A weekend of fun and educational activities for LGBTTTQQIAA HS youth hosted by students at a small university in Maine

Redirect: RBW

We are always becoming, it never stops. Richard Blanco

Hi All, If you’re looking for information on the Rainbow Ball Weekend, a most fabulous weekend for LGBTQ+ high school students and their friends (allies) in Maine, please contact:

Out Maine 63 Park St, Rockland, ME 04841 Call (800) 530-6997

The University of Maine at Machias & the student organization who sponsored it for 10 years, The 100% Society, are so happy this event that grew from 8 attendees to over 300 is continuing in the care of Out Maine!
Thanks to all the students, alumni, volunteers, donors, and of course – The BALLERS themselves!!
It has been an honor and a privilege. Keep on paying it forward, peeps!!
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Has RBW made an impact on your life?: “Knowing there a safe place and more people like me makes me safe.” “Hell yeah, I was able to understand better who I am.” “Met my partner of 3 years at RBW.” “Yes! Makes me want to share my knowledge and resources.”

Loved being able to attend and bring a group of students who acted as “counselors” for student groups or who volunteered in other ways. It was weird and beautiful to be with an attending group instead of hosting :).
Lin Gould as coordinator was amazing, she worked tirelessly and it showed with her attention to every detail, her students also worked very hard and the entire MDIHS was supportive including with a welcome by the principal, others helping through the weekend, and teachers giving up their classrooms for sleeping areas and workshops.  The school was a wonderful facility with the students running everything and they easily accommodated this huge group (>300).  One of the dinners was provided by three “local” UU faith groups. Thanks to all the numerous generous donors who made this weekend even possible!!!

The Rainbow Ball Village moved!!  Having a High School offer the weekend instead of a college was amazing. Most importantly having a high school take ownership of the weekend with the support of faculty, staff, and administration is a powerful message to LGBT youth and more importantly to other high schools. The message being that we support and honor our LGBT youth just like our other students. BTW, if you attended/brought youth, PLEASE! consider filling out the online evaluation form to help us establish what this experience has been doing over the years!

Youth shared their wonderful talents bravely Friday night with a crowd that would shout words of encouragement for fumbles and false starts instead of jeers. There were powerful performances by RBW returning professional drag queens, Chanel Honeywell and Lyzz Bien, Indigenous Diva,  as well as a quick-thinking empowering emcee.  The youth made tons of friends and were able express their identities freely.  They shared clothes and advice and songs and memes and praise.  There were workshops and crafts and the youth with helpful adults put out a resonating “zine”.  There was a “career expo” with various agencies and academic groups in attendance that encouraged dialog about career pathways.  25 copies of Dov Zellers’ The Right Thing to Do published by Tiny Golem Press were donated and distributed to attending schools and groups for library lending.  Two of many exceptional people working on behalf of LGBT youth were recognized by UMM’s 100% Society, Gia Drew, Program Director, Equality Maine and Tara Kierstead, School Counselor, Halldale High School.

There was a space for people to contribute clothing and bedding that were free for the taking.  There was HIV testing by the Health Equity Alliance.  There was a very powerful keynote address by Robin Fowler owner of the Maine Alpaca Experience.  She and her wife also brought Alpaca fiber and a spinning wheel to show to youth and offered for craft projects.  The dance was beautiful and for those who preferred more quiet, moderated dungeon and dragons games.  The folks from OUT Maine, the “forever home” of the Rainbow Ball weekend/festival, were in attendance for the weekend to observe and support as well.  Most of the steering committee who had worked so hard all year long to make sure RBW continued were there either with their school youth or helped with security or food distribution.

