I am Woman

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As the events of the incoming US President’s inauguration unfolded in Washington DC yesterday, around the world millions of men, women, and children were preparing to march today. With the words of Helen Eddy’s fabulous song ‘I am Woman’ ringing in our ears we came together to roar!

Today we marched because we believe that women’s rights are human rights. We marched because we believe that we need to build bridges, not walls. We need to create a world in which ALL women are free and able to care for their families in a safe envionment. We marched in support of Reproductive Rights, LGBT Rights, Civil Rights, Worker Rights, Immigrant Rights and Environmental Justice. Progress has been made but it’s not enough and it’s under threat.

We marched because the new president of the USA doesn’t believe in any of this and has indeed belittled, put down and assaulted women. He is not transparent about his dealings and taxes and has not given the world any assurance that he knows what he’s doing. Indeed he has no integrity, no sense of fairness and few ethics. His ideas to build walls and force Muslims to register are designed to divide rather than unify.

He has openly attacked other nations in a manner that is far from diplomatic. But why should we care…we aren’t US citizens and we didn’t vote in the election. As usual US journalist Dan Rather sums up why we care and why the rest of the world are watching. Read his latest post here.

Over the last year I’ve taken time to listen to the voices of the few friends who did vote for him (which I can count on one hand) because they believe that Trump will ‘Make America Great Again.’ But at what cost? The qualities and ethics of true leadership have been ignored in favour of a narcissistic bully.

For me, my biggest issue is that it seems he doesn’t believe in democracy and wants to coerce and control. Democracy requires leadership with integrity and the ability to make informed decisions based on facts and solid manifestos…not rhetoric and fear mongering. Many of my friends and family in the USA will not stand for this and neither will those of us across the rest of the world. Each us, individually and collectively, has a responsibility to stand up to fear and loudly declare NOT IN OUR NAME! We have to fight hate with LOVE!

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I’m tired of being turned down for jobs, passed over for promotions or being paid less than my male colleagues because of my gender (although this that hasn’t happened to me in a long time). I’m tired of being portrayed as the weaker sex…we’re far from it! I’m tired of seeing women being persecuted, molested, assaulted…or worse. I’m tired of girls being told that they can’t achieve because of their gender. NO MORE.

The world is entering a new age of activism. We will rise. We will use our voices well. We will support those organisations supporting women’s rights. We will challenge our leaders more and we will not sit back and watch from the comfort of our own homes.

I am incredibly proud and grateful for my husband, Matt. He’s a secure man who supports a strong woman! Today we both marched with our friends here in San Miguel de Allende. A small but mighty group of some 1,000 people marched and it was humbling and emotional to be a part of the crowd.

Throughout the day we’ve watched the march in DC and looked at the hundreds of photos our friends around the world have posted on social media of their own acts of solidarity – all over the USA, Berlin, Auckland, Sydney, London, Paris, Mexico City, Dublin, Edinburgh and many more. At least 600 marches took place worldwide – the largest post-inauguration march in history. Friends in 42 cities worldwid took part. And all took place peacefully.

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Most of all, I marched for those super strong women who have gone before us. For my Mum, Mumsy (Matt’s Mum), Grannie-Mum, Nanna Ash, Ciaran, Ning, Bente…all women who have passed on but who each taught me important lessons in womanhood, standing up for what you believe, being in community and loving unconditionally. Today we stood on their strong shoulders.

I also marched for our Sacred France sisters and brothers who have – over the last couple of years – provided such powerful feminine energy, a sense of family and a global community. Many of our little community marched in other parts of the world and I’ve loved seeing all their photos.

And I marched to honour the rights my LGBT friends- particularly my ex-husband Joseph and his husband Eduardo who have had to sacrifice so much for the marriage that they have today. I hope that their rights are not diminished in the USA under the new administration but we just don’t know. To say that nothing is going to change is naive and irresponsible.

This morning I woke up wondering what Mum would have written on her sign today had she been marching with us….’I can’t believe we’re STILL having to fucking do this!’ But here we are.YES we will. WE RISE!

What’s next? Each of us, in our own way, must continue to challenge, to love and to grow through the next four years. For me, my job affords me the opportunity to plant seeds of democracy in workplaces and see them flourish. Now more than ever we have to continue to do this. And most of all….I’ll strive to hate less and LOVE more!

