When I was a girl in the 70’s, kids played a game at recess. It was dodgeball but I knew it only by another name, “Smear the Queer”. I didn’t understand the word, “queer”, except that it was a bad thing to be because it inspired “smearing”. In time, I would learn what this very hateful term meant. In time, other kids, now older, would use this word understanding what it meant. Word like these and the actions behind them had kept and continue to keep human beings in a dark place, out of the light, for no good reason.

The 80’s brought the H.I.V. epidemic, which originally almost solely impacted gay men. A community, already under fire by our culture, was now under siege by a disease. It was a time of particular crisis. ACT UP, an AIDS/HIV advocacy group started and their slogan, “Silence = DEATH” was appropriately chilling. A few years later, Queer Nation, took to the streets chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

They decided to change the meaning of the word to a powerful one. Taking ownership of hateful names is one strategy used by some activist groups. I find myself bristling to this, given earlier connotations. It takes time to “get used to” a hateful word transformation.

Nearly 30 years later, I have an 18 year old daughter who identifies as “queer” and sings in a youth choir that is labeled as “queer” on their website. The word has a totally different meaning to these youth, who by the way, are very much out in the world, out of dark, and doing their best to deal with the hate that comes from the outside by being truthful about who they are.

The LGBTQ movement intersects with so many more activist movements, including the Women’s Movement. I am old enough to remember the changes that occured in the 60’s and 70’s. I have also observed the increasing backlash against women from a sizable portion of our culture, not to mention institutional sexism, which is pervasive.

Clearly, women in the U.S. have made gains. Clearly, we are threatened, along with so many other unrepresented groups. These are challenging times. We are less than one week from Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the threat is palpable.

The Women’s March was originally conceived by an ordinary woman who, shocked by the election, formed a Facebook event. By the time she woke up the next day, it had over 10,000 participants. Professional women’s protest organizers took the reins and an expected 150,000 to 200,000 are expected to attend the march next week in Washington, DC. There are sister marches planned for the same day, all over the U.S., and even in other countries.

I am attending the march in my city of Seattle. Like the DC March, we are knitting “pussy hats” to wear to the march. They are pink hats with cat ears. Pussy is a reference to President-Elect Trump’s characterization of women, which comes from our culture. Many male legislators also have an obsessive need to control women’s reproduction.

The pink part, well, pink has been associated with femininity for some time now. The word, “pussy”, with it’s crude and aggressive connotations, bothers people. (It bothers me, but I have decided that it is a good thing for me to “get used to”.) Pink, however, has controversial connotations among those of us in the breast cancer community. Komen co-opted the color to market our disease to make corporations rich. Pink has also been used to sexualize and trivialize our disease.

Women are constantly being put in the dark, in the shade. It was not that long ago that it was considered a bad thing to identify as feminist. We are in crisis. We know it.

We can choose to march.

We can choose to wear “pussy hats” or not.

We can choose to unify to use the power we have as a group that comprises over half of the voting population.

We can choose to recognize our chooses and attempt to take back the meaning of words to define ourselves for ourselves.

As always,