You Do Uterus: As young women, we trace our power to our roots

With just one semester remaining in my time at USC, I’ve found myself thinking about my roots and the experiences that launched me on this three-year journey of learning, activism and finding my voice. The future is an open book, and I find this all at once terrifying and exciting. But the past — these past three years, specifically — will always be my origins, my lived experiences and my home, foundational to wherever I go next. Because home, I’ve learned, is not a place; it is people, memories, feelings of love, comfort and support.

In the last three years, I’ve served as a managing editor of the Daily Trojan, published a book of essays about feminism, lobbied for domestic and global reproductive rights in Washington, D.C. and led community and external advocacy efforts for USC’s Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment. I’ve become someone I could only ever have dreamt of being before I started college, and I’m indebted to the people whose love and trust sustained me through every moment of it. Because no one achieves anything alone.

When I was younger, a string of difficult experiences opened my mind and heart to the dangers and realities of misogyny. Early experiences with sexual assault, sexual harassment and personal health issues led me to the realization that there is so much to fight for — and so much to give back.

For years, I’ve felt indebted to the women and people who supported me at an independent women’s health clinic. They shoulder ceaseless threats and hatred just to perform the thankless work of helping other women. Everything I’m proud of and every achievement that has made me the person I am, traces back to the generosity and support I received when I needed it most.

I take my responsibility to give back to the community of advocates and health care providers who stand with survivors seriously and offer life-giving and life-saving care to people of all backgrounds and circumstances. Their love, compassion and faith in their work have made me and unsaid numbers of young women who we are. In my writing, activism and daily choices, I strive toward promoting an environment in which they are appreciated, respected and supported, as they deserve to be.

My passion for these causes — fighting for survivors and for reproductive justice — empowers me through any adversity. And, certainly, there has been adversity. The harassment I shouldered and fought against in my adolescent years has only followed me as I’ve grown, taking different forms: in hateful comments and emails responding to my work, and in harassment and intimidation efforts by militant, anti-abortion and anti-women’s rights protesters.

This sort of bullying and intimidation, which began when I was as young as 15, was supposed to break me. But it made me strong. Adversity, cruelty and harassment have made me and so many women stronger. No one should have to face it, and every day, we fight for a world in which someday no one will. But until such time as we reach that point — and I know, someday, we will — we are strengthened by our support for each other, in the face of so much hatred.

At the end of the day, we are in this fight — the fight of and for our lives — not because it is easy, but because it is worth it and necessary. And through these formative years of my time at USC, through every episode of unspeakable cruelty I have watched take place, around the world, the country and, yes, often on this campus, I have watched countless numbers of people stand up, fight back and give their voices to the voiceless. It’s through their everyday acts of love and sacrifice that we see the moral arc of the universe bend just a little bit closer to justice.

Writing this column for three years and speaking from my heart about the issues that matter to me as a young woman, have been one of the most distinct honors of my time at USC. I am so thankful for those of you who have followed it through the years — faculty members, classmates and especially fellow young women, who have reached out and connected with me about shared ideas and experiences. I have one more semester, and, as always, much more to say — but I feel strongly it’s time for the University to hear out the voice of a new woman on these issues. Whoever she is, I can’t wait to read her work.

And lastly, I would be remiss to close out this three-year endeavor without thanking the people whose faith in me made it possible. From my first editor at the Daily Trojan (Lily Vaughan), to the incredible editors-in-chief I’ve worked with along the way (Danni Wang, Emma Peplow and Allen Pham), to the fellow editors who have practically become family to me (Catherine Yang, Eric He, Terry Nguyen, Tomás Mier, Jonathon Xue, Ryan Fawwaz), this newspaper connected me to some of the best people I’ve ever worked with, probably some of the best people I’ll ever know.

As I leave this column behind, I’ll never leave behind the friendships and memories I’ve made along the way.

Kylie Cheung is a junior writing about feminism and women’s rights. Her column, “You Do Uterus,” ran every other Thursday.