#WeArePP: Our Stories from AK to AZ is a weekly blog series in which we profile supporters and advocates from across the country and every corner of our Planned Parenthood community. This week we met up with Ean Tubbs, who spent this summer participating in Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s Summer of Defiance fellowship — a grassroots training opportunity for young activists.
Meet Ean Tubbs. As a Summer of Defiance fellow, there was no such thing as a “typical day” for him.
“That was one of my favorite things about [the fellowship],” Ean explained. “My average day might start at 8 a.m. to street canvass at a farmers’ market an hour outside of town. Or it might start at 1 p.m. if there was an event that evening.”
Summer of Defiance (SOD) is a full-time, paid four-week fellowship aimed at training young leaders across the country to develop grassroots organizing and campaign-building skills. Tubbs worked with three other fellows and one Planned Parenthood Action Fund organizer in Anchorage, Alaska. Besides Alaska, SOD fellowships took place in eight other states.
Ean and other SOD fellows.
Throughout the fellowship, Tubbs cut his teeth on grassroots organizing. Not only did he learn how to canvass, phone bank, and plan events, but he also learned how to lead volunteers, build teams, and host workshops. His priority was winning Planned Parenthood’s health care fight.
“Every day, we’d have a quick meeting to discuss the latest developments with the health care bill. We would evaluate our goals for the campaign, and how we planned to reach them that day,” said Tubbs, a senior at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Being flexible was the key to a successful fellowship, he added.
“I can think of multiple days where we’d make plans, only to drop them later,” Ean said. “For example, after the health care vote happened and our target — Sen. Lisa Murkowski — voted no, all of our messaging and strategy had to change.”
Read more of our interview with Ean below.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund: Do you have a Planned Parenthood patient story? If so, do you feel comfortable sharing it?
Ean Tubbs: I identify on the queer spectrum. I like to say that I’m gay with a question mark, or an asterisk. It can be complicated. Along with that, I grew up in Palmer, Alaska, which is a small town. And...it’s not the most welcoming place when you identify like that. So I grew up not sure why I was so different, and kind of ashamed of it. A pivotal moment I remember is when I was in second grade, and I started playing football. One of the popular games was called “smear the queer.” All I knew was that I didn’t want to be the “queer” that everyone tried to tackle.
It wasn’t until pretty recently that I decided to be public about my sexuality. And after I did, I went to Planned Parenthood. That’s where I was able to figure things out. They have resources, information, and education for the LGBTQ community.
PPAF: You mentioned your hometown. Overall, what is living in Alaska really like?
ET: For the most part, Alaska’s no different from anywhere else in the United States. We have more outdoor attractions, like glaciers and mountains. At [University of Alaska Anchorage] there are more classes structured with our state in mind. I’m getting my degree in environmental science, and a lot of my classes are like, “Let’s go out to the glacier today and run some tests!” Stuff like that.
But as far as the people go, it’s just like any other small town in America. One fun fact about Alaska is that we have quite a few Blockbusters still open. Every time people from out of state see one, they’re very confused.
Ean takes notes for class.
PPAF: So can you see Russia from your backyard?
ET: Yeah. Basically. [Laughs]
PPAF: Alaska’s leadership consists mainly of Republicans. How do you stay motivated when your politics differ from theirs?
ET: Living in a red state but being progressive makes me all the more motivated. Then, I think it’s important to harvest that motivation and find other people who care about the same things that you do. Once you do that, you can do anything!
Ean makes signs for a rally.
PPAF: What was it like working to defeat Senate Republicans’ health care bill with the other SOD fellows and PPAF staff? And how did it feel the night the bill finally got voted down?
ET: Throughout the whole health care fight, we were all so motivated to protect Planned Parenthood and Obamacare. We all knew people who would be affected by [the Republicans’] health care bill. So many people in Alaska depend on Planned Parenthood.
On the night of the vote, a few of us went downtown to a restaurant to wait for the final results. And when we found out, it felt amazing. It felt like a validation of everything I’d been working [on] for the past month, and everything the [Planned Parenthood affiliate in Anchorage] had been working on for the past eight months.
Ean at a rally with other Planned Parenthood supporters.
PPAF: Your senator, Lisa Murkowski, played an important role in defeating the Trumpcare bill. Along with Susan [Collins] and John McCain, she held the threshold in voting the bill down. What work did you do in persuading her to support the millions of people who rely on Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act?
ET: Before the fellowship, I was calling [Murkowski] and wrote letters to her, things like that. Then, a few weeks into the fellowship, we were canvassing at a farmers’ market where her son has a booth that sells pasta. She was there. And I actually got to meet her face to face and talk to her about Planned Parenthood.
And I was reassured, because she said she supported access to Planned Parenthood and health care. It was really nice to hear that from her, right then and there. One of my favorite moments from that day was that there was a line that stretched throughout the market of people waiting to share their Planned Parenthood stories with her, too.
Ean and Sen. Murkowski at the farmers' market.
PPAF: Other than yourself, can you think of a time where you saw Planned Parenthood directly improving the lives of other people?
ET: So many times. Pretty much all of my female friends from school rely on Planned Parenthood. In fact, my roommate actually went there yesterday. [Planned Parenthood is] really important to people here, and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about their services.
PPAF: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you?
ET: Back in high school, I wasn’t as politically aware. I was 15! Then one of my friends — her name is Chloe — moved to my town from Oregon, which is more liberal than Alaska. She introduced me to politics, and showed me that there are a lot of important, political issues out there. That’s when I realized I wanted to get involved with politics.
PPAF: What has been your favorite moment being a Summer of Defiance Fellow?
ET: That’s tough. There have been many great moments, but I think my favorites are the conversations that I’ve had here and there with supporters while canvassing. It’s amazing how many people care so much about what we’re doing. Every time we get a positive interaction, like someone telling their personal story, that’s the most amazing thing.
Ean and friends.