No Words: A Firsthand Account of the Wendy Davis Texas Filibuster

AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 25: State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) (R) celebrates with State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) (3L) as
AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 25: State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) (R) celebrates with State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) (3L) as the Democrats defeat the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas. A combination of Sen. Davis' 13-hour filibuster and protests by reproductive rights advocates helped to ultimately defeat the controversial abortion legislation at midnight. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

As I sat in the Senate gallery Tuesday night, staring at the periwinkle-blue wave of Senator Wendy Davis turning the tide for Texas women or maybe women everywhere through her filibuster of abortion legislation, I thought about what I would write.

Over the last few years, I have always had something to say. I have railed against what happens when voting doesn't matter. I have openly criticized my own party for their hesitance to run statewide candidates who stand up for progressive values, a message I delivered, much to the chagrin of some, in front of a crowd of activists fresh off of 2010's failed Texas governor's race. I have written through tears about the heartbeats of the neglected children in Texas who will never register on the sonograms of the Republican Party's agenda.

So it seemed remarkable to me on Tuesday night that I could sit in the Senate gallery, watching an incredible moment in history occur, and think of nothing to say. No words seemed to do justice to the hundreds of thousands of gut-wrenching, careful syllables Senator Davis spoke, unaided, as she made her way through hours of filibustering this myopic legislation. No words could be worthy of the women who shared their deepest, most personal stories with Senator Davis so she could testify on their behalf; stories that not one of the Republicans, resting their hands on their pinstriped bellies like sated toads, ignoring the sneaker-clad public servant on the floor of the Senate, deserved to bear witness to.

No words could explain the madness of being admonished about absent concepts like "tradition" and "decorum," when the only real traditions being upheld by the Republicans were oppression and control. No words could compel those who had already made up their minds about what is right and what is wrong to reconsider, because those words were not allowed to be heard. No words could describe the electric feeling of a granite-walled chamber being filled with the energy and spirit of people who, despite all valid reasons to be convinced otherwise, choose to still believe in the basic tenents of democracy, of autonomy, and of freedom, sitting patiently through hours of a clock ticking down on their collective fate.

But then, something happened.

Twenty minutes until midnight, a question was posed by Senator Leticia Van de Putte. A question that came, slowly, from a careful, sticky-sweet voice of measured outrage. Twenty three words that were the only words left for the only question left to be asked and answered: "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"

The answer began as applause, but soon became a deafening, outcome-changing roar.

I have been asked if it was planned. If we were encouraged by someone. If we knew it was coming.

The truth is this: when you have no words left, when every word spoken has fallen on deaf ears, when the representative you have chosen to speak is no longer allowed to do so, sometimes all there is left to do is scream. The final 20 minutes of the people's filibuster was a manifestation of the impact of every word that had been said but not truly heard in the Senate that day.

Because while the Republicans in power chose not to listen, we had been listening. We had been sitting. We had been waiting. We had no words, but we stood and we had a voice.