pretty sure I'd like to terminate the pregnancy. Can I make an appointment to be seen by one of the OBs?
Nurse: Hi! I can make an appointment for you. How far along are you?
Me: About four weeks LMP.
Nurse: Would [date] be ok?
Me: Do you have anything this week?
Nurse: Well, we don’t usually see new OB patients until about [X] weeks.
Me: I really would like to see a doctor as soon as possible. I'm going to terminate this pregnancy, and I don’t want to wait too long.
Nurse: [Pause. Change of tone.] You want an ABORTION?
Me: Yes.
Nurse: Oh, none of the doctors here do THAT. We can’t help you.
Me: Well… do you know which doctors in [city] do perform abortions? Can you refer to me to anyone?
Nurse: [Haughtily.] No, I don’t know of anyone who does THAT.
Me: Uh, thanks. Bye.


So, I called Planned Parenthood for a referral and was shocked to find it was necessary for them to confirm my pregnancy before even telling me the local abortion doctor's name. This is a safeguard against extremist pro-lifers obtaining information over the phone in order to harass, threaten or even make an attempt on the doctor's life. (Huh, that's ironic.) At my pregnancy test appointment I had another shock. I found out that, under state law, I would be required to receive "counseling" from the doctor, regarding my options, at least 24 hours before the procedure.

When my husband and I arrived at my “counseling” appointment, I carefully checked the sign to make sure I had the right place. The Planned Parenthood nurse had warned me not to confuse the abortion clinic with the similarly named pro-life organization across the parking lot. We rang the buzzer and were greeted at the door with requests for identification - yet another security precaution. After carefully checking our driver’s licenses against the appointment schedule, the receptionist stepped aside and allowed us to enter. I hadn’t realized that a cash deposit was due at the first appointment, so sending my husband out to find an ATM, I went in to see the doctor alone. My husband was disappointed, being that he wanted to support me as much as possible through this process, but I sensed that the doctor was relieved to speak to me alone. Perhaps he’s dealt with a few pushy partners in his time.  After going though the required information quickly, but thoroughly, he gave me an opportunity to ask questions and we chatted for a bit. He had a delightful, offbeat sense of humor.

(continued in Part II...)


So I started a blog in January and promptly forgot the password to my Google/Blogger account. After two months of futile attempts to recover my password, I decided to start all over again. I'll be moving my (one and only) post from the previous blog over here, and editing it somewhat for length. You can see the original unedited post, I Had an Abortion, at the old blog.