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! 

I want a divorce!

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This was written to be delivered at a local storytelling festival. I’m not now participating in the festival, but thought it was still worthwhile sharing here. Note-this is not written in a journalistic style. It was written for a performance, so as you read it, imagine me on stage acting out some of the scenes!

‘I want a divorce.’ With those words my world crumbled. He told me – in that raspy Texas accent that I found so endearing – that he didn’t love me, made a mistake and wanted out of our marriage immediately. In fact he had already begun legal proceedings. I was gob smacked and didn’t know how to respond. How could this man, who I loved so much, tell me that he had made a mistake, that he didn’t love me after all? Why was he being so cold, mean and heartless? Was I too fat, was I not worthy, wasn’t I enough? The pain was unbearable.

He was a pretty single-minded man, washed his hands of me and left his lawyer to handle matters and that was that.

For months I would lie on my bed unable to sleep traversing all those feelings I guess one goes through in these sorts of situations. When things got too much I would try to take my mind off it by counting the flower petals on the hideous wallpaper in my room. Hideous blue and yellow flowers in the middle of candy stripes….yuk! Months passed and I had held out some faint hope that he would realise he had made a mistake. Of course this was a fantasy.

In the UK on November 5th every year we have a tradition of marking the day Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Communities make massive bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy on top. That year we made a guy in the image of my husband. We stuffed a pair of jeans and a sweater full of straw with a cowboy hat on top and put it on the bonfire. I have to say it was a little cathartic!

I found myself saying to myself, ‘It would be so much easier if he was gay, he’d come out and I’d be able to forgive him and move on!’ Instead, I was lashing out at him….”I’m going to sue the pants off you, you bastard!” So he lashed back at me with the threat to have me subpoenaed. I begrudgingly signed the divorce papers.

It took me time to realise that we do not have to be victims of our own stories… our stories are a way out of our suffering. We hold the power to change our story. Eventually I knew it was time to rewrite my story. I turned a corner. I stopped counting the hideous flower petals and painted the walls of my room. I began to see that I had to grow up, stand on my own two feet and gradually take back my power. I learnt to love and value myself rather than letting someone else define my worth. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed being single. Just at that point a new love walked into my life.

I didn’t hear from my ex husband….aptly named the ‘Wasbund’ for many years. Mutual friends would keep me abreast of his life from time to time. He had returned to the USA after serving in the Peace Corps and had gone into politics in Texas. Years later I get an email from him. It said ‘Dear Miranda, please know that I wish you nothing but the best.’ WHAT THE FUCK! I haven’t heard from him in 9 years and that’s all he had to say! I ignored it.

The very next day, I arrived at work and opened an email from a friend in the US with the link to a news headline – GAY TEXAN MAYOR COMES OUT AND FLEES TO MEXICO WITH HIS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LOVER. Could this really be the him?

I fell off my chair, ran into the bathroom, sobbed and had to be coaxed out by my bewildered colleagues.

He IS gay!

YAY!

I was vindicated! It wasn’t my fault after all!

The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should sell the story to the National Enquirer, make pots of money and celebrate this news in style! Like I said…it was just a thought!

The greatest act of compassion on his part was letting me go all those years ago. Despite everything that had happened, in an INSTANT I forgave him.

Next, in what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience, I felt a mass fall through my body and I was free of the chain of events that had choked me for so many years. I found the power to let go of an abusive family relationship and a shitty boss who I had let rule my life for far too long.

Forgiveness gave me freedom and has since become a mantra for the way I now choose to live my life fearlessly. Coming out, leaving all your hopes, dreams, family and community behind takes a HUGE amount of courage. Despite everything that had happened it was easy to forgive him.

I responded to his email and over the next few years we renewed our friendship. We’ve taken vacations together. We even took him and his partner to their first Pride parade in London. I can’t deny the joy I feel whenever I seem him express his sense of freedom openly. I knew I could count on him as one of my closest friends when, several years ago, my mother was killed in an accident, he dropped everything and flew to the UK to help comfort us in the aftermath.

