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April 8, 2018

Society Notebook: EqualityMaine gala reinvigorates fight for everyone’s rights

Portland Press Herald
By AMY PARADYSZ
The advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mainers has a record crowd at its annual event.

A record crowd of 670 attended the annual EqualityMaine gala and silent auction March 24 at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, raising $85,000 for the nonprofit dedicated to securing full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mainers.

“Tonight we are here to just be our authentic selves, we are here to be engaged in our work and we are here to be loud and proud,” said EqualityMaine Development Director Chris O’Connor. “As we’ve seen this year, we always need to be prepared to fight battles we thought we’d already won.”

“This gala is bigger than I’ve ever seen it, much bigger,” said state Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, the youngest openly gay state representative in the United States at the age of 25. “I’m wondering if what’s happening is Washington is inspiring people to re-engage in issues of LGBTQ rights. We’re realizing that the cause is not over.”

The gala included award presentations in recognition of dedicated volunteers and community allies. Awardees included Timothy Atkinson, a father and Portland school board member who worked to craft the district’s Transgender and Gender Expansive Students policy, and Consumers for Affordable Health Care, which hosted a series of workshops to help transgender Mainers navigate private health insurance.

But the emotional highlights were about two activists – one whose life’s work paved the way for the other’s.

“For me to be recognized with a lifetime achievement award at the age of 74 feels a little bit like early retirement,” said Doug Kimmel, a psychologist who founded Seniors in a Gay Environment (SAGE) in New York City in 1978 and recently retired as the first executive director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) Maine. “It has been a great joy to play some role in the advances of LGBTQ people in the field of psychology. It’s about making a better world for those who come after us.”

Victor Trepanier, a 17-year-old student at Cony High School in Augusta, was moved to tears as he received the Alan Lindquist Young Leader Award and a standing ovation. “Two years ago, I had no idea I was going to become politically active and work for change,” said Trepanier, a graduate of EqualityMaine’s New Leaders Project. “This is the biggest honor I’ve ever had.”

“This is wonderful,” said Sadhbh Nienan, a 77-year-old former president of Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, which was renamed EqualityMaine. “Kids can be who they are when they’re young. They don’t have to wait till they’re 50. This is a great group of people who have seen a significant amount of social progress in a relatively short amount of time, and we believe more social progress is possible – for everybody, not just for gay or transgender people, but for everybody.”

Read the original article online here.

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Christina DaCosta
Director of Communications
917-553-3328
cdacosta@sageusa.org

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