EqualityMaine’s 39th anniversary awards ceremony packed a lot of emotions into one night: recognizing the LGBTQ+ community’s heartbreaks, lifting up its leaders, fundraising for its future, whooping and hollering with the Curbside Queens, and getting groovy with DJ Disco Dungeon.

Executive Director Gia Drew got a little emotional, standing on the Aura stage and looking out at the 200 EqualityMaine supporters who made it to the Celestial Soiree on March 23, despite freezing rain that would result in widespread power outages before the night was over.

“I am most often inspired and lifted up by you,” she said. “Because you’re not a two-dimensional monolith, you’re not a stereotype or meme, you’re much more than iconic. Each of you are individuals with hopes and dreams that are uniquely your own. And together, we are a family, stronger than you know.”

The awards program recognized Tara B. Thomas, who supports HIV/AIDS organizations through data analysis; Jess Mauer, co-founder and executive director of Maine Council on Aging; student activist Joey McGlaughlin of Bangor; and Speak About It, a consent education and sexual assault prevention nonprofit.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Portland-based social worker Frank Brooks, 71, for his more than four decades of clinical, instructional and advocacy work.

“His achievements are many in the areas of human development, social work and social justice,” said Rich Waiczkin, a longtime friend who is also a social worker. “The LGBTQ+ community has benefited directly from his persistent presence and diligent work.”

Brooks’ clinical social work practice, which he continues part-time, focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity. He taught social work at the University of Southern Maine from 1993 to 2003 and at the University of New England from 2014 to 2021. He is a former board member of SAGE Maine, which is now the EqualityMaine Network for Older Adults, and he serves on the Maine Council on Aging.

“I want to share this honor with everyone in this room who has been on the frontlines of the battle for civil rights and equality in the state of Maine,” Brooks said. “You’ve all supported me in my personal and professional commitments to socioeconomic, racial, political, gender and age justice.”

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

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