This is the first entry in #WeArePP: Our Stories from AK to AZ, 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 Tatiana Perkins, who is an intern at PPFA this summer in the Organizing and Engagement Campaigns department. In June, she left the Pacific Northwest for the nation’s capital for the first time — just as Planned Parenthood was gearing up to defeat Trumpcare.
Meet Tatiana Perkins. In high school, people called her “the Condom Fairy.”
“I’d hand them out when people needed them,” Perkins said, shrugging. “My classmates always just came to me to ask questions about sex ed or their reproductive health."
It was there — at Mariner High School in Everett, Wash., a working-class suburb of Seattle — that Perkins got involved with Planned Parenthood for the first time. As a high school first-year student, she joined Mariner’s Teen Council chapter, Planned Parenthood’s award-winning peer education program.
Through Teen Council, Perkins learned how to teach comprehensive sex education to her fellow high school students — tackling concepts like consent, gender and sexuality, and birth control.
“It was a life-changing experience and especially empowering for me since I’m a Planned Parenthood patient, too,” she said.
Fast forward six years to June 28, 2017, when Perkins was one of four Planned Parenthood activists carrying a banner while leading more than 1,000 Planned Parenthood supporters and activists fighting Trumpcare in a historic march around the U.S. Capitol.
Tatiana (far right) helps lead the march.
That’s the day that Perkins’s fight for sexual and reproductive health care became part of the biggest political battle of 2017.
“It was there, at the rally, that I realized that while the health care fight wasn’t over yet, what I’m doing actually makes a difference.”
Read more of our interview with Tatiana below
Planned Parenthood Action Fund: During the school year, you’re president of UW’s Generation Action chapter, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, and you’re doubling majoring in Political Science and Law, Societies & Justice. Wow!
I imagine you’ve been equally busy this summer at Planned Parenthood as you fought to take down Senate Republicans’ ACA repeal efforts. Can you describe what that was like? And what it felt like after the bill was defeated?
Tatiana Perkins: We had a few wins back at home [in Washington state], like being able to get a year of birth control all at once, which we’ve been trying to get for so long.
But I’ve been in the Planned Parenthood fight for a long time now, and I can say that it can be really challenging, as women’s health get attacked in states across the country again and again.
And when something as big as this health care bill gets proposed — with a Republican-majority Congress — it’s kind of hard to hope that you’ll come out victorious. So the entire time fighting this bill, I knew that we could just not give up.
When Trumpcare was defeated, it was surreal. You can get so used to people trying to take away autonomy, that when you actually face the wind and realize, ‘Wow, some people can still go to the doctor tomorrow,’ you feel so great, relieved, and proud.
PPAF: At a Planned Parenthood rally this summer, you shared your Planned Parenthood patient story. Do you feel comfortable sharing it again?
TP: One night, after graduation, me and a group of friends decided to go to a classmate’s party. We’d really never gone to a party before — and had never had alcohol before. But at this party, there was a ton of it.
We had no idea what was going on. We weren’t coherent at all. We had no idea what to expect. We thought we could trust our classmate, but it turns out we couldn’t. And me and a lot of my friends ended up getting sexually assaulted that night. It was really rough. We ended up going to Planned Parenthood and getting care — STI tested and everything. I found out one of my friends got chlamydia. It was her first time having sex — and she doesn’t even remember it.
It was really rough, but we knew we could depend on Planned Parenthood for that kind of care. There was no judgement. It was a really nice, confidential place to go when we didn’t know what else to do.
Tatiana (alongside her senator, Sen. Patty Murray) shares her story at a rally.
PPAF: Other than yourself, can you think of a time you saw Planned Parenthood directly improving the lives of others?
TP: I grew up in Everett, Washington. It’s a lot better now than it was, but my high school used to be a gang-heavy school, very unsafe at times. The whole Everett area is working-class, people that don’t necessarily have access to health care. And if they do, they go to Planned Parenthood, because you know, you can use Medicaid there, and they’ll always be non-judgemental there.
The clinics in and around Everett are in easily accessible places...People of color and folks with low incomes can go there, no problem. So I know firsthand how important it is to have access to Planned Parenthood clinics.
PPAF: A lot of state legislatures are trying to restrict access to women’s health. But you come from Seattle, Wash., a city and state with laws that have expanded women’s access to safe and legal abortion, birth control, and other components of women’s health.
Did growing up in that environment have any influence on the work that you do now?
TP: Yeah, it definitely makes it easier to get involved! I don’t feel uncomfortable saying that I work with Planned Parenthood. I’m sure when people in other parts of the country say that, it would be more controversial — even when in reality, of course, Planned Parenthood isn’t controversial, it’s just health care.
Tatiana (left) and a fellow member of UW's Generation Action chapter.
PPAF: You also moved to D.C. for the summer from across the country for the first time! What was that experience like? Was it harder or easier knowing you’d be working for a cause you care about?
TP: Moving to D.C. for the summer has been absolutely amazing. I’ve lived in the Seattle area my entire life. So it’s been really great being exposed to different cultures, different kinds of people, a different lifestyle out here [on the East Coast].
Coming out to here to work with Planned Parenthood has made it a lot easier. On my first day of walking into the office, I was like, “I’m super used to this!” because I’m around Planned Parenthood supporters and volunteers all the time back home. Everyone has that same kind of wavelength, everyone’s here for the same reasons. And that’s made it a really great transition for sure.
Tatiana and other Planned Parenthood supporters decked out in pink!
PPAF: Other than calling representatives, becoming a Defender, etc., what advice would you give Planned Parenthood supporters who are your age on staying engaged in the fight?
TP: Here’s what I always say — if you’re comfortable, you should just share your story with anyone who will listen! In a big organization like this, where everyone sees the personal as political, the personal is what should always prevail.
So telling stories, giving Planned Parenthood experiences a face to the words is really important. Even if it’s just for their friends or family, seeing that Planned Parenthood impacts somebody close to them is really impactful in the long run. Plus, telling your story makes YOU so powerful.
PPAF: There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Planned Parenthood. Have you ever had to correct someone with misinformation? How did you approach it?
TP: All the time! People forget the Hyde Amendment exists. They’ve just never learned about it. And people don’t know a lot about pregnancy. Or they don’t know the difference between sex and gender.
Especially being part of a progressive organization that values facts and acceptance, there are always gonna be people who push back on you, saying, “That’s not true, because that’s not my experience."
So the way I try to combat that is by explaining things in a way that people can understand, keeping in mind who they are and where they’re from. I just want to make sure that people have the information — the correct information — without pushing beliefs on people.
Tatiana standing in front of the U.S. Capitol building.
PPAF: What has been your favorite moment working at PP so far?
TP: The moment I’m thinking of happened in late June, in the middle of our health care fight, when McConnell announced that he was going to delay voting on Trumpcare and keep revising it.
We all got the news in the middle of this really big rally, where we marched around the U.S. Capitol building. So many people from all different progressive organizations were there. We were all super happy and cheering.
Talking with my coworkers afterward, everyone was just so hopeful. You just look at the sun and it looks ten times better.