“It sounds to me you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.”
Those words stung my ears. How much more bad news could I get in a week’s span? First, there was the crushing news of Trump’s victory, then my boyfriend broke up with me, and now here I was, hungover at the gynecologist office, lying on an examination table, in a paper robe, with my cold feet in stirrups, processing too many words, as a frigid speculum slid inside me.
PCOS. Fibroids. Endometriosis. Cancer screening. Blood tests. Pelvic ultra sound. I suddenly felt like I might vomit. Was it the Anti-Hero IPA or all the maybes I suddenly found myself facing? Maybe I’ll need surgery? Maybe I’ll need life-long care? Maybe I won’t have insurance? Maybe I won’t have insurance!
I walked through the pharmacy in a fog of confusion, wondering what a Trump presidency had in store for my future health. I grabbed my newly ordered birth control, which was free thanks to the ACA, and walked to my car, trying not to worry. It did little good. I went home and Googled far too much. Between WebMD and Mayo Clinic, a wave of anxiety began rushing over me.
So I did what any millennial would do in this situation, I took to Facebook to distract myself. This avoidance technique worked wonders to calm my nerves. A like here, a smiley emoji there, and then that’s when I saw it: an invitation to attend a march in D.C. the day after the inauguration. Women and men from across the U.S. were planning to unite and protest against a Trump administration. Millions were planning to make their voices heard. I needed to go! I began planning a road trip with a friend… I also began to wonder what was motivating so many other Americans to gather in the Capitol, to take a stand?
As a freelancer, I rely on Obamacare. My monthly government subsidies allow me to afford an amazing HMO that leaves me only paying $25 for asthma inhalers and $1 for generic prescriptions and doctor copays. Without that, well, I’m screwed. Yes, I can always scrounge up enough money to visit the clinic, but I likely can’t afford the cost of tests or meds. With Trump and a Republican Congress defunding and repealing Obamacare and waging war on women’s reproductive rights, I find myself living in limbo, uncertain of what my access to affordable healthcare and doctor ordered birth control will be in the months and years to come.
That’s my story. But what are the stories behind the millions of faces, who marched in the streets where our forefathers once stood? I asked marchers at The Women’s March on Washington what brought them to D.C. Their reasons and stories are diverse and powerful. Some are capable of bringing you to tears, while shedding light on the fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams of Americans.
Gabe, age 43, Maryland
I’m here for the women in my life, but also because the organizers behind the Women’s March invited people with disabilities to attend. I appreciate that inclusion.
Left to right: Alissa and Amy
Alissa, age 25, Virginia
My main thing is, other women in the world and here [in the U.S.] are having issues still—women of color and different religions, that aren’t “mainstream.” I’m not free while any other woman is not. It’s about making everyone aware that we have to stand together, no matter what our background is. We have to fight for other women.
Amy, age 28, Virginia
My main reason [for marching] is to support love, overall, and then also resources and safety for women, if they need assistance or they’re in a crisis and need somewhere to go. If funding is taken away, then where will they end up? That’s scary.
Left to right: Heather (age 56), Jenny (age 53), McKenzie (age 21), and Terri (age 58)
Nasty Nurses, California
We’re really concerned about the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and the loss of access to affordable health care, for millions. So we’re here to say, “Stop that!”
Sami, age 24, Virginia
I am a first generation American. What brought me here is finally having the opportunity to speak up and use my voice. My father’s side of my family all voted for Trump. They’ve never given me the opportunity to be who I truly am. When I came out, they didn’t support me fully, so it’s been hard. Today was the day I finally made a choice for me. My sign says “don’t touch my hair” because I am an African American woman, with black girl magic. Obviously, don’t touch my hair, don’t grab my pussy, and [Trump] can kiss my ass if he wants to.
