LGBTQ+ History Month is celebrated across Aroostook County

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 11:48 AM EST
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - October was chosen as LGBTQ+ History Month to coincide with National Coming Out Day and the first march for gay and lesbian rights in Washington, D.C. Since then, LGBTQ+ history month has been celebrated every October since 1994.

Morgain Bailey, a member of Pride Aroostook, an LGBTQ+ activism group in Aroostook County, speaks out about why acknowledging this history is important. “History’s a little bit more focused on education,” Bailey explains. “It’s thinking about history as an opportunity to educate yourself, it’s an opportunity to gain a critical perspective on how you position yourself in a global context.”

There have been LGBTQ+ organizations in Aroostook County for decades. The organization Northern Lambda NORD, which was founded in the 1970s, worked to educate the community about LGBTQ+ issues. The organization included a phoneline and newsletters to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ people.

Shawna Traugh, another member of Pride Aroostook, speaks about the impact of Northern Lambda NORD on the culture in Aroostook County. “They created that open point, or stepping point, where individuals could recognize that they’re LGBTQ,” Traugh says. Bailey continued that the work done by Pride Aroostook today is inspired by the work from the 1970s.

University students agree that LGBTQ+ history month is important for education, too. The University of Maine Presque Isle has a Rainbow Society that is dedicated to improving inclusivity and awareness for LGBTQ+ identities on campus.

Cat Hoffman, a student at UMPI and the Vice President of the Rainbow Society, comments on the importance of LGBTQ+ history within an education setting. “A lot of queer history isn’t taught in schools - just in general, not even at a higher education level. It’s really important to reach about, you know, Stonewall, and where queer history started,” Hoffman says.

“Education is a passion for a lot of us, so we just want to be able to help educate people,” continues Ryan Sonderman, the president of the Rainbow Society.

Members from both the Rainbow Society and Pride Aroostook agree that LGBTQ+ history month is important for seeing the progress that activists have made over the years. “It’s really important because we can look at all of the history we have and see how far it’s progressed since then,” says Hoffman.

“Without having that foundation of knowledge of the intersection of growth and development that has occurred, then we don’t really see the full scope of where else we can grow,” Traugh elaborates.

Sonderman says that celebrating history is important, even though the history may not always be positive. “Not only is it like okay to have these identities but to celebrate them, because it is LGBT history month,” Sonderman explains. “There’s a lot of history and not all of it is necessarily good history, we can look back on some of it and see things that need changing.”

Bailey agrees, stating, “Our history is frequently not properly recorded, and not celebrated as it should be.”

To learn more about LGBTQ+ history in Aroostook County, there are resources available through the University of Southern Maine’s archives.