A positively joyful dance party capped off EqualityMaine’s first major social event in 18 months: an awards night and cocktail reception March 25 at Aura in downtown Portland.

“One of our goals is to be sure that our community can come together,” said Executive Director Gia Drew, the first trans person to lead the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political advocacy organization in its 38-year history. “We wanted to make it accessible.”

What before the pandemic had been an annual sit-down dinner gala attended by up to 720 people reinvented itself in 2019 as an open-air festival and awards event at Thompson’s Point in 2021 and, recently, a 250-person nightclub party.

“We’re bringing to light the issues facing our community, but also having some fun,” said board president Michael Coon.

Bo Dennis, owner of Dandy Ram Farms in Monroe, received the Out Front Leadership Award in recognition of their collaboration with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners to increase gender awareness across rural Maine.

“Many younger farm workers identify as part of the LGBTQ community, so it’s important that farm managers know how to support them,” Dennis said, citing access to affirming mentors and healthcare as priorities.


A second Out Front Leadership award was presented to Tee Bates, who has been a volunteer camp counselor at Equality Maine’s New Leaders Project since 2019.

Bates first connected with EqualityMaine after seeing a presentation at Maranacook High School in Readfield as a senior who had moved from North Carolina. The best part of mentoring LBGTQ youths, Bates said, is “helping them to be open, proud and free.”

Bates’ fiancé, Indigo Anderson, added, “Most them grew up not knowing anyone out.”

An Out Front Media Award was presented to the OutCast team in recognition of creating and sustaining a Maine-centered inclusive weekly talk show. This collective of elder queer folks produced and broadcasted more than 180 half-hour talk shows on community radio station WMPG over three and a half years, concluding in June 2022.

“I love that tonight we’re talking about our youths and our older adults, the full spectrum,” said Lauren Webster, who works at an assisted living facility. “I’m so glad to be back at these events. It makes my heart happy.”

Event sponsors included Wex, Bank of America, Norway Savings Bank, Diversified Communications, Bernstein Shur, Embrace Home Loans, Sanford Insurance Agency, Maine Women’s Lobby, Frannie Peabody Center, Maine Community Foundation and Equality Community Center.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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