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AARP Maine Celebrates ‘Trailblazers’ in Online Event for LGBTQ+ History Month - View it Here

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AARP Maine celebrated LGBTQ+ History Month – and the contributions of Maine community activists in building a civil rights movement – on Friday, Oct. 27 when it hosted the online event Maine’s LGBTQ+ Trailblazers: Exploring the University of Southern Maine's Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity.

This online event is now available for on-demand viewing! Click here to watch it now. The event is free to all, but an AARP.org user account is necessary in order to view the program.

“Engaging with the LGBTQ+ community and highlighting its valuable history in our state is important to AARP’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Noël Bonam, AARP Maine State Director. “AARP Maine is excited to highlight the remarkable role our state has played in the greater movement for LGBTQ+ civil rights. The University of Southern Maine’s collection illuminates the lives of change-makers active in this movement over the past 50-plus years, as well as those here in Maine who simply lived ordinary lives.”

Maine’s LGBTQ+ Trailblazers features three University of Southern Maine (USM) staff members who have played key roles in the development of the University’s LGBTQ+ collection, which preserves papers, photographs and other significant contributions of LGBTQ+ activists in Maine dating back over 50 years.

Susie R. Bock, Coordinator of Special Collections and Director of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine at USM, discusses the work of the Center and spotlight some of the images in “Act Up Fight Back Take Pictures: Ten Years of Queer Activism in Maine,” a collection of photographs by Annette Dragon taken during the 1990s, when HIV/AIDS activism and non-discrimination protections in Maine law were prominent concerns.

Megan MacGregor, Instruction and Outreach Librarian at USM, discusses the importance of the LGBTQ+ collection and its impact on a variety of audiences. She also fielded questions from attendees during the Oct. 27 online event.

Wendy Chapkis, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Women & Gender Studies at USM, discusses “Querying the Past,” an oral history project that now features recorded interviews with over 100 LGBTQ+ individuals in Maine. Dr. Chapkis explains the unique role oral history plays in giving voice to individuals who might otherwise be overlooked in the narrative of a civil rights movement.

The event will also feature Steven G. Bull, longtime social activist whose LGBTQ+ activism dates back over 50 years, when in 1973 he co-founded the Wilde-Stein Club at the University of Maine in Orono, as well as one of Maine’s earliest LGBTQ+ publications, the Maine Gay Task Force Newsletter, launched in 1974.

An on-demand viewing of Maine's LGBTQ+ Trailblazers, a free online event, is now available at https://virtualevents.aarp.org/Trailblazers/.

Maine’s LGBTQ+ Trailblazers is AARP Maine's second annual event celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month. In 2022, AARP Maine partnered with its neighboring offices in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont to present Living Histories: New England LGBTQ Voices from The Outwords Archive, featuring three LGBTQ+ New Englanders who had contributed life stories to a nonprofit oral history organization. That event is available for viewing here.

AARP’s unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ audience reflects our core belief in the dignity, worth and potential of every individual. Our commitment can be measured by what we say – and what we do. In our policy work at the community, state, and national levels, we are proud to stand with LGBTQ+ members, non-members, allies, and partner organizations. As our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, said, “What we do, we do for all.” We proudly carry this guiding principle forward in our work with LGBTQ+ audiences. For more information about AARP’s LGBTQ+ outreach and resources, visit https://www.aarp.org/pride

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