I have written tens of thousands of words about Gov. Paul LePage. I disagree with him on a wide range of issues, and I believe that his conduct in office has brought shame to our state, but I’ve never used to the “B word” to describe him before now.

That’s right. I’m ready to say that Gov. LePage is a bully. There’s simply no other way to describe someone who seeks out a child in another state going through an incredibly difficult time, mocks the child’s family and tries to make the child’s life worse.

That’s exactly what LePage did when he weighed in on a case in Virginia where a transgender teenage boy named Gavin Grimm is being blocked from using the boys’ restroom at his school. The American Civil Liberties Union is backing up the kid, who has identified as a boy since he was 6 and is undergoing hormone therapy.

LePage, along with North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory and attorneys general from four other states, has weighed in on the other side, signing on to a legal brief seeking to curtail the student’s rights.

This isn’t the first time that Gov. LePage has spoken out against transgender children. In 2010, when he was running for the Republican nomination for governor, he discussed the matter with fellow candidate Bill Beardsley on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show (hosted by some of the same group of “sovereign citizens” conspiracy theorists with whom, years later, he would discuss arresting and executing his political opponents for treason).

“On the transgender issues and things like that I feel so badly for little children that are being, you know, kind of decisions being made for them that are outside what we call our normal activities here in the state and imposing these kind of things on a very small child,” said Beardsley.

“Right now, transsexual activities and things like this. These kinds of protections are creeping into the discussion. I believe that we should not have gender or sexual orientation as an integral part of human rights act and I’ll do what I can to change that.”

LePage said in response: “I agree with Bill, our children are being used as pawns. I just don’t understand how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools.”

In October of this year, I should note, LePage tapped Beardsley to lead Maine’s Department of Education.

Although LePage attempted to walk back some of his rhetoric during the 2010 general election, telling the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that he didn’t remember making those statements or advocating for changes to Maine’s Human Rights Act, LePage seems to have gone right back to using that same kind of hateful language now.

“I’m appalled at the lack of parenting that child’s received. I’m appalled,” LePage told reporters this week when asked about his support for the legal brief.

High school can be a difficult time for any child. I can only imagine how difficult it could be as an openly transgender student in the South. The last thing Grimm needs is a governor from a state 800 miles away singling him out and telling him where he can go to the bathroom.

This kind of bullying can have serious consequences. Just last month, vigils were held across Maine in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, memorializing the 21 transgender people who have been murdered this year. Mainers in attendance also spoke out about their own experiences of discrimination and violence.

LePage’s continued bigotry is particularly disappointing given how far the rest of the state has moved toward tolerance and understanding in recent years.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature defeated a bill that would have allowed discrimination against transgender Mainers.

In 2013, Maine became one of the first states to put in place a transgender participation policy for high school sports.

Just last week, Nicole Maines, a transgender University of Maine student, spoke to a packed auditorium on campus about the best-selling book, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, that has just been published about her family and their fight for acceptance and equality. Last year, the Maines family won a five-year-long court battle securing for transgender students in Maine the same rights that Grimm is seeking in Virginia.

As accepting as our state becomes, I guess there will always be bullies who pick on kids. It’s too bad that one of them lives in the Blaine House.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @miketipping

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