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

June Prides n’ Brides

N’ Graduations! All the Beauty and Love warding off pain, loneliness, rejection, depression and fear. We hope it lasts forever with the truth and self-confidence that lifts us outside of us, above us into a rainbow community wrapped in summer sunshine.  Two young women, one who has attended Rainbow Ball four years, are getting married this week. Rainbow tassel graduates everywhere. Congratulations and Best Wishes to all.  Mount Desert Island High School served up a warm fuzzy of a Rainbow Festival including Bar Harbor’s fabulous ImprovAcadia. Maine has two Pride events left and we’re going to celebrate – Pride Portland! and Bangor Pride.  June.

We had an epic Rainbow Ball and are going ahead and planning our next one though it will require serious fundraising.  How can we not continue when there are so many written comments similar to these? Go ahead and wrap yourself up in this sunshine.

“For the first time in my life I felt accepted and like it was okay that I love who I love, and made me feel the happiest I have in years because I’m not stuck living in a ‘closet’ like I am at home.”

“Because you get to meet so many nice, sweet, and welcoming people and it often helps people gain confidence, I know I have. It’s only my second year coming and I’ve been fully willing to meet and talk with people.”

 “Rainbow ball is important because it teaches a lot especially that you’re not alone you’re not the only one. You make long lasting friendships.”

 “I think I would share the fact that a person can learn a lot about themselves at this event. You might learn about your identity, sexuality, other people’s experiences, and maybe even new interest like book making.”

 “I would tell people that Rainbow Ball is a place to learn and have fun, like how schools should be.”

 “It honestly saves lives. And not everyone knows that.”

 “Education is power, and with all of the education you can get about LGBTQ, you can have so much power and voice.”

 “I would tell them that everyone is very nice and respectful with names and pronouns.”

 “That it is a great place to make lots of amazing friends and that the people and stories here are relatable and eye opening.”

 “I had a great time. I would tell them that there are great people and that there is so many opportunities to learn and have fun and that you won’t want to leave.”

“I would just tell people that this is an awesome program for people in general. Whether you’re questioning, coming out, need info or need reassurance that you are not alone!”

“Its good to be surrounded by people that won’t judge you no matter who you are.”

“It’s so empowering to meet people who have been through the same things as you and are just like you.”

“Rainbow ball is important because it teaches a lot especially that you’re not alone you’re not the only one. You make long lasting friendships.”

“BEST PLACE EVER 🙂

Make out your checks to “Rainbow Ball Fundraising” and mail to:

100% Society, University of Maine at Machias, 116 O’Brien Avenue, Machias, ME 04654

Image from the 2014 Grammy Awards

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The 8th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend is right around the corner – April 10-12, 2015. We have amazing speakers, presenters, and activities! Our keynote is being given by Jenn Burleton founder of Oregon’s TransActive Gender Center. We’re so lucky to have her!  She’s going to be in Bar Harbor during the week giving a series of workshops on Transgender Health and Well-Being: A Community Conversation. Jenn is also joined in a powerful line up with Wayne Maines and Peter Rees & Lin Gould for Rainbow Ball Community Workshops (not too late to sign up!) on Friday April 10th and CEU’s are available for educators and human service providers which is sponsored by UMM’s Psychology & Community Studies Program.

The dance is going to be truly epic including some homemade carnival games with a series of beautiful carousel unicorns one of the 100% Society members has created for the photo backdrops. What an amazing opportunity for community engagement, developing leadership and communication skills, as well as event planning for the students running the weekend. We’re seeing old friends and new ones traveling to campus. The number of high school youth involved in planning activities is way up! In fact, attendance is up too with folks representing 25 different educational institutions around Maine, from Kennebunk to Caribou -that is a distance of 327 miles!

And of course! The most important reason for the weekend.  100% Society members in 2002 desired a way to support local, isolated, rural, poor LGBT high school students.  While there are lots of resources and networking opportunities available for those living near cities, our rural LGBTQ youth and their allies don’t have that kind of support.  Many of our members over the years did not have that support, one recently described the weekend as “magic”.  Attending this supportive event and not being in the minority is indeed powerful. One of our counselors who brought LGBTQA youth for six years described a number of these youth confiding after the fact that attending the Rainbow Ball had saved their lives.

Josh Becker, aka, Chanel Honeywell who has been hosting the Friday night talent show since 2009 has started a gofundme for Rainbow Ball Weekend. The cost of bringing youth to UMM for the weekend is $5000 and food costs for 140 for 6 meals is over $3000. We have had a generous donation of the $5000. We’ve kept everything free for the weekend to make sure as many LGBTQA youth who want to come can.  Any amount will help us – $20 sends two youth to the dance, $60 sponsors a youth for the whole weekend. Thanks in advance for any support you can give.

For several years high school youth attending the Rainbow Ball Weekend have been able to participate in a juried talent competition. This year we are expanding to include a juried art contest from youth that explores gender identity and sexual orientation. Our excellent judges, Linda Eastman, Bernie Vinzani, and Libra Gately are artists who have been involved with and supported previous Rainbow Ball Weekends.
The winning pieces will be included in a professional photography exhibit by Linda Eastman at the University of Maine at Machias. The exhibition is supporting the 8th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend, April 10-12, 2015. The Gallery Opening/Reception is Friday evening April 10th and it is hoped the winners will be able to attend. Food, housing, and transportation support provided.
Submissions are now being accepted on a ‘closed’ facebook page (not available for viewing by the public). The last day to submit is Friday February 27th with winners being announced on Monday March 16th. First, second, third, and honorable mention winners will be contacted about preparing their work to be ready to hang and the address where they need to mail their artwork by March 30th to give time for the Gallery installation in advance of the Rainbow Ball Weekend.

