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Betsy Parsons grew up in a Midwestern town in the 1960s and 1970’s in a middle class educated family active in the local community. Her father and mother were both teachers. Her mother and father met in Orono, Maine in English class before migrating to the Midwest. Parsons describes developing a love a teaching from her parents; she knew from a young age that she wanted to become a teacher herself and began teaching at Portland High School in 1977. She describes herself as a ‘late bloomer’ in terms of her sexuality; she didn’t come out to herself until her 30s but knew that coming out publicly would be a career-ending decision in Maine at that time. The Bowers v Hardwick anti-gay Supreme Court decision and the Charlie Howard murder made the risks very clear. She discusses being involved in GLSEN in the 1990s in Maine and supporting the Gay/Straight/Trans Alliance student movement; she was one of the first teacher advisors to a Gay/Straight/Trans Alliance group in Portland in the late 1990s. There are now 70 of these groups at schools around Maine. She discusses the ongoing harassment and violence that LGBTQ youth face in schools and the work that GLSEN chapters to try to counter it. She also discusses how becoming more active in this work required her to come out at age 42. In addition, Parsons discusses the AIDS epidemic and local community responses to it in Portland. Toward the end of the interview, she talks about recent national elections, including her deep concerns about the election of Donald Trump.


Please cite as: Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.

For more information about the Querying the Past: Maine LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact Dr. Wendy Chapkis.


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Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine

Publication Date

Fall 11-18-2016


University of Southern Maine


Portland, Maine


LGBTQ, Maine, Oral History, Education, Race, Teaching, Coming Out, Charlie Howard, Betsy Parsons, GLSEN


History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Parsons, Betsy



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