Allan Turgeon, Thank You for Your Decency*

My husband, Ed.

I don’t believe it.

And I won’t stay silent when people say, “Boys will be boys.”

My husband isn’t and never was like that.

Nor is my son.

My son, Byron.

And I’m certain my father never passed through an abusive phase on his way to becoming a fine man.

And neither did Allan Turgeon.

Decency in College

As with most of my 40+ year-old memories, what I recall of Allan is a little fuzzy.

Allan as a young frat guy.

When I was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, he was a senior.

Or was I a sophomore?

Both of us were part of the business school, and each of us grew up in Maine.

And for some reason I can’t recall, one week-end we drove to New York City  —  Allan, me, and his classmate and friend, Joey Nocero.

When we arrived in the wee hours they permitted me to stand between them like Debbie Reynolds flanked by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.

Then we danced down Broadway in the rain.

That memory is clear.

I won’t stay silent when people say,
“Boys will be boys.”

And the other thing that remains vivid is the hotel room we shared with its solitary, double bed.

When I first saw the layout, I didn’t experience fear or panic so much as a rush of concern.

But the feeling didn’t last.

Allan and Joey said the bed was mine as the two of them grabbed pillows and slept on the floor.

True Colors

The next time Allan showed his true colors was at the end of his last semester.

He invited me to a fraternity dance, and I joined him there wearing an outfit I’d sewn in high school along with stilt-height wedge heels.

But memories of the party itself are unclear.

I know it was crowded and loud.

Thank you, Allan. Your decency helped ensure that I experience life without lugging around heavy scars.

And I’m sure alcohol was a dominant feature.

By the end of the party I was ready to crash in Allan’s room and call it a night.

But he refused.

“You’re not staying here.

“You can’t be around these drunk guys,” he said.

So he drove me to my dorm where I sleepily, if innocently, said good night.

In Hindsight a Gift

I am one of the two-out-of-three women in this country who has been spared sexual assault.

Yet I know the anxiety that accompanies fear of violation.

What woman doesn’t?

Allan near the end of college.**

And whether that alarm bell is taught or acquired, I can’t say.

I didn’t have it growing up, and it’s not part of life now.

But in between, worrisome moments were frequent.

So thank you, Allan.

Your decency helped ensure that I experience life without lugging around heavy scars.

And while I understand that feeling safe in the world isn’t shared by all humans, it’s only recently I’ve come to appreciate how rare my reality may be.

Take Action!

•  Thank someone who made your life easier or better.

•  And read about the simple lessons Mr. Rogers exposed us to.

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Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

This post was written in beleaguered anticipation of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court vote.

** Allan Turgeon still lives in Maine. He has been married 37 years, has two sons, two very young grandchildren, and, I imagine, he’s still doing the right things.

Positive Roadside Messages: Won’t You “PassItOn.com”?

I noticed a billboard on Interstate I-25 in Cheyenne, Wyoming with the then child Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai’s photo and quote, “Girls should learn history. And make it,” PassItOn.com

I saw it again in Laramie along I-80.

And a similar one a few miles away that featured a 13-year-old boy who started a nonprofit when he was 5.

Today in Tucson, Arizona I drove past a bus stop with a picture of Garth Brooks and lyrics from his song.

“When there’s only one race, and that’s mankind . . . We shall be free.”

And each billboard and post included, “PassItOn.com.”

The Foundation for a Better Life is the nonprofit that began in 2000 to promote positive values through public messages.

It is a 501(c)(3) that has, it says, “zero political or religious affiliations.”

They don’t accept financial contributions, and not a single thing is for sale on their website.

Rather, the Denver-based nonprofit that offers free billboard copy, radio and TV spots, posters and daily emails is funded entirely by Philip Anschutz through the Anschutz Family Foundation.

Its website says it “. . . exists solely to create and share uplifting messages . . .”

According to Variety, though, there has been significant criticism surrounding Philip Anschutz’s funding of conservative groups including pro-gun, anti-abortion and those touting anti-LBGT values.

A Gift to the Elton John AIDS Foundation

Yet earlier this year, Anschutz donated $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Isn’t passing it on what we human beings do really REALLY well?

He said, “My gift to the Elton John Foundation is intended to emphasize that we support freedom of all people to live their lives peacefully, without interference from others.”

Each passiton.com message includes a red rectangle identifying the value in its story.

Inclusion, inspiration, courage, service, soul, persistence, compassion, soul, optimism . . .

 

 

You could be driving across country on I-80 or getting on the same interstate to travel to the other side of Laramie.

It doesn’t matter.

Most of us can use a reminder now and again that we have it in us to do and be better.

As imperfect humans we look to one another for stories of encouragement and inspiration, even stories that fit on billboards.

And passing those stories on is something we do really REALLY well.

Take Action!

•  See someone — really  see someone with the eyes of appreciation, then tell them what you see.

 Access the entire passiton.com collection

 View Garth Brooks’ full We Shall Be Free video on Vimeo

•  Read about Rooted in Wyoming‘s efforts in Sheridan, Wyoming to bring people together through community gardening.

•  Get to know why Wyoming Untrapped‘s work to keep bobcats alive could be a tourist draw for the state.

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

“The world needs more cowboys” — Self Discovery in the University of Wyoming’s New Slogan

Recently the Trustees of the University of Wyoming voted unanimously to adopt as the new recruiting slogan, “The world needs more cowboys.”

It has attracted negative press as well as praise, including from the Wall Street Journal for its unapologetic rebuff of political correctness.

I’m going to take a minute and think out loud.

I don’t have a deep connection to cowboys (we moved to Laramie less than a year ago).

So maybe that’s why I am flummuxed by the lack of unity I’m finding in those five words.

