Pride Month comes at an opportune time this year, just as the conversation over LGBTQ+ issues is being hijacked by our worst impulses.

The focus shouldn’t be on whether you can drive people to the polls by making political fodder of some of Maine’s most vulnerable kids, or whether standing up for those kids will make some voters uncomfortable.

The focus should be on the kids themselves: how to make them feel as valid and worthy as their peers, and how to build communities where everyone is treated with kindness and respect, regardless of their differences.

That’s particularly important now, as a small minority attempts to roll back hard-won rights and stop public schools from providing a well-rounded education rooted in principles the majority of us cherish.

According to reporting from the Press Herald, the Maine Department of Education feels the same way. The department says sexual orientation and gender diversity should be represented in public curriculum.

To that end, the state provides optional resources and guidance to schools. But it leaves the specifics, including whether the lessons get taught at all, to the districts themselves; a new study found that only about a quarter of districts have LGBTQ-friendly policies in place. (Parents can opt out of any non-mandatory lessons.)


One of those resources provided by the state, a benign if imperfect video, one of hundreds available on a range of topics, became the subject of a recent Republican attack ad against Gov. Janet Mills.

With this strategy, the Maine GOP is trying to piggy-back on a national effort to demonize efforts to educate students on matters pertinent to their lives and their future success. Rather than defend the video, or at least its aims, Mills removed the ad.

At the very least, the whole thing has left school districts wondering how they should follow the state’s policy, and just what will happen if they face backlash from residents who think schools shouldn’t acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people at all.

And it’s left at least some LGBTQ Mainers unsure if they’ve got the complete support of the people running state government.

It’s the wrong time to be sending anything close to that message. Throughout the country, conservatives are taking aim at LGBTQ rights. In Maine, the Republican Party platform includes outright discrimination against gay and transgender people. Where they have power, Republicans are passing that discrimination into law.

They are taking these actions even though it’s clear the impact they have on students who identify as LGBTQ, or who have questions about their gender or sexuality. A 2019 survey, for instance, found that 44% of Maine transgender students were bullied in the last year, while a third were threatened or injured by a weapon.


Nearly three-quarters of the students have depressive symptoms, while about half have considered suicide in the past year.

That’s where our collective focus of our schools should be, and no one should be scared off by the difficulty of the subject nor by the discomfort is causes some people.

It’s not about treating LGBTQ students any differently than others.

It’s about making sure that all students, regardless of who they are, what they feel or where their from, learn to treat others the right way, and get treated in that way in return.

That’s the path to thriving students, successful schools and strong communities.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.