Marpheen Chann, a Digital Strategy Consultant and Board Member of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, is a gay, first-generation Asian-American who was born into a Cambodian refugee family and adopted by an evangelical, white working class family. He is a Portland, Maine-based thinker, writer, and speaker on LGBTQ+ and immigrants’ rights, social justice and equality. He holds a Bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Southern Maine and a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. Chann ran for Portland City Council in 2017.
I am the first of my adoptive and biological family to receive a college degree. But I didn't stop there, I also went on to receive a law degree and working on a masters in public policy at the Muskie School of Public Service. My focus in law school was state and local government, administrative law, land use, property, and real estate.
I was born in California to Cambodian-Chinese refugees in 1991 and spent my early childhood transitioning between my single mother and godparents until about 1995. I moved with my grandmother, aunts and uncles, and single mother to Portland in the mid-1990s. My mom and I and my three younger siblings moved to Riverton Park shortly after.
In 1999, I was placed in foster care with my sister Tanya (the two youngest had already been placed in foster care). We spent a year at that home until a scandal broke out alleging that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services was engaged in racist practices by taking children of color and placing them with white families.
We were happy with our first foster family, but were transitioned into a group home in Windham, ME, and stayed there for 15 months before moving to a foster home in Gorham, ME.
Around 2003, my sister Tanya and I were reunited with our two younger siblings and later adopted by the same family in 2005. I took classical piano lessons, played soccer, and was involved in our family Church as a youth and music leader.
I graduated high school in 2009 and attended Valley Forge Christian College for my first year. But after my first year there, I decided to come out as gay and transferred to the University of Southern Maine.
I served as an at-large student senator and was instrumental in getting bipartisan support to make the SGA constitution gender neutral. I was later appointed as USM's first student vice-president in 2013-14 and played a role in organizing students to lobby legislators to increase funding for USM.
While in law school, I chaired the Maine Law LGBT+ Law & Policy Group and advocated for LGBT rights and policies to help immigrants and refugees integrate. At that time, I was also a member of the board for the Maine Association for New Americans, and minority caucus chair for the Maine Young Democrats. I have worked as a consultant for former State Rep. Christine Powers and various city council and school board campaigns.
In my spare time, I enjoy playing the piano and acoustic, writing and poetry, and catching up on the news.