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

Posts tagged ‘LGBTA Leadership’

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






































Raising a Rainbow Village!

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

Spring Gayly Forward

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.” 2015 student attendee

As we approach this year’s Rainbow Ball Weekend, April 8-10, 2016 at the University of Maine at Machias there have been some highlights since last April. We were thrilled that our tiny campus made the Campus Pride top 25 LGBT-friendly college index, 100% Faculty Advisor, Lois-Ann Kuntz was honored to receive the Equality Maine Community Courage Award, and we received a Maine Community Foundation Equity grant award for the Rainbow Ball Weekend. No matter that we’re small, we are mighty. You too are mighty, even one person can make profound changes.  We have been deeply saddened by the passing of Kevin Dutil of Coney High School and Peter Rees of Downeast GLSEN both stalwart supporters of LGBT+ youth and Rainbow Ball Weekend. They were mighty.  It’s up to us to continue their work.

We have some exciting developments for this year’s 9th Annual Rainbow Ball Weekend! We’re including a Youth Career Expo on Friday April 8th during the day and our local career center will be offering workshops on Hot Jobs in Maine. Also on Friday, UMM’s Maine Writer Series has invited the Rainbow Ballers to attend a reading by author Arielle Greenberg who’s writing includes LGBT topics. We will have other career related activities like musical improv and archaeology digs.  As always we’re looking forward to what the kids present at the talent show on Friday night – make sure they bring their props!

On Saturday our keynote speaker will be Zack Paakkonen, with Portland Maine Legal, and he will be addressing legal issues of transgender youth in Maine schools. And… speaking of legal issues for Maine trans youth, Random House Publishing has donated 25 copies of the wonderful book,  Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Nutt for attending schools to take to their libraries. Interested attendees will also get to work with faculty on writing and prints for an LGBTQ Youth chapbook. Finally, the Jurassic Jamboree themed Rainbow Ball dance Saturday night should be a leviathan of a good time. 😉

We’re excited that UMPI’s 100% student organization as well as the Health Equity Alliance  are pitching in again to offer workshop/counseling/testing and more support! As always we’re looking forward to a great weekend with Maine’s LGBT youth. The schedule… is still under construction but other than all these new developments… will be similar to last year. 🙂

FMI, registration,and or counselor applications please go to our website: 100% Society or e-mail downeastme@chapters.glsen.org.  If you would like to donate or want to showcase your business/ group/ nonprofit at the Queer Career Youth Expo, please see this same site and the vendor materials, we had >170 guests last year.  For those of you who have questions/ offered help/ registered/ applied to be counselors – thank you & thanks for your patience!

As for future plans, in addition to our annual Rainbow Ball Weekend, the 100% Society is helping to host the first Machias RainbowCon October 14-15 in partnership with the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce for fun and to raise funds for the Rainbow Ball Weekend. And if you’re in Washington County, ME, stay tuned for a free fall workshop for educators and mental health providers (CEU’s available), One Lonely Kid at a Time hosted by the LBGTQ Community Circle.

We’re all on journeys and best wishes to all of us on our shared journey towards 100% equality. “When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” — U.S. President Barack Obama

As always please share, especially if you know youth who might benefit. Thanks!


Springtime and Rainbow Ball Weekend Full Speed Ahead!

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.


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!

Who Will Hear? A Poem for You!

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.

Rainbow is the New Black

What does Rainbow Ball mean to you?

“It is a place with no judgment and 100% supportive.”
“Chance to meet people like me and be happy without being insulted.”
“I can be myself and be with the person I love without being scared.”
“A place to meet other people and not feel left out.”
“A place to be myself, felt at home and like I belong somewhere.”

Those are a few representative comments from high school youth who attended the 7th Annual RBW.  This is the environment and outcome we strive for each and every year for the  Rainbow Ball Weekend.  It is hard for me to write a post that captures the fullness, intensity, openness, exhaustion, euphoria, trepidation, energy, drama, thankfulness, chaos, acceptance, sharing, and love from this year’s weekend.  It’s kinda like not being able to stare at the sun or bottle a rainbow.  No matter the size of the contribution, from sharing information about the weekend, to full immersion of sleeping on floor with youth to look after, to giving a workshop, every contribution mattered to someone and we, the hosts, are so grateful for the help.

Here’s a flavor of the weekend which is easier for the scientist part of me to convey.  Rainbow Ball Weekend 2014 By the numbers:

225+ attendees at the Dance, 188 Total Visitors for the Weekend, 119 High School Youth and Chaperones, 40 college attendees and helpers, 35 Individual UMM Faculty & Staff who supported the weekend, 33 Discrete events (3 planned by youth at one of the attending high schools), 18 OMG Queer books donated by Bold Strokes Books that went to attending high schools, 12 Community partners (Beehive Design Collective, Down East AIDS Network, Downeast GLSEN, Eastman Studios, The Trevor Project, AMHC Sexual Assault Services, Broadway Styles, ImprovAcadia, Equality Maine, Maine Community Foundation Equity Fund, Southern Maine GLSEN, & University of Maine System Diversity Committee), 6 Meals, 6 Workshops for educators/counselors, 6 decoration making craft parties, 3 Absolutely Fabulous Drag Queens hosting the youth talent show, 2 devoted facebook groups, 1 Rainbow Ball Photo Gallery Exhibit, 1 Rainbow Ball poem, 1 work study student, 1 Unity Unicorn giant comic strip, 1 NJ reporter writing a book about the Maines Family’s journey for justice that might end with Wayne & Nicole giving the Rainbow Ball keynote address.

Photo by Christopher Dickinson