Musings on change and more change ahead…A personal post

I can never recall who said it, nor exactly how it was said, but to paraphrase: The older I grow, the one constant in my life does seem to be change.

As I get ready for some major life shifts in my personal life, I find myself reflecting on the past year and just what a journey it has been. While I shy away from the personal stuff in this space, today is a little different for me as I realize how much of the personal changes of the past year have affected me.

Thanks to Facebook’s nifty (or sometimes not so nifty) memory reminder feature, a picture from last year popped up in my feed. It was a photo that reminded me that a year ago, I was preparing for the physical separation from my life partner of 20 years, 18 of which were spent as a legally married couple. A partnership that started at 22 and ended at 42 and basically set me off on the journey to find myself at a time in life when, according to popular beliefs, you have already figured out who you are. Increasingly, though, I am starting to believe that we never truly find ourselves, instead we evolve over time and our task is to meet the changes head on. To not allow ourselves to grow stagnant, yet also to retain our central core of self.

Moving out of the family home and into a 400-square-foot apartment (which is shared my daughter) on an island at times has felt like one of the most asinine things that I could do. And at the same time, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been my healing space and in the past year, I have met many good people along the way who have shown me that despite the daily reports of gloom and doom that are fed to us, good people truly do exist.

While change may be the only constant in life, the reality is that for many of us, and I include myself, change is hard.  The day-to-day of actually doing change sometimes seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to a root canal without the anesthesia. Yet there comes a point when if we keep going, the change starts to sink in and it becomes your “new normal”…it often happens when you aren’t paying attention.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I can say that the past year has forced me to seriously assess my own skills and talents as I was faced with the uncomfortable truth that while running a grassroots organization is the ultimate in doing good, rarely is it financially rewarding. Given that I don’t wish to spend my golden years eating kitty chow and living under a bridge…yet I love the work that I do…I have increased my own side work and it is slowly starting to bear fruit. Starting a side business while running an almost 50-year old grassroots organization is challenging but so far, I am keeping all the balls in the air.

This past year, I have even seen a long-held dream come true. For years I joked about wanting to give a TED Talk and on November 5, at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, I will be a speaker at TEDxDirigo (Maine’s little slice of the TEDx world).  While it is an honor to be among an amazing group of speakers, it is one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever done. The preparation for a TED/TEDx talk can only be likened to preparing for a marathon. A mental and emotional marathon, but a marathon nonetheless.

Yet the greatest changes in my life have been on a personal front, in large part as we prepare for a new addition to our family. My son and his wife are expecting their first child, who will be earthside soon. After 25 years of motherhood, I am preparing to enter grandma-hood and with each passing day, I find myself getting more and more excited. With new change comes new realities and entering the next phase of adulthood has rendered so much of what seemed important as really unimportant. This became clear to me this spring as I stood with both of my previous husbands and watched our son get married, a day that will live in my memory as long as I am in sound mind. But that day is a close second to feeling my daughter in law’s belly move as my unborn grandchild kicked.

I have had two babies; I remember their  in-utero kicks and movements but to see your own grandchild kick, to realize that your baby is an adult who is about to have his own baby, is one of the greatest joys in life. My children and soon my grandchild will be the three constants in my life, no matter what changes come my way.

Life is like a roller coaster and I am holding on tight as I ride the wave of mamahood, work, starting over, what is shaping up to be a new relationship and watching the next generation of my family take hold. What a journey it has been! 
If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.


...Read More

Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe; Authoritarian, authoritative

I’d love not to talk about my state’s governor, Paul LePage, and simply let him disappear into history…preferably the dung heap portion of it, but given that he’s a bit of a mini-Trump and has done nothing good for Maine’s image, politics or future, I need to bring him up as a warning for why you really, really, REALLY need to vote in a way that ensures Donald Trump doesn’t get into the Oval Office.

LePage made the news again with some poor wording that, in my opinion, was also blatant honesty. As he said on a radio talk show this month:

“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress, and every single day we’re slipping into anarchy.”

By way of full disclosure, he said in the days following that he misspoke and meant something more along the lines of “authoritative leadership” rather than “authoritarian control.” More on that later, because I call BS on it. But first, let’s parse his original statement a bit.

So, the U.S. Constitution is “broken” eh? I’ll be the first to admit it has many flaws, though most of those are found in the fact that the protections in that document aren’t equitably shared by all citizens. Gender, race and all sorts of other factors tend to prioritize who gets the protections of the Constitution in full. But LePage is saying it might be “broken.” Mind you, this coming from a guy who’s a member of the club so often touting how important the second amendment is and talking about how we need judges and justices who are constitutional traditionalists. Double-talk much?

