Being in community builds resilience, hope for LGBTQ youth

By Jeanne Dooley | May 18, 2018

For many of us, the last year or so has been a period of increasing challenges, particularly for those who identify as LGBTQ, queer or transgender. State and federal efforts to reduce civil rights, even here in Maine, as well as increasing bullying and harassment in local schools, have made life particularly tough for LGBTQ teens.

Yet there is a silver lining in these clouds -- increasing numbers of folks are getting together to support each other and stand up for their values and the change they want to see. For youth in particular, research has shown that having connections with caring adults is a key ingredient to building a young person’s capacity to overcome adversity and create a future filled with possibility. Making connections brings a sense of hope, possibility and potential.

OUT Maine’s recent retreat at Camp Kieve-Wavus in Nobleboro is a great example of how making connections and building community can change lives. More than 30 youth from around the state – from Calais to Falmouth to Rockland – gathered with supportive adult counselors to enjoy a safe and affirming weekend together. Fun was the theme of the weekend – combined with learning, making new friends and planning for a better future.

OUT Maine is committed to providing these connecting opportunities for Maine’s rural LGBTQ youth. In 2019, the statewide Rainbow Ball will join OUT Maine’s community-building initiatives, in partnership with Camp Kieve-Wavus in Nobleboro.

Since 2007, the Rainbow Ball has gathered close to 200 queer and allied youth and their teachers together for a weekend of learning, networking and enjoying an alternative prom that provides safe space to celebrate whoever you are. When UMaine Machias was unable to continue as the host for the event, OUT Maine stepped up to provide a forever home for this critical community-building event.

OUT Maine, which has greatly expanded its direct youth engagement work through weekend and overnight retreats around the state, in addition to its youth leadership development work and weekly local Rockland programming, is thrilled to provide a new home for this important annual gathering.

The Rainbow Weekend will be the capstone in OUT Maine’s youth programming in the years to come. We envision an integrated network of overnights and weekend retreats around the state that build on our current programming, with the Rainbow Weekend as the culmination of the school year. Rural youth need regular safe spaces to be who they are in order to remain in their schools and communities, too many of which are not supportive. With a year-round calendar of weekend and overnight events for youth connection and leadership development, we will be meeting this critical need.

The first of many OUT Maine Rainbow Weekends will take place at Camp Kieve-Wavus in Nobleboro in May 2019. OUT Maine has held five smaller weekend retreats at the camp, and the partnership is a strong one.

This kind of weekend, statewide retreat apparently is unique in the country, certainly as a community-based program. Providing positive experiences such as these is essential to building youth resilience to overcome adversity. OUT Maine’s board, staff, youth and volunteers are strongly committed to making these opportunities possible. For more information, or to make a donation to support these retreats and the Rainbow Weekend, visit outmaine.org.

Jeanne Dooley is executive director of OUT Maine.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 19, 2018 08:52

Google the word queer Mary and you will find that they coined the continued usage for their own benefit. Offensive is the old usage, time to upgrade.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 18, 2018 17:43

Good article. BUT, the word queer is offensive. These youth are so courageous to come out. Respect is called for and compassion.



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