ROCKLAND — If you’re a young person in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, or a youth ally who has some definite ideas on issues that can be improved in the Midcoast, OUT Maine wants to hear from you.
After receiving a contract from Maine Youth Action Network, OUT Maine is now putting out a call to anyone age 14-22 from Knox, Waldo, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties who is community-oriented, an advocate for social justice, wants to develop leadership skills and to have a voice when it comes to the Midcoast’s schools and communities.
“We invite young people who are really into activism and are willing to identify issues in their community — what’s working and what can be improved — to better serve the needs of today’s L.G.B.T.Q. and allied youth, ” said OUT Maine Program Director Sue Campbell. With this contract, OUT Maine wants a number of youth to be advocates for their peers in the areas of race, ethnicity, and/or national origin; gender expression and/or identity; sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; age and disability.
“In the first year what we’re looking to do is develop a volunteer Youth Board to do a Leadership Retreat with a program advisor,” said Campbell. The Youth Policy Board will meet monthly, February through April, at OUT Maine headquarters in Rockland, and participate in a weekend retreat at Camp Kieve in May. Those who participate will be given a small financial stipend.
OUT Maine has helped to create and is now supporting gay-straight/transgender alliances in all of the high schools in Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties, as well as on North Haven Island.
“Last year we were able to train 1,500 people that work with youth, from libraries to schools to medical providers to social services,” said Campbell. “And now we’re getting more and more requests for training, particularly in rural areas. As an adult, I can talk to people as much as you want, but real change is going to come from young people in this group.”
One topic that Campbell gives as an example she anticipates the group will talk about is health care.
“We really need to take a look at L.G.B.T.Q. access to appropriate health care in Maine,” she said. “Ideally, we want the youth to come up with the topics, but, based on what we hear a lot from youth already, access to doctors, therapists and medical services is a real issue, particularly for transgender youth. For example, just having a primary care physician who knows how to talk to these kids and work with them is very important.”
The Youth Policy Board will meet Sundays, Feb. 12, March 12, April 2 and April 30, noon to 5 p.m., in Rockland. Carpooling, transportation options and meals can be arranged. Youth and youth leaders are encouraged to apply online at outmaine.org/youth-policy-board. The application is also attached to this story and can be downloaded. Application deadline is Jan. 23.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org