The Rainbow Flag Flies
Pride in the Hills Celebrates LGBTQ Community
Gay Pride in Connecticut has made several leaps forward, first with civil unions and then the approval of gay marriages. And recently the House passed a LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that would modify existing civil rights legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.
There is still much to be done, however and, while we can focus on the progress, we need to be aware of the problems and pain that still exist in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) communities.
Last June the Connecticut Community Foundation launched The Pride Fund CCF to celebrate and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in the 21 towns served by the Connecticut Community Foundation. The establishment of this fund is due in part to the work and passion of Kevin Jennings, president of the Tenement Museum in New York City, who has a home in Southbury.
He has long been active in LGBTQ causes as the founder of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) and the creator of the nation's first high school Gay-Straight Alliance 30 years ago in Concord MA. Jennings also served as an assistant secretary in the Obama Department of Education. He began working with the CCF to establish a fund specifically to celebrate and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.
“It’s easy to imagine that everything is ‘all better’ in 2019,” said Jennings, “but the fact remains that LGBTQ youth are still four times more likely to attempt suicide that non-LGBTQ youth in Connecticut. The Pride Fund is designed to provide resources to support these young people and make sure they grow into happy, healthy adults.”
Indeed, the statistics are staggering: 95 percent of LGBTQ youth report trouble sleeping at night; 23 percent of Connecticut’s LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, nearly five times the rate of non-LGBTQ youth; LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers report the highest levels of rejection and isolation—only 11 percent of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S.—and 50 percent of transgender youth said they never use school restrooms because they are unable to access those that align with their gender identity.
Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms—and just 5 percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people. Seventy-five percent of Connecticut youth report routinely hearing homophobic or transphobic remarks at their school and are nearly three times more likely to skip school than non-LGBTQ youth.
To announce the progress and to spread the word about the fund’s mission there will be the first annual celebration of Pride in the Hills on Saturday, June 15th, at Spring Hill Vineyards in New Preston.
Co-chaired by Jennings and Christopher Herrmann, this promises to be a spectacular event. To date, they have enlisted as honorary hosts Anderson Cooper, Larry Kramer and David Webster, Stephen Sondheim, Mia Farrow, Marsha Mason, Jack O’Brien, Alan Shayne, Norman Sunshine and Lindsay Law.
Herrmann, owner of Mannic Media, a production company specializing in fashion, beauty, lifestyle, corporate and education media, has been instrumental in bringing attention to Pride in the Hills.
“A friend of mine invited me to the first meeting at Kevin’s house,” he explains. “This was about the same time that Sal Lopes, owner of Salvatore Anthony Hair Design, initiated the first ever Gay Pride Day in New Preston. I thought the two events should work together and that’s exactly what’s happened.”
Herrmann has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the event and attracting a group of impressive sponsors: Daniel Sanchez and James Michael Murphy, owners of Onyx 11 Jewelers; Ken Stiles and Rick Angiollo, owners of By Request; Conversations on the Green; Bruce Glickman and Wilson Henley of George Home; Cheryl and Jack Kinney of Kinney Woodworking; Paul Arnhold and Wes Gordon; The New Preston Merchants Collective; Litchfield Distillery; J. McLaughlin; Dobson Pools; Woodco LLC; Washington Art Association; Hilary Adorno, New Preston Pilates; and County Wine & Spirits.
“We are grateful to all of our sponsors, and especially Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, who have not only given generously but have very kindly opened their vineyard to our event,” says Herrmann.
In addition to the Ingrassias, patron sponsors include Jane Whitney Gruson, Christopher Herrmann and Joseph Lorino, Kevin Jennings and Jeff Davis, Lyle Saunders, Andrew Ward, Ethan Geto, Paul Marcarelli and Ryan Brown, and Maria and Glenn Taylor.
With the support of CCF and the enthusiasm of the organizers, Pride in the Hills will include a performance by Pilobolus, music supplied by DJ Zeke Thomas, performances by the New York Queens and a carefully curated silent auction. Food will be supplied by local restaurants including Connecticut Community Table, Mockingbird Kitchen & Bar, The Village Restaurant and the White Horse Country Pub & Restaurant. Local wines and craft beers as well as specialty cocktails will be served.
“We are very thankful to the leaders of the Pride Fund,” says Julie Loughran, president and CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation, “for creating a new resource specifically to address the issues important to the LGBTQ community.”
Money raised through Pride in the Hills will go to The Pride Fund which Connecticut Community Fund holds and manages. A committee made up of several leaders of the fund will recommend organizations and programs to support with grants from the fund. The Foundation will share its knowledge of community needs and nonprofits to support to that committee as it considers how The Pride Fund can best support LGBTQ people throughout Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.”
For further information or to purchase tickets, please visit the link below.