LePage wants the “rule of law” brought back. But isn’t that fundamentally what the Constitution is about? You want to throw out the Constitution in place of “rule of law.” I think that’s tends to lead to things like martial law, totalitarianism, etc.

Supposedly, Obama is an “autocrat.” Never mind that he never came for people’s guns like they said he would. He doesn’t uplift and support the Islamic State but in fact continues to do things that are probably too militaristic on the part of the U.S. (like overuse of drones and resulting civilian casualties) to fight them. He got the country out of one of the worst financial crises it had ever seen. Despite continuing complaints by so much of Black America that police are more harsh and brutal toward them than to white people, Obama continues to say a lot of great things about police and to urge calm rather than raising a Black Power fist and saying it’s time to start flipping cars and burning buildings. Also, many of his intended policies and attempts to get laws passed have been routinely blocked by the GOP in Congress. Some autocrat.

But LePage’s answer to solving the “problem” of the alleged autocrat who really isn’t? It’s to have a conservative Republican autocrat instead. That’s what “authoritarian power” means. An autocrat is someone who wields that kind of power.

I don’t believe LePage misspoke. Oh, I believe he probably intended to say something “softer” but the fact is that he spoke his thoughts. Because LePage has been a bully in office throughout his first term and now second term. He wants to be an autocrat. He wants to bark orders and have them followed. Fortunately, he hasn’t always succeeded, but that’s what he does. He makes ultimatums and insults and threatens and when he doesn’t get his way he bitches and moans and/or threatens retribution.

Leaving aside his many horrible statements and actions in office, from open disrespect to the President and to civil rights groups to blaming Black people and immigrants for drugs and disease when the facts and figures show him to be wrong to just about 90% of everything else he says and does…I’m just going to go back to the earliest days of his first term.

When he ordered the removal of murals from the Maine Department of Labor that depicted images of laborer’s rights and labor movements because he considered them offensive to businesses and detrimental to attracting business to the state. But this was the Department of LABOR. Not the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development. The latter is the one that looks toward business interests. The former is about workers. But LePage unilaterally ordered the removal of murals he didn’t like because they didn’t meet his beliefs.

And, as with many authoritarian-minded leaders, like LePage and Trump, you get misleading stories to undermine faith in the political process and destabilize things. For example, Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated statements lately that the election is rigged against him somehow. Despite the fact that Democrats don’t control the voting/polling process and despite repeated studies that show voter fraud in the United States that is so far below 1% it’s almost immeasurable in terms of effect. Handfuls of votes, not a trend.

And yet, LePage got up on the Trump bandwagon to spout similar untruths, saying, “I am not confident that we are going to have a clean election in Maine. The Democratic Party insists on not having IDs. Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes, all around the country. The media and the Democratic Party want everyone to vote, whether they’re citizens or not.”

Again, there is no evidence that this happens in any substantial way, and LePage himself won TWICE with less than 50% of the vote. Most people didn’t want him, but because people split the ticket voting in both elections because of an independent candidate, and because a divisive initiative to change bear-hunting practices during his second run mobilized GOP-minded people to the polls who wouldn’t normally have voted, he got in. Fair and square. It sucks for people like me and much of the state, who can’t stand what he stands for, but it was all fair. Voter fraud in this country, especially at the state and national level, is a myth to convince people to uproot and possibly overthrow existing government that, however screwed up it might be, is still mostly working to keep things running smoothly, safely and lawfully…even constitutionally.

If only those were the only lies of these wanna-be autocrats. When you watch Donald Trump rallies and see him simply make things up…false facts, wildly inaccurate figures, non-existent boogeymen…you see the people cheer. When they continue to support Trump despite rampant proof that he is not simply covertly deceitful like many politicians (and businessmen like himself) but also an outright pathological liar, you see where we could go from a mini-Trump here in Maine to a real Trump in the Oval Office and have much of America simply do what they’re told.

Because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this country, most of them white, who feel (no matter how inaccurately) that they are being oppressed and left behind and that “minorities” and other “others” are getting everything. And they’re ready to line up behind an authoritarian. An autocrat.

