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The Multifaceted Maggi Cage: New Executive Director of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center

by Jean Scherwenka, photo by Ellen C. Warren

Perhaps you first heard about Maggi Cage when she worked long and hard for abortion rights at Planned Parenthood, Pro-Choice America (NARAL), the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, or the National Abortion Federation. Maybe you met her in the streets at a political rally. Or did she come to your attention in 1976 when she opened that abortion clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, to this day one of only three clinics in the state?

It might have been when your friend referred you to Dr. Maggi Cage for counseling. Or if you read about Cage at the Medical College when she ran the Center for Science Education raising third to twelfth graders’ science competency enough to compete in the global market. Also during her years at the Medical College, you could have heard about the behavioral research she conducted in Atlanta with HIV positive people. Or during the past three-plus years, when she ran the College’s institutional review boards, those entities that inspect research proposals to make sure they meet the requirements and standards for human research.

Resurfacing

Also, you could know Cage from the LGBT community. She’s been involved for a long time as a feminist, an ally, an LGBT Center Board member, and as of January 2007, the Center’s Executive Director. “I just keep resurfacing,” she says.

Cage started life in northern Montana, and lucky for us, when she was a year old her family moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin. She grew up there and eventually earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Santa Barbara, California. An articulate woman with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye, Cage loves meeting and working with people. “I like ‘face time,’” she says. “People are interesting, people are fascinating.”

She sees “a very bright future” for the LGBT Center, and she’s excited about it. “I think that the Center is at a moment in time when we can take a quantum leap on a lot of fronts,” she says.

A Glass Half Full

Her vision, of course, includes politics, and her perspective is refreshingly positive, yet determined.

Regarding the Marriage Amendment vote, she sees progress.

“Though we didn’t win it, man, we came a long way. If I think of ten years ago, two percent of the population might have voted no, and that would have been about it. While we didn’t get the results that we wanted, we’re moving in the right direction. It raised the issue in the center of the community and in the allied community in a way that people were really talking about it. And I think that’s great,” she says.

Cage sees the need to move LGBT issues right into the center of the progressive agenda in our state. “I mean, we have to,” she says. “I think that it’s an opportune moment for allies in the community, across the board – philanthropy, political figures, educators, doctors, lawyers, everybody – to get into the center and really support this as an issue that should be part of the [progressive] political agenda. Period, it just should be. Not as an add-on, but as core, central to our mission as progressives.”

Synergistic Program Planning

Cage sees the LGBT Center playing a role in drawing in more allies to participate in a variety of ways. “From a programmatic point of view, from a political point of view, and I certainly hope from a funding point of view, we have some new opportunities. We’re in the right place at the right time, and it’s all kind of coming together. There’s a certain synergy here,” she says.

“We’ve got some very good adult programs” – antiviolence, sexual assault, Therapy Assistance Program, Legal Night, and men’s and women’s choruses. “What I heard from the Board is that they’re very interested in expanding adult programming. I have ideas, and people on the staff have ideas. My first step is to go out in the LGBT community, put some ideas out there, and ask people to rank them.”

Cage believes that community centers should “provide services or programming that really isn’t available anywhere else in the community. I wonder things like, ‘Do same sex parents have adequate after-school programs for their kids?’

“It’s really the idea of connecting people broadly across the community, from young to old, different ethnic groups, different cultural experiences. I think that’s probably the most interesting thing about the Community Center, the broad diversity of people here,” she says.

“We’ve got an excellent youth program in Project Q, it’s great. That really is key – youth is where you have to go. Opening up for youth and the next wave of leaders to really keep it going, keep it moving forward. Our youth programs here are stellar,” she says.

A Leader With Style

In addition to her experience, enthusiasm, and bright vision, Cage brings a bag of expertise to her new position. “I think my core skill base is around leadership and management,” she says.

She doesn’t see leadership as “top-down,” but rather about “drawing out the best in the people you’re working with.” She sees management as a structure that “serves the group as opposed to serving the identified leader. It’s not telling people what to do, it’s motivating them to want to do their best. I think [leadership and management] are really the two things that I bring to the table.”

She believes they’re also what the staff and Board are looking for. “It’s a very good fit for me at this time. I’m very excited.”

Drop in at the LGBT Community Center. Check out their library to your right as you walk in the door. Ask to see Project Q’s great Hang Out Space or the Center’s Community Room. If you’re interested, inquire about volunteering – they’ll love that.

And of course, meet Maggi Cage. You might remember her from the tai chi class she taught you.

If You Go:
LGBT Community Center
315 W. Court Street, Suite 101
M-F 10 am-10 pm; Sat 6pm-10pm
414-271-2656
www.mkelgbt.org.

Riverwest Currents online edition – February, 2007