PORTLAND — More than two dozen people gathered in Monument Square despite the cold and wind Saturday to speak up during a Breaking the Silence Rally.

The event, organized by the youth of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Southern Maine and the Gay Straight Alliance, came a day after the National Day of Silence.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of students and teachers nationwide took a vow of silence to bring attention to name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Saturday’s focus was breaking that silence to support LGBT youth and efforts to make Maine schools a safe place for learning.

“Vow to tell our stories,” Timothy Rose, communications director for Equality Maine, said to cheers. “Call your senators. Break your silence.”

While the rally was prompted by the National Day of Silence, Rose said it also comes as the Maine Legislature considers a number of bills that deal directly with youth.


One bill that the crowd supported with cheers was L.D. 1237, which would strengthen existing laws to banish bullying from Maine schools. Rally participants Lisa Sollnersawyer and Elliot Burton were there for that specific reason.

Holding a sign that read, “What about hate? Anti-gay Hateful Speech from Certain Religions,” Sollnersawyer recalled the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. Just days before he jumped from the George Washington bridge in September, Clementi’s homosexuality was ousted on the Internet.

It is that kind of bullying that Sollnersawyer does not want to see in Maine.

“I don’t want to see another child die because the way our society, through religion, views homosexuality,” Sollnersawyer said.

Burton, a former teacher, said some religions have consistently contributed to the way society treats people “out of the norm.”

People at the rally oppose to two other bills before the Legislature, Rose said. L.D. 31 would take away patient confidentiality for people under the age of 18 and L.D. 1046 would restrict transgenders’ rest room choice.


Alex Roan, executive director of Maine Transgender Network, said the bill would take back some basic human rights that were granted by forcing him to use the bathroom of his biological sex, not the gender he identifies with.

“Even though I have a beard and I’m balding, I would have to use the women’s rest room,” Alex Roan said.

Roan said he joined Saturday’s rally to honor youth who often don’t have a voice because of their sexual orientation or bullying, he said.

“We’re gathered to break the silence and show there is a community that supports LGBT youth,” he said.

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