Left to right: Joseph, Mark, Ellen, and Riley
Joseph, age 21, Virginia
Donald Trump’s entire campaign and promises were all on the fact that he was going to put down different minority groups—put down LGBT, women, people of color, immigrants—and I didn’t like what that stood for. In addition to that, Congress now has a super majority of Republicans, who are already going ahead and trying to repeal some efforts that are saving lives. For instance, they are trying to repeal and fight against healthcare… I think everyone deserves access to healthcare, including people who are going to Planned Parenthood.
Mark, age 21, Virginia
I’m twenty-one years old, so I’m pretty fresh when it comes to politics, but I think the most important things for people like me, who are newer, is to represent people who don’t have the same opportunities as I do. For example, I come from Richmond, so being part of this march, not only do I get to stand up for myself and what I believe in—human rights—but I get to represent my family, who are further away.
Ellen, age 21, Virginia
Trump just doesn’t care what he says, and it really bothers me. He’s in such a position of power, that a lot of what he’s saying really influences people.
Riley, age 15, Virginia
I’m only fifteen years-old, so I didn’t have much of a say during the election because I couldn’t vote. So this is my way of letting out my frustration because as a person of color, part of the LGBT community, and a woman, a lot things are happening to those communities, and I’m upset. As a person who has morals, I’m hurt.
Miguel, age 43, California
I’m here for my mother, my five nieces, my foster parents who were very instrumental in my life…the women who have given me the opportunity to re-establish my career. The president of Los Angeles City College [and] my dean…who have been very instrumental in my life, as I start a new chapter. For all the women in the world who make a significant difference to make this world a better place.
Kierstin, age 14, Washington D.C.
I believe that my body is my body. I believe that pussy has power.
Left to right: Maryann, Elsa, and Jason
Maryann, age 53, Florida
I have never protested anything before, but [Trump] has just turned my stomach. I can’t support him. He says the craziest things.
Elsa, age 55, South Carolina
My son is mentally handicapped, and the minute [Trump] mocked that reporter, was the end for me. I mean, I never liked him in the first place, but that in itself should have disqualified him. The fact that he wasn’t and now I have to say that he’s our president, it disgusts me. I can’t, I can’t. Women need to be protected. I was so psyched for Hillary, and the fact that she’s been disrespected this way, it’s disheartening.
Jason, age 22, Washington D.C.
As an American citizen, I feel that it’s my duty. When our political system elects someone so abhorrently awful, we need to step up and make our voices heard. Obviously, we can’t change the election results, but what we can do is consistently tell President Trump that we do not approve of the things you do and say, about women specifically—but not just women, a lot other groups of individuals: making fun of people with disabilities, mocking people of color consistently, calling Latinos rapists and drug users—is abhorrent. As a citizen and a Latino, myself, I will not stand for that. I will not let him be held unaccountable.
Darlene, age 57, Washington D.C.
I want to believe in our democracy and making sure our democracy works for everyone. This country was built off of, from what I was taught, a melting pot. That means all.
Left to Right: Sarah, Andi, Lauren, and Sydney
Sarah, age 19, Boston
Our school [Emerson College] sponsored a bus to come to the march, and it was almost completely free for us. It was such a great opportunity, that I figured if the government isn’t taking our side, then we have to take a stand, where we’re able to… I think it’s our responsibility to do so.”
Andi, age 23, Boston
This is the kind of event that will get me through, and all of us through, the more difficult times that are to come.
Lauren, age 18, Boston
I just wanted to feel powerful.
Sydney, age 20, Boston
The idea of such a large number of people coming from a place of passion for all the other human lives that exist, I wanted to be around that.
Cheyenne, age 17, Maryland
I was brought here by wanting to be part of the hope for a better future. Everyone [at the march] is here to secure a better future for all of us and our children because we know that with a president like Donald Trump, we’re not going to get that unless we fight for it.
Raghad, age 18, Virginia
It was really a tragedy how Trump became president of the United States, but at the same time, it was a good thing because it gave us a voice to speak up and let Trump know that there are still people out there and you need to hear their voice and respect what they believe in.