One of the proudest moments of my life was to be a witness as my friend married the love of his life and we became a family. If anything I love and admire my ex husband all the more for standing up for his truth. Together with our husbands, (in the words of Sister Sledge), WE ARE FAMILY. It is as it should be. My story, OUR story proves that love truly does come in all shapes and sizes!

For Orlando

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Another shooting…yet again in the USA. I am tired of reading about these senseless acts of hate and violence. For me, there are two issues that need handling here…violence against the LGBT community and gun violence. The only way I can see both being handled is through education….and Love.

Back in 1995, while a college freshman, I spent my Spring Break volunteering on a service project in inner city Detroit where the rate of gun violence was shockingly high…particularly amongst youth. We met children as young as 4 years old who had witnessed shootings, parents who had lost their children in senseless acts of violence, and a community that had had it’s heart ripped out. Then I was stunned and incensed…and I still am today. I simply cannot understand how we now here – 21 years later – no closer to resolving the issues.

There are SO many angles to this issue and in the midst of the rumbling anger that I feel within myself, I have to find the time and space to order my thoughts and get clarity.

First off, in this day and age, the fact that the US Government and pro-gun lobby is still divided about this issue is absolutely inexcusable. The rate of gun violence in the US is higher than any other nation in the West because of laws that give people the right to bear arms. I’ve heard gun carrying friends argue that having a gun gives them a greater sense of freedom….but I would argue that it gives a sense of fear.

In the past gun carrying friends in the USA have attacked me for speaking out about this and have even said that we have the same violence rates in the UK. Wrong. The USA leads the world in mass shootings. While gun related murders do happen in the UK they are drastically less than the USA and we have not had a mass shooting since the awful events at Dunblane in March 1996. After that our gun ownership laws were tightened further. I don’t own a gun – and never will – but in the UK you have to apply for and be granted a license after an application process. Guns have to be locked away in an approved gun locker and only certain types of weapons are available on the market. I have family members who use guns for hunting purposes only and know how to use a gun safely and responsibly. If I ever thought that they were not, believe me, I’d be the first one to say something!

Since I spend so much time visiting  the USA and having attended college there, many people have asked me why we don’t live there so that we’re closer to friends….THIS is why. I just cannot get my head around why people don’t see sense and sort this issue out at a federal and state level. It’s just mind boggling!

We’re going about it the wrong way…if American citizens can successfully campaign for Civil Rights and Same Sex Marriage, then surely they can do the same with gun violence. It’s time to put some energy into this…to march on Washington and state capitols. Do we really value our fellow man so little that we can’t take a stand?

Perhaps the more shocking side of this shooting is that it was directed at the LGBT community. A community that have fought so hard to live openly.  When I turned on the news on Sunday morning all I could think of was…what if that had been our best friends….our family, Joseph and Eduardo in the club? Ironically, we were all supposed to go dancing at a new gay bar here in SMA on Saturday night. But for once, I was a party pooper and didn’t want to go out – preferring a quiet night in. Violence like what we’ve seen in Orlando doesn’t happen here, but what if that had been us…having a great night out with our dearest friends and then to lose them…I simply can’t imagine. And I can’t imagine the grief of the loved ones of the 49 who passed in Orlando.

Again, I naively thought that mass violence against the LGBT community in the USA was a thing of the past.

As a species we have to take practical, spiritual and emotional steps to put a stop to this violence…NOW. We can meditate, pray etc for Love to conquer hate….but we HAVE to take a practical stand too. What that looks like for me….I’m not sure right now. If I was in the USA, even though I’m not a citizen, I would be finding out where the protests are, who is leading the charge, who to get behind and imploring government representatives to  pull their heads out of the sand and get real.

To those who say it’s impossible to fight the gun lobby….I invite you to think back to when people said it was impossible for same sex marriage to be recognized…and yet it now is. Ironically in attacking the LGBT community, the gunman has brought the issue of gun violence to a community who know how to get things done. If any community can stand up against hate and fight for an end to gun violence…it’s this one!

Most of all, we have to educate each other about gun violence and we have to educate each other that LOVE IS LOVE whatever your sexuality. I look forward to the day when all our friends can walk hand in hand in public without being persecuted.

Take a stand. Love more, hate less. #prayingfororlando