Part One of Two
#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.
How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?
In the mid to late 1980s, a friend of mine told me that she had gotten her tubes tied at age 19 (she was in her 30s when she told me this). She said she always knew that she didn’t want children. Of course, she had a heck of a time finding a doctor who would perform the procedure on someone that young. She’s in her 50s now, and she said she has never regretted that decision.
So, in 1995, I finally made the decision to get my tubes tied. But I can’t believe the grief the surgeon gave me for making that decision.
Here I was, in my late 30s (I’m 59 now, and yes, I know that I look younger than I am), and he was asking things like, “Well, how do you know you’re making the right decision? How do you know you won’t change your mind later on? How do you know…?”
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I said, “Look! Are you going to do the surgery or not?”
“Oh, I’ll still do it,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure you were aware of everything that was involved, that’s all.” *sigh*
For the most part, I don’t regret my decision. I certainly have more freedom to pursue my interests without children in my life. But occasionally, I’ll wonder if I’m missing out on something by not having children. And I’ll have these brief, fleeting moments where I don’t feel like I’m fully female because I’ve never experienced motherhood. Plus, it feels a little weird knowing that classmates my age are now parents and grandparents.
I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to give birth. Of course, I’ll never know.
Do you feel pressure to fulfill an idea of womanhood that may/may not correspond to who you actually are? If so, please describe.
Not anymore, I don’t. But when I first came out as queer in the 1980s, I received so many negative and disapproving messages from people letting me know that there was something just “not quite right” about me. You see, I was (and still am) very much of a femme. Nobody gives me any grief about being femme now.
But back then, the only time it was okay to be femme was if you were partnered with a butch dyke. Then, you had the role-playing thing going on. Otherwise, if an un-partnered woman claimed to be queer, but was also femme, she was looked down upon, not believed, and seen as suspect.
I remember a few instances where I wore a necktie and a man’s suit, just so I could fit in. It didn’t work. Instead, I felt so silly!
Do you have advice for other women regarding birth control methods that worked well or didn’t work well for you?
I don’t really have a lot of advice since I’m a little out of the loop regarding modern, up-to-date birth control methods, because I haven’t had to use them. I don’t know whether or not I’d recommend tubal ligation just because it’s so permanent, unless you know for certain that you don’t want kids. I also use condoms, but not for birth control, though.
Since I’m not fluid-bonded to anyone, I just use condoms for safe sex (that is, to guard against STIs). But condoms can break, although it’s been several years since that happened to me.
In 2016, openly discussing one’s reproductive choices is still considered taboo, why do you suppose more women aren’t having these conversations?
It’s probably because of the shame women receive from male leaders/lawmakers who are totally ignorant about how birth control works, or even how a woman’s body works.
I’m sure that married women who receive negative messages from their churches (if they attend church, that is), learn early on that sex is only for procreation.
Where are you on the continuum of self-love? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being Kanye West), how much do you love yourself and how do you reinforce and/or improve this?
I think I’m an 8. I mean, it’s been so recent that I’ve been able to admit that I don’t need to improve or change myself. It’s also been recent that I’ve been able to say out loud, “I’m awesome!”
Sadly, it took a breast cancer diagnosis in December 2013 for me to get to that point. I realized how short life is, so I decided that I was going to be unabashedly myself, out and proud. I also decided that I would no longer allow anyone to treat me like crap. And along those same lines, I refuse to enter into a relationship with anyone who is unwilling or unable to see my awesomeness.
Gloria Jackson-Nefertiti is an artist’s model, breast cancer survivor, poet, and ukulele player in Seattle, WA. She is also a bisexual activist and polyamory educator who is available for panels, workshops and public speaking opportunities.