Photo: A chalk drawing of the Transgender Pride Flag | MaineTransNet
In case you missed the news last week, the GOP ran one of the most disgusting culture-war ads we have seen in Maine in decades. In a shameless attempt to damage Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, the Maine Republican Party attacks an elementary school teacher for creating a lesson plan on LGBTQ history, struggles, and acceptance.
The writing lesson, titled “Freedom Holidays,” is framed around holidays celebrating the freedoms of different groups of Americans: July 4th, freedom from Britain; Junteenth, freedom from enslavement; Women’s Equality Day celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The teacher, Kailina Mills, then describes the people behind the acronym LGBTQ. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual. When she gets to “Transgender,” she explains how some people discover that the gender a doctor gave them at birth may not feel right later in life. She teaches about how LGBTQ Americans were legally discriminated against throughout much of our history and then, on June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court said that people of the same gender could love and marry whomever they choose. She finishes by assigning the students an essay to write about three LGBTQ activists of their choosing who led the fight for equal rights.
The teacher, in describing why she created the lesson plan, cited a 2020 study that found that gender identity is established by first grade. She said, “Those children and those families deserve to be represented in their school curriculum. Public schools are for everyone and should, therefore, include everyone.”
The Maine GOP, on the other hand, calls this writing lesson about tolerance and acceptance, “radical” and “wrong for our kids.” They have put thousands of dollars behind their ad shaming the teacher and driving families with LGBTQ kids and their parents back into the closet.
That same study found that almost all trans people, by first grade, dealt with significant stress around being a different gender than they were prescribed. Eighty-two percent of those questioning their gender consider suicide. Forty percent percent try. Too many are successful.
Shaming teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues and driving trans families into the shadows means more may try to kill themselves.
All so the Maine GOP can raise money and fire up their base in their campaign for the governorship.
Sadly, it must be noted that Governor Mills’ response to the attack was cowardly. Instead of standing up to the bigotry and showing Maine people she will defend our most vulnerable, she caved and voiced support for taking the lesson plan down.
That said, there is a difference between being a coward in the face of a bully, and being the bully. Especially a bully who is putting the lives of our youth in danger.
Not only do all of Maine’s children deserve to be included in our curriculum, it is literally a matter of life and death. And right now the Maine GOP has chosen death.
Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.
Maine Beacon, May 24, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/