Here is my first blog entry. I hope people can read the emotions I had when writing it. Being able to connect with people on these issues is important to me, and my recent experience in Chicago reminded me about all the good we can do when we do something as simple as talking to each other.
Since last fall, I’ve been volunteering in Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region. I also am involved in the gaming community. This means I enjoy playing board, card, role playing and computer games.
Every year I take a week off from my normal life and work at Anime Central, an anime and game convention held in Chicago. Anime is the term for Japanese cartoons, and many people are unaware that this genre has entertainment value for all age groups. Anime Central is a four-day annual convention where fans can share and celebrate anime and Japanese culture, in general. During the convention, I am the Nightshift Supervisor for the Table Top Gaming Department, running the game rooms overnight from midnight to 8 AM and whenever else they need me throughout the weekend!
This year I had the unique experience of talking to my peers from all across the country about Planned Parenthood and reproductive health. These people are my friends. But, I only see them face-to-face once a year, so I didn’t want to alienate any of them right off the bat by starting out with “I work at Planned Parenthood!” When we got to talking about what we had been doing since the last Convention, I brought up that I had started volunteering at Planned Parenthood.
Being nervous about how people would react, I was happy it went really well. Because I am disabled (my entire Anime Central department knows this), they realized that for me to be able to get out and do some work was a good thing.
With that opening the conversation, I felt comfortable talking about what I do and why it is important to me. I found most of my coworkers either used Planned Parenthood’s services or knew someone that did!
The Anime convention pulls people from all over the country, so in my department we had people from New York (me), Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Florida and Ohio (and most of them are men.) Once the conversation started, everyone wanted to tell me their stance on the ideas and ideals Planned Parenthood strives for. I heard many personal stories from my co-workers about how Planned Parenthood had changed their lives. There are only three women are in the Gaming department of twenty staff, so many of the stories were about someone's girlfriend getting birth control, condoms, or a female friend getting “in trouble” and Planned Parenthood helping them.
The women had more personal stories: going to Planned Parenthood for their first birth control; and using the services after college but before they were able to get insurance through workplaces.
The last conversation I had was after the convention had closed down, packed up and the staff was blowing off the steam that dealing with almost 20,000 people for four days can accumulate. It was then a friend from another department, whose life has been pretty rough, shared that she had to have an abortion and she was able to get care through her local Planned Parenthood office.
During this conversation my friend was very frank about her life, what she had to do and was unapologetic about it all. She also seemed pleased that she could talk to someone without feeling blamed or getting false sympathy.
Her story was the one that meant the most to me: from learning that her first sexual experience was an attempted rape when she was a child to how she lives her life now. It touched me and reminded me that the work we do at Planned Parenthood has lasting impacts on the lives of our patients and on the world around us.