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June 29, 2022

What I Wore To Pride March In The Wake Of Roe V. Wade

"Handmaid’s Tale” outfits? Rainbow shirts with a black stripe?
Written by
Sarah Barness
Published on
June 29, 2022
Updated on
What's changed?

On the morning of June 24, 2022 I was texting a friend about what we’d wear to Pride March in New York City. It was between those texts and some quick internet scrolls, that I saw the headline: “Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, doing away with half-century of precedent.” 

“‘Handmaid’s Tale’ outfits?” I texted. “Rainbow shirts with a black stripe? I don’t know.” 

I was so profoundly surprised and unsurprised that the feelings seemed to cancel each other out, leaving me immobilized. I continued to scroll headlines noting the historic nature of invalidating something once deemed a constitutional right; op-eds on what this would mean for people of all bodies, genders, sexual expressions, identities, backgrounds, and ages. Who would be impacted more than others; Instagram stories featuring tweets, quotes, and statistics pointing to the catastrophic implications, and the potential domino effect it could have on all civil rights. Decades of work seemingly undone in an instant.  

My eyes welled up as my worries turned to sorrow, fear, then anger. It would have been perfectly reasonable to have taken a mental health day to process. But that Friday, I wanted to work. Before my texts about Pride, and before I had seen the news, I had been editing an older, now all the more poignant, O.school article called “5 Essential Questions To Ask Your OB-GYN.”

My name is Sarah, and I’m the head of content at O.school. Introducing myself during the cross section of Pride Month, the overturning of Roe V. Wade, and Independence Day, feels somehow exactly right. Because after I felt immobile, sad, afraid, and angry — I felt the need to be loud. Specifically, loud about O.school’s mission, and why it matters to me now more than ever. 

O.school offers judgement-free, science-based sex education, wellness and pleasure products. In leading O.school’s editorial arm, I hope to empower readers to take charge of their pleasure, bodies, and overall well-being. More fundamentally, I hope to further a mission centering on the importance of autonomy and choice.

When June 26 rolled around — the day of Pride March — I was thinking a lot about O.school’s commitment to serve readers from all walks of life, including those who would take our autonomy away. 

I arrived an hour early for the march, and sat at a sunny table in Bryant Park to write this article on the topic of autonomy. I aggressively typed grandiose ideas about how we, at O.school, were going to save lives; why the dissemination of pleasure, consent-based sex education could stop red pill forums and MRA groups from forming; how carrying out our mission might mean the end of incel manifestos, forever! The end of controlling bodies, the end of isms and bigotry, and the beginning of something better — a celebration of every body, experience, and choice. Autonomy. 

But no matter how wonderful those statements sounded in my head, especially in the heat of that moment — surrounded by rainbow and leather-clad folks of all shapes and sizes in the park, holding signs like “Abort the court!” they’d soon wave, marching toward Stonewall — it looked trite on the page. I deleted it. 

Because, really, O.school is not about saving the world. How could it be? Our mission may be more humble than being the planet’s sex superhero but it’s no less important. We meet people where they’re at, helping readers come to the best, most informed decisions for them. Whether that’s finding the right ED medication, learning how menopause may impact your sex life, knowing which vibrator to buy to orgasm the way you desire, accessing a parents’ guide on how to navigate the birds and the bees talk with kids, or how to articulate why you don’t desire sex at all and why that’s okay — we’ll provide you with answers and potential solutions. You take it from there. 

I looked up from my computer in Bryant Park to see my friend’s mom approaching. I waved her down to wait with me. It wasn’t long before we got to talking about Roe v. Wade. “My generation assumed a 50-year precedent would protect us forever, like it was unshakable,” she said. “We’ve fought so hard, and I feel exhausted.” She was wearing a sherbert-colored bucket hat, a periwinkle blue belt, lavender shorts, and a green and pink shirt. It would be her first time marching in NYC Pride, celebrating her queer identity alongside her cishet son. 

I nodded. I felt tired too. 

We heard the whistle blow, signaling us to walk over to 5th and Broadway where we’d begin marching. We were surrounded by thousands of people. There were signs and some black outfits mourning Roe v. Wade. I even spotted a few Handmaids. But mostly, there were vibrant fishnets, rainbows, and funky hair dyes and sparkles. So many types of people, so many types of experiences, different wants, needs, desires, choices, and decisions — all around me, all at once. 

Standing in that crowd, in the 90-degree, muggy New York City heat, I knew we all might be tired, but that we’d energize each other when we needed it most. For me, being at Pride in the wake of Roe v. Wade induced some emotional whiplash of celebration and grief. 

So, what did I wear to the Pride March? I wore a rainbow mesh crop top, hot pink bike shorts, a bright red fanny pack, and a baseball hat with studded letters that spelled EMOTIONAL WRECK, which encapsulated my current state pretty well. 

Planned Parenthood marched first and we all followed. It was the ultimate show of solidarity in our need for autonomy. It also signaled to me that my work at O.school and furthering our mission, was only just beginning. 

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Sarah Barness is the head of content at O.school. Sarah's passionate about equipping you -- yes, you -- with the information you need to make the best, most informed decisions about your sexual health, wellness, and pleasure.  

In her past life, Sarah has led lifestyle teams, been a writer, editor, and content strategist at organizations such as HuffPost, Ashton Kutcher's A Plus, and Finder. In her free time, you can find Sarah picking away at her banjo while thinking, "I really should be working on my memoir about my dad's secret porn business instead of picking banjo right now."  

Sarah has an MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School, and is in the process of earning a certificate in sex education from ISEE.

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