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Why it matters today

By CAROLINE O'CONNOR  |  October 31, 2014

We present at trainings all over state—we presented at the Rainbow Ball in Machias this past year, young people from the New Leaders Program presented at a youth activist gathering in South China, we have staff that serve the advocacy part of the work that were doing on Oxford County Domestic Violence Task Force—we’re intentionally making sure we are statewide and making sure that work happens anywhere.

I noticed about four different goals on your website that seek to address four different constituencies of the LGBTQ community—youth, elders, transgender folks, and rural Mainers. Could you talk a little about a few of these groups, and what EqualityMaine is doing for each of them?

What we’re doing now for the transgender community is that we work closer with the Maine transgender network—we help them organize, and, by no means do we necessarily lead these efforts, we support the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which happens in November. We did that last year in Bangor and in Portland, and we’ll be supporting the event in both places this year.

In the state of Maine, we have our non-discrimination law, but transgender Mainers are being legally discriminated against by health insurers, so they’re not receiving comprehensive healthcare coverage from insurance carriers in the state. The carriers somehow circumvent the non-discrimination law. People who are huge allies say “how is this possible?” So, we’ve started a postcard action. We hope to get 5,000 (postcards) done before Election Day, getting people to sign up and pledge their support—one of the numerous pieces to this work to make sure this discrimination ends. We’re working with a coalition of people and organizations around the state who are leading the work. There’s a trans healthcare messaging toolkit developed by the Transgender Law Center based in San Francisco—there is specific messaging and language we use to push the force forward. We’ve been telling legislators that this is happening, and why ending it is really important. This is not what we do in Maine. We treat people very equally.

So I know that EqualityMaine didn’t endorse Susan Collins nor Shenna Bellows for US Senate, because, correct me if I’m wrong, both candidates are pro-equality. Has EqualityMaine gotten any backlash regarding its decision to endorse Mike Michaud for governor?

Every time an organization makes an endorsement decision or makes a decision about getting involved in a race or not getting involved in a race, there will be people who are very, very excited about it, and a select few who are disappointed—EqualityMaine, me included, in my position, I’m always open to have people to come talk to me about being unsatisfied—we haven’t received a lot of pushback. We don’t ever want to divide our community; our intentions are to help unite.

What are you doing to help the elder LGBTQ community in Maine?

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 See all articles by: CAROLINE OCONNOR

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