Americans have had one solid year of angst and disbelief.
Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, George Michael all checked out with very little warning or preparation for those of us committed to lives of mastery and courage.
For me, 2016 was all about trying to figure out and navigate new systems with no understanding of these systems and why they are needed.
After looking at the joke that is politics and pop culture over the last twelve months, it is clear to me that we have lost our way because we are existing in a world without boundaries.
Brene' Brown states it best with this succinct definition of boundaries- this is what's okay; this is what's not okay.
We have spent the last year allowing confusion to remain instead of setting boundaries.
Bullying , scapegoating and the level of racism and misogyny that our most recent presidential race highlighted was shocking and beyond disturbing.
When those seeking power are seeking more power, it sends a message to all of us that we don't need boundaries not when it interferes with getting what we want.
I stopped being shocked at people's behavior the minute creating a sex tape was the requirement for breaking into the entertainment industry.
I also stopped being shocked when Americans sucked up all the lies regarding what President Obama was doing or not doing.
I, like all Americans, have only two choices: stay shocked (in shock)- or strap on the head gear and get in the game, i.e. create some change by personally being a change maker.
2017 must be the year of boundaries and clear thinking.
When the subject of boundaries comes up, most of wince and deliberately try to change the subject.
Boundaries are uncomfortable for most of us because it means saying no to someone we care about (friends and relatives) or in many instances(someone who may have "perceived" power over us-supervisors and large government agencies and big businesses).
Boundaries are also sorely needed in a world with too many choices about every aspect of our lives.
Whenever there have been hurt feelings and or misunderstandings that I've allowed to easily settle into resentments, there was a boundary I didn't set or allowed it (the boundary) to be negotiated away(a semi firm one built on shaky ground) or hoped that the person causing the drama would appreciate my "niceness" and set one for the both of us.
I always ended up screwed and resentful.
When the "Donald" began his bid for the White House, I dismissed it. I foolishly believed it was a publicity stunt that had gotten out of hand and America would see it as the tomfoolery it truly was.
I believed we could all get back to the seriousness of our daily lives and co-create next steps for moving our country in a sane, positive direction.
I was wrong.
Once again, I and the rest of the country failed to maintain a boundary.
In the two months since his death, Prince has become more popular than ever. I have loved and admired this man and his talent for 30 years.
While people worldwide mourn his passing and scramble to find a suitable replacement(impossible), my focus is on honoring the legacy of his music and the bravery and courage he possessed.
In a world that requires your soul in exchange for any bit of recognition or attention, Prince showed us how to get and maintain attention based solely on talent and a dedication to craft.
No artist could combine sexuality, redemption, social commentary and religion like this man.
Here are seven reasons Prince will always Rock and Rule.
1. In "Controversy", he forces us to play with identity and the fluidity of how one can change, straddle worlds and do it with no self-consciousness and to a good beat. Am I black or white; am I straight or gay? Do I believe in God, do I believe in me? Some people want to die so they can be free; People call me rude; I wish we all were nude; I wish there were no black and white; I wish there were no rules.
2. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" is an eighties plea to eliminate Nuclear weapons before we destroy the planet and one another. Ronnie, Talk to Russia- Don't you blow up my world.
3. Purple Rain- the movie, song and album confronts us with an artist struggling with both self actualization and offering a paramour care with the lyrics- I never wanted to see you cry; I only want to see you dancing in the Purple Rain.
4. On the brilliant and way ahead of its time, Around the World in a Day, Prince serves us Middle Eastern influences while urging us in the title track : Open your heart, open your mind a train is leaving all day. A wonderful trip through our time and laughter is all you pay. The entire album is wonderful romp through, sex, forgiveness, redemption and social uplift. "Pop Life" quickly and disturbingly reminds us that "everybody wants a thrill ". In "America", he states: Little sister making minimum wage living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage. Can't get over; she's almost dead. She may not be in the black but she's happy she ain't in the red.
5. "Parade" returned Prince to our movie theaters with two very different and equally sensual songs. "Kiss" brought us funk and longing with a determination to give in to a full relationship complete with surrender and a nod to building relationships beyond superficiality- "you don't have to be rich to rule my world you don't have to be cool to be my girl." "Sometimes it Snows in April" (my personal favorite) is so haunting that it breaks my heart no matter how many times I hear it. A simple arrangement with absolutely stunning vocals, this track reminds us that things in life don't always go our way and the mystery and joy of life is found in places that leave us raw, vulnerable and transformed.
