Gov. LePage is a role model for bullies targeting LGBTQ kids

Gov. LePage is a role model for bullies targeting LGBTQ kids

There was an echoing thud as my back slammed up against the locker.

“What are you looking at, faggot?” the large young man who stood before me asked, his hand pressing my bare shoulder against the cold, grey metal. It took me a moment to register. There was a bitter taste in the back of my mouth. The lights in the basement changing room seemed remarkably dim, and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought everything had gone black and white. adrenaline.

“Huh?” he questioned again, pressing harder. He was several inches shorter than me, but stocky. He was having no trouble keeping me in place. He was barefoot, dressed in gym clothes, sporting a blonde bowl cut that was due for a trim. He still looked like a kid.

I looked him in the eye. What was he feeling? We’d known each other for eight years, more than half our short lives. We’d had lunch just last week- just before my sudden transformation from nerdy wallflower to class gay kid. His arm was trembling. Hate, fear, disgust… betrayal? I looked away. So did he.

“Get out of here,” he mumbled. I ran.

It was October 14th, 2008. I was a freshman at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, Maine. And I had just survived my first physical encounter with homophobia unscathed. I wouldn’t always be so lucky.

It’s eight years later and this moment is back on my mind. Gov. Paul LePage announced last week that he is blocking a new set of rules designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students from discrimination. Created by the Maine Human Rights Commission, these rules provide schools with a clear and enforceable set of guidelines on how to treat LGBTQ students on such issues as discrimination and harassment, and ensure transgender students access to gender-appropriate facilities.

Gov. LePage’s opposition to these new rules comes as no surprise. He has a long history of harassing queer and transgender kids. In the last three months alone, he signed onto a case in Virginia trying block a young transgender man from using the men’s facilities at his school, and is working to appoint William Beardsley head of the Department of Education, despite on-the-record comments questioning the acceptance of transgender children’s identities and denigrating their families.

This new political battle comes at an interesting time for the movement for LGBTQ justice. A recent Harris Poll found that  50% of non-LGBTQ Americans think the fight for LGBTQ equality is over, but eight years after my locker room encounter, I now work as an advocate with LGBTQ youth, and the stories they tell of school life are remarkably familiar.

On any given day, LGBTQ  students face threats of and actual violence, sexual assault and harassment, terrifying rates of suicide and mental illness, disturbing rates of homelessness, isolation, and unsupportive home environments. To say nothing of the jokes and snickers about their identities that continually slide by passive teachers and administrations slow to catch up with the times.

The fight, for them, is far from over.

Neither hatred nor resilience are intrinsic. Both are learned. In blocking these rules, Gov. LePage is betraying the safety and welfare of Maine students. He’s letting  schools that allow and teach hate to go unchanged while forcing LGBTQ students to teach themselves resilience far too young. Worst of all, he’s modeling behavior to students who might otherwise be friends with LGBTQ youth. He’s teaching them how to be bullies.

Now is not a time for passivity and indifference. LGBTQ students need allies, and they don’t have one in their governor. They need you. Please, contact your representative and tell them it is essential these rules get enacted. The life and welfare of a young person may very well depend upon it.

Photo via Flickr/Calvin Fleming

About author

Quinn Gormley
Quinn Gormley 3 posts

Quinn Gormley is active through Maine’s queer and trans communities. She organizes with the Maine Transgender Network and works as an Outreach Coordinator with the Health Equity Alliance. This past year, she had the honor of being the first openly trans person to graduate from Emerge Maine. She lives in Portland with her partner, cats, and an abnormally large rabbit.

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