As the coordinator for the previous 10 years, it was incredible for me to be there personally to see the RBW continue and sustain.  Some of the UMM students in the past even brought youth groups to this year’s RBW. The evolution of high school student attendees serving as “counselors” after they graduate, and some even returning with their own groups themselves is magical.  The MDI HS had early on established themselves as a true high school partner bringing their own bus and crafts and activities for other youth to do.  OUT Maine in its former incarnation as the OUT As I Want To Be Rockland group was the first group to attend the first Rainbow Ball (2008) and was a regular source of communication, suggestions, and inspiration over so many years.  It feels like what the UMM students originally wanted to give to rural school LGBT youth has come full circle with more than we could have ever hoped for.  I’m so grateful for this vibrant network of loving people working so hard to improve the lives of these youth and the youth who will imagine themselves with futures in all types of careers and spaces and giving back to their community.

“Rainbow Ball doesn’t just change lives, it saves lives.” Ayrca LèStrange

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Happy Spring!!  Our rainbow disco ball keeps turning!!  We’re super excited with this year’s RBW happening April 27-29 at Mount Desert Island HS in Bar Harbor, ME. Swing on by the website for applications and more info!  Also, if you know of youth who need help with transportation and/or the $20 fee, please get in touch asap with this year’s good fairy coordinator, Lin Gould, lgould@mdirss.org because there are scholarships available!  The theme is OUT! with Hamilton … so musical! and revolutionary!! 🙂  Also, if you know of a business or educational program who wants to represent at Saturday’s lunch Rainbow Expo, again make sure to get in touch with Lin.  I have to say it is a little wonderful for me to be saying contact someone else for the first time in 10 years!!! 🙂  But that’s not all the exciting news!!

Rainbow Ball Weekend has found a forever home!!  “The Rainbow Weekend will be the capstone in OUT Maine’s youth programming in the years to come,” shared Jeanne Dooley, OUT Maine’s Executive Director. The first of many OUT Maine Rainbow Weekends will take place at Camp Kieve-Wavus in Nobleboro in May 2019. Charlie Richardson, Director of Education and Operations for Camp Kieve-Wavus, said, “We are looking forward to continuing to support all youth in Maine and are excited to be the host site.”

This brings RBW full circle as our first and most consistent youth group to attend was OUT as I Want to Be! Rockland, now OUT Maine. 🙂  As I started with David Bowie, one of my bisexual & androgynous superheroes, I must end with some of the lyrics from the same song as it is so pertinent to the youth revolution happening now:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through

Best season’s gift – Rainbow Ball Weekend moving to Mount Desert Island High School for this April (27-29) and April 2019.  The vision is to have the weekend move to another high school for two years after that and so on. Imagine the message high school students receive that is okay to be gay, straight, lesbian, trans, bi, ace, pan, agender, gender fluid, or whatever sexuality or gender label is preferred AND that this marginalized self is celebrated and valued in a school setting. Talk about queer pressure for schools to get on board! 😉  If you want to help us build this vision please consider donating.

I can be myself and be with the person I love without being scared.

If your financial situation allows we hope you will consider helping us sustain Rainbow Ball Weekend for the future. Every donation makes a difference, regardless of size, and will be gratefully received.  You can make a donation to Mt. Desert Island High School (designated for Rainbow Ball Weekend), 1081 Eagle Lake Rd, Bar Harbor, Me 04609. This donation is fully tax-deductible.  You can also give online at this link to Faithify, a free crowdfunding platform (or copy and paste to your browser  goo.gl/ZNFroh).  If you are unable to donate, please consider spreading the word to anyone you feel would be interested in helping.

Happy Holidays & Thanks for Your Support!

 

Safety Dance

“It means a home that’s accepting that I don’t have and a weekend to have friends that won’t look at me differently. It means staying alive.”

2017 student attendee

The word safe means different things to different people. For minority folks, feeling safe is also a type of freedom – freedom of expression – freedom to be who you are without fear of physical abuse, emotional torment, and/or public shaming-humiliation-shunning. I’ve had my paws on over a thousand feedback comments for 10 years from Rainbow Ball Weekend attendees and the number one descriptor to the prompt “What Does the Rainbow Ball Mean to You?” is: safe. Next up in popular descriptors is: free. On the one hand all of us at UMM are over the moon that we consistently delivered this safe and freeing weekend. On the other hand, it is striking how much work is left to be done so that minority youth feel safe and free every day in every space they occupy. Thus, as my students say, I’m hit with “all the feels” – simultaneous joy and sorrow and rage and love, etc., ugh.

So steering this trainwreck of tumultuous emotions toward the happy happy joy joy dance station – we have a safe space to host the 11th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend Village April 27-29, 2018 at Mount Desert Island High School near Bar Harbor and with a theme of “OUT with Alexander Hamilton”!!!!!! There is a dedicated crew working away to sustain the Rainbow Ball Weekend, please msg if you want to volunteer.

Image designed by Michaela Girard (RBW Photographer)

It’s sad to say goodbye to hosting the RBW and to recent graduates who helped so much the last 3-4 years of Rainbow Ball – AB, HH, CR, & DG.  But I’m stoked with our returning members of the 100% Society and that we will be continuing to help out at MDIHS next year! We were thrilled that our tiny campus made the Campus Pride top 30 LGBT-friendly college index – AGAIN and RBW helped us get there!

While we prepared for the last Ball, we were deeply saddened by the news of the deaths of two former attendees: Charles Maze Knowles, youth and Mitzi Lichtman, chaperone.  Please keep their memories and their family and friends in your hearts.

This last Rainbow Ball Weekend at UMM was phenomenal with over 200 guests staying the whole weekend thanks to generous fundraising from folks like Danni and all the youth pitching in.  Here’s a quick recap:  St. Aiden’s comfy; food outstanding (MMHS Culinary, Annie’s Everything Nice, Sodexo); DJ Enile8 and the dance spectacular; the workshops engaging; Geo’s keynote sublime; the Talent Show and Drag Queens superlative (with the fabulous Chanel & Hurricane Bertha from the early years!!); the donated Harmonious Hearts book compelling; the counselors and chaperones lovingly dedicated; and the Ballers righteous.

Take the spirit of safety, freedom, family, and love that infuses the Rainbow Ball Weekend with you into your mundane lives and hold each other close.  Along your journey think about channeling this love into advocacy if you aren’t already doing so. Consider the Safe Group of Outright Portland, Voice of Maine Women, Disability Rights Maine, Maine Transnet, Maine Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Coalition, Equality Maine LGBTQIA Rights,  Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, HEAL Support for those HIV+ and those with Substance Use Disorders, Operation Breaking Stereotypes, immigration etc Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand and so many more!

Rest in Peace

“As a member of SAFE Group–Portland Outright’s team of LGBTQ+, gender-nonconforming and allied youth organizers inside Long Creek Youth Development Center–Maze was a powerful, thoughtful, and fearless leader. He embodied a quiet power that came from seeing people’s whole truth, an unflinching commitment to loving each other boldly no matter what, and naming clearly a vision of safety and justice big enough for all of us. He made people feel welcome and so invited each of us to invest in each other’s safety, well-being, and resilience. Even on bad days he was a beacon. We honor his vision, his life, and love him with the same fierceness he inspired in all of us.”

“May everyone live a long, loving, and healthy life. It’s been great knowing, loving, playing, laughing, crying, singing, working, lobbying, advocating, and protesting with all of you. We all came together in different ways at different times and we made a difference in each other’s life and the world around us. Keep living and doing and making the world a better place. Be the best you can be.  Carry on without me but do remember my strong spirit and open heart.

Mitzi Joy Lichtman 2017 from SAGE Newsletter

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Woohoo folks we are having a year of amazing LGBTQ+ events in Washington County, ME, see the timeline below ‘BLAZE’!! The Machias Rainbow Con has some wicked good events including a midnight movie showing of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show with help from talented Emcees from the Barn Arts Collective guaranteeing plenty of audience partici…..pation. Once we cover our costs, any additional ticket sales are donations for the Rainbow Ball Weekend, feel free to support us!

Our Celebrity guest on Saturday is none other than the Magdalena Visaggio, author of Kim & Kim comic books, one of the Kims is trans and the other is bi! She’ll be presenting on her work as a trans comic book author, selling her books, and giving autographs. We are also hosting the first gallery show of Kevin Dutil’s beautiful drawings of his  GLBTQ Super Heroes also opening the same weekend!

There is much much more: LARPing, Tourneys, Shakespeare’s Star Wars Readers Theater, Cosplay Contest, live music, and a Zombie Fun Run! It’s a beautiful time to visit our coastal area. We’re rustic, gritty, and small but we have really big hearts. Come on out you awesome nerds!

blaze_kd

 

Timeline

  • Tuesday October 11 Training to Support LGBT Youth, Harvest of Ideas at the University of Maine at Machias, Presenters include the Health Equity Alliance, Zack Paakkonen, Portland Legal, local educators and students, CEUs available, contact Sharon Dean at 263-8370 or Sharon.dean@gmail.com.
  • Fri-Sun October 14-16 Machias Rainbow Con University of Maine at Machias
  • Sunday October 16 Zombie Fun Run Fundraiser for Health Equity Alliance at the University of Maine at Machias
  • March 17th , 2017 Community of Hope full day Training to Support LGBT Youth follow up, presenters include Wayne Maines
  • April 7-9th, 2017 10th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend “OUT in Space” University of Maine at Machias, Indigenous Queen Lyzz Bien confirmed keynote speaker! Get your cushy camp mattresses now & this year everyone has to pay $5, so start those bottle drives!

Oh Mylanta! What a BEAUTIFUL AMAZING CRAZY weekend! 🙂  It takes a Campus and so many other volunteers and donors to raise a Rainbow Village!  Huge thanks all around and also Happy Pride month!

Representative comments on what the HS youth had to say:
Prompt: What does Rainbow Ball Weekend mean to you:
“A weekend to be me where I don’t have to hide or be afraid of who I am. Rainbow Ball is the entire reason I came out.”
 
“It’s a place I can be myself and I don’t have to hide. I feel so free I could cry. I’m very sad that it’s my last year.”
 
“Rainbow Ball this year was something new to me. This year I have come out as gender queer, and I have to be closeted at home. I felt safe and being called THEY made my heart flutter. I feel empowered and amazing. Thank you!”
 
“The Rainbow ball means freedom to me. At home I can’t be myself, I can’t wear my suit, I can’t see my girlfriend…here I can.”
 
“The Rainbow Ball is my sanctuary, I feel so at peace and at home here with everyone.”

For fun – by the Numbers: 246 T-Shirts (3 designs: youth, counselors, staff), 234 prom attendees, 231 Total non UMM Guests for the Weekend, 201 Youth Guests (& school staff, some parents, and counselors -153 attended in 2015); a couple hundred of preferred pronoun and other LGBTQ+ pins made by two high school groups; 55 straight hours this weekend with students for some teachers; 44 (12 brand new) Unique Workshops/ Presentations/ Support Groups/ Activities; 25 donated copies of Transformation of an American Family autographed by Nicole & Wayne Maines; 24 performances at the Talent Showcase,19 Schools and youth organizations, 16 UMM Alumni/former student volunteers, 15 table representatives from various organizations; 12 trips to Hannaford’s, 8 counselors who were previous attendees, 5 meals, 5 cakes, 4 games at Prom, 3 buses, 2 fabulous drag queens, 2 UMPI Alumni, 1 UMPI Faculty, 1 EMCC Faculty, 1 Feedback Session,  and 1 herd of dinosaurs: bisexual brontosaurus, lesbian leopluridon, flaming homosaurus, asexual archeopteryx, gay gallimimus, pansexual pantydraco, questioning quasetosaurus, transgender pterodactyl, and ally allosaurus.

Mark your calendars! We are busy planning the unconventional  Machias Rainbow Con this October 14 & 15 as a partial fundraiser – after expenses.

Rainbow Ball Weekend Photo Backdrop

Rainbow Ball Weekend Photo Backdrop