We love showing our allyship with a Pride flag, pin, or sticker — these are visible, eye-catching symbols of inclusivity for our LGBTQ+ community. When queer youth are out and about in the world, seeing your pronouns pin or that Safe Space sticker on your door means you’re a safe person who sees and values them.
At a moment when we’ve got more queer youth than ever here in Maine, folks in the LGBTQ+ community are the targets of nationwide campaigns and political agendas to limit their rights.
Nearly one-third of Maine’s high school youth identify as LGBTQ+ (and questioning).
Yes. Read that again.
This is up from 20% in 2019. (This data comes from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, administered every two years to kids in 5th–12th grades.)
Maine’s LGBTQ+ kids need all hands on deck to advocate for communities that are safe and inclusive spaces where they can thrive, not just survive.
Whether you’re a parent or family member, a business owner, educator, community member, or just someone who cares about Maine kids, read on for ways to grow your allyship to the next level.
Do a little homework.
When you’ve got questions about something related to LGBTQ+ issues, it’s tempting to head right to the nearest queer person. They’ll have all the answers, right?
Your genuine interest and thoughtful questions are well-intended, but put pressure on that individual to be a spokesperson for a whole group of people. Their personal experience may be too private to share or they may feel put on the spot.
Assume you’re not the first person to ask. And be mindful that educating others about our identities takes emotional labor.
OUT Maine has great resources — terminology, pronouns, guides, booklists, and more — so you’re definitely in the right place to learn. Check out the Human Rights Campaign’s comprehensive and beginner-friendly resource guide for Being an LGBTQ+ Ally.
And the best part about learning? When you get to become the teacher.
Empowered with new information about LGBTQ+ people, you can seize those teachable moments when they come up around the dinner table or at your next book club meeting. As an ally, those personal conversations can have a big impact when it comes to informing others about the issues that impact LGBTQ+ youth in Maine and across the nation.
Advocate for inclusive health education.
The memory of middle school puberty lessons might still make you cringe. Boys and girls split into different rooms, awkward scenarios, and probably a terrible video of some sort. Usually a lot of giggling.
Imagine if, on top of the usual discomfort, you identify as LGBTQ+ or gender non-conforming. Leading up to the unit on puberty, there could be all sorts of reasons why you’re dreading it. Maybe your gender at birth puts you in the room that doesn’t feel like you. But maybe the other room doesn’t feel right — or safe — either. Maybe you’re not out yet.
In Maine, “comprehensive family life education” was passed into law as a requirement in 2002 and includes sexual health and puberty education. The Maine Department of Education recommends Maine Family Planning’s Puberty Happens curriculum, which uses language that’s open and inclusive of gender identities and free from gender stereotypes.
LGBTQ+ kids need their education on sexual health and puberty to include information that pertains to their identities.
Whether or not you have kids in a local school, your tax dollars support public education in your community. Email your school board — cc-ing the superintendent, curriculum coordinator, school nurse, and school principal — to voice your support of gender inclusive puberty and health education. Talk about why this issue matters to you. And why it matters to all Maine students.
Support inclusive library collections.
Many LGBTQ+ kids feel isolated and often are not supported at home or school. We hear this a lot at OUT’s weekend programs and retreats. They feel invisible, and feeling invisible can lead to feeling like they don’t matter. Feeling like they don’t matter is one reason why LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk for death by suicide.
Could a book really make a difference?
One youth described the first time they saw a book in a library display that featured a same-sex couple on the cover — it was almost electric, a thrill. Before that moment, they hadn’t been aware that there were romance books about queer teens. Now they knew they could ask for more books like that.
Here’s the thing:
All kids benefit from access to books that reflect a multitude of experiences and identities.
It’s not *just* queer kids that need to see queer protagonists in books. All kids need the opportunity to expand their awareness of experiences and identities that are the same and different from their own.
Visit your local public library to express your support for books that reflect LGBTQ+ experiences. Ask about their collection of books that are by or about queer folks, across all genres, and in all age ranges. Do they offer book lists to support parents and caregivers, as well as teens?
If your librarians need suggestions, the American Library Association offers the Rainbow Book List, an annotated list of exceptional books for young people published in the previous year. Epic Reads has a list of LGBTQIA+ Young Adult Books, and OUT Maine curates a page with books that are targeted to all age ranges.
Seeing someone who looks like you on the cover of a book is a visible reminder that you matter.
Vote for someone who can’t (yet).
Our youth are our future, but they don’t have a vote yet. As an ally, you can use your vote to support candidates who value and understand the issues that impact queer youth Maine — healthcare and mental health care access, the right to participate in sports, the right to marry, are just a few.
If you have a question about a candidate on the ballot, or how they stand on LGBTQ+ issues, the Maine League of Women Voters has a guide for voters to gather information. Taking your research online is the next step — Googling a candidate’s name and the acronym LGBTQ will give you additional information about their stance. If you don’t find anything, write an email or call the campaign office with your questions.
Vote for the candidates who have a vision for the future where LGBTQ+ folks are thriving in their communities across the state of Maine — and who have a track record on LGBTQ+ issues to prove they’re making that future possible now.
Help OUT! Help us support more LGBTQ+ youth in Maine!
OUT Maine works toward a welcoming and affirming Maine for all rural young people of diverse sexual orientations, gender expressions, and gender identities. Our work helps prevent harm to LGBTQ+ youth by connecting them to the larger community and providing paths forward in which they may thrive.
We want all kids to feel like they matter and are valued in their communities. For LGBTQ+ youth, this is hard — they’re facing barriers to being accepted for who they are at home, school, and in their communities.
Help us make a better world for Maine’s queer young people today — as we train professionals, work with schools and state organizations, and support families and caregivers. Most of all, help us reach more LGBTQ+ kids with programming and opportunities to connect with each other.
Be a strong ally for Maine’s LGBTQ+ youth: donate to OUT Maine’s Annual Appeal!