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LGBTQIA2+ Learning & Affirming Challenge

Welcome to the LGBTQIA2+ Learning & Affirming Challenge.
My silences had not protected meYour silence will not protect you. Audre Lorde, black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet (link opens in a new tab)

This program is intended to provide a supportive space to learn, share information, and take action in order to create LGBTQIA2+ affirming learning experiences. The acronym LGBTQIA2 stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual or Aromantic or Agender, 2 Spirit; The + sign added at the end of the acronym symbolizes affirmation for additional identities and communities who challenge dominant cultural norms around gender and sexuality. For more information on important terminology, you can visit the Rainbow Resource Center website (link opens in a new tab). We're glad you are joining us on this journey. 

Before we start, we want to share with you our hopes for living our LGBTQIA2+ affirming commitments as we interact with the content and experiences of this Challenge (commitments were adapted from Singleton and Linton’s “Courageous Conversations” - opens in a new tab). We hope participants will honor the following processes: 

Engaging - Engaging with the content is a personal commitment that we can make towards understanding aspects of gender and sexual identity that need to be taken into consideration in our learning spaces (broadly defined). 

Learning with discomfort - Considering topics of sexual and gender identities can be challenging. Yet, there is much for any one of us to learn when we identify and unpack our own relationships and understandings of these identities.

Setting expectations - The complexity and intersectionality that go into making living and learning more LGBTQIA2+ affirming cannot be fully addressed in a 5-day Challenge. However, we can treat this as a starting point to bigger conversations and work we can do moving forward.

Speaking (y)our truths - An important part of this challenge is questioning (y)our truths (experiences, knowledge, assumptions, and identities), reflecting on them, and, when appropriate, sharing them with others. This can be challenging, but allowing ourselves to bring our authentic voices will help us to learn and grow as an LGBTQIA2+ affirming community. 

Rainbow Rally organized in Bangladesh in 2015This picture was taken at the Rainbow Rally organized in Bangladesh in 2015. The main organizer of the rally, Xulhaz Mannan, and one of the LGBTQ+ activists (Mahbub Tonoy, the person in the yellow saree in the picture) were murdered by a group of extremists in a machete attack on April 25, 2016 because of their LGBTQIA2+ activism work. Until the world learns how to become more LGBTQIA2+ affirming, these attacks on innocent people will continue. Photo courtesy: Roopbaan.

Program design: This program was designed by Tausif Karim, Master's student in Communication & Journalism, Lily Herakova, Assistant Professor in Communication & Journalism, Jen Bonnet, former Social Sciences and Humanities Librarian, and Nancy Lewis, Head of Research and Instruction, all at the University of Maine. Have questions about this Challenge or about any of the tasks? Don't hesitate to contact Nancy Lewis (

LGBTQIA2+ affirming and acknowledging statement: We affirm a person’s right of self-determination and respect the choices one may make in defining their own gender and sexual identities and expressions. We acknowledge that much of our knowledge about the possibilities of gender and sexuality is shaped by Western norms, not separate from the legacy of coloniality shaping the land on which the University of Maine is located (see, for example, The Critical Polyamorist - link opens in a new tab). 

The University of Maine land acknowledgment (link opens in a new tab): The University of Maine recognizes that it is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation, where issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are ongoing. Penobscot homeland is connected to the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations — the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Micmac — through kinship, alliances and diplomacy. The university also recognizes that the Penobscot Nation and the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations are distinct, sovereign, legal and political entities with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination.

Many U.S. academic institutions take up Indigenous lands, distributed through the Morrill Act. Thus, settler-colonialism has a continued and continuing legacy at colleges and universities. To learn more, visit the LandGrab project (link opens in a new tab).

Limitations acknowledgment: This Challenge has limitations, including that it cannot cover all aspects of the LGBTQIA2+ community. We recognize that there are many members of the community who would benefit from additional attention.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike icon Note: the content in this guide is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike (link opens in a new tab).   

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