While driving to MSU Billings last Saturday evening to hear Zooey Zephyr's keynote address, I wondered how many would come.  The weather forecast warned snow, which had started with a drizzle, and March Madness was well underway.  I guessed about a hundred from Billings would give a little of their time to hear from the Missoula state representative.

The parking lot just outside the Student Union Building was nearly full.  Thought I would be standing at the back of the room.

Didn't know there was another event at the facility.

The number of attendees for Rep. Zephyr was 10.

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"I'm a Relentless Optimist"

Zooey acknowledged that the hyper partisan conflicts make the headlines, but in the work of the Legislature, she retains being an optimist.  Paraphrasing, "In every community I meet someone with a relentless drive on an issue."  For her, "Hope is a fuel."

Zephyr admitted that congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of her mentors in the push against the walls, to shift the paradigms.

Zooey worked with a colleague in opening the dialogue on issues.  "She kicked the door down, and I would convince you that you invited us in."  In time, they found some doors were already open for them.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

The Q & A Session

When asked how she waded through the harder struggles and connections, Rep. Zephyr maintained her goal to "keeping walls down."  She freely visited with a staunch Conservative woman, almost never talking politics, then later the same Conservative helped Zephyr's tenant rights bill get into committee, and then voted for it.

Another legislator confronted Zooey on the "Drag Ban," with his assurance "We got the votes already, so you can't do nothing about it."  Zephyr responded, "I'm going to fight this with everything I have, but I will never say anything cruel to you personally."  That took the air out of him.

Zephyr admitted always feeling on camera and recorded, by others looking for the latest news soundbites.

When asked what the biggest shocks she discovered, the representative explained the bad and good shocks.  On the bad side, Democrats felt righteous having her as a friend and on their side, and Republicans, after saying horrible things and voting against her, approached seeking absolution and forgiveness from her.  The positive shock was that she could actually show up and freely, openly fight for what she believes in.  "I knew but had not really understood how rewarding it would feel."

I visited with her after the presentation and she expressed how conversations on issues would "flatten" to one view or the other, that a person had to choose one side or the other.  These discussions are much more nuanced than that, she explained.  My take was the bell curve, where the majority thought somewhere in the middle.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

My Impression of Rep. Zooey Zephyr

If one knew nothing of Zooey Zephyr, her background, her transition, or the events concerning her in the Legislature that made news, if just met her, anyone would likely find her a delightful lady.

She could walk through any location in Montana, just like everybody else, and not even garner a raised eyebrow.

She has invested appreciable thought into her views on the topics and her willing openness.  She has developed a soft-spoken approach that welcomes others into her circle, to discuss and share ideas, and that it's all right to disagree.  And in Politics, that can be a disarming asset.

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These 25 Children Are Missing in March in Montana

These children have been reported missing across the state of Montana for March 2024. If you have seen any individual shown, please contact the Missing Persons Division at the Montana Department of Justice here, or you can contact your local law enforcement agency.

Gallery Credit: JD Knight

Montana's 'Exotic Noncontrolled Species'

Here's a sample of some of the exotic animals that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks consider "noncontrolled species" meaning they aren't prohibited unless it falls under Montana or Federal law. For more information about these species and other "exotic noncontrolled species" refer to the guidance from Montana Fish Wildlife, and Parks.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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