Category Archives: LGBTQ

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.

Preventing HIV with PrEP

medication chalkboardStarting this month, Maine Family Planning will be offering consultations and prescriptions for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis – commonly called PrEP – a daily pill that significantly reduces the risk of HIV infection (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS). You can talk to a Nurse Practitioner at any of our 18 clinics about your HIV status, your individual risk, and whether PrEP is a good option for you.

Want to know more? We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions below. If PrEP sounds like something that might be right for you, give us a call to set up a visit.

What is PrEP?

PrEP (brand name Truveda) is an antiretroviral medication that can be taken by an HIV negative person before potential HIV exposure to reduce risk of HIV infection. When taken consistently and correctly, PrEP is over 90% effective at preventing HIV transmission through sex, and over 70% effective at preventing HIV transmission through IV drug injection.

How does it work?   Continue 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

National Coming Out Day: A chance for safer Maine communities

This week’s guest post was authored by Cara Courchesne, Katie Kondrat, and Rachel Epperly, all of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and also appears in the Bangor Daily News

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With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner’s iconic Vanity Fair cover, issues faced by the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community dominated headlines this summer.

As we celebrate these victories and the headlines fade, activists continue to rightfully point out the work that remains.

SAFE-SPACE

We know that sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime in the United States, and that there are often barriers to victims and survivors who want to report to law enforcement and seek services. We also know that the rates at which LGBTQ people experience sexual violence are alarming survivors face even more barriers when seeking help. 

These barriers include: previous homophobic or transphobic experiences with services providers and law enforcement; concern the services available don’t have the expertise to affirm and support someone; a lack of understanding by the victim that what happened was sexual violence; a fear of being outed; service providers making false assumptions about someone’s gender identify or sexual orientation; or worse still, discriminate against someone who has come to them for help.  Continue reading

I was only ever meant to be your Papa: A father’s letter to his daughter

This post was written by Stephen; he lives in Portland with his family where he works as a parent and a nanny. You can read more about his journey to fatherhood at his blog, papa bear

Dear Birdie:

I have been asked to write about what it means to me to be a father. Or more specifically, what it means to be a transgender father. I am a father who carried you for nine months in my body, who labored with you for 22 hours, and at the end of a very long day–with Daddy waiting to catch you– who gave birth to you. Right now you don’t know that most dads don’t get to carry a baby, right now you don’t know that some people think there is a right and a wrong way to build a family, right now you don’t know anything except that you have a Daddy and a Papa who love you more than anyone else in this world.

stephen birdieBefore you were born we talked a lot about how we were going to make a family, and we considered all our options but the one that felt most right for us was the path that ultimately led us to you. I was worried about so many things; how we would be treated by our community, how we would be treated by doctors, and if you would be accepted when you were born. Most of all I wondered if I was strong enough to be a man and be pregnant. But we wanted you so much that we took a leap of faith. I whispered a wish and a prayer to you; that if you were ready, then so was I.

I want you to know that I haven’t always been happy with my body and I have had a difficult time loving myself. But something changed when you began to grow. Continue reading

Thank you.

During the 40 days of Lent each year, anti-choice protesters descend on Maine Family Planning’s Augusta headquarters to spew lies, judgment, hate, and to intimidate our patients and staff. These picketers can not understand the lives of those who enter our gates, yet they show up daily to harass patients, despite the fact that protesting does not change the minds of people who know what’s best for themselves and their families.

In an attempt to make lemons out of lemonade (and to show our patients and staff that they are supported by many of their neighbors), Maine Family Planning runs a Pledge-A-Picketer fundraising campaign during these same 40 days. This year, we raised about half as much as we typically do; the Christian Civic League of Maine claimed that their prayers were responsible for defunding abortion and family planning.

But that wasn’t the end. Over the past week, Mike Tipping, Dan Savage, and advocates all over the world stepped up to speak out against the CCL’s harassment and bigotry.

Since the CCL’s claim of righteous victory, we’ve received almost $24,000 from over 720 new donors in six countries and 45 states (pushing our total over $29,000).

Many of you stepped up and donated, despite not knowing Maine Family Planning or the work we do. Perhaps you heard about our effort from  Dan Savage, Mike Tipping, Think Progress, Raw Story, Wonkette, Daily Kos, or our supporters on social media. Despite the fact that many of you don’t know us, you’ve made it clear that you trust family planning clinics to provide reproductive care, and that you trust women, men, teens, and trans* people to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families.

The work we do is important. We provide confidential reproductive health care that people can afford, including birth control, pap smears, breast exams, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and counseling, and queer and trans-friendly care. At some of our centers (we operate 19 practices at 18 sites), we provide abortion care, primary care, support for growing families, needle exchange services, and hormone therapy for transgender patients.

We work with schools throughout the state to provide evidence-based, comprehensive sex education. We work with legislators, policy makers, and advocates to ensure that sexual and reproductive freedom are protected in Maine. We work in coalition with many other organizations to address sexual assault and domestic violence, to promote the rights of LGBTQIA Mainers, and to help make our state a place where people can create their families safely and with dignity.

Our patients, like many across the country, can’t always afford the health care they need. Health insurance does not always cover the cost of reproductive health services, and thanks to corporations like Hobby Lobby, it may not always have to. We do receive federal Title X funds— and (like many Planned Parenthood centers) we rely on those funds to keep our doors open. Federal dollars make sexual and reproductive health care available to many people who would not otherwise be able to afford services, but those dollars do not always cover the full cost of care, are not available for every patient, and don’t cover every service.

That’s one reason your support is so important. Throwing up our hands and allowing basic reproductive health care to be a luxury afforded only to those with enough money is not an option. This is a point you’ve helped us make and a promise you’re helping us to fulfill.

Access to family planning allows people to pursue education, to make a living wage, to leave abusive relationships, and to create the healthy families they choose. Celebrating a lack of funding for family planning services means celebrating the perpetuation of inequality.

Your support accomplished something else, too. You sent an emphatic message to those who would foster discrimination, inequality, and hatred in the name of religion: bigotry is not divine.

We’re proud to be an organization that works to promote sexual health and reproductive justice in Maine, and we are grateful to have received such an enormous outpouring of support for our work and our patients.

Thank you.

p.s. Haven’t donated yet but want to? Now’s your chance.

Update: as of Monday, April 13th, you’ve helped us raise over $40,000! Thank you, thank you, thank you forty thousand times over. 

PAP 40k 2

 

Maine: Open For Business… For Everyone.

IMG_1640Perhaps you’ve been hearing about laws in Indiana and Arkansas (among other states) that would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against people—particularly, women and LGBTQ people—and to justify that discrimination as an exercise of religious freedom. These are called Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) laws, and Maine is one of several states considering a RFRA bill this year.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, protected by the Maine Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But unlike our existing religious freedom protections, this bill puts an individual’s beliefs ahead of the common good of all Mainers.

The federal RFRA law was the one that allowed Hobby Lobby to pick and choose which birth control methods their employee’s health insurance will cover. In many states, RFRA laws have already fostered lawsuits and discrimination (which seems to be disproportionately impacting women and LGBTQ people):

  • In Texas, a public bus driver refused to drive a passenger to Planned Parenthood, citing his religious beliefs.*
  • In Florida, an employer who believed pregnancy outside of marriage is a sin fired an unmarried pregnant employee.**
  • In Georgia, a student enrolled in a university counseling program claimed that she had the religiously based right to defy professional standards and condemn gay clients.***

Maine already has strong protections for religious freedom, and there is no evidence that they are not working.  Continue reading