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I am afraid.
No, not to the naked eye. I live in Philadelphia. I walk to the grocery store at midnight and laugh in the faces of drivers as I pedal through the morning rush-hour traffic. I work in a warehouse full of men and ride public transportation like there is no tomorrow. I’ve stared down unwanted, unexpected pregnancies and sexual assaults, black eyes from broken men and the brutal truth that life has thrown back at me. And I don’t flinch anymore. I don’t think I flinched the first time, but I certainly don’t flinch anymore.
But I’m afraid. I am afraid of being discounted or discarded merely because of what happens to be between my legs. I’m afraid of having someone look at all the work I’ve done and all the fights I’ve fought merely to tell me that my sex organs invalidate all the time and tears. I am just as valuable as every man who is fighting to save the environment, every man who toils in forensics, every man who works to expand the audience for modern and contemporary art. My time and my mind are valuable, intrinsically. They are valuable because I am. Not because I am valuable, but because I am. The same is true for every man, woman, and genderqueerze on the planet, but every day–at least once a day–a message is sent to me that my body is the reason my existence isn’t taken seriously.
In the three-and-a-half years since high school, I have fought to be taken seriously, fought to be viewed as a peer, fought to be valued. I am tired. I am sick of fighting. I am eternally exhausted of justifying my sex for any reason. I am. That should be fact enough, and no question should come after it. I have fought in the working world, as well as the environmental movement.
I have bottom-lined the editorial collective of a nationally known environmental magazine and still had to justify my qualification as a contributor to people who couldn’t see past the name on the page and the breasts under my shirt. I was the first female bellman hired at the Park Hyatt in the Bellevue’s hundred-year history, but guests couldn’t believe that a woman was able to lock doors and carry luggage as well as a man, so my job was very quietly taken away.
I have fought too long and too hard for the right to work and exist as a woman without question. I do not want to fight men for space in a classroom. I do not want to fear for my safety after a night class. I do not want to be afraid to take a shower in my dorm. I do not want to face my partner and again report that some other guy has taken advantage of me on my own campus.
I am scared of being reduced to nothing instead of being a confidant woman with the will to succeed–instead of being what I am.
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