OUT Maine started an Emerging Leaders group of young adults last fall. These young adults volunteered to be junior counselors for the Rainbow Ball Weekend, which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

Feeling increased isolation caused by the pandemic, these young leaders decided to take action. As a team, they developed an approach to reduce isolation and provide support for LGBTQ+ youth in rural Maine through virtual role-playing games, also known as RPGs.

The Emerging Leader group members coordinated and facilitated three weekly RPG online groups for LGBTQ+ youth from Maine. The group used a game called "Dungeons and Dragons," but also a couple of newer games, such as "Dream Askew," which became a popular RPG.

"Dream Askew," created by Avery Alder, gives participants the opportunity to explore different aspects of their identity in a queer virtual community — building both connection to each other and to themselves as individuals.

The RPG project built skills for the Emerging Leaders, while also providing socialization and connection to isolated LGBTQ+ youth across Maine. The games created relationships in opposition against the pandemic’s negative impacts, including rising anxiety and depression.

Writing and time-management skills were tested as they worked to wrap storylines developed by youth facilitators before campaign deadlines.

Thanks to COVID-19, virtual RPG programming has enhanced OUT Maine’s ability to reach youth across the state in an engaging, supportive and educational community. Youth who are challenged by travel and unsupportive parents are now able to find connection and community, regardless of their physical location. Because of the Emerging Leaders' vision, OUT Maine is now armed with a new set of tools to build the LGBTQ+ youth support community virtually.

For more information, or to support OUT’s critical work on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth, visit outmaine.org.