Thursday, October 18th, 2018

USM has made big strides in providing rights for LGBT

Posted on February 23, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By MaryAnn Silliboy/Free Press Staff

LGBT, initials for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons have contributed to Maine’s history long before “the birth of the gay rights movement” in the late 1960s. Although Maine has had known artists and writers of the twentieth century were LGBT; between the 1960s and 1970s, it began statewide.

It began at USM on October 2, 1975, when the first Gay Organization was founded.  In 1975, it was published in the USM Free Press that they were trying to understand homosexuality and if they could cure homosexuality.

The Gay People’s Alliance offered information about homosexuality. They received their information from the Institute for the Study of Human Resources of Los Angeles, CA, which was conducted by highly qualified panel of social scientists and specialists.  


These were the questions they asked:

What is homosexuality?  

Who is homosexual?

Does a homosexual act make one a homosexual?  

How many homosexuals are there?

Can homosexuals be easily identified?

They continued to print five questions and answers randomly throughout the Free Press in the late 1970s. The next series of questions they continued to help people better understand homosexuality. The second batch of questions:

Is homosexuality unnatural?

Are homosexuals mentally ill?  

Are homosexuals criminals?

Are children seduced into homosexuality?

What causes homosexuality?


USM was a very homophobic, and only in 1973 was homosexuality was removed from the psychological disorder list. The organization that was founded in October 2, 1975 was the Gay People’s Alliance. The students fought hard to get this student group started; the Student Senate opposed the request.  

“This is when society became more  open minded, recognizing the LGBT identified, that it’s not a choice, It’s not a lifestyle, it’s not anything like that, as we move over to the last 40 years, they recognize that there is bias, hate crimes, negative things that happen.”  

Sarah Holmes states. Holmes was one of the first coordinator for the LGBT community on campus. Which was encouraged after a few bias-motivated incidents in the 1999-2000 academic year.

The LGBT community wanted a full-time person to work on the campus issues and to help improve the campus climate for the LGBT. Sarah Holmes was hired in the summer of 2002. Holmes was the first coordinator for only two years before she moved out of state.  

In the same year, the students and staff worked together to find a place the students can feel safe and supported. A year later the LGBT community found a home in the Woodbury Hall, in the spot we all know as the conference room. The name was changed to the Center for Sexualities and Diversity.  

The Center for Sexualities and Diversity even now has had some bias issues. LGBT students deal with something every day, whether it’s anti-gay graffiti, students in residence halls finding the word “fag” written on their whiteboards, bathrooms, and posters being defaced.  

The first one to two years the office was creating the news flush, if students saw that an out LGBT was featured or when the center was featured, they would find one or two nasty comments on them. 

Holmes passionately states,  “Small actions, speaks volumes. Could you imagine being the student that has been featured and you enter the restroom and you see your face on the news flush with derogatory terms or defaced.”  

It even happens in the classrooms. A transgender student not being recognized for who they are or by their pronoun, or even LGBT students trying to find a safe bathroom to access.  

The Center for Sexuality and Diversity has come a long way and USM tries to suppose and understand who they are.


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