Why Pride Matters
The bulletin board on the other side of the room was covered with crudely drawn images from Genesis and cartoon pictures of Jesus adorned the walls. Women in biker gear sat at the short table bearing marker stains from a hundred classes. In the Sunday School classroom of my childhood at the Second Congregational Church in Newcastle, Maine, a rainbow flag lay folded in the corner.
It was the first meeting of “Twin Village Pride,” a new pride festival being planned for the Damariscotta-Newcastle Area. The dozen or so people gathered around the table were representatives from the community, local faith groups, and queer and trans organizations.
At the center of our discussion that evening was whether or not we should even bother with a festival. Does Pride really matter? Does it matter in this community? Why can’t folks just drive to Portland?
Our answer? Of course. Of course we need Pride.
I remember sitting in that Sunday School Classroom every week for years, wondering if the stories of love and acceptance applied to me. If I could ever find those values in this often isolating community I lived in. Growing up as a young, queer and trans woman in rural Maine, I had no role models, no one with stories like mine in the community around me. No place to be myself.
Its an experience common for queer and trans youth in Maine. Isolation, fear, invisibility. Pride festivals matter because they offer a chance for people to be themselves. Pride festivals in the far reaches of a rural state like Maine offer a chance for communities to show that love and acceptance are possible in those communities. They give a chance for invisibility to end.
That’s why I am overjoyed to see Pride Festivals all over Maine next year: in Portland, Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Lewiston/Auburn, Bar Harbor, Fort Fairfield, Waterville, and yes, the Twin Villages of Damariscotta and Newcastle. With each new festival, we are making Maine a safer space for LGBTQ+ people.