And specifically because of how I felt when I heard this slogan out loud, as I did last week-end.

Awful.

I ached and pinched back tears that threatened to give me away as a dissident of the slogan while it was cheered by a room of supporters.

And, yet, like so many things in life, at the core of my discomfort was a chance for self-discovery.

Within my pain resides an awareness that I want things to be different than they are.

And its that very discontent, I understand from Buddhist friends, that feeds my misery.

Moving Away From Separation

Pistol Pete is the University of Wyoming mascot.

But still, I want there to be less separation in the world.

I want to live where there is respect and acknowledgment for others’ feelings.

I want to be in a place where attitudes of “that’s just the way we do things” is periodically checked and reconsidered.

Even if it’s uncomfortable and takes work.

Because that’s how and when real connection is made.

I  pinched back tears that threatened to give me away
as a dissident of the slogan . . .

I can trace the lump in my throat to lost possibilities for meaningful ways to connect with:

  • Bright Native Americans youth
  • Other peoples of color
  • Ideas that promote women and men moving toward balance
  • LBGTQ folks contributing vibrantly while assured safety in their lives

It seems introspection about this slogan is absent, though I can’t say that with certainty.

Most of us know that self reflections isn’t for the faint of heart because what you find can be hard to face and harder to remedy.

It’s lonely business.

Yet meaningful change and seeing the world in bigger ways can result.

So when I hear, “The world needs more cowboys,” I wonder. . .

If I stay the course with my feelings, especially the hard parts, will it lead me to understanding and empathy or deeper dissension?

It’s too early to tell but I’m willing to stick with it and find out.

.  .  .

Take Action!

•  University of Wyoming’s promotional video that accompanies the slogan.

•  “Higher Ed Needs More Cowboys: The University of Wyoming sticks to its guns against politically correct faculty,” Wall Street Journal, opinion, 7/13/18.

•  Safe Zone at the University of Wyoming.

 

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

 

Growing Up In a Town Hospitable to Lesbians and Others With Non-Binary Lifestyles

 

I’m pretty sure the central-Maine town I grew up in was modestly hospitable to lesbians and other women who didn’t fit neatly into a heterosexual mold.

There were the two close friends who worked in Newberry’s.

The egg lady who made deliveries smoking a pipe.

And the Page sisters in Burlingon I visited with my grandfather.

In hindsight it didn’t seem to matter if these and so many other women I knew were lesbians or fell somewhere else on the LBGTQIA+ spectrum.

Rugged Little Town

Lincoln is carved from a forest of white pines and birches.

Many of the 13, grey-blue lakes that dot the landscape are framed in pink quartz and granite.

It’s much closer to Canada than any major American city.

And it is still the place my heart calls home.

 

It’s a rugged little town whose sole industry, making paper, closed down as reading became digitized and competitors in China and Finland prevailed.

Overt femininity peaked for many of us in the experimental years of high school.

Perhaps it tapered as the practicalities of living in a remote part of the state took over.

Where snow gets deep and stays.

And summers are breathtaking but require a certain no-nonsense approach to black flies and mosquitoes.

Yet it seemed as long as you were white, Christian (though not necessarily practicing), Republican (as evidenced by not declaring to be a Democrat), a hunter or recipient of the hunt (as my mother was with the necks of deer for mincemeat canning), you were  accepted.

My decade of influence was the 1960s.

Lesbianism and other lifestyles weren’t talked about, but in hindsight they sure seemed to be accepted.

Especially if you were a lone woman or part of a quiet, female couple.

Anti-discrimination in Wyoming and Maine

The second-ever Pride Week just ended in Laramie, Wyoming, the town my husband and I have lived in for the past 11 months.

It’s where Matthew Shepard attended college and was brutally murdered 20 years ago by being beat up, tied up, and left for dead at the base of a fence.

Laramie now has a city ordinance – the only such one in the state – that prohibits “discrimination of any person based upon his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.”

Unlike Maine, Wyoming doesn’t yet have state-wide protection laws.

State anti-discrimination laws
Grey = no state protections; dark purple = states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; the rest of the state laws are somewhere in between.

Women’s Alternative Lifestyles in Lincoln

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins
Olympia Snowe (left), represented Maine in Congress for 34 years – 16 as a House Member and 18 as a Senator. Susan Collins (right) has been a Maine U.S. Senator for 22 years.

I have to wonder how the women who chose alternative-lifestyles managed in Lincoln back then.

How did they deal with inheritances, hospital visits, and the whole next-of-kin thing?

And more generally, how much of who they were did they have to keep secret?

Still, I don’t recall — even once — anyone making a face or a fuss over how someone else chose to live.

And this was a time before precedence, formal laws, ordinances or activists for equal rights having much of a voice.

Maine Congresswoman and Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, 1940-1973.

It may simply have been a case of getting along with one another.

Through my eyes it was a matriarchal community, starting with my grandmother, then my mother and her strong, funny friends.

And might that be part of the answer?

When not goaded to separation by hateful media and cruel religious takes on right and wrong, could it be that people naturally accept one another?

Even act kindly?

Maybe as time has passed and Maine continues to elect centrist, independently-minded, female leaders,  Lincoln’s ease with people just as they are continues to grow.

I know my own has.

Take Action!

Read about Lincoln, Maine

Learn about aging LBGTQIA+ in Maine. “AARP Maine/SAGE Maine: Statewide GLBT Aging Project Report,” by Jane Margesson, March 22, 2013.

Learn about SAGE: Advocacy and services for LGBTQ elders

Support  Wyoming Equality.

Learn about EQMaine – Equality Maine

Learn about non-discrimination in Maine

Read about Wyoming’s Safe Zone, free online trainings for LBGTQIA allies.

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West