Along with Healthy Acadia and Heart of Ellsworth, I recently sent a letter to City Council requesting that we be allowed to paint some crosswalks in Ellsworth in rainbow colors. The purpose is to make a visible statement that people in the LGBTQ+ community are welcome, respected and valued here in Ellsworth.
For full disclosure, I am a teacher at Ellsworth High School and as part of my duties, I am the advisor to the GSDA (Gender/Sexuality Diversity Alliance) at the school. The GSDA students conceived this idea as a way to celebrate Pride and to promote positive change. A rainbow signals to everyone that our community and schools are safe spaces for all. The students even procured a grant from Healthy Acadia, so that this project would cost Ellsworth taxpayers nothing. The Maine DOT Crosswalk Policy indicates that this is safe and legal, and communities such as Bangor and South Portland are examples of cities that painted rainbows.
Why is this important? According to the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 13.6 percent of high school students in Maine identify as LGBT. The survey also indicates that LGBT kids are significantly more likely to endure bullying, violence, discrimination, lack of adult support, suicidal ideation and higher rates of substance abuse than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. If we really want to make progress on the serious problems troubling our children, it would be wise to consider the available data that reveals which cohorts are most affected.
As an Ellsworth resident and taxpayer, I would love to see these bright, colorful displays. What better way to make a statement that everyone is welcome? What better way to signal to all Ellsworth children that they are supported unconditionally? In case anyone is concerned that I have an agenda, let me state clearly that my goal is to make sure that Ellsworth residents of every age know that they are valued members of our community.
Please reach out to City Council and express your support.