Social workers across Maine are fierce advocates for inclusivity, equality and social justice. These tenets are such major components of our work that they are part of the social work code of ethics, the guiding principles and standards by which all social workers must practice. As executive director of the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, I want to wish my fellow social workers and other colleagues around Maine a happy Pride Month.

Recognizing Pride Month in our communities, schools and workplaces gives us a chance to celebrate diversity, foster inclusivity and understanding, and show our LGBTQ+ neighbors, friends and family that they are seen, valued and loved.

It’s also an important time to keep a keen eye on the continuing struggles this community is currently facing. Sadly, respect, compassion and empathy have been under increasing attack all across the country. Over the past legislative session, the Human Rights Campaign identified more than 530 anti-equality bills advancing in over 40 states. These include more than 225 anti-transgender bills and 125 bans on gender-affirming care. More than 75 of these harmful bills have already been enacted this year with 20 states having laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for youth under 18 years old. Just recently, the HRC declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.

While the Maine Chapter of my organization supported several bills this past legislative session that collectively would help to codify protections for gender-affirming care for youth and families in and outside of Maine, we unfortunately worked just as hard with several other partner coalitions to prevent many harmful bills from passing. These terrible bills, not unlike those passed in other states, would have contributed to the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ+ young people and added to the almost 31% of transgender youth who are living in states that have passed bans on life-saving and evidence-based treatments. The National Association of Social Workers’ Maine Chapter deeply appreciates the Maine legislators who have worked tirelessly to fight back against legislation that sought to do harm to LGBTQ+ individuals, especially queer youth.

As a social worker who has worked with LGBTQ+ youth for my entire career, I’ve seen the benefits when young LGBTQ+ people have the support they need from the adults in their lives. This is especially true for transgender and gender-diverse youth. Gender-affirming care is necessary for transgender individuals of all ages to be healthy, safe and supported in who they are. Our country’s leading medical associations endorse individualized and age-appropriate access to gender-affirming care. These endorsements reflect expert consensus that gender-affirming care is both medically necessary and can save lives.

Research has shown that receipt of gender-affirming care among young people (aged 13 to 20) was associated with 60% lower odds of depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality. Other studies have found similar positive impacts on the mental health of transgender and nonbinary youth, including nearly 40% lower odds of suicide attempts after receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy. The research is clear. When LGBTQ+ youth live in affirming communities that do not stigmatize their sexual orientation or gender identity, these youth not only survive but also thrive.

This Pride Month, I humbly ask our allies to reach out to your elected representatives and urge them to pass legislation that elevates LGBTQ+ identities in our state and not further oppress and marginalize these individuals. LGBTQ+ individuals are under attack in this country and are in danger. Allyship during Pride Month is bigger than sharing rainbow memes. As you celebrate Pride in towns and cities across Maine this June, please also embrace meaningful actions and a sense of urgency to bring about real change for the LGBTQ+ people in your communities.

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