When I asked Jamie what the one thing to take away from our conversation was, he repeated our favourite phrase of the afternoon no one is the body police.
I first encountered Jamie on one of my lazy Saturday afternoon walks down Commercial Drive, and was he ever hard to miss. Dressed in a bright blue wig, striped socks and nothing more than his underwear, Jamie bared all and stood tall with a sign in his hand representing the pro-choice side of the debate among a sea of pro-life protestors. Aside from the vibrancy of both his outfit and sign, Jamie stood out because of his obvious passion for women’s rights and his bravery to stand up parallel to the already existing pro-life protest at the intersection of Commercial and Broadway.
As a transgendered person, Jamie’s perspective on the pro-choice movement inspired me to really think about the need for solidarity among all people in the fight for basic human rights. Jamie agreed to meet with me later that week and before I knew it Friday had come. As we sat across from each other in a small booth, orders placed and green tea in hand, Jamie and I chatted for over an hour and a half about the current war waged on the female body.
Jamie began by telling me a story about an uncharacteristically hot day in Vancouver recently when a particularly brave woman wearing a sundress walked up to the pro-life demonstration and asked the protestors a question. She asked,”If a woman is raped and conceives, should she be forced to carry the child?” They responded with, “If she’s dressed like you she should”. The woman was so disgusted by their reaction she decided that she also wanted to express her opinion on the matter and started a grassroots group on Facebook inviting locals to join her at the intersection of Commercial-Broadway to be part of their own protest, empowering women to make their own choices. That’s when Jamie decided to get involved.
Young girls are constantly subject to people, television shows, movies and magazines that tell them they should be ashamed of their bodies, or that they need to work hard to gain a body that your boyfriend will like. Jamie told me he gets that on that corner every Saturday. You wouldn’t believe the number of people that think it’s okay to say anything about my figure. I get a lot of ‘youâ€™re awesome’, followed by ‘and you have a sexy body’ or they tell me I shouldn’t be dressed the way I am. I should be able to walk down the street wearing whatever I like and feel confident and comfortable. People really don’t get the message; our protest is about more than pro-choice vs. pro-life, it’s about the right for women to feel safe and equal among each other as well as among men.”
That sentence really resonated with me during the interview. Jamie and I spoke of many things, women’s rights, the struggle for equality among women, the absurd nature of the lack of personal choice, which eventually led him to say, you know the pro-choice argument is about more than just abortion. I had never really stopped to consider this before, Jamie went on to explain the debate was rooted much deeper in society, and that this issue is not as much about when a fetus becomes a living thing, but at what point do we limit someone’s freedom.
As we were leaving, I asked Jamie why he continued to show up at the protest every weekend. This protest is really about the fact that I demand the ability to make my own choices. Every woman should have the ability to make her own choices. Every man should have the ability to make his own choices.
If you want to join Jamie and stand in solidarity for women’s rights, join him every Saturday at the intersection of Commercial-Broadway from approx. 12pm – 3pm
Also, check out Jamie’s blog @ www.haifischgeweint.wordpress.com