• Health Equity Alliance

I'm having a hard time getting worked up about our Governor's bigotry...again

Yesterday, I spent the day in a room with 150 inspiring people who are working to save lives in Maine by preventing overdoses. Earlier this week, I provided  HIV test results to people  struggling with homelessness, poverty, and survival sex work. Tomorrow, my colleagues and I will be training a health care center on serving the LGBTQ community and teaching them about horrifying health statistics like the fact that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide and 63% have suicidal ideation.

I am exhausted. The Health Equity Alliance LGBTQ Services team is hustling across the state to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people alive but the headlines are hustling something else: news that the Governor of Maine is using his time to fight federal civil rights protections for transgender students. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about the transgender middle school student who hears that and thinks, no one wants me around. The young trans person who feels alone, unloved, and feared. The person hearing that violence against transgender people is justified.

When our agency conducts trainings for health care providers, folks in the room have the very best intentions. They are shocked by the health disparities our community faces. They don’t understand how and why other providers refuse care to the 13% of transgender people who have been turned away from an Emergency Room, or the 70% of trans people who have experienced discrimination or violence in healthcare settings. These poor health outcomes do not stem from differences in biology; they come from a society where it is accepted that some lives matter less than others.

When people who are in positions of power take the microphone to incite fear, they set a dangerous precedent. Politicians encourage public outrage over issues that are cruelly fabricated. Voters encourage officials like LePage to continue rants against marginalized people for entertainment value. Let’s not pretend that words do not have consequences.

For the majority of Mainers who disagree with LePage’s attacks on trans people, people of color, refugees, people trying to survive in poverty: our reaction can’t be to throw our hands up, as much as that’s what I want to do. We have to spend time talking to our neighbors and put the choice to them. If you condone his words, lives will be lost. Hate perpetuates violence and that is not a Maine value.