Just like much of Germany did behind Hitler. Is Trump as bad as Hitler in terms of genocidal and territorial ambitions? Probably not. But he’s in much the same mold in terms of outlook, beliefs and goals. I’ve seen what Trump looks like in LePage, and it took less than half of Maine’s population to vote him in both times. I look at the level of dissatisfaction in the United States and wonder whether we will see that writ large with Trump winning the presidency.

I hope not. But let’s not assume Trump’s horrible words or revelations of horrible actions will change much of America’s positive attitude toward him. Because none of that stopped LePage from winning the governorship twice in Maine. And I don’t want to upscale to a national version of LePage. If you have any hope for the future of America in any way, from the political to the economic to the social, neither should you.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.


...Read More

Black Trans Live Matter, Too

Today we have another post written by BGIM contributor Teddy Burrage, a Portland, Maine, native and local activist and organizer. When he’s not writing or working, you can usually find him exploring Maine’s vast interior and coastline.

In the Black Lives Matter movement, we tend to focus on the plight of black men and their unjustified murder at the hands of law enforcement—and for good reason! Police violence and institutional injustice are cancers that deserve our attention. But many people forget that Black Lives Matter means All Black Lives Matter. reported that 22 trans people were murdered this year in the United States. Of those 22, all but three were women of color. These numbers exclude unreported cases and those in which the victim was misgendered by the law enforcement and media—a common occurrence despite journalistic standards established by the New York Times and Associated Press. The figure also does not include instances of violence where the victim survived.

Living at the intersection of racism, transphobia, misogyny, homophobia—and in many cases poverty—transwomen of color bear the burden of simultaneously having to navigate multiple systems of oppression. Sadly because of this reality, this year is likely going to surpass 2015 as the deadliest year for transwomen of color in the United States. To add insult to injury, none the cases have been tried as hate crimes.

(Currently, only 9 states provided protection against hate crimes for transgender individuals. And in many courts, while condemned by the American Bar Association, “trans panic” is an acceptable defense for killing or assaulting someone.)

The act of taking someone’s life capstones a hierarchy of oppressive behaviors—behaviors each of us have a stake in whether we’d like to admit it or not. Jokes that make fun of men wearing dresses. Ideas that women are weaker than men. Feelings that it’s okay to touch people without their consent. These all provide a foundation for the dehumanization of others.

In a similar fashion, our society has always fetishized and commoditized black women’s bodies.

According to a study by Iman Cooper of Earlman College, the origins of this objectification can be traced back to the dynamics of plantation life when black slave women were forced to tend to the sexual impropriety of their white male masters.  In the same period, the maternal yet desexualized mammy caricature arose (see: Aunt Jemima) which was a pervasive image through the 17th century. The mammy archetype represented a big, happy woman who lived to serve white families, including even nursing their children.

aunt-jemima-pancake-mix_older_styleEven in the decades after slavery, black women often worked as domestics, having to sacrifice their life to serve their white bosses, while also having to keep their own families afloat.

Today, we see political pundits criticizing Michelle Obama for her exposing her shoulders and pop stars like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus using black women as props in their performances.

Exploiting black women for their value and talent has a long history in this country and around the world. The reductive nature of exploitation, combined with the complex insecurities that often surround gender and sexuality, likely plays a large role in violence against women—especially transwomen of color.

On the surface, it’s easy to assess violence solely on a case-by-case basis. But just as we’ve seen within those gruesome videos of police killings, there’s often a direct line leading from the incident to a deeper history that implies larger social norms and mores.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” It’s a sentiment that states that our destinies are intrinsically bound. It’s something we should continuously remember as we move forward in pursuit of freedom.

Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Black Women’s Lives Matter.

Transwomen of Color Lost this Year: MatterKedarie/Kandicee Johnson, 16; Jazz Alford, 30; Crystal Edmonds, 32; T.T., Unkown; Rae’ym Thomas, 28; Eryka Tijerina, 36; Skye Mackabee, 26; Dee Whingham, 25; Deeniquina Dood, 22; Goddess Diamond, Unknown; Mercedes Successful, 32; Tyreece “Reecey” Walker, 32; Keyonna Blakeney, 22; Shante Isaac, 34; Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum, 32; Maya Young, 24; Veronica Banks Como, Unknown; Jasmine Sierra, Unknown; Monica Loera, Unknown;

“UPDATE: Since this article was written, yet another black transwoman has been murdered, Brandi Bledsoe, 32 of Cleveland, Ohio. This is a sobering reminder that violence is being perpetrated against trans people even as you read this blog.”

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.


...Read More