By Editor-In-Chief Kelly Ledsworth
There are so many different events, stressors and excitements this time of year. The last thing someone needs is to be worried about just being themselves, which is a constant worry for many individuals. Maine is a relatively safe state for folks overall and I am thankful to live here. In other places, it is not as safe for individuals like myself.
According to the ACLU, there have been 430 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills so far this year across the United States. That is a big number and it’s only March. Not all of them have passed or even made it to the house of representatives, but it is still alarming. Many of them are not making enough of a commotion to be on the news, and none of my friends who are not part of the LGBTQ community had any idea about what I was talking about. In comparison, every one of my queer friends knew what I was talking about because it directly affects them too.
From an education standpoint, there are many bills directed at students in K-12 education. This also means that teachers who are already underpaid and overworked have to enforce any of them that go into effect. The bill that is on my mind is LD 678: “An Act to Require Parental Approval for Public School Employees to Use a Name or Pronoun Other than a Child’s Given Name or Pronoun Corresponding to the Gender on the Child’s Birth Certificate.” I will be an art teacher who will see every student in the building. My heart aches for the students who can’t legally change their name yet who would be in this position. Also, if you need parental approval, you would need to ask the parent which could out the student and become dangerous. It’s not even safe for me, a grown adult, to be out to my whole family, so I can imagine how scary it could be. Not to mention it would hurt me to have to enforce this if it were to go through. The hope is that it will disappear just as quietly as it appeared.
All of this makes me scared. I am Non-Binary and my license has an ‘X’ as the gender marker. In other states I do whatever I can to not have people look at my ID. I felt this way before this year, but now you bet I will not be giving any reason to be pulled over. Living with so much stress inside your body is not good for you. I wish I didn’t have to worry about these things as much, but it’s just life right now. Luckily, I have surrounded myself with kind, loving people who support me, so sometimes I don’t think about it.
During times of stress, to diminish the amount of cortisol in my body I have to take care of myself. Yes, I will be buying the name brand ice cream even though it is so expensive because it hits different. I take a longer shower while singing as loud as I want to to my music. I sit in my car, seat tilted back, after pulling up outside my house and close my eyes while I enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face. On days that have stretched on for far too long, I dim the lights when I get home to give myself a break and sit in my favorite spot in the living room. All these seemingly small things make a difference to me and my quality of life. I hope others can seek out these moments too.
If you have LQBTQIA+ friends, ask them how they are doing because the answer is probably not well. Let them tell you what they need at this moment, and hold space for that. Ask how you can help those around you who are affected. Listen to how others are feeling during times like this because it is important. We are people too, not just statistics.