Category Archives: Community Spotlight

What is a community organizer and why does MFP have one?

Maine Family Planning would like to welcome guest blogger (and co worker) Cait:

I’m Cait, and I’m lucky enough to be Maine Family Planning’s new community organizer. I’ve been organizing with the statewide Health Care is a Human Right campaign for the past four years, and I’m very excited to bring my passion for human rights, reproductive justice, and a deep love of Maine people to my role at MFP.

One thing I get asked a lot is: What does a community organizer do? A lot of things! Here are a few that are very important:

  • Build people power. The overarching goal of community organizing is to put ordinary people in touch with their own power by learning about our rights, joining with others to analyze problems we face, and working collectively to advance solutions. Some solutions are policy-oriented, and to that end, I will build bridges between Maine people and what’s developing in Augusta and Washington, DC. My hope is to make sure that you know who represents you at the state house and in congress, and how to communicate with elected officials about the reproductive rights and justice issues that matter to you.
    Other problems we face around reproductive rights and justice are less concrete and more cultural—such as abortion stigma, ageist ideas on young people’s sexual and reproductive lives, or stigmatizing responses to addiction. In approaching these deeply embedded attitudes, we can build power through public education efforts and campaigns that tackle stigma; creating welcoming forums where communities share stories and build relationships; and other diverse, localized initiatives that bring people out of isolation and into contact with new information and ideas.
  • Listen. One of the most important things I’ll do in this role is ask questions & listen to the stories of clinic patients and providers, students, young people, parents, grandparents, and anybody willing to share with me. Organizing’s power stems from an unshakable belief that our lived experiences provide the best raw material for policy and social changes that truly meet our needs and dignify us. Your insights about your community or school, and experiences accessing reproductive care, will guide the work we do together.
  • Share. My hope is to foster a grassroots network of volunteers across Maine who want to get trained up to lead and grow local efforts to advance reproductive health, rights & justice in their towns. This means hanging out with me a fair amount at first, so I can share all the stuff I know about organizing, community work, and all the important things MFP does. Developing leadership in others is the best thing I can do; basically, a good organizer makes more organizers!
  • Turn strangers into neighbors. I love Maine and its people with all my heart, and I know how much the majority of us care about our neighbors. We’re the kind of folks who are a funny mix of proud and humble, and we show up for each other, even if we do it quietly. As an organizer, I go out into the world with a goal to help folks expand our sense of who counts as a neighbor. I want to engage new people every day in honest conversations and creative actions until we truly embrace the notion that every person in this state is our neighbor. We need to look out for each other and defend everyone’s right to lead lives of health, autonomy, and dignity.

I’m so grateful to be on board with all the dedicated clinic workers and practitioners, administrators, advocates, and educators at Maine Family Planning. I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish when y’all out there join us! Contact me at cvaughan @ mainefamilypanning.org or 207-480-3518 to get started.

Misgendering Your Transgender Friend

Imagine a scenario: you’re talking to your friend, when suddenly, you use the wrong pronoun. It makes things awkward and you have no idea how to proceed. The question is: What do you do when you misgender a trans person?

Your first reaction may to be to freak out and apologize repeatedly. Don’t! This could manipulate your friend into feeling guilty,   something they shouldn’t have to feel. In order not to overreact, you might feel inclined to ignore the mistake and move on. This could also be problematic and lead to your friend thinking that you don’t care.

But you do care about your friend. You didn’t mean to misgender them, and you want them to know that. The response is simple: apologize once, correct yourself by using the right pronoun (most important—this reaffirms their identity!), and continue with the conversation. This approach lets them know that you realize that you made a mistake, without making them feel like they’re an inconvenience to you.

Pronoun slip-ups happen to everyone. The most important thing is that you let your trans friend know that you support them 100%. Practice their pronouns so you get them right next time!

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

You’re Invited! Join us for Women’s Day at the State House

Maine Women’s Day at the State House is coming up on Thursday, January 21st, and we’d love for you to join us! With the start of the 2016 Legislative Session, it’s important to make sure legislators, press, and allies are paying attention to how policy decisions affect Maine women. Join us to help raise the visibility of Maine women, learn more about policies that will impact our lives during this session, and strengthen your skills to advocate on the issues that matter most to you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Maine State House & Cross Office Building, Augusta
Please wear RED!
Register here: http://bit.ly/womensday2016

Need more reasons to join us for Women’s Day at the State House? Here are our top three:  Continue reading

Self-care is a Political Act

It feels like I’ve been drowning in articles about New Year’s resolutions this week. I struggle with the whole Resolution thing, though, because it often seems that January is a time when we’re encouraged to declare war on our lives (or at least our bodies). We spend so much time working to reclaim our bodies from those who would control us—why turn the tables on ourselves every New Year?

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I think we do battle with ourselves plenty over the course of the year. I don’t think we need to feel pressured to do (yet one more) thing that brings more stress, makes us feel bad about ourselves, or ultimately doesn’t serve our physical or emotional well-being.

