I Spent My Birthday At The Women's March On Washington

It was a once in a lifetime experience... that I hope becomes anything but.

Well, technically it was the day after. But what a headline, right? 

It's way better than the joke I made about my birthday after voting for Hillary Clinton and Democratic representatives in Pennsylvania on November 8. Granted, I — in my self-assured arrogance that we would never actually elect a racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, misogynist, lying, narcissistic, alleged rapist, not to mention unqualified con-artist as president — thought it was pretty clever at the time. I wrote, "Here's to hopefully celebrating my quarter-life crisis in D.C., not Canada!" Not quite Seinfeld, but it made me chuckle. 

Of course, when that day came, there wasn't a lot to laugh about. 


On January 20, the actual twenty-fourth anniversary of my birth, I witnessed the birth of a nation I did not want to believe existed.

And if you had asked me a few months ago when I made the joke about leaving said nation for its kindly, maple-soaked neighbor, I would've had the privilege to tell you that that nation would never truly come to be, even though I'd seen the pieces of it coming together since the first time I went to synagogue with my family and saw a security guard that the thousand-year-old threat of antisemitism warrants. 

I saw it again at my sister's high school graduation in Bucks County, Pennsylvania when we sat behind a father who, when putting an arm around his son's shoulders, revealed a swastika tattoo on his hand.

 I saw it again when my neighbors, supposedly good and nice, flew a Confederate flag on their front lawn. It was far from the last one I've seen donned with pride in my tiny slice of Pennsyltucky, which has no convenient excuse of "Southern heritage" to hide behind. 

I even saw it in the complacency of my peers when I walked out of class for a Black Lives Matter march my senior year at a small, private liberal arts college and wasn't all that surprised.

Though I'd seen it time and time again, I must not have been paying enough attention. Or maybe I guess I told myself that, no matter what, the good outweighed the bad. And then I guess I thought I was wrong. 

When I saw the sea of Trump supporters, armed with their red "Make America Great Again" hats, clamoring to be let onto the National Mall for the inauguration, I felt… well, it kind of doesn't matter what I felt. If you're reading this, you can probably imagine how I felt or, if not, you know how you felt. 

Because this isn't about me.

As loathe as I am to start another sentence with "I,” I didn't march for myself. I marched for everyone else who isn't "lucky enough" to be white or straight or cisgender.

I was lucky enough to march alongside my friends of various colors, genders, sexualities, ages. I was even luckier to march alongside strangers of various colors, genders, sexualities, ages. The incomprehensible magnitude of the Women's March hopefully showed everyone who attended and everyone who stayed home that to take political action based on what benefits your identity is to miss the point. As many reasons as I personally had to march, I marched for all the people that couldn't.

Just as it is unapologetically American to protest, it is also a privilege. It is a privilege to feel safe enough to protest, and those of us who have it need to keep on taking action to ensure others gain that privilege, and countless necessary other ones, in the future. Like, say, 2018

I marched because I believe Black and Brown lives matter. I marched because I believe trans, gay, and bi lives matter. I marched because I believe immigrant and refugee lives matter. But what I believe even more strongly is that it shouldn't take 500,000 people chanting those phrases to let someone know their life matters. They should be able to feel that every day. Too many don't. 

And until then, I'm gonna march. I'm gonna listen to those people whose lives I believe matter, so I can be an effective ally. I'm gonna donate to the organizations promoting those causes I believe in, specifically all the money I received as birthday gifts, and then some. (I'm a 24-year-old writer so please excuse my semi-limited means, but I'm doing what I can.) I'm gonna keep taking action through activism and volunteer work. I'm gonna hold myself — and all those beautiful friends I got to spend my birthday with — accountable. 

I marched because I love this stupid fucking country and, despite whatever jokes I might make on Facebook to the contrary, I wouldn't want to — couldn't in good conscious — live anywhere else. I live in a place where the Women's March on Washington was not only possible, but was accompanied by dozens of other sister marches across this nation. And every single one was a positive, productive, and peaceful shared experience. Do you know how rare that is? Too rare. 

A panoramic view of the Women's March on D.C. that still does not effectively encompass the scale of this protest. 

On January 21, I witnessed the rebirth of a nation that not only still existed, but that millions of people — an estimated 2.9 million, in fact — were ready to fight for. The second we walked outside that morning, we were greeted by fellow protesters on their way to the Women's March. Upon seeing each other, it was like an electric current rippled from person to person, connecting all of us. The kindness of strangers I experienced and extended that day was remarkable, but that's the problem.

While the Women's March restored my faith in humanity, it reaffirmed my conviction that I, that we, still have a lot of work to do. We have a long march ahead of us.

We — she, they, zie, sie, ey, ve, tey, e and yes, he — the people need to do better.

It is not enough to show up on one day; we have to show up every day. 

Where does that start? I'm so glad you asked. Here's where. And here. And here. And here. And here

My birthday present (and yes, I will take ownership of myself as the self-absorbed White woman who called it that) was a once in a lifetime experience that I hope is anything but. We all deserve to feel supported, heard, defended, and protected by far more than a measly THREE MILLION people every single day. 

More importantly, we deserve some goddamn laws and a government willing to enact them that make us feel supported, heard, defended, and protected. There were women from Flint, Michigan at the march who never were and still aren't. We can't forget about them. We need to see beyond the brim of our pink pussy hats.  

I mean, I'm 24 now. I'm not naive enough to expect that will magically happen because of this, the biggest protest in U.S. history, but, hey, I still have my birthday wish. 

Just kidding! What I really have is the rest of my life to have the chance — and responsibility — to fight.


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