"Everything I am now is because I am a woman and I want to make life better for other women." explained Sarah Bender. I met Sarah at a return peace corps volunteer event at a bar in the East Village last night. I was in the peace corps 20 years ago and I think there was only one person at the event last night that was older than me. I looked around the tables at all of these young do-gooders and they all looked just like my Peace Corps cohort, except back then the guys had longish hair instead of man buns and piercings weren't quite as common. Sarah served as a volunteer in Jordan and now is working as the assistant director of an LGBT Health Center that is part of the Metropolitan Hospital Center. "I love being a woman. It is always going to be hard as a woman. The expectations are different, but even in Jordan I felt that I got to experience something among the women that the male volunteers would not see. The minute men left a room the demeanor of the women would change instantly and we'd be talking openly and laughing over tea." While in Jordan, Sarah could not let her community know that she was gay. "It was weird, three months before leaving for Peace Corps I was canvassing on the streets of New York City saying 'hey do you have a second for gay rights?' and then I am in Jordan and back in the closet. I understood the policy, it was for my own safety." Homosexuality is decriminalized in Jordan but it is still taboo. "I took Peace Corps seriously. I didn't mind not disclosing that I'm a lesbian. It was a great experience and I met the girl of my dreams. She was in Peace Corps in Jordan too. We are engaged and getting married in September. At first we weren't going to announce it on social media because our friends in Jordan are on facebook too. When we did announce it on facebook we received so many loving and supporting messages from Jordan. It was really nice."
Jing and her husband have owned Crystal Cleaners and Laundromat on East 20th Street for eight years. "Because I am a woman I am very luck to have babies. I have two happy and smart daughters," said Jing. "I think maybe in the work world and at school it may be easier to be a woman, but at home it is harder. We have to take care of the home, the food, the children," she said. For Jing it doesn't matter that she didn't have any sons. "In Chinese culture having boys is more celebrated. I am happy that I have two girls but maybe for my family, they would have been happier if I had a son," she said.