OUT Maine’s Program Director Katie Lutts (2nd from left) with students and their GSTA advisor at an OUT Maine weekend retreat. Photo courtesy of Steven Scoville.

Thanks to generous support from the Pull Up Fund, OUT Maine is expanding its school climate initiative, which focuses on growing the number of Maine schools committed to being inclusive and welcoming for all marginalized youth.

OUT Maine is doing this by supporting schools through various methods, including revising policies or procedures, providing professional development for educators and administrative staff, supporting Gay/Straight/Trans Alliances (GSTAs), and workshops for students.

OUT Maine is a statewide LGBTQ+* youth organization based in Rockland. Since the last GLSEN chapter in Maine closed in 2021, OUT Maine has expanded their focused school climate initiative to provide the supports and resources schools need.

Many of Maine’s rural LGBTQ+ youth do not have access to public transportation, teen-centered community gathering spaces, or resources. These youth are too familiar with isolation and the resulting depression and anxiety, especially if families are unsupportive.

LGBTQ+ youth are not the only marginalized youth struggling in our schools, as increasing numbers of Maine’s diverse students are encountering the cultural pushback against “the other” that is growing across the country. Last year, OUT Maine formed a BIPOC youth advisory board to provide recommendations on how to make its programs and Maine’s schools safer and affirming for all youth.  OUT Maine is using these recommendations as the foundation to expand their work in schools. The expanded initiative includes input from key Maine organizations serving immigrant and BIPOC youth.

“This project has provided invaluable perspectives from young people regarding their intersectionalities and how all the parts that make them whole are celebrated and honored in their schools and communities,” says OUT Maine’s Program Director, Katie Lutts, “OUT Maine’s goal is to create and offer resources to schools and communities about successful ways to represent all of their young people in celebrations, traditions, and practices.”

OUT Maine has an ambitious goal: to create more welcoming and affirming communities for Maine’s diverse queer youth in all their intersectional identities by changing the very systems that serve them. For more information, please visit www.outmaine.org.

*LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning.