PRIDE Kicks Off On Inclusive Note
The leathers showed up together. Someone remembered to thank the bears. Drag queens trickled in, at least one with a crowned king on her arm. Members of the trans community came with their friends, and left with new ones. Women’s chorus Another Octave sang for a more harmonious country and the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus urged attendees to put a little love in their hearts.
So began PRIDE New Haven Weekend Friday night, as around 100 members of the LGBTQIA community filled the first floor of city hall to hear remarks, buy and sell queer art, and break bread together. Friday’s later PRIDE activities included the The Queer Queens of Qomedy at Westville’s Lyric Hall and a PRIDE kickoff party at Partner's Cafe.
PRIDE weekend started in New Haven in September 1998. While neighboring states celebrate gay pride in June, Connecticut has historically waited until September, as not to conflict with June celebrations and to include the thousands of college and university students who come to the state every fall. When it began, the New Haven Pride Center (NHPC) was just two years old, run in a volunteer capacity by John Allen and his husband Keith Hyatte. Hartford was the only other city in the state to have a parade.
Now almost two decades in, PRIDE has grown considerably and is turning its attention to diversity — whatever that may mean for the festive weekend and for the city. In city hall’s spacious atrium, artists set up paintings that reflected their attempts at having deeper diversity and more robust subject matters, with foci resting on self-acceptance, bullying, and the juncture of art, spiritual healing and HIV/AIDS activism.
With Daniel Eugene’s #NHVDrag spread on one side of the atruim, trans advocate and artist Tony Ferraiolo and artist Jonathan Joseph Ganjian set up shop on the other side. As attendees trickled in, they paused for the work, puzzling over Ganjian’s gold-flecked abstractions and Ferraiolo’s heaped, multimedia collages and dripping canvases.
So too for the entertainment. Following a moving medley by Another Octave, the CT Gay Men's Chorus found that the sound was glitchy on their version of "We Are The World." So they fixed it by going a cappella, much to the audience's delight. As the words "Think of your fellow man/Lend him a helping hand" rang out, attendees joined in, clapping and swaying.
Which is kind of par for the course. As the NHPC’s first-ever paid director, Patrick Dunn said that he wants to use this year’s celebration — and the next, and the next after that — to grow the LGBT+ community in New Haven, welcoming new members from disparate corners of the city and county.
“When I looked at PRIDE and the things that I want to be doing as executive director of the Pride Center with future PRIDEs, I want to really think of the word diversity,” he said at the event.
“And not just diversity meaning the color of your skin or your gender, but really thinking about it in every possible way. Exploring what diversity means in a community that really has everyone in it, and finding a way to discover all of the different ways that diversity can be celebrated in our community”
His remarks were echoed throughout the evening. The celebration “has come to be an example of our state’s commitment to equality,” said Mayor Toni Harp at the event. “Please know it’s an honor for me to join you as an unconditional supporter of queer visibility and civil rights in Connecticut.”
“I love how the different sections of our community come together for PRIDE,” said Ian “Scooby” Rosman, who just handed off the title of Mr. CT Leather to Allan Gardner, a recent transplant from Nebraska, last week. Gardner, whose “pup name” is “Data,” said that he'd been surprised, and then delighted, at how much interaction there was between queer subgroups in the city.
Rosman nodded right along. “You don’t always get that," he said.