By Mariah Hartley, Staff Writer
Recently, UMF senior Britt Couturier traveled to a local high school to educate faculty, staff, coaches and students on the transgender community and how to create a safer and more inclusive learning environment for transgender students. Couturier aspires to be the voice for LGBTQ youth who feel like their voice may not be heard.
Couturier spoke to faculty and staff at Lewiston High School for an in-field experience with professor Natasha Lekes of the psychology department.
“When I began the in-field experience, I reached out to Gia Drew, my previous high school teacher, and now the Program Director at Equality Maine, for speaking opportunities to which we started at Lewiston High School last month,” said Couturier. “I might add, Lewiston High School has been the most outwardly accepting school I spoke at and the staff’s willingness and engagement to learn was highly impressive,” said Couturier.
The presentation at Lewiston High School discussed how faculty and coaches can integrate students who identify as LGBTQ, in order to promote a safe and comfortable environment for those students to be themselves.
“I focused on discussing the issues I faced with my gender identity when playing sports throughout high school,” said Couturier, “Lewiston High School is notorious for their athletics and I believe that not many people understand how many facets of LGBTQ students’ lives’ are impacted, including the restrictions or safety-risks that come with playing on gender-specific teams. “
Couturier was in a constant battle when coming to terms with his identity and trying to express it.
“Feeling and knowing that I was a male since 5 years old was not only difficult to digest at a young age but difficult to express to my family,” said Couturier. “Up until middle school I was viewed as “one of the boys.” But, due to bullying and my safety, I was forced to identify as a female even if my mind was wired to think and feel the opposite. I would dress-up in female attire and pretend I was someone I wasn’t.”
These events happened throughout middle school and high school for Couturier. “I became withdrawn from family and friends, and started to believe that I didn’t have a purpose; I felt defeated and I was ready to surrender to the dysphoria and internal war,” said Couturier.
After researching about LGBTQ topics, Couturier realized that others were going through similar emotions and events. “I realized I wasn’t alone and that many people were going through the same thing,” said Couturier. “I came out as transgender my sophomore year of high school and ended up having to transfer high school four times due to my safety being at risk and harassment.” Since high school, Couturier has been transitioning from female to male.
Couturier’s goal is to enlighten others on what LGBTQ students may be going through in and outside of the school community and to share personal difficulties and accomplishments with others to help those who may feel like they are alone. “We can be better allies for them [LGBTQ youth]”, says Couturier.
Faculty and staff believed Couturier’s presentation made a lasting impact and helped them better understand how much of an influence they have on the students. “After I speak at these events, staff and faculty typically come up and talk to me afterwards regarding how beneficial the presentation was in helping them gain a better understanding not only of their students, but their role as an educator,” said Couturier.
Couturier will be speaking at Bonny Eagle High School, South Portland High School, Mesalonskee High School, and Wiscasset High School over the next months and plans to continue educating others about the LGBTQ community after graduation.