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Read “Maine Youth: Your Questions Answered!”

What options exist for youth to contact each other outside of school?

There are events and activities throughout the State. A monthly resource is the Family Affairs Newsletter. Contact Zack Paakkonen by email to be added to the list: zack@familyaffairsnewsletter.com.

Where is Maine on a bill to ban sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts?

Bans on “therapy” to make people into “ex gays,” (called “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy” and “sexual orientation change efforts”) prohibit state-licensed medical and mental health providers from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person under age 18. These “therapies” are based on the idea that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ, but we know, and the larger medical and social science community know, our orientation and/or identity are not a problem – discrimination and stigma are the problem.

The nation’s leading medical, mental health, and human services professional organizations reject conversion therapy as a legitimate practice. This includes the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, and the National Association of Social Workers, among many others. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also issued an authoritative report entitled “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting LGBTQ Youth” in 2015, full of helpful information.  See HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4928. Rockville, MD (2015).

Kids who are sent to conversion therapy may be sent by parents who reject them. Minors who experience family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity face serious health risks. Research demonstrates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection, including admission to conversion therapy, were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sex when compared to non-gay peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. LGBT Policy Spotlight: Conversion Therapy Bans / Ryan, Caitlin, et al. “Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults.” Pediatrics 123.1 (2009): 346-352.

What is happening in Maine?

A bill to ban conversion therapy is being carried over to the second half of the legislative session in January 2018, with Representative Ryan Fecteau as lead sponsor.

  • To support or assist this effort, contact EqualityMaine, GLAD, ACLU of Maine or Maine Women’s Lobby
  • Contact GLAD if you or someone you know (including someone who lives in Maine now, used to live in Maine, or was sent here from their homes out of state) have been subjected to such “therapy” against their will.

Where does this issue stand nationally?

Right now, there are laws barring these “therapies” in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and D.C. A number of bills are underway in the 2017-18 session of state legislatures, including in Maine Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado and New Mexico.

Do these laws interfere with religious rights?

No. Some say laws forbidding licensed professionals from engaging in conversion therapy interferes with free speech and religious liberty and are too vague. But the licensing limitations do not target religion. They simply exercise the state’s power to regulate licensed care providers to ensure safety and efficacy. None of the lawsuits making these claims have succeeded, and for good reason. The U.S. Supreme Court in May 2017 also turned down a challenge to California’s conversion therapy ban.

What is the most important thing youth can do to make change?

There are so many ways to make change. We would all love to hear your answers about the most important things to do!

How you live your day-to-day life can make an enormous difference! You can give others a chance to get to know, understand, and appreciate you as you and as an LGBTQ person. And you can likewise learn about them and what you have in common with others. This is community building and demonstrates that respect is a two-way street. It is only if others understand us as “real people” that we can make a fairer society and lasting change.

Get involved in the issues that matter to your life. Form a GSTA or support the one at your school and use it as a platform to decide how to improve things. Look into your state and local political candidates and volunteer for one you support. Get involved as a volunteer in organizations where you can learn and contribute your passion. When youth speak out about issues affecting their lives, people are apt to listen.

  • In 2011, GLAD, EqualityMaine and the ACLU worked with people all over the State, and with star lobbyists Wayne and Nicole Maines, to defeat a “bathroom” bill like the notorious law in North Carolina.
  • Youth activism has encouraged legislators to take stands against discrimination and bullying, is driving the renewed attention to racism and Islamophobia, and making transgender and queer people more visible.
  • Youth across New England are leading efforts at their schools to provide more gender neutral bathrooms for students.

There are plenty of ways to connect with likeminded people and do something!

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