Left to right: Leah, Brody (age 8), Cale (age 10), and George (age 42)
Leah, age 43, Virginia
[Trump’s] behavior isn’t okay. There’s only a certain amount of things that we can do, and [protesting] is one of them. If everybody stayed home, then nothing would change.
Left to Right: Denise and Cheryl
Denise, age 60, New York
We’re wounded. I feel we did this to ourselves as a country. We allowed an entertainer, with the most disgusting behaviors I could think of, become president of the United States. We are in shock. Shame on us. Now we need to wake up and figure out what we did wrong, and let’s change it.
Cheryl, age 61, New York
All of the family members that I have, that are female… I want to make sure that their future is a good one.
Micah, age 33, Austin
To be here, this is history, and I want to be a part of it.
Left to right: Stephanie, Harry, and Jewel
Stephanie, age 19, Maryland
[I came to the march] to support women’s rights and hang out with my girlfriend [Jewel].
Harry, age 19, Maryland
I respect my mom. I respect my sister. That’s all it takes.
Jewel, age 19, Maryland
Rosemary, age 23, New York
On election night, I think we were all really, really upset. We thought it was going to go another way, and when it didn’t, we just couldn’t help, we need to resist.
Left to right: Carlos and Nilsa
Carlos, age 26, Chicago
I, of course, wanted to support my partner [Nilsa]. I also have a mom, obviously, and some sisters. And I wanted to be a part of history. I didn’t want to sit at home, and then ten years from now, be like, oh I could have been there. It’s something you can tell your kids in the future, we were a part of this.
Nilsa, age 29, Chicago
I wanted to represent Latinos today. I wanted to represent womanhood today, to represent brown people today, and just represent our rights.
Left: Mary Jo
Mary Jo, age 58, Michigan
I’ve got a good friend getting chemo, on the ACA. I have four sisters, a daughter, a granddaughter. I have a gay brother. I have a friend with cystic fibrosis, whose daughter is on her insurance through the ACA. I have all sorts of reasons for [marching]. The list goes on.
Left to right: Jalin and Oscar
Jalin, age 19, Virginia
What really brought me here today, is knowing that we are all people of the earth. We should all just wake up knowing that we should care for each other. We should not have to protest, in the streets, saying why we need rights or why we should love one another. It should automatically just be programmed in your head… you should never harm the tree that made you.
Oscar, age 19, Virginia
Women are beautiful! They do everything that men can do but better. They put more work in. They’re the greatest.
Michele, age 51, Chicago
Everybody should have access to affordable healthcare. I only have access because of the Affordable Care Act. I pay about $1,200 a month because of the Affordable Care Act. However, my medical bills are about $800,000 right now. So if I didn’t have the affordable care act, I wouldn’t have health insurance. I was diagnosed with lung cancer, and then I had two surgeries, part of my lung out, and chemotherapy. A year later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, this May. I just finished my last surgery on December 15th, and here I am, trying to ensure the people get healthcare. A middle class person can’t save $800,000 to pay for treatment. That’s not going to happen. If the ACA is repealed, then a lot of people can’t get the treatment that they need.
Laverl, age 87, Arkansas
In 1964, I applied for a job, was accepted, and then was told I would never be promoted because I was a woman. I have run into that ever since, that was a long time ago, repeatedly time and time again. Even when I would work a job with men, I wouldn’t get the same pay, and if I got the same pay, I didn’t get the same benefits. So women have been put down from day go, and really, we’re just as good as men! I think a woman’s body is her own to do with. I don’t think we have business with it being bandied about in Congress. I am a strong supporter of equal rights, for all people, not just white Americans or Christians. I mean, all of us are here for our own reasons, with our own backgrounds, and we have the right and deserve to live it out, based on our beliefs.
Laverl, who was attending with her daughter and granddaughter, three generations deep, really sums it up. With hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children marching in D.C. and combined millions marching around the United States and the world, people are making their unique voices heard. And though we all have our own stories and reasons for marching, I can tell you this: as I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, packed in with thousands of protestors, the camaraderie was strong. Together we have power. That is the beauty of democracy.