6. "Sign of the Times" is his absolute best. Perfection. Each track on this double slice of heaven was pure magic. Did I mention that like Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" was a double album. There is no way you can listen to this double disc and not hear the prophetic call that would be the 80's and beyond. Released in 1987 with an accompanying concert video, it begins with the title track- In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name. As if this was not enough in the same song he points out that our government can send people to the moon but we can't figure out how to have enough for everyone to eat. He adds a wink to lust and the chance at monogamy when he tells a paramour in "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"- that he may be qualified for a one night affair but he could never take the place of her man. What about his usual blend of sensuality, sexuality and religion- "Adore": If God struck me blind your beauty I'd still see.
7. "He believed young people could change the world." This statement was given by Van Jones the co-founder of the YesWeCode initiative (an organization dedicated to ensuring that 100,000 low income youth learn to write code). Prince began supporting this initiative in an effort to create a generation of self sufficient youth ready to lead and create in the 21st century.
Miss Brown was an addict, a sex worker, a transgender MTF and my friend.
When we became cooking buddies, I began to learn a great deal about transitioning and its challenges.
She taught me a great deal about about men, power, money and negotiating of sexual liasons.
While I struggled to be progressive, I often was aghast at the things she endured to become her true self and live in a non-exploitative and non-objectified manner.
I often struggled with seeing her as female because I knew of her birth gender.
I am ashamed to admit I had not seen her as a full human.
I saw her as entertaining.
I saw her as educational.
I saw her as fun. I saw her as an individual who brought laughter and some new insights.
I never saw her as a person struggling to make sense of a world that didn’t like her as male and hated and attempted to destroy her as a transgender female.
Many of us struggle with the same dislikes of transgender individuals.
We hate, dismiss and psychologically deny them for several reasons.
When I began to examine my uncomfortability , it became clear that it landed differently depending on whether the transperson was MTF or FTM.
Male to female always brought up a ton of thinking about domination, oppression and white supremacy.
My opinion was one that questioned why anyone would willingly move from a position of power to one of powerlessness.
With my tribe that went from female to male, my perception was that it was only a shameless grab for power and entitlement.
After some serious self examination and some heartfelt listening, I discovered that I was wrong on both accounts.
What frightens us all is visibility and the bold choice to remake and reinvent without anyone's approval.
Most gays spend a lifetime waiting for someone, typically,a family member or uncomfortable friend to grant them permission to be who they are and live boldly and freely.
When one of our own gets bold, we have the option to either applaud and join them or wish they would slink away in shame painfully awaiting for approval of the ubiquitous “they”.
To claim space anywhere in the world at anytime is thrilling and dangerous.
Most of us fear the trans community because we fear the responsibility and visibility that comes with choosing to redirect our lives and our gender.
Few of us have made decisions about how we live and exist in a world that hates and attempts to control and destroy anything that is not white, young and male.
Choosing an identity makes folks realize how much society( a group of people they have never met) influences their thoughts, behavior and sexual expression.
Miss Brown shared with me the brutal physical abuse she endured first at the hands of her homophobic grandmother(who tried to beat the sissy out of her young male body) while threatening her then later at the hands of the medical establishment who told her the operation and hormones could cause death.
Her response to both threats: I’m willing to risk it.
Choosing death and visibility over lies and self denial is brave.
All my trans folks who decide to live have much to teach us all.
Confrontations with those in power and those that offer conditional love provide examples of how to take on the wall of shit that we all face when we decide to self create.
Choosing to forgo a lifetime of meaninglessness means you are inviting all kinds of danger and vulnerability.
Ms. Brown struggled with addiction and self medicated via tricks and drugs; she had tackled the initial battle of taking on a world of bigots and intimate terrorists and won.
She had not disappeared.
She underwent her transformation not seeking to gain or relinquish power.
She reordered her identity.
Forgive us for our fear.
Forgive us for our lack of bravery and courage.
Forgive us for not doing the internal work that would allow us to accept, revere and learn from your ranks.
We are ripe to learn lessons of how to be brave and offer a big middle finger to society who can only accept us when we clone ourselves and allow people to go unchallenged and their bigotry unchanged.
Trans folks also understand exploitation.
The school of resistance is rewriting its curriculum.
Time to show up and show out.
Please join us in our valiant world domination.
“Are you sure you wanna be well sweetheart? A lot of weight when you’re well”.
The Salt Eaters
The first time I had peach yogurt, I was visiting a friend in a mental institution.
Six pack abs, huge cocks , all night sex parties and drug induced orgies are now officially over.