What’s more, many of us spend a lot of time doing important work: taking care of others, working for social justice, and doing our part—however small—to try to make the world a better place. We’re told that the work itself should be its own reward, when in truth, it can be both rewarding and also really exhausting. We’re told that self-care is frivolous, superficial, or an excuse to disengage. Many of us—women especially—are shamed into ignoring their own physical and mental health, sometimes to the point where we just don’t have the energy to participate in the work that we care about deeply.

The world can be a scary, discouraging, sometimes tragic place, but it’s a world that needs youContinue reading

Taking Care of You: MFP’s Holiday Survival Guide

mittens coffeeNo matter which of the many winter holidays you do (or do not) celebrate, chances are that you’ll spend some amount of time traveling, celebrating, or visiting with friends and family. While this can be a joyful time of year, it can also be a difficult, stressful, or just plain hectic season for many.

Our expertise is in sexual and reproductive health, but the overall health and well-being of Mainers is ultimately our highest priority. There are lots of ways to take care of yourself and your loved ones during the holidays—here are just a few tips from us.

If you are traveling and forgot to pack your birth control:

If you’re traveling (almost) anywhere in Maine and need to refill your birth control, pick up emergency contraception, or stock up on condoms, we can help. With 18 clinics across the state (plus our partners at Planned Parenthood), there’s likely a Family Planning center near you. Most clinics offer same-day and next-day appointments, and you don’t have to be a current patient to use our services. Let there be peace on Earth AND peace of mind this season!

If you are LGBTQ and not out to (or supported by) your family:

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The holidays can be a stressful time for LGBTQ people whose families either don’t know about or don’t respect their identities. Take care of yourself by staying in touch with friends or other supportive people who respect your identity. Remember that it’s okay to take time and space for yourself–escaping to a quiet room or going for a walk can be good ways to remove yourself from stressful situations. You may also want to practice answering questions from family and friends–“I don’t really want to talk about that right now—is there any more pie?” is a perfectly acceptable answer!  If you’re a parent or caring adult in an LGBTQ person’s life, check out The Parents Project for information and resources.

If you feel alone and need someone to talk to:  Continue reading

A Consent Game Changer

yes neonA few weeks ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law which compels California universities to use an “affirmative consent” standard when investigating campus sexual assaults. As Amanda Hess from Slate explains:

This means that during an investigation of an alleged sexual assault, university disciplinary committees will have to ask if the sexual encounter met a standard where both parties were consenting, with consent defined as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Notice that the words “verbal” or “stone sober” are not included in that definition. The drafters understand, as most of us do when we’re actually having sex, that sometimes sexual consent is nonverbal and that there’s a difference between drunk, consensual sex and someone pushing himself on a woman who is too drunk to resist.

Predictably, there was some concern about whether the state should be involved in the sex lives of college students. Continue reading

Youth Leaders: Create Positive Change in Your Community!

myanMaine Family Planning believes that young people deserve accurate, non-judgmental information about reproductive health, sexuality, and their own bodies. That’s why it’s so important that our clinics offer confidential, affordable services to teens, and that MaineTeenHealth.org and AskMTH (our anonymous, free Q&A service) offer accurate, non-judgmental information. We really enjoy working with young people, and we’ve seen the difference that they can make in their communities, schools, and in the state of Maine. 

This month’s Community Spotlight highlights the Maine Youth Action Network (MYAN)’s Annual Youth Leadership Summit, where young people (and adults who work with them) can gain the skills and knowledge they’ll need to create healthier communities. MYAN’s mission is to partner with youth to create change in their communities; this week, we talked with them about the summit so that we could pass this opportunity along to the teens and adults who are engaged in the work of Maine Family Planning.

What is the Maine Youth Leadership Summit?   Continue reading

Introducing: The Buzz!

Are you a pro-choice Mainer who is passionate about sexual health and reproductive rights?

Do you like to write, share on social media, and connect with the people around issues that matter to you?

Do you want to help others connect to the services and information they need?

TheBuzz_Honeycomb_Final

We hear from folks all the time, asking how they can help, whether they can volunteer, and offering to support Maine Family Planning in all kinds of ways. We’ve been SO IMPRESSED by and so grateful for the work that our supporters have done. We wanted to find a way to help mobilize, support, and thank those folks working to spread the word about sexual health and reproductive rights in Maine– no matter WHERE they live. Make your voice heard by joining The Buzz, Maine Family Planning’s statewide network of advocates who are committed to spreading the word about sexual health and reproductive rights!

Enter: THE BUZZ.   Continue reading

Teen Dating Violence Awareness: A Community Spotlight Conversation

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and we are dedicating this month’s Community Spotlight post to this very important topic. To learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how we can all support the young people in our lives, we talked with some of our partners at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Safe Voices, and Spruce Run. Continue reading