Sophie Magadieu grew up with a playground swing in the kitchen, hung from bolts in the entryway to the dining room.

The swing is one of the first things Magadieu mentions when talking about being brought up in a close-knit family. It’s a joyful symbol of the support and encouragement they have provided through years of struggle and success as Magadieu graduates from Falmouth High School.

“I had a lot of freedom,” Magadieu said, “which was super useful in figuring out who I am.”

Magadieu has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ youth across New England, delivering countless presentations at schools, conferences and businesses. Magadieu’s goal is to promote understanding, prevent bullying and stop discrimination based on sexual and gender differences, from the classroom to the workplace.

“I’ve spoken at middle and high schools across Maine, on how to get teachers to listen to you and how to make schools safer for everyone,” said Magadieu, who also has presented at businesses such as TD Bank.

Magadieu is a board member of GLSEN Southern Maine and president of its youth leadership team, as well as president of Falmouth High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Magadieu has presented at several conferences, including the annual True Colors national conference for LGBTQ youth held this spring at the University of Connecticut.

Magadieu identifies as a queer person whose gender is non-binary – neither male nor female – and asks to be addressed with the pronouns they/them/theirs rather than she/her/hers.

“I don’t really fit with male or female,” Magadieu said. “It basically means I’m not sure what category I fall into and I’m OK with that.”

Being so open and becoming a public speaker wasn’t easy. Magadieu has wrestled with clinical anxiety, depression and a nonverbal learning disorder that makes it difficult to notice social queues, modulate voice level, speak in general terms or understand broad concepts.

Magadieu conquered some of those concerns with help from medication and through counseling that provided coping strategies. But it was the challenge of speaking in public that inspired Magadieu the most.

“That really solidified how much I love doing what I do,” Magadieu said. “I need to help people.”

Magadieu is a member of the school chorus, a special-effects makeup artist and a poet whose work was recognized at the 2018 Merriconeag Poetry Festival for students. Magadieu also works part time for OurShelves, an online subscription company based in Cumberland that curates children’s books reflecting people of diverse backgrounds.

Magadieu plans to study psychology at Southern Maine Community College.

“I want to keep helping people. I don’t know exactly how,” Magadieu said. “I’m learning how the brain works so I can change it. I know I was super lucky growing up and I want to share that.”

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