Preview photo by Emily Mills.
Tone Madison is publishing oral histories related to abortion, miscarriage, birth control, and reproductive health from people in the Madison area. Read more about this project and find information about sharing your story. We are also publishing brief messages of support for storytellers.
We ask that these stories are not reprinted in other outlets.
Content warning: sexual violence, homophobia, alcohol use
Below is a verbatim account from anonymous:
The year was 2014. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, and a small, sad, and anxious version of the adult I am today. My priorities were shifting and I was conflicted and guilty and very much in the closet.
In my much smaller hometown, I had wanted nothing more than to make my family proud of me. I earned excellent grades, participated in the theatre program at school and was in National Honor Society. On top of that, I worked as a nanny and went to church—but that wasn’t enough for the approval of my family and community. The leaders at my church told my parents they were concerned about my “feminine development,” and sure enough, I wasn’t very feminine. People in our small social circle often asked my parents about me and my social life, looking for reassurance that the resident tomboy was in fact, dating a man and doing all the things teenage girls are supposed to do. “Dyke” was a word I heard frequently, from my mom and from my peers. All I knew was I didn’t want to be a dyke. I wanted to make my family proud.
Coming from this environment, I absolutely loved Gainesville and I loved university: my classes had radical professors that exposed me to new ideas, and I found friends who were not just tomboys but openly and happily exploring their queer identities. I found myself pursing classes about feminism, about race, about literature. I did feel some measure of guilt, living so freely with openly queer folks as a “passionate ally” and choosing classes on topics people in my hometown refused to talk about. When I visited home for Christmas break, nobody from my community wanted to hear about my classes or my clubs or my job—they wanted to know if I had finally “found a boyfriend.” I had no answer and the disapproval was obvious. All of the women in my life had found their husbands in university, and it seemed to them I wasn’t trying to do the same.
When I returned to school for the second semester, I did “find a boyfriend,” or I at least found a guy who wanted to be my boyfriend and I let him. Despite keeping him at arm’s length, he eventually wanted sex and I gave in. I remember all those times I stared at the ceiling and disassociated while he chugged away in missionary position, not touching him but allowing him to touch me. I went on birth control, he wore a condom. But one night, after a Fourth of July party, we were both tipsy and the condom somehow came off in the middle of missionary (he later admitted to pulling it off in the darkness). I was surprised and horrified as I felt him cum in me (I still remember this feeling). The next morning, July 5, I asked him to help me pay for the Morning After Pill as I had been slightly forgetful with my birth control. “I don’t know,” he told me. “Seems like your fault for forgetting your birth control and that stuff is expensive.” I didn’t press the issue further. I ate breakfast and planned to stop at the drugstore that was on the walk home to my apartment.
On July 5, 2014 in Florida, the Morning After Pill cost $60 at Walgreens. It was in a tiny purple box locked in a clear case on a shelf in the Family Planning aisle, and I had to ring a bell and avoid eye contact with the pharmacist who took forever to find his key, unlock the case, and slip the purple box into a clunky anti-theft container I had to carry to the register for the cashier to unlock. “Now you can’t steal it,” he said to me, staring at my pixie cut and hoodie. At the register I overdrafted my bank account (a $35 charge) as I paid for the tiny purple box and a bottle of orange juice. I wished my boyfriend would help me pay for it. I read the instructions and swallowed the pill. I waited for my next paycheck and my next period.
To this day, I am grateful for that tiny pill that cost me $95 in total. I swallowed that pill with no physical side effects, but like Neo in the Matrix, the veil was lifted on my life. I broke up with the boyfriend after my period came, and I came out of the closet in the same month. I told my family I was a dyke and my mother and I did not speak for a year and half. Conversations with my father were awkward and tense. I gave up on pleasing people when I visited home. My family and I have gotten through our differences and our relationship has only gotten stronger. Even if they can’t say the word “girlfriend,” “partner,” or “lesbian,” we’re getting there. Swallowing the MAP allowed me to finish my education, and swallowing a metaphorical pill forced me to live my life openly and honestly. It empowered me. I am now a happy, gainfully employed, openly queer adult in Madison, WI. My story ended well, but not everyone’s does.
As the rights of people with uteruses and queer folks are stripped away, I fear that contraception will be made illegal or made inaccessible to people who need it the most. The white daughters, wives, and mistresses of conservative politicians will always be able to get the services they need. They can find the best doctors, they can buy drugs, they go on mysterious errands and vacations—there are always options for people with that level of privilege. There are and possibly will be less options for college students, for poor people, for queer people, for people of color, and for anyone who fits into one or more of those categories. Do those people deserve less options? Did I not deserve that $95 pill that possibly saved my education, my life when my ex-boyfriend betrayed me? In the eyes of the conservative judges on our Supreme Court, apparently not.