Please read and understand thoroughly the contest procedures below in order to apply and participate in this art competition:
1. Entries must follow the competition theme of being a member or having friends/family members in the LGBTQA community and how this may be a reason for “Growing Up Differently”.
2. Artists 13-18 years of age attending a Maine High School may apply.
3. There is a three-image limit that an artist can submit.
4. The image files of the original artwork must be in JPG format.
5. The image file name needs to include school abbreviation, student last name, and if more than one entry a number to indicate this.
For example: MMHS_Doe_1.jpg
6. Files may not exceed 1MG.
7. Entries may be two- or three- dimensional artwork created in any medium such as painting, drawing, digital, collage, photography, sculpture, textile, an artist’s book, etc. The work can be expressed from realism to abstraction. Video is excluded at this time.
8. Experimental and mixed techniques are welcome.
9. 2D pieces are limited to 24”x 36” and under. 3D should not exceed 36″.

10. A faculty member or club advisor verifies the authenticity of the work and must upload the image entries to the closed facebook page they must ask to join: “Growing Up Differently – Art Contest for LGBTQA HS Youth”
11. The following information is required with the image submission by the school representative: a) their own professional contact information for notification, b) the preferred name of the student, c) name of the school, d) grade in school, e) actual dimensions of the entry which winners will have to mail, f) title if there is one and g) a brief statement by the student of how their art expresses “Growing Up Differently”.
12. Winners are responsible for mailing their entries the week after notification to prepare for installation. Winners are also expected to attend the Gallery Reception at UMM on April 10th. The 100% Society will provide support for attending the weekend of events.

If you have questions or to possibly schedule a school visit regarding the competition theme or rules, please contact Linda Eastman at: aestudio@myfairpoint.net
Please share this info with any applicable high school students!
Creative Commons Licensed Image by Matt DeTurck

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Viewers in Canada & Russia – who knew? 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Transgiving

Transgiving.

Rainbow PumpkinsIt’s the time of year when the final harvests are coming in and people are getting together for the holidays.  The rainbow pumpkin image was staged and taken by Heather, our new workstudy student for Rainbow Ball Weekend.  Here’s why she’s invested:

I first heard about Rainbow Ball when I was a senior in high school. I was part of their GSDA (Gay Straight Diversity Alliance) and we were all going to go. I really wanted to go, but my mom wouldn’t let me. I didn’t know that the 100% society from University of Maine at Machias helped with it. I had applied to this school earlier in the year. I decided on going and when I got here I realized that I would be able to go to Rainbow Ball and not only attend, but help with it. I was beyond excited. Rainbow Ball is one of my favorite events of the year. It brings me so much happiness to have a place that I can say that I fit in.

A local community group in our area planted an amazing crop of energy around starting more GSTAs in our county.  I was able to attend their truly inspirational meeting recently and found out there are two new seedling clubs starting and the established high school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) will help nurture them!

We also discussed the importance of having the T for Transgender in the high school GSA clubs.  Schools really seem to stumble over using the word transgender in the title and the idea of gender variant people.  We must be inclusive in our communities.  We know that having GSTAs in schools makes all students safer.  In Maine, in addition to hearing negative comments from other students, 31% regularly heard school staff make negative remarks about someone’s gender expression and 16% regularly heard staff make homophobic remarks. As one of the students at the meeting said, “we have to educate people”, clearly that must include educators – current and future.

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving such as 33 states with legal same-sex marriage & 7 more states where the marriage ban has been overturned and are in appeals court.  The State Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Maines family over a school which did not allow their daughter to access the girl’s restroom is precedent setting and a long, hard-fought victory this year that is something we can all be thankful for. If you would like to watch a recent panel on transgender student support that includes Wayne Maines, please click here.

We’re so thankful for all who are working to improve support and acceptance for LGBTQ youth in our communities. We have to turn the corner on the ignorance, fear, and hate that created the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Educate around the Thanksgiving table if you have the chance and may yours be happy! “We are the change we have been waiting for.” Mark your calendars – Rainbow Ball Weekend – April 10-12 2015, Carnival Theme!

Dr. Crittenden led the successful poetry workshop at the Rainbow Ball Weekend in April.  He wrote an example poem to share with the students who participated and with his permission, I have copied it below.  More? Yes, please: Owl Who Laughs The dates for the 8th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend are April 10-12, 2015. We’ve already started planning!  Hope you’re excited too!

Who Will Hear? by Chris Crittenden

i want to be heard by you

more than anyone

but it seems you are less likely to hear me

than anyone,

and that is part of my shout

as i write this.

but i do know one thing:

someone will hear this poem–someone will.

i’m not sure who or where

but i am not the only one

who has felt the brick wall

of a shoulder turning away;

who has felt the iron gate

of family or community, locking shut.

some people close their thoughts

within layers of fear

to keep who i am from getting in.

this poem is me daring to speak.

this poem is my courage,

singing out in a world that

is often ugly in the ways it perceives.

as i write these words,

i realize there is one person

who needs to hear them

more than anyone else–and that is me.

i deserve to embrace my own voice

and my own right to shout out

and to sing and laugh–

to be proud of who i am.

it does not matter

if this poem earns someone else’s high grade.

just by writing down what I feel, what I think–

that makes this poem special,

and it reminds me that I am special,

and through all the emotions

and all experiences that i will have throughout my life;

and all the joys and hopes; the loves

and sweet memories; and also the

frustrations and fears, and

the walls of ears that just won’t hear me,

through all this,

throughout everything,

i am beautiful —

just the way i am.