In Maine, Federation member organization EqualityMaine is working beyond the marriage milestone — proving to Mainers and Americans that we have a lot more to do after winning the freedom to marry.
In recent months, since completing its new strategic plan, EqualityMaine has shifted its focus to ending transgender discrimination in healthcare.
Just this past year, Basic Rights Oregon and Transgender Law Center created a toolkit providing guidance about how to have effective conversations about transgender access to healthcare. EqualityMaine learned about this toolkit and worked with BRO and TLC to become one of the first field testing sites.
For the past few months, EqualityMaine has been training staff and coalition members in the use of the toolkit — all with the goal of ending transgender healthcare discrimination in Maine. The organization is working in three areas:
- Educating private insurance companies. These companies need to know know that the right thing to do is to offer healthcare coverage that doesn’t exclude medically necessary care for transgender individuals.
- Implementing the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law. Private insurance companies that are doing business in Maine must be held accountable for following the state law, which guarantees equal treatment to transgender individuals.
- Advocating for inclusive MaineCare coverage. This state program should cover transgender individuals without a rider and without any exclusions.
After training staff, coalition members, and volunteers in the language of the toolkit, EqualityMaine launched their campaign in June. During their primary day of action, they traveled to four different polling places to have voters sign postcards that utilized the new language, and they had one-on-one conversations with more than 2,000 voters using direct recommendations from the toolkit to gather support.
Beth Allen, Program Director at EqualityMaine, reflected on their launch day in June:
“We were pleasantly surprised by the support level that we were finding. We were hearing lots of information about the general public having questions and being confused by healthcare coverage, but folks were really able to understand the concept of not wanting to discriminate or be unfair — people really connected to that, so we saw a lot of support for moving forward.”
Since June, they have been continuing to talk with people at different events. At two different pride events across the state, they collected more than 3,000 postcards in support of ending transgender healthcare discrimination. And they’re doing more than just talking to voters — they are now training spokespeople.
“We’ve been using this language and these recommendations to train transgender spokespeople so that we have folks that are prepped, ready, and know the information and the language so they can be their best advocates.”
All of this work is done with a large goal in mind: between now and their action event on election day in November, EQME hopes to collect postcards from every county in Maine, and to be at 10 different polling locations on election day. With 16 counties in the state, they want to make sure they have at least one event between now and November in each of those counties to collect postcards, which will then be delivered to their next governor:
“So they [the Governor] can hear loud and clear from the state organization that our first and most pressing priority is to end discrimination in healthcare.”
While the postcards will be used to show the governor the strong voter support for ending transgender healthcare discrimination, Beth feels that the conversations her organization is having with voters have been even more gratifying.
“Our bigger, more abstract goal is really to start to have that public conversation, and that’s been probably the most rewarding part so far. We’ve really been able to have conversations with folks that really engage them — they ask great questions and we’re really finding the recommendations from the toolkit have been so helpful.”
Many of the 8,000 volunteers EqualityMaine had on their post-marriage campaign have returned for this campaign and have found the toolkit to contain many of the same recommendations for talking to voters about transgender healthcare, such as:
- making the one-on-one connection with the voter;
- connecting journey stories so that people know that it is okay to change their mind, that it’s okay that they weren’t necessarily there in the beginning, and giving them examples of people that have changed their opinion; and
- finding transgender individuals and stories of family and connections to community to use to talk to voters.
Utilizing this toolkit to advance transgender healthcare has been an easy transition for this organization, and they suggest it to other states working in a post-marriage environment.
“This work is really kind of leaping off of our marriage work of having one-on-one conversations to change hearts and minds — it’s a natural transition for us, and our volunteers are finding the same thing. We found that our volunteers are really finding these conversations to be both really satisfying and gratifying for them, and also really helpful and productive.”
EqualityMaine has received such a positive response from the LGBT and allied community partners that they have now organized a Healthy Communities Coalition, chaired by EQME staff member Gia Drew and GLAD staff member Zack Pakkonen, that will be working together to push their goals even further.
By working with other groups and sharing resources, EqualityMaine is helping advance full equality for all LGBT people in their state.
“We are happy to be able to utilize this great resource and have support from Transgender Law Center, Basic Rights Oregon, and Equality Federation as we lead our state to more than marriage.”
Thanks to the team at EqualityMaine for their hard work to end transgender healthcare discrimination in Maine!
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