Well, I once again caught wind ahead of time, of the plans of a local anti-abortion group to show up downtown and deliberately emotionally agitate and traumatize as many people as inhumanly possible. Along with this information was a clear indication that there would be film and/or video cameras, which most assuredly would be simply attempting to capture a sound byte of “both sides”, that they can surely use to continue to manipulate the dialogue (i.e., I’m sure they aren’t interested in sound bytes of sound minds, but of pro-choicers going apeshit). I’m reminded of observing someone with some sort of filming equipment at the Commercial/Broadway pro-choice pickets, who didn’t announce who they were, but assured us immediately that he was a pro-choicer. Suddenly I can no longer be so sure that this was an honest gesture, even though he walked over to one of the pro-lifers and said “Sir, can you tell me what it feels like to be a fetus?” It’s that nagging detail of him withholding who he’s filming for, on whose behalf he is speaking, or describing where this video is going to be used — virtually every responsible media outlet I’ve encountered other than him volunteered that information first, even if they had just finished doing so within earshot, before asking anything. In any case, I digress.
This would be my second encounter with the group that stalked me for a block and attempted to follow me into a public washroom, as well as my second face-to-face encounter with someone from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform. Stephanie Gray was expected. I have no idea if she showed up, but she is one of the loudest voices for CCBR and has also published for REAL Women of Canada — see this blog post I wrote on my friend’s site about RWoC’s opinion that some or possibly even all trans* people are just “mentally confused” pedophiles using cross-dressing as a cover to harass and rape women and children in public washrooms even though this has literally never happened and isn’t going to start in the event Bill C-279 is passed (but in the infinite wisdom of RWoC, all trans* people should be deprived of the medical healthcare they often require to stop trying to kill themselves, and they base this argument on a fictional narrative). I will be blunt here. I do not have a high opinion of this individual. I have little doubt that she has a subhuman conception of me, if she can even figure out who or what I am for long enough to weigh the decision of whether to hate me or try to recruit me.
I decided before posting the details I knew about that it would be best if the pro-choice presence there was a completely silent one, clear in its intentions to expose this group of people to passersby as representative of a hate movement. So that’s the gist of the message I published, along with the relevant details of when and where this would be taking place. I was pleasantly surprised to catch wind of it reaching the Occupy Vancouver group, along with all the relevant details of when and where, and the expected filming and agitation, as well as the preferred tactic of silence. That also meant that I wouldn’t know how many people were going to arrive to stand with me this time. All told, here were six of us at the beginning of the demonstration today, and by the end, there were nearly a dozen. We didn’t all remain silent, and many of us didn’t cover our faces either. For those who did choose to speak and bare their faces, this was quite possibly one of the most emotionally difficult pro-choice demonstrations they’ve participated in. I could see it, hear it, and feel it as I stood silently.
Of course, when I arrived a little more than a half hour early and two blocks away to meet everyone else, I was already being filmed. And I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck on the way to this demonstration today. I knew it was one of them when she just walked up, pulled out an expensive professional grade video camera and asked me if I’m ok with being filmed. I would have known she was one of them even if she was using a $200 digital camcorder. She asked me if I had any words about why I’m there, and seemed mildly agitated that I wouldn’t speak. She filmed me for a couple solid minutes while I stood there holding a sign out, both as an indicator to passersby of why in the world I was dressed like a zombie high priest (my mask was already covering my face at the time) and as an indicator to the people I was expecting to meet there any minute (who I spotted after she left me alone and left the area). The way she was moving around me, you’d think she was filming porn (and believe me, I actually have experience being filmed for porn). The anti-abortion group showed up late for their own demonstration again this time. They stood around for a few minutes like a bunch of people who have no idea what they’re doing again. We descended upon the same corner the moment they cracked open their box of dead fetus placards.
Gender Confusion Troll
A delightful side effect of not speaking at all this time was that no one knew whether they were trying to talk to someone with a body shaped like a man or someone with a body shaped like a woman. The man I stood next to asked me for my name after a few minutes, and he put his hand on my arm and asked again when I didn’t answer. The woman with the video camera didn’t know how to talk about my silence while filming me again and again. When passersby stopped to talk to the man I was standing next to, if they pointed at me, he would tell them why I was there, but couldn’t find a gender-neutral pronoun or words like “person” or “individual” in his vocabulary when he’d tell them how I wouldn’t give my name or speak. He tried to goad one couple to ask me for my name, but they didn’t bother trying. I sincerely took a great deal of pleasure in his butt-hurt over my refusal to engage even a single syllable in his bigotry. Here’s about what my face looked like under that mask, for the entire duration of the 90 minutes I stood next to him:
Silently Watching The Composure Slip Away
It seems perfectly clear to me that this group, and virtually every group just like it, lose their shit when they lose control over the dialogue. Ask them if they are for or against choice, and they’ll give you an answer to a completely different question. Ask them about women who conceive as a result of rape, and they’ll answer you with a thought experiment that is truly nothing more than an elaborate red herring with a surprise finale of utter absurdity so that you stop trying to engage them on the issue of rape. Ask them about why they think women shouldn’t have the right to bodily autonomy, and they’ll change the topic to “age discrimination”, or the idea that it’s “discriminatory” to withhold legal personhood from individuals until the moment of their birth. Never mind, of course, that the women said individuals reside in until that moment are also individuals. They’ll answer that with completely fabricated facts about what the word fetus means or what exactly happens at conception. That is, unless they’d prefer to ask you about whether or not the dead fetus they have depicted on their 4-foot-tall placard has any choice in the matter (Captain Obvious answer: not any more!) Or to tell you that Canadian law currently allows abortion all the way up to the day before delivery is expected — just like that. As if this happens all the time or somehow represents a majority of abortions.
But call them a hate group? Well, that agitates them. In fact, not even calling them a hate group, but saying that they are representing the interests of one, is enough to throw them off-kilter. If I were to approximate exactly how much it agitates them, I would say probably in the neighbourhood of exactly how much their presence and dead fetus placards agitate every single person walking by. Though I’ve never seen a pro-lifer who is standing behind a giant placard or wearing a sandwich board, actually become physically isolated and then start to panic and recite their stock phrases at shouting volume, I stood right next to this today for a full hour and a half. It was hard not to cackle at his expense. It took all my inner strength to restrain myself from kicking his placard onto its face when he stepped out from behind it, let go of it, and stood a couple feet away to look at his placard next to my sign. I mean, this guy was really agitated. When he had collected himself there, he stepped in behind the placard again, and started shouting at the back of one of his fellow demonstrator’s heads to answer a passerby they were speaking with. After shouting at a couple more people who were apparently friends of his, I think it finally sank into him that he had completely lost it.
I just hope the CCBR caught some of it on tape. I delight myself by imagining what a powerful experience it would be for him to watch himself behaving that way.