On Thursday, Nov. 12, the University of Maine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) services held “Gay Thanksgiving” in the North Pod of the Memorial Union. The potluck style event was open to staff, students and community members alike.
Donations such as non-perishable food and money were collected for the Shaw House in Bangor. The house is a safe place for homeless youth in the Greater Bangor area. Their mission is to engage at-risk and homeless youth by establishing a place for them to improve their futures.
Amy Schmitt, fourth-year secondary education and english student, works for the LGBT services.
“The original idea of Gay Thanksgiving, which was created 12 years ago, was for students who weren’t comfortable going home for Thanksgiving or their family wasn’t able to provide a classic Thanksgiving meal,” Schmitt said. “We would provide that service so that they could participate in the holiday without feeling pressure.”
The LGBT services received funding from Student Government and the Residence Hall Association to provide the turkey and other larger items. Attendees were asked to RSVP to the event and bring side dishes along with desserts.
Hannah Waters, a third-year international affairs student, admitted she partially attended the potluck event for the free food, but also said she attended for more than that.
“I really like the fact that they can call it Gay Thanksgiving and there isn’t a big fuss about it,” Waters said. “I think it’s very important for visibility.”
Waters believes that although the Northeast is usually fairly liberal, it is definitely a feat that the university is so open to all views, and that Gay Thanksgiving is not a controversial topic on campus.
“It’s always really interesting to see who comes and to see the great turnout,” Waters said. “It was really big this year. It seems like even more than last year.”
Nicholas Violette, another attendee, enjoyed the diversity of the crowd. The third-year exercise science student was happy to see those who were not a part of the LGBT community come out and attend the event.
“I thought it was great that they were here to support it,” Violette said. “I think it’s important to have an event like this here at UMaine to show an all-around support system through the administration, through other staff, through students who are in the LGBT community and students who aren’t.”
Violette believes the event helps rid the negativity and stereotypes surrounding the gay community, and it brings together the community as a whole.
“My favorite part is just watching everyone enjoy it and not feel awkward about anything,” Violette said. “Watching everyone genuinely have a good time and just eat, because that’s what Thanksgiving is about — sharing with other people.”