Contributed by Guest Author Colin Gallagher
Brian McNaught held a special conference at the D.P. Corbett building at the University of Maine this Tuesday, pertaining to LGBTQ issues.
McNaught is the author of over 13 books and is most widely known as a diversity and sensitivity educator who specializes in LGBTQ issues in the workplace. With a career spanning 48 years, The New York Times has named him the “godfather of gay diversity training.”
At beginning of the discussion, attendees both in-person and viewing online were asked to answer yes or no questions surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer topics. An astonishing 98% of the attendees said that they were not taught about these topics while in elementary school.
McNaught also talked about the recent and extremely controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which is being pushed in 16 states. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida since 2019, recently signed the bill into law on March 29.
This bill being put into place means that discussions surrounding issues pertaining to gender identity or LGBTQ discussion will be banned or restricted in a classroom setting. DeSantis says that children will be sent to school with their parents knowing their child will receive an education and “not an indoctrination,” according to a report by The Guardian.
Student attendees from UMaine asked McNaught how they could sway decisions on future bills.
“If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, come out and put a face on the issue,” McNaught answered. “Those of you who are straight and cisgender, you can stand up as an ally. If you hear people say things on the [campus], speak up. Make sure to call Congress, or you can call the legislatures of Florida.”
The issue surrounding representation isn’t limited to the American education system. The workforce still has many problems surrounding the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals. An estimated 40% of workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer have experienced some form of office mistreatment during their lives, according to the University of California in Los Angeles.
Having decades of experience, McNaught gave some insight on the matter.
“The issue is when you come out, people don’t talk to you anymore, not because you’re hostile, but they don’t know what to say,” McNaught said. “I help them [get] past their fear.”
The discussion lasted from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. McNaught led most of the discussion with his own personal stories. He talked about how he was once a Catholic columnist in the city of Detroit before officially coming out in 1974.
Nearly 50 years later, the same problems plague our world. After the Florida government passing this bill, a massive student walkout occurred at Winter Park High School in Orange County to protest.
“The most powerful tool I have is telling